Category Archives: technology

Leaping Over Coding Gatekeepers and Other Hurdles

In Retrospect

In a decade, my coding identity has run the gamut from disinterested secondary English teacher to invested facilitator.

Cue flashback (because Xennials love saying “back in my day”)…

Picture it: Wilkie, SK (middle of agricultural nowhere); the year is 2012. “Coding” is about to enter my lexicon. I teach Grade 8/9 English with minimal emphasis on computer literacy. A Grade 12 “techie” teacher from another high school presents to my class about coding. It sounds interesting, but we do not have access to 1:1 computers, and (to my young, biased mind), I wonder how I could possibly apply this to ELA. What would a classroom of future farmers care about computer programming? (facepalm!)

Fast forward: The year is 2020, right before the mic is about to drop (see: Pandemic). I am one of four tech facilitators for my division, heading to The Future of Education Technology Conference in Miami, Florida. Our purpose is to source new, worthwhile technology for classrooms, with an emphasis on coding hardware and software. After follow-up training sessions with SaskCode, I am 100% invested.

My hero, Sophia Petrillo. Copyright: Golden Girls, Touchstone Pictures

Gatekeepers and Other Hurdles

To transform a coding-resistant teacher into a tech adopter, the “in-between” must contain a series of fortunate events. In my experience, the answers were repeated exposure, courage, and experience itself.  Originally, I couldn’t connect my subject area to the relevancy of coding. I wondered how coding added value to my students, classroom, and personal pedagogy. The “buy-in” hadn’t happened yet

Another full-scale deterrent was coder gatekeeping, real and imagined. With that one “gate” came a series of hurdles, acting as my personal stumbling blocks.

Bias Hurdle One: The “stereotype of the ideal coder as innately genius rather than hard-working and well-trained has remained powerful in the tech industry”(Source). Elitism within coding restricts certain groups from leaving “Plato’s Cave.”

Stumble One: I am not inherently gifted with 0’s and 1’s.

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave; artwork by Jan Saenredam, 1604.

Bias Hurdle Two: Coding is reserved for analytical, linear “black and white” thinkers.

Stumble Two: I lean toward creative, constructivist learning.

 

Bias Hurdle Three: According to a 2015 study reported in the Washington Post, computer science, “more than any other field, places a premium on inborn brilliance, something considered a disproportionately male trait.”

Stumble Three: I am a cisgender female.

 

The teacher who first introduced coding in my classroom? A white, middle-aged, cisgender male with a computer science degree. He could cite all the tech-jargon and did so fearlessly. Our blank, confused stares did not deter him. He was there to show what he knew, not what we could learn.

A New Perspective: The Other Side of the Gate

For me to hurdle clumsily but courageously over gatekeepers, I had to knock down my misconceptions about “good” coders and apply some new, improved thinking:

  1.  Coding can be applied in every subject area. While not all students end up working in computer sciences, the skills required for coding, “thinking creatively, reasoning systematically, working collaboratively. . .are things that [students] can use no matter what” (MIT computer scientist Mitch Resnick). To begin using cross-curricular coding, educator Karly Moura suggests combining robots and maps (ELA and Social Studies), Scratch-based dictionary translation (EAL/ELL/ESL learners), creating a calculator (Mathematics), and/or writing adventure and historically accurate stories (ELA and Social Studies). The possibilities and potential are only as limited as your imagination.
  2. “Good” coders are made, not born. After watching my (then) 4-year-old son easily and happily code his first online game, I couldn’t dispute that some people (particularly astounding Gen. Alpha’s) are “born with it”; however, old dogs can learn new tricks. Programs like SaskCode use Arduino, Edison, and Robot Mouse to transform coding into fun learning experiences. From programming drawing robots to configuring epic Lego Battlebots, these programs allow learners to “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy” (The legendary Frizz). If we want students to fearlessly buy-in, “teachers must exemplify risk-taking” (Source).
  3. Coders are creative; coding is creating. In the suggested short film, “Coding Stars,” Elena Silenok, the creator of Clothia.com, astutely notes: “It took me some time to realize that creating things with your hands, or creating code, creating programs, is just a different way to express creativity.” To believe that coding should stay in its analytical, linear lane and leave the creating for “artsy, tactile types” is to become a different sort of gate-keeper. There are no divisions or labels except the ones we create.

    SaskCode Advertisement; Twitter (before it was desecrated).

     

  4. Coding is for everyone, but especially for underrepresented groups. We cannot deny the inherent bias and blatant sexism/racism/ageism/ableism rampant in the tech industry, but as educators, we have to push through these barriers for the next generation. Out of the four facilitators sent to Miami to lead my division’s EdTech adoption, four were self-identifying females. Programs like Girls Who Code, Coding Girls, and Black Girls Code are blazing a path for coding inclusivity. Successful coding is not about the exclusive, individual process of one innate genius; rather “the magic happens when we’re all on the same page, collaborating and building something together” (Gabe Newell, Creative Valve).

Representing women who code at FETC, 2020.

Facing Other Hurdles

Accessibility issues and the digital divide are equal deterrents and detractors; however, resourceful educators can implement the concepts of coding without relying on computers. Some unplugged coding activities to get those creative, problem-solving juices flowing are: Coding role-play, sequential Origami design, treasure obstacle courses, follow the leader games, “If, This, Then…Art!” lessons, loop routines, beaded bracelets….the list goes on.

Further, as noted in Teachers’ Essential Guide to Coding in the Classroom, students must have certain basic skill competencies before dipping their toes into 0’s and 1’s:

  • Basic computer skills
  • Logic (particularly cause/effect, inferencing, sequential scaffolding)
  • Perseverance (although I would counter that coding promotes and strengthens this attribute)
  • Attention to detail

The Other Side of the Gate

To reiterate my coding journey’s main takeaways: Coding can be applied to every subject, coders are born and made, coding is a creative/ constructivist/transformational process, and – most importantly – coding is for everyone.

Implementing coding in the classroom requires the same perseverance and courage from teachers that teachers regularly require from students. Comfort zones need not apply. Bias, prejudice, and stereotypes require acknowledgement but also push-back.

Once we find ourselves on the other side of coder gatekeeping, battered but wiser from trial and error, we must not become gatekeepers ourselves. Rather, it becomes our job to swing-wide the gate to ensure coding truly is for everyone.

Point to Ponder

  • How comfortable are you with coding? If proficient, how did you become so? If hesitant, what prevents you from learning more?
  • Are there certain students you believe do not benefit from coding?
  • How do you address a student’s coding frustration if they exhibit limited perseverance?
  • Do you believe coding is promoting the next generation of office labourers or innovative creators?
  •  When playing with Hour of Code, what activity did you explore? Would you recommend it? Why or why not?

Pear Deck: Test-Driven by a Fangirl

Will reiterating my love for Pear Deck sound like a broken record? I had nearly forgotten this love when Tuesday’s class reignited the spark. Kudos to Group 5!  In my previous life as an Online Learning Consultant, I completed the Pear Deck Institute training to guide divisional implementation in the classroom and online. It was a hit! The aside to that success, however, is that my 2.5 years online prevented me from actually testing it in a physical classroom….until this week. Too often we hear consultants and facilitators label EdTech as “teacher/classroom-friendly” without test-driving it themselves (whoops!); it was past time to take Pear Deck for a spin myself.

Test Subjects and Challenges…or Challenging Test Subjects

The majority of my Grade 7’s are tech gurus with daily “comfortable to seamless” digital classroom implementation. A handful can easily bypass my division’s firewall settings…a fact that both frightens and impresses me. Trialing Pear Deck on them didn’t seem challenging enough. Enter the vastly less tech-confident Grade 5 class at my current school. With the permission of their more-than-happy teacher, I created a science lesson on “Forces” to review with the 5’s.

First Challenge: The Grade 6 and 7 classes at my school are privileged to have 1-1 devices in the classroom. The K-5 classes scrounge for the remains of Chromebook and Dell rejects shunned by the upper grades.

Second Challenge: Tech focus and stamina take practice. Through repeated lessons….and full-out nagging lectures (truth-bomb), my 7’s have mastered the art of staying on-task 95% of the time. This cannot be said for the 5’s, due to their lack of access (see first challenge).

Third Challenge: Typing. Prensky once called my generation (and younger) “digital natives” but the art of typing and not texting appears to have died with the invention of the iPhone. 30 Grade 5’s typing Pear Deck into the browser and then the phonetic log-in code took more time than I want to remember. All the Right Type, why have you forsaken us?

 

Fourth Challenge: Heavy reliance on Smartboard or TV casting for instructor-paced activities. Another truth bomb, the Grade 5 classroom Smartboard is wretched! I would toss it in the garbage for the classroom teacher if I could!

Fifth Challenge: My premium subscription has loooooong since expired, so certain engaging features like LIVE dashboard, draggable, draw, and audio would be unavailable…unless I accessed a new premium trial from the Grade 5 teacher’s account (shhhhh!). Much as I love these features, do I want to shell out an extra $150 for them? Ummm no, I’ve seen current gas prices, thank you!

But Despite These Challenges…A New Fanbase Emerges

After the plethora of challenges on my Pear Deck “test-drive” you’d think the lesson might have been a loss, but the 5’s loved it so much they asked for more! Google Slide presentations for Generation Alpha have become commonplace. We know the drill. The presentation is shown on the glorified projector…I mean Smartboard. Questions are asked. The same 3 kids raise their hands. EVERY. TIME. It was true before Smartboards and Google Slides; it’s still true today. With Pear Deck, the students loved their anonymous ability to interact with the slides and view videos without leaving the Pear Deck (also handy for teachers worried about students staying on task).

Assessment Verdict

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it once more, Peardeck is an excellent formative assessment tool. The suggested reading, Section 4: Measuring of Learning, discusses the importance of embedded learning and real-time feedback, components fully provided by deeper-level thinking Pear Deck prompts. 

“Through embedded assessments, educators can see evidence of students’ thinking during the learning process and provide near real-time feedback through learning dashboards so they can take action in the moment.” – (Source

The Pear Deck instructor dashboard allowed me to see the Grade 5’s overall and individual comprehension. From these real-time insights, I was able to adjust my lesson pacing and suggest to the regular classroom teacher possible 1-1 conferencing for struggling students.

“Embedded assessments have the potential to be useful for diagnostic and support purposes in that they provide insights into why students are having difficulties in mastering concepts and provide insights into how to personalize feedback to address these challenges.” – (Source)

Despite my Pear Deck and EdTech fangirling, I hesitate to use the majority of digital tools for summative assessment. Google Slide extensions like Pear Deck or platforms like Mathletics allow teachers to quickly highlight student strengths and struggles, but nothing – in my opinion- trumps the potential for 1-1 student-teacher conferring. Human interaction/dialogue remains the epicentre of my assessment practices.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

 

No EdTech app or assessment method (digital or not) is without flaws. For the sake of not repeating my “challenges” section or the T-Chart Jamboard above, I will instead focus on where Pear Deck falls on the SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) model, created by Dr. Ruben Puentudura.

Image copyright 2012, Dr. Ruben Puentudura

Does Pear Deck redefine new tasks, “previously inconceivable” or provide significant task modification? No, whiteboards displaying individual student answers could easily accomplish the same tasks. Rather, Pear Deck falls precariously between Augmentation and Substitution. I would argue on the side of Augmentation, as Pear Deck does – in my opinion – provide functional improvements to standard classroom prompts or Google Slides. The draggable, draw, audio, and built-in video options, as well as the teacher dashboard (displaying individual student answers), are welcome additions that provide engaging and interactive lessons. Pear Deck takes Google Slides and makes them functionally better and, dare I say, more fun.

Final Verdict

After 2 and a half years of recommending Pear Deck, I finally took it for a classroom test drive…and I wasn’t disappointed. As far as Google extensions go, Pear Deck is a worthwhile add-on. While it requires a “basic to comfortable” level with technology for students and teachers, Pear Deck can seamlessly be used in the classroom to enhance embedded learning, real-time feedback, formative assessment data, and student engagement. My next test subjects will be my 7’s, a much tougher crowd to please. I’ll keep you posted…

Points to Ponder

  • Digital or not, what do you believe constitutes authentic, best-practice formative and summative assessment methods?
  • Can you think of any digital assessment tools that can be summatively, but not formatively, useful? And vice versa?
  • Do you believe digital assessment tools add more work for teachers or less?
  • Who is left out of the digital assessment narrative? Do online assessment practices generate or alleviate assessment anxiety? Do digital tools cause less savvy teachers to resist technological advancements?
  • What guides your standards for successful technology integration?

 

 

O Online Learning, Parting Was NOT Sweet Sorrow

This week’s topic – tools for distance and online learning – strikes a personal cord. Memories of my last 2.5 years as an online learning consultant cause an odd mixture of melancholy, anxiety, aversion, and pride to roll through my chest. Anyone in education over the last 3 years might feel a similar twinge. Love it or lump it, the need for distance and online learning -exacerbated by the pandemic – caused a shift in digital EdTech that will be studied for decades. (Am I being too dramatic if I say centuries?)

In Tyler Dewitt’s TedX Talk, he notes the inevitable push/pull factors of online learning and digital tools, but concludes with a quote from his father:

“The focus of education should be learning, not teaching.”

Similarly, the purpose of distance and online learning tools should be to incite authentic learning opportunities for students. From my ISTE training and the last few years online, I have learned that relevant/purposeful EdTech tools are more than just the “flavour of the month” or novelty items.  Digital tools require careful consideration of sheltered instruction, cultural responsibility, graphic design, and accessibility.

Indiana University’s Teaching Online MOOC

My Tickle Trunk of Online Tools

Using Miro, my favourite collaborative online whiteboard (for staff and students), I have outlined my gold-star, most-used online tools over the last few years. While I use and appreciate many of the tools discussed in class and noted in the suggested readings, I tried to include a few lesser-known tools that also hit ISTE online standards. Many of these tools were Godsends while working online, and now that I have moved back to the classroom, remain relevant learning tools for students.

Click to interact with Miro Mindmap

  • Edsby: As more Saskatchewan divisions shift toward Edsby, I have the unique vantage point (for better or worse) of being the Edsby SK “guinea pig.” When the pandemic hit, my division accelerated its Edsby implementation and I have spent the last few years training teachers and students to utilize Edsby as our division’s main lesson, assessment, and communication hub. Edsby is not without its faults, scoring particularly low in ISTE standards for accessibility; however, it remains relevant as a multi-purpose learning centre.
    • Back in the classroom: Edsby continues to be my main source for student/family communication, secure online student learning portfolios and chats, lesson planning, and resource/link sharing. I’ve become so accustomed to Edsby, I’m not sure how I’d work in a classroom without it now (and yes, I see the danger in that sentiment).
  • Peardeck: I was pleased to see Peardeck mentioned in Prodigy’s The 20 Best Tools for Virtual and Distance Learning.  Used as a cloud-based Google Slides add-on, Peardeck seamlessly transforms or creates interactive slides that promote student learning and engagement. Synchronous and asynchronous options like free response questions and drawing grids allow for streamlined, individualized formative assessment.
    • Back in the classroom: The asynchronous features were highly beneficial when online teaching, and back in the classroom both asynchronous and synchronous options remain relevant. Rather than having one student verbally answer while I present from Google Slides, Peardeck ensures all students can digitally answer. Student answers can be identified on the teacher dashboard, and then highlighted for further classroom discussions and/or conferring.
  • Mathigon: With an interactive polypad filled to the brim with math manipulatives, Mathigon allows all online students to interact with math. Online math assessments can lead to accessibility issues and 2-dimensional thinking; however, Mathigon provides equal access, and opportunities for authentic and collaborative numeracy engagement.
    • Back in the classroom: While my current placement allows for privileged access to 1-1 computers and a plethora of math resources, my students enjoy the creativity and experimentation Mathigon provides for their numeracy tasks. In-school students who need to complete homework are able to use Mathigon to continue their learning and collaboration outside of school hours.

Honourable Mention

  • Google. Period.
    • Google Jams, Slides, Forms, Docs are the most highly used tools I have used online or in the classroom. A majority of Google’s “arsenal” comes with assistive technology functions (ex: text-to-speech and proofreading) that allow diverse learners to gain confidence and independence.  Disclaimer: 😉  I am not affiliated with or endorsed by Google; I just think they’ve done some amazing work.

One Caveat…Ah, there’s the rub!

All of these online tools – mentioned here and elsewhere – can be extremely beneficial to student learning when students have equitable access. My quick shift to online quickly highlighted that the digital divide in Saskatchewan (let alone the rest of the world) is alive, well, and growing! Inequitable access does not negate the beneficial aspects of many of these tools, but these unfortunate realities cannot be ignored either. We must always ask who is being served by these online platforms and tools. The companies and shareholders? As discussed in class, EdTech companies appear the clear winners, often at the cost of our digital privacy. Students in emergent nations with privileged digital access equally benefit from these technologies. Until we can say that all students benefit from the plethora of distance and online tools, our work as educators and compassionate citizens remains unfinished.

Despite learning a great deal while working online, I will not be writing any Shakespearean odes to it either. Experience tells me I can shift from classroom to online to classroom with general ease. My desire to do so again remains doubtful. While I often deep-dive into the latest digital possibilities, I’m certain nothing can replace the human connection found between teachers and students learning together.

 

Points to Ponder

  • Do you have any lesser-known favourite online tools to recommend (that have not already been mentioned)?
  • How do you identify/separate purposeful EdTech from more “flash in the pan” options? 
  • As noted by Neil Postman, who do you believe are the “clear winners and losers” in EdTech? Who is not being served by these digital offerings?

 

“My Mind is Like My Internet Browser…” Productivity and Presentation

If you’ve ever come across the well-known internet adage –

“My mind is like my web browser: 19 tabs are open, 3 of them are frozen, and I have no idea where the music is coming from.”  (Anonymous)

– I’m confident the author was describing me. Regardless, it seemed an apt quotation for our debate questioning the internet as a productive friend or distracting foe.

One of the suggested readings – Online Presentation Creation Tools. (2014) – outlined the merits of Prezi. Despite my dislike for Prezi’s dizzying presentation features, it seemed a suitable representation of the distracting spectacle we once called the World Wide Web.

Points to Ponder Section can be found below the video. Please drop me a line and tell me your take on digital distractions, multitasking, and productivity tips.

Some Resources From the Video

My Final Thoughts…(for now)

As I watched the assigned video, I was bombarded with texts, emails, browser tabs, and the full digital arsenal of our modern world. Was it distracting? Certainly! Do I often long to disconnect in a far-away wilderness cabin? There’s no doubt. Was I able to multitask in a sea of multitaskers? No, as the term is deceptive. There are no multitaskers, only people who have successfully or distractedly learned to switch their concentrative powers at a fatiguing pace. Despite these electronic hiccups, presentation and productivity tools – like those presented on Tuesday – demonstrate an array of creative and collaborative possibilities. The internet is far more nuanced than simply being our friend or foe, and as educators, it should be our goal to teach students awareness and proper application.

Points to Ponder

  • When researching/preparing your blog post, how often were you interrupted by outside digital distractions?
  • If you completed the multitasking exercise (in the above-shared youtube link), how did you do? Can you actually multitask?
  • If you’ve been teaching for an extended period of time, do you notice increased student distractibility?
  • How do you manage your own productivity online? What are your favourite apps/extensions to use for yourself and/or your students?

Pivot, Pivot, Pivot: My Evolving Philosophy of Knowledge and Learning

PIVOT! PIVOT! PIVOT! A video timeline seemed in order for this week’s blog on my philosophy of knowledge and learning. You can view the entire timeline at Canva here.

  • Here is an excellent Chrome extension I’ve been using lately for those needing subtitles.
  • For those strapped on time, I have included a summary of the main takeaways and points to ponder below the video. Happy viewing OR reading 🙂

Key Points

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Points Left to Ponder (please share your thoughts!)

  • When you began teaching, do you think you heavily relied on the philosophies of learning you experienced in school? 
  • If a shift happened for you, was there one distinct catalyst or many?
  • Do you “pivot” in your workday through these different philosophies? What situations warrant different approaches?
  • I dream of restructured schools without bells and Behaviourism-laden fundamentals; with a greater emphasis on Indigenous ways of knowing and Constructivist principles. If you could restructure the education system, what would it look like? Which learning philosophy would take centre-stage?

Educational Technology

What Is Technology? Before we can dive into educational technology, I feel that it is important to discuss what technology itself entails. According to Dictionary.com, technology actually has 5 different definitions: These definitions indicate that the traditional, often main definition of technology (see definition 1), is not the only one to exist. Technology does notContinue reading "Educational Technology"

Educational Technology: Neither Sinner nor Saviour

Defining the Variable: Ed-Tech

When I think of educational technology, my (active) imagination transports me to AI classrooms and interactive hologram projections. Part of me views ed-tech as the saviour of classroom to world relevancy; another part of me suffers ominous flashes of Judgement Day and Matrix-laden doom! Of course, that’s not the reality…at least, not yet.

 

matrix, code, data

It’s all the Matrix Photo by 0fjd125gk87 on Pixabay

In class, I defined educational technology as classroom-based innovations, in either hardware or software context, meant to enhance learning. In my breakout room, we further settled on one word to divide technology from educational technology: Purpose. Any human advancements in applied scientific knowledge can be interpreted as technology, but educational technology serves to analyze, evaluate, develop, manage, create, and collaborate in an academic setting. Laughing in our small chatroom about the purpose of a fridge was unexpected but served to demonstrate that the refrigerator – our cold-food cornucopia – can be defined as technology. However, when considered in a Home Economics setting, it could be categorized as ed-tech. Purpose then, and intentional purpose preferred – is everything when determining what ed-tech best serves innovative classrooms.

Smart home control panel in a modern kitchen

Help! My fridge is sentient! Photo: Adobe Stockpack

A Shady Past and Meaningful Future

Without realizing it (admittedly, I hadn’t completed all the readings before class) my philosophy of purposeful ed-tech aligns with Robert B. Kozma. In 1994, Kozma restructured the media debate by asking:

“‘In what ways can we use the capabilities of media to influence learning for particular students, tasks, and situations?'”

This mindful shift in considering and implementing media in the classroom fulfills the highest purposes of ed-tech: Effective teaching and enhanced learning.

Unfortunately, as history and personal experience have shown, a philosophy of mindful ed-tech usage has not always been the case. Reading through Audrey Watter’s article “The 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade” (2019) was a shame-filled Delorean blast to past. I giggled, I shook my head, I remembered. When I started teaching 13 years ago, any “good” innovative teacher salivated over getting a classroom Smartboard. It was the saviour (fallacy) brought to life in my classroom! Now many sit as $8000 whiteboards with poor lighting and abysmal screen alignment. As Watters and Katia indicate, Smartboards turned into a hard technology due to lacking soft applications. Despite receiving hours of Smartboard training, my Smartboard has become a glorified (problematic) projector. Now I salivate over classroom chrome-cast TV’s. It’s always something! And I say that tongue-in-cheek as I stare at my coveted classroom 3D printer… gathering dust in the corner. Whoops!

Picture courtesy of OfftheMark.com

My ed-tech philosophy has been largely unconsciously written by hours of ed-tech training and lived experience. My childhood education was filled with chalk-board dust and projector reels. I hardly considered these ed-tech advancements, and yet, that is exactly what they were…in their time. My high school typewriters gave way to computers. My Moodle and Blackboard training was replaced with Google classroom, then Edsby. My ed-tech philosophy evolved to understand two key principles:

  1. Ed-tech is synonymous with change.
  2. It is neither sinner nor saviour.

Neil Postman elaborates on my evolving understanding of ed-tech, providing 5 key things we must understand about technological change:

  • Advancements carry a price.
  • The digital divide allots winners and losers (something I am now cognizant of after 2. 5 years teaching online)…
  • That give way to prejudice and bias.
  • Its reach touches everything and everyone.
  • It creates its own omnipotent mythos. As my current students struggle to imagine a classroom without 1-1 Chromebooks – supposing it has always been this way – I can certainly attest to this last (potentially dangerous) concept.

    Stylish caucasian man in devil hat with horns and vampire cape with laptop isolated on white backhround.

    Ed-Tech: Neither Sinner nor Saint Photo by benevolente on Adobe Stock

Conclusion: Defining the Constant

After considering the historical and philosophical aspects of ed-tech, I can only surmise that my viewpoint will continue to evolve with the technology in my classroom. If ed-tech innovations are the variable, then meaningful/intentional/equitable implementation must be the constant.

Ponderings

  • Based on usage, technology can often be categorized as ed-tech, but how often do we use ed-tech as technology in our day-to-day lives? For example, Kahoot is largely construed as ed-tech software, but do we ever use it ourselves for fun? I know I don’t! If I never hear the theme music again, it will be too soon!
  • Do you feel a sense of jadedness when the “next big thing” in ed-tech/training comes out? Or a heady rush of excitement for something new to offer students?
  • It’s been over 13 years since I was an education undergrad, but I wonder how much emphasis is now placed on meaningful classroom ed-tech selection and implemenation. Insights are most welcome!

Debate #8: Online education is detrimental to the social and academic development of children.

Online learning is fairly current, and after the pandemic it is becoming more and more common. That being said, there is not a lot of data surrounding the negatives and positives of online learning, and a lot of the resources were pandemic based. The term online education is a broad term, whereas it could mean taking one or two classes (supplementary learning) or fully emerged online. Our group, which was the agree side, took it to be fully online and not in a face-to-face setting using supplementary online learning. Secondly, the term detrimental is a very strong word especially encompassing all children. That being said, online learning can be detrimental to social and academic development of some children.

Hang on tight! I have a LOT to say about this topic.

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

 Less social interaction may increase feelings of social anxiety and pressures. For example, teenagers may worry about changes in their friendships as a result of prolonged isolation.

https://highfocuscenters.pyramidhealthcarepa.com/the-effects-of-online-learning-on-a-teens-mental-health/
Photo by Kat Smith on Pexels.com

Mental health affects students in both online and in person school settings. As being an online teacher I hear testimonies of students shifting to online learning because they are getting bullied in face-to-face school. Some of these students flourish in an online setting, but others have fear of the continued bullying, and hide behind the screen or simply start to vanish. Other students do not have parent support at home and require the supervision of an adult to keep structured boundaries for them, in this case students start to get into bad habits of spending all day in their bedroom, not socializing, and missing synchronous lesson. Ultimately, these students’ grades start to slide to the point of no return. Furthermore, students start to feel overwhelmed, stressed and feel as if they are in a hole they cannot crawl out of as they do not know where to start. I have dealt with a multitude of students that deal with this. Online learning requires skills that not all students possess and this subsequently puts them in an unfortunate position of helplessness. Conversely, some students no longer have the social anxiety they had while they were in person school, and they thrive online as there mental health is better than it has ever been. These thriving students used to be quiet and shy in the back of a classroom, but now have found their voice online and are flourishing. This is so amazing to see and hear about. There are definite positives for online learning given the right structure, positive work habits, parental support and having the right materials they need to be successful.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

As mentioned in the debate it is important to assess students before they fully engage in online learning, as we do not want to set our students up for failure. Parents play a very essential role in online learning. When students are at home all day long by themselves, and required to log onto their meetings independently without good work habits they will not always log in (if ever). That being said, the students that take responsibility and initiative to do their work and attend meetings are cultivating their skills, therefore they will be successful in the online education world and these skills will help them in their future. The parents need to be sure to also pay attention to the students’ marks and attendance, otherwise there is a risk of some falling through the cracks.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Online learning is perfect for students needing the flexibility, especially for busy or traveling families, and students that attend a lot of appointments for health concerns. Other students that need flexibility is for various sports, and online education allows them to travel for sports and maintain their education, for example hockey. Some students get billeted in WCS and play their season out while engaging in asynchronous education, and once they have completed their season they go back to their base schools generally for the second semester.

There are extra supports and activities that are available in face-to-face school that is not available for all students online. Some students that would once have had an EA in face-to-face school struggle to get this support online as well as LST and RTI hours are reduced for all students. There are shop classes and other hand on classes that can be taken in person that are not available online as well as labs that aid in learning. That being said, there are sometimes bridge programs that are allowed, and students can take these classes in addition to electives that are not offered in their own schools. Students are able to take extra curricular classes from the school that they are closest to if they wish.

Before Covid-19 hit, the family of five had been sharing an old laptop and a desktop computer without a camera or a mic—features that didn’t really matter a year ago. Suddenly, two aging devices weren’t enough to get three kids through school.

https://torontolife.com/city/the-miserable-truth-about-online-school/

In some instances, school is a students safe place where they get breakfast/lunch, as well as getting out of their living situations. Not all students have a happy and healthy home-life and this allows students to get out of these toxic atmospheres for a portion of the day. In other instances, students get more time to spend with their parents and feel more comfortable and protected in their own home. The research attests to students being more successful in online learning with affluent families as they may be at home more for support as well as supporting students with their technology needs.

Final Thoughts

Being an online teacher I see the realities of students from all over the division emerging to online learning. For some, this is the last option for students as they are non-attenders and they are hoping that they will find some success. These students tend to vanish, and this is completely heart breaking. My job is incredibly rewarding, as it is a huge success when you get a student to finally pass a class, start to attend class regularly, or make a connection with a student that was completely shut off from the world. I see both sides of the coin and the students that have good work habits and parent support will succeed online, but it is not for every student. The reality is most students leave in person learning to come to online learning for a few main reasons: mental health reasons (mostly anxiety), health needs, sports, and travel. Regarding these reasons online learning has the flexibility to meet everyone’s needs, however it does not always meet students needs academically. I believe that online learning is detrimental to SOME students regarding their social and academic achievement.

The Mindful Grey: EC&I 830 Summary of Learning

Wow, there just are no words. It’s cliche but that first class went by in a flash! Please enjoy my summary of learning. I keep trying to push myself outside of my comfort zones; from podcasts to videos…and now this. Slam poetry! Yes, you read that right, slam poetry…or my attempt at it.

None of this learning would have been possible without you all; so thank you for joining me on this snippet of my journey. Best wishes on your own path.

Wordart by Cloudform Slideshow by Prezi Video by WeVideo Slam Poetry by Moi

Until we meet again…

Playing the Digital Footprint Devil’s Advocate

And traversing the online teaching frontier… (Debates 7&8)

What happens when you have to debate as the opposition on a topic you wholeheartedly support? Short answer: It gets very messy inside your mind very quickly! When I volunteered to switch my stance for this debate and play “devil’s advocate,” I was almost exclusively thinking of one of my favourite books, Think Again, by Adam Grant.

In his book, Grant outlines how to develop the habit of thinking again: think like a scientist, define your identity in terms of values not opinions, and (of most importance here) seek out information that goes against your views. Make no mistake, despite how I debated Monday night, I am firmly in support of teachers and schools having a role in the development of children’s digital footprints. Of course, I wanted to see if I could convince myself of the opposite viewpoint…even just a little.

If I can inject one book plug that I feel strongly correlates with this course, it’s definitely Think Again by Adam Grant!

As always, let’s turn to the facts before I jump in with my final reflections (revealed in the video below…)

Strapped for time? Aren’t we all? Jump to the 22:52 minute mark to hear my final takeaways.
To add your own points or reiterate points you believe most essential to this debate, please join the Jamboard here: Digital Footprint Jamboard

Debate 7 Final Reflection and Leftover Questions

In the end, I cannot dispute that teachers and schools play a role in helping students develop their digital footprints (you got me there, Rae and Funmi!). As educators, we act as guides for our students navigating a physical and now digital world. After playing devil’s advocate, the one caveat I can make in this case is that the development of student digital identities does not START with teachers and cannot END with them either. The responsibility is shared. We owe it to our children to hold parents, teachers/schools/divisions, governments, and online platforms accountable for creating safe online spaces for our children to explore their digital identities.

  • As an educator (or similar), do you feel adequately supported by parents, your school/division, and professional resources/development when teaching students about digital citizenship and footprints?
  • If you have received excellent resources and/or PD on this topic (to use with students), please share in the comments, including how it guided your classroom lessons and use of tech.
  • How often do you check the terms of service agreement before signing off on something? Tell me I’m not the only one signing my life away 🙂
You can begin to take action here: Humans Rights Watch: Students Not Products

“I can’t but we can.”

-Anon.
Just as Big Oil and Gas companies made it the responsibility of individuals to clean up pollution in the ’70s/’80s, Big Tech companies seek to make it the individual’s (AKA: teachers) job to clean up “online pollution.”
Like anything worth fighting for/changing/improving, creating a safe online world for our children’s digital identities is going to take a global village. Image credit: @brenna.quinlan art and posted/reshared with permission @chicksforclimatechange

Traversing the online teaching frontier…I think I got lost in Timbuktu – Debate 8

I was still reeling from my own debate (I really dislike pushing a one-sided viewpoint. Objectivity. ALL. THE. WAY!), but the subsequent online learning debate delivered a double-whammy to my solar plexus! I’ve been teaching online for almost 3 years now. To suggest it’s been detrimental to the social and academic development of the children I’ve worked with feels like a personal attack. It’s not, of course. Once more, I turn to the facts before I will jump in with my reflection…littered with 3 years of positive and negative experiences.

Strapped for time? Yup, I hear ya! Head over to the 18:25 minute mark to hear my final reflections.
To add your own points or reiterate points you believe most essential to this debate, please join the Jamboard here: Online Learning Jamboard

Debate 8 Final Reflections and Leftover Questions

After reading all the articles and listening to the debators and my classmates discuss this topic, I keep coming back to my own experiences over the last few years. I have the unique vantage point of having taught in the rushed, uncharted dynamic of the pandemic and then in a more developed, purposeful role as an OLST (online learning support services teacher). Teaching students from every school in every grade in my division is not for nothing. The highs and lows of online learning have changed me as an educator; changed my definitions of schools, classrooms, and teaching. To say that online learning is detrimental to students generalizes the concepts of physical schools and education as one-size-fits-all definitions. That is certainly not the case. When done properly, and by that, I mean MINDFULLY, online education can become a digital anchor for many families needing something different. Physical schools will always be needed, but online education is the perfect alternative.

  • If you’re so inclined, please tell me about your own teaching experiences during the pandemic. Mine was oddly positive, but I know experiences vary greatly!
  • How do you think pandemic teaching and current online teaching differ? Or do you think they do?
  • What would you say to a family considering online? What factors should be taken into consideration?
  • How do you feel about your own online education? Does it seem like a viable option as opposed to being on-campus? What works for you and what doesn’t?

Thank you for joining this learning journey. One master’s class down…many more to go! Best wishes to you all!