Assistive Technologies, UDL, and the Challenges

Assistive technology has the opportunity to open doors for many people. According to McMahon and Walker:

“For most people technology makes things easier. For people
with disabilities, however, technology makes things possible.”

As the Assistive Technology group explored, assistive technology can be labelled as  Low Tech, Mid Tech and High Tech.  This was a great reminder that even those things that we often dismiss as non-technology are still technology and often are very accessible to teachers in schools.

Low tech examples of assistive technology as according to AutismAdventures could include technologies such as:

  • Visual Schedules
  • Post-its
  • Pencil Grips
  • Velcro
  • Manipulatives

Mid Tech assistive technology, which AutismAdventures claims, is the “least common form of technology.”

  • word prediction software
  • screen magnifier
  • voice amplification
  • adapted switches
  • adapted keyboard

High Tech assistive technology is the most intense and expensive form of assistive technology.  It includes:

  • Computers
  • Tablets
  • Electric Wheelchair
  • AAC Devices
  • Text to Speech
  • Speech to Text

Why do you think that mid-tech seems to be a dying form of assistive technology? I believe that this is because of the increase of devices in our students’ hands often have “apps for that,” or ways to use the accessibility features on devices that now make having a screen magnifier or other electronic devices built into either tablet of computers.  Essentially becoming a Swiss Army Knife of assistive technology.

Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning  (UDL) provides options and ways that educators can scaffold their instruction to reach all students’ needs.

“If you design for those in the margins, the building works better for everyone.”   UDL requires a blending of the three principles, Engagement, Representation, and Action and Expression.

When I am teaching assistive technology tools such as Read Write Chrome and Microsoft’s Immersive Reader, I encourage teachers to showcase to all the students in the class and not just individual students. This provides opportunities for the students to not feel singled out, and hopefully, students who benefit from the tool begin to use the tool if needed.

I am fortunate to be surrounded by great educators and co-workers that I was writing a post on UDL and Assistive Technology when I told them I was bombarded with Assistive Technology resources and some more resources to look up.  One of the resources is The New Assistive Tech: Making Learning Awesome for All by Christopher R. Bugaj.  One interesting point that I was reading about is around the engagement principle of UDL. The Engagement Principle is designed to create experiences in which the students are engaged in using multiple means.  The example given discusses, if a magician is part of your lesson and demonstrates magic, it is an example of passive learning.  However, we should be making our lessons empowering by creating, making and doing something that makes a difference by educating. Students will be more likely to take over their own learning.

Shelley Moore, a UBC doctoral student, provides a great overview of UDL and comparing it to bowling.  If you have a spare moment, I encourage you to check out the video below.

Challenges of Assistive Technologies

The Assistive Technology presentation highlighted many issues that teachers still face in regards to assistive technology.  The commercialization of assistive technology is a challenge as it continues to spread the digital divide as the access to the needed technology does become expensive.  For example, one of the students that I taught has a visual impairment.  The student had a brailler, the price of this brailler is, in my opinion, outrageous.

Another shocking discovery is the price of the app Proloque2Go; this app is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) that assists those who are unable or have difficulty communicating verbally.  This app costs $349.99.  I haven’t used this app, but this tool should not cost this much money as its infrastructure does not seem to be $300 worth of complexity.

Furthermore, there is a large gap in the implementation of assistive technology in schools. This is because teachers are overworked and simply don’t have the time to add something to their plates. What is needed are opportunities for teachers that allow teachers time and the opportunity to explore these assistive technologies and learn how to implement them to increase student success and independence.

What are some ways to support teachers in the implementation of instructional technology?

Plickers: The Low-Tech Formative Assessment Tool

As many of you know who have been following my blog.  I currently do not have my own classroom as an Instructional Technology Consultant.  However, I do have the opportunity to teach and learn about different assessment technologies and help teachers implement them in their teaching.

In this blog post, I am going to take a look into the challenges, student responses, how to use the tool for assessment, and the pros and cons of using Plickers.

Plickers

What is Plickers?

According to plickers.com, Plickers is a low-tech way for teachers to collect instant multiple-choice responses from students, without requiring them to have computers or tablets. It features a printed out card with a design unique to each student, the Plickers app allows teachers to scan the student responses and respond to it in real-time.

Plickers is a “freemium” program that provides some free features, but it encourages teachers to spend $8.99 a month or $5.99 a month for a year.

Challenges for Setting Up Plickers

There is some initial setup for Plickers by the teacher before they can start using the program.

On your mobile device:

  1. Download the app
  2. Create your account

On your computer:

  1. Create your content
  2. Add Classes and Students
  3. Download your Plicker Cards and assign one to each student. (This will require the teacher to cut out each Plicker for the student.  However, once this done you can use your Plicker set for all your setup classes)

One of the main challenges that teachers may face is the limited questions that a teacher can ask in each “Question Set”.  Teachers are limited to 5 questions that they can pose to their class using the free version.  This being said a teacher could create multiple sets of questions.

Student Response

When I was using Plickers in the classroom I only had access to two classroom iPads.  And although it was just a piece of paper with a generic QR code on it, the students LOVED Plickers.  It was a create check-in tool that required no time to setup once the question set was made.  It was a matter of me pulling up the questions on my computer, and me scanning the classroom with either my personal cellphone OR the classroom iPads.

How did you use the tool for Assessment?

I personally used Plickers as a tool for formative assessment in the classroom.  It allowed me to get instantaneous feedback on student progress. I rarely used this tool for summative assessment as it does have a margin of error if the students are holding their Plickers card incorrectly.  However, as the teacher, it was nice to run the reports that Plickers offers to use the data to inform your teaching.

Pros and Cons to Plickers

Pros

If your classroom is a Low-Tech classroom this is a great alternative to Kahoot, or GoFormative, or Socrative as you do not need any devices for the students to run the program. In the current COVID-19 pandemic this also frees up the ability for teachers to not have to sanitize devices as all the students have is their individual QR code.

The program avoids singling out students that are reluctant to respond in class.

Cons

The one at a time question entry and setup prior to using the Plickers app can be time-consuming.  The questions are also limited to either multiple choice or true and false. The limit of 5 questions per set is also negative as it does not allow for a deeper look into formative assessment for a class.

The limited forms of questions do not provide deeper level thinking than other assessment tools can provide.

In Conclusion

Since Plickers has become a Freemium app, I am not as excited to share the tool with teachers as I was when it was completely free.  This being said it is still an engaging tool that I would encourage teachers to explore if they are in a classroom that is low-tech. The formative assessment tool is a great way to get some quick feedback to inform teaching practice.  For more perspectives on Plickers check out Commonsense Media’s description and reviews on Plickers.

Social Dilemma: What is all the Hype?

As I was reading my colleague Leigh’s introduction to this week’s blog, it made me think back to the days when I was first got into MSN messaging.  Queue the intro to Web2.0, the social web. In 2004/2005 my family was still behind the times running Windows 98, as we skipped Windows XP and eventually got Windows Vista.  My parents were not overly technology savvy.  I took the leap of faith and downloaded MSN messenger on my parent’s Windows 98 computer.  This was my start of connecting on the web socially.  Followed by creating my Facebook account under a fake name in 2007, (because I was concerned about privacy?). Twitter when I was in high school. Instagram and Snapchat in University.  TikTok within my graduate studies this past year.  Needless to say, it is until very recently until I started to recognize the impact that social media has had on myself as well as society as a whole.

The Social Dilemma

This week I watched the Social Dilemma for the first time.  It was a documentary that I have been meaning to watch, but reluctant to watch because of the polarization of society, and the one-sided view the documentary provides.

In a nutshell, the documentary highlights how technology and social media continue to damage, polarize, and use its power for financial gain through surveillance.  The use of social media in politics, the negative impact on mental health as well as the role in spreading conspiracy theories.

I believe it is easy to get caught up in the hype of this documentary.  I believe the documentary brought up many good points, but lots of this information isn’t new.  However, I believe may be important for some people to watch especially if they get caught up in participating in the “fake news” and believing the conspiracy theories that are being put out on the internet.

Let’s start out with some of the points that the Social Dilemma highlights.

  • Conspiracy Theories and Polarization
  • Data Tracking
  • Role of Mental Health on Social Media Users

Conspiracy Theories and Polarization

The movie points out conspiracy theories and misinformation that have spread like wildfire throughout social media.

However in the current time, the United States election that happens tomorrow, we see conspiracy theories such as QAnon.  Now the fact that people believe these conspiracy theories, is alarming and quite concerning.  Even in Saskatchewan, we have seen a candidate resign after engaging in QAnon and sharing how he “believed the COVID-19 pandemic” had started.  So these theories are not just south of the border, but they are infiltrating our society in Canada as well.

Our Role as Educators

As educators, what is our role in educating about conspiracy theories and polarization? I believe we need to teach our students to be aware of the misinformation.  Teach students to be critical and to learn how to access the facts. One of the lessons that I have taught this year is called Break the Fake, by Media Smarts. It allowed the students that I was working with to explore news articles and determine if they were true or false.

Data Tracking

As Roger McNamee states, “The way to think about it is 2.7 billion ‘Truman Shows’.  Each person has their own reality with their own facts.”  These facts run on Artificial Intelligence, which looks at everything we are accessing.  The algorithms are in place to do multiple things.  Keep us coming back to the device, and to sell out data to corporations in the hopes that we buy their product.

Our Role as Educators

Recently I have reflected on how as educators we often like to save money and will use the free applications or programs on the web instead of the paid versions, or a more well-known trusted app.  Although the app may be free, and you may save some money here or there, the bigger issue is what is the company doing with your personal data. Chances are they are selling it.  In the article Why your free software is never freeit highlights that we could leave our information open to hacks. It also states that we can’t anticipate what advertisers, hackers, governments, tech companies, or anyone who gets their hands on our highly sensitive data, will ultimately do with our data.

As educators, I think that step one is that we need to be better at reading the terms and conditions of websites.  Use privacy-conscious software such as the ones we have previously discussed in class. Teach students to be aware of where their data goes.  Ensure that your students have a voice in their own digital profiles.

Social Media and Mental Health

According to the American Journal of Epidemiology as quoted by the Social Dilemma, “A 5,000 person study found that higher social media use correlated with self-reported declines in mental and physical health and life satisfaction”.

The stats that were shared by the Social Dilemma were shocking, however, again we have heard this before.  Social media and the impact on mental health, the increase of suicide rates, rates of self-harm.

Our Role As Educators

As I blogged about in a previous post.  Bailey Parnell highlights four steps that we can take to ensure that our mental health stays in check when we are using social media.

  1. Recognize the problem
  2. Audit your social media diet
  3. Create a better online experience
  4. Model good behaviour

Conclusion

I think that the Social Dilemma is a good reminder.  We need to stay vigilant, we need to be aware.  However, I don’t believe we should be deleting our social media profiles, but rather develop our critical thinking skills, our students’ critical thinking skills.

There is a lot of positives that can be found in social media.

  • Connection to each other
  • Provides a platform for those otherwise not heard
  • Connecting and learning from others.

I will leave you with this quote from an article that I read about the Social Dilemma.

We can all agree that technology is both a utopian and dystopian creation. We have to understand and be aware of what these companies are doing and how we can make more ethical changes to the business of tech.

Thanks for reading.

Distance Learning Engagement, 13 Tools and Some Thoughts In-between.

Engaging students in a time of distance education is not an easy feat. I am writing my post as a blur between what I envision distance education to be in the perfect world, and what I would currently have access to within my current situation in my school division and through my work as an Instructional Technology consultant.

As our presenters on Distance Education and Online Learning in my last masters class in ECI833 have pointed out that we must separate the difference between Emergency Remote Teaching and Distance Education.

So before we begin… Let’s start here.

Emergency Remote Teaching:

According to the tuition-free, non-profit, University of the People, they define Emergency remote teaching as the following:

“Emergency remote teaching (ERT) is meant to be a temporary shift from the normal modes of teaching. It happens when teaching becomes remote (or distant). This takes what would have otherwise been face-to-face or hybrid teaching and transforms it to become digital education.”

ERT is meant to be temporary. However, it often lacks the resources, support, and may have a lack of faculty support.

Online Learning:

According to EdTech Magazine, Online Learning involves more planning and design.  Often these courses follow a design process. It takes time to develop online courses, as well as better expectations than emergency remote teaching.

“It’s not fair to expect the same outcomes if you don’t lay the same foundation,”

Need to know how to apply these tools to empower and create relevant experiences for students.

Engagement in Distance Learning

On Tuesday night I was introduced to Dr. John Spencer, and have listened to the following podcast that was shared with the class. John highlights some important pieces in distance education. Below are the following reasons for low engagement.

  • Trauma
  • Brain Fog
  • Digital Divide
  • Access to materials
  • Living in uncertainty
  • Students who are accessing the language
  • Students on special programs IEPs.

Some ideas that John provides include the importance of providing tutorials for technology.  Onboard resources for students. Create a student tech team called the  “Geek Squad” to help with some troubleshooting.  John also highlights that we need to allow resubmits, and model empathy and compassion.   Provide linguistic support for EAL learners.  Universal Design for Learning allows scaffolds and supports to be accessed.

John also highlights student agency.  The importance of all three of the following compliance, engagement, and empowerment.  See the visual for more information on the importance of student agency.

Relevant Tools for Online and Blended Learning

There are so many different tools that teachers can implement into their online and blended learning environments.  Below is not an exhaustive list, but a list of tools that I have used, and encourage the teachers I work with to explore.  Many of the tools can be found on the following list created by my classmates, Nancy, Amanda, Cathy, and Kristina. My favourite tools for Distance Learning.

The LMS:

Microsoft Teams

We use Microsoft Teams within our school division for a communication platform but also for a learning management system.  Our Elementary grades in our virtual school are based on Microsoft Teams.  Teachers can upload content, assign assignments, and run synchronous and asynchronous classes.  There are so many pieces within Microsoft Teams that teachers can leverage for engagement. One of my favourite Microsoft go-to playlists are from Mike Tholfsen. If your school is using Microsoft Teams be sure to check it out.

Edsby

Edsby is our brand new all in one program.  It is our attendance program, gradebook, parent communication program, but also allows teachers to access Edsby for posting and receiving student assignments. It provides a class page that parents and teachers can post on to further the learning of the course.

Video Tools:

Flipgrid

Flipgrid is my go-to tool as a teacher for quick videos.  It has a built-in screen recorder and is all around great for instruction videos.  It is also extremely accessible for both teachers and students as you can access it on all devices either through the web or through the app.  It is a great tool to engage your students, it allows students to explain their thinking and learning through video rather than paper and pencil.

Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark is the basic video editor that creates basic videos that are perfect for short videos or overviews of class projects.  This tool again is perfect for distance learning as it is accessible for teachers and students on all devices as it is offered on the web as well as through the app.

Camtasia

Camtasia is a powerful video editor. This video editor is not free. However, it does allow for the creation of videos easily.  It has a built-in screen recorder, which can overlay a webcam on top of it. It is my favourite video editor as it has beautiful transitions and templates to get started quickly.

Presentation:

Microsoft Sway

Microsoft Sway is a recent presentation tool that I became aware of in the past couple of years.  It creates engaging presentations that allow the creator to embed various media.  It also limits the customization options and uses built-in transitions to create a visually appealing virtual newsletter or presentation.  Here is an example of a Microsoft Sway.  It is an easy to use tool that I have had my grade 4s and grade 5 students use.

PowerPoint

Yes, Microsoft PowerPoint is still my go-to for presentations.  Microsoft has really stepped up their integrations with accessibility, which allows for UDL to take place in the classroom.  There are options for subtitles and the Immersive Reader within PowerPoint that create inclusivity to all classrooms regardless if they are distance or in person.

Pear Deck

Pear Deck is a neat tool that you can now apply to your Microsoft PowerPoints to get students engaged.  Ask students questions, and see their responses in live time. It is a great formative assessment tool.

Planning:

Wakelet

Wakelet is a great tool for curating resources to send out to students or a tool that will allow students to compile resources.  I like to think of the Wakelet as an interactive bibliography.  For planning purposes it allows teachers to save all sorts of resources to a Wakelet collection, and that whole collection can then be sent out to students with a link.

OneDrive

OneDrive is the storage option that I have available through my school division.  It allows me to have access to my files wherever I have an internet connection.  These files can be shared and collaborated on with other students and teachers.

 Planboard

Planboard is a virtual daybook that I used every day when I was teaching in the classroom.  It has built-in Saskatchewan Curriculum and was a great tool to organize myself as a teacher.  You could embed videos and content into the lessons. Attach the required files for easy access. And print off the lesson if a substitute teacher was needed the lesson.

Engagement

Quizizz

Think of Kahoot, but without the time restraint.  This is a great tool because it can be used asynchronously. It provides engaging teacher-created quizzes that you can create based on the lessons you are teaching.

Wonderopolis

Wonderopolis is a great site for elementary students Grades 2-6 where we can engage students on what they are “wondering” about. A new wonder is released daily.  Be sure to look at past daily wonders to add to your classroom lessons.

The Shift from in Person to Online

In my current position, I can support teachers who are teaching either online or in the classroom with plenty of tools and resources.  However, I do believe that the tools should be one of the last things that teachers should worry about when teaching Distance Learning.  Teachers need to work on the development of relationships with students. We need to encourage students to be self-directed.

However, my new learning comes into what I learned last class as UX Design Theory.  We can adjust the systems to the user to benefit our students.  I often think that using an approach like this can be beneficial to all students as it promotes UDL.

Thanks for the read!

Is Multi-Tasking Saving You Time?

This week I am able to reflect on the YouTube video Single-tasking Is the New Multitasking and answer the question: Is the Internet really a productivity tool or merely an endless series of distractions?  I feel like Alec has provided this blog post directly to me.

The video provides some insight into how my brain often works when I am working on coursework, and working on projects at work.  Often I will have a Google Chrome window open with 15 tabs, and when that window is “too full” I will often just open up another “fresh” Google Chrome window and fill that one with 15 tabs.  I even have this beautiful creation I made on my Cricut last year to remind me of how much I multitask.  I think it is time to take up “Tabless Thursdays”.

 

So… “Is the Internet really a productivity tool or merely an endless series of distractions?”

Can it be both?

I do believe that the internet can be used productively, but it takes time. And you need to learn how to manage this.  As many of my classmates did, I checked out classmate Nancy Smith’s vlog on productivity tips (God knows I need it).

  • Tip 1: Multi-tasking is inefficient, we are better to be solo-tasking.
  • Tip 2: Eliminate Notifications
  • Tip 3: Time and Space – Pomodoro Technique: Set a timer for 25-minute and work on that one task and that is it.  After the time is up, you need to refresh. Get up, get moving, do another 25 minutes, and you plow through it.
  • Tip 4: Weapon Savvy – Strip back from cool tools and analyze the tool for the job.
  • Tip 5: Protect your mental health – really important to take time and space for yourself.

As I reflect on these tips from Nancy, what comes to mind is the shift from in-person teaching to emergency remote-teaching in March.  We had so many different projects on the go. I believe that it is vital that we protect mental health as it is so important to take time and space for ourselves.  I knew I was overwhelmed when my fiance told me I was talking about Seesaw in my sleep.  Furthermore, within the past couple of years, I have started implementing timers on the apps that I use often in my day, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, all have 1-hour timers on them.  As Nancy pointed out, it is so easy to be sucked into a rabbit hole within these social media sites and spend “2 hours on TikTok before bed”.

I do believe that technology has played a role and has decreased the attention spans of people in society. In the article, The simple truth about technology and human attention spans…, it discusses how technology is an enabler, it can make us more productive, or less productive depending on how we use it.  We can adopt tools to “cut the noise” such as

  • Mercury Reader – Simplify articles for fewer distractions
  • Freedom – Block distracting websites
  • Calm –  A meditation app
  • Pocket – Save articles for later

I also believe that we can train ourselves to be more efficient by utilizing the tips that Nancy has provided. The distractions are there on the internet, but we can avoid them. It is possible.

After reflecting: Here are some goals that I would like to try to implement personally and professionally.

  1. Answering emails twice a day, and not the minute they come into my email.
  2. Set times using the Pomodoro Technique: Working on one task for 25 minutes.
  3. I often will already turn off my notifications on my devices while I am at work.  However, I think to extend it, email notifications silenced would also allow me to focus on the important tasks that need to be done by our team.
  4. Keep it simple, this seems to be our team’s motto for this year. Often we get held up by all the tools, extensions, etc. Many of these tools do the same thing.  I think that it is time to pare down the list of tech-tools and find the right tools for the job.
  5. Work stays at work. I often find myself at home on weekends or at night looking at emails.  This is something that needs to stay at work, and can most likely wait for the next day.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Did Sesame Street Ruin Education?

“…We now know that ‘Sesame Street’ encourages children to love school only if school is like ‘Sesame Street.’ Which is to say, we now know that ‘Sesame Street’ undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.” – Neil Postman

In this blogpost, we are going to unpack the controversial statement made by Postman about Sesame Street. For us to unpack this quote I believe that it is important that we unpack “What is the traditional idea of school.”

The Traditional Idea of School.  According to Wikipedia, “A School is an educational institution designed to provide learning spaces and learning environments for the teaching of students (or ‘pupils’) under the direction of teachers.”  So the question becomes, “What does Sesame Street do to impact the learning spaces AND/OR the learning environments of teachers and students?”

I was reading a blog on this very issue by John S. Macnab, highlighting two big ideas of Postman. The responsibility of teachers has shifted to an entertainment medium, and the displacement of the social setting – the classroom – to a private setting – in front of a screen.

Issue number 1: The Responsibility of Teachers

I believe that the responsibility of teachers has changed over the years. I do believe the increase in technology is partially responsible for this shift.  Traditionally schooling often included the teacher as the knowledge keeper. With the increase of technology from “Sesame Street” to YouTube the question became “Are teachers becoming relics of the past?” Macnab, brought up an excellent point, “By changing the media of education; we also change our notions of what is educationally valuable”.  Shifting from a traditional teacher to a facilitator of learning requires that teachers look into what the new media provides for education, while still supplementing and teaching the skills needs to become successful citizens in a rapidly changing society.

Issue number 2: The Displacement of the Social Setting

Postman states, “Which is to say, we now know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents. Whereas a classroom is a place of social interaction, the space in front of a television set [is not.]”.  Without continued practice collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking.  We have done exactly what Postman has described as displacing the classroom as a social setting.  We need to ensure classrooms have not become mind-numbing places where we place students in front of TVs, computers, iPad, and other electronic devices without a purpose, and without developing the important skills such as the ones highlighted by ISTE.

What does this mean for Education Today?

As we look at how we have integrated technology and Audiovisual Technology into our classrooms.  We need to begin to look at how Sesame Street and other educational TV can change and revolutionize education in the 21st century.  Education has changed since 1985 when Neil Postman wrote: “Amusing Ourselves to Death”.  Check out the visual our classmates shared on the changes in technology into recent times.

We have incorporated technologies such as Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) and 1-to-1 classrooms.  We can get students to interact with what they are viewing, Kahoots, Quizizz, blogging, connecting on Microsoft Teams.  Netflix even has Choose your Own Adventure Style movies.  AV technologies have changed and thus education also changes. The key is that learning with AV technology needs to be unpacked. It needs to be thought about critically, allowing time for students to connect.  As we have shifted into a phase of online learning, my classmate Catherine made an excellent point, “One of our biggest needs is developing relationships with students so we can create meaningful learning experience”.  To be an effective teacher you need to have a relationship with your students, as well as foster student-to-student relationships.

In a blog post recommended by my classmates, Audiovisual Development and Education bring up the excellent point in the conclusion, “it is not the medium that controls the efficiency of communication, but appropriate media or a combination of the medium needs to suit particular user and content. Text has different affordances than AV media; effective communication is achieved by different media complementing, but not replacing each other.” Teachers are no longer the knowledge keepers, we have become facilitators of knowledge. As such, we need to teach students to have the skills of communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking.

Extend your Teaching and Learning with Google Chrome Extensions

This past week we had the opportunity to do some exploring of a variety of different tools and extensions.  Currently, on my computer, I don’t use a lot of extensions.  These are the following that I have enabled on my browser:

In this blog post, I will highlight how I use these tools to support myself as an Instructional Technology Coach either for personal use or provide some ideas on how these extensions can be used with students if applicable. Furthermore, we will discuss the importance of privacy when using these extensions.

UBlock

Some form of AdBlock for educators is a must.  UBlock allows for me to be accessing the web without the clutter of ads on different websites, ads on YouTube videos.  UBlock won’t necessarily improve your teaching but will save you time if you often show your students YouTube videos, and avoiding risqué ads that you don’t want your students seeing.

Wakelet

Wakelet is a great tool to add to the technology tool kit when it comes to curating resources. In a previous review on Wakelet, I define Wakelet as a tool that is “working to change the way that people find, organize and share information. Helping them organize and find the most relevant, authoritative, and compelling content from across the web”. Wakelet is able to modify and redefine educational practice. Maybe you want your students to curate a digital portfolio or links, social media content, Flipgrid videos, pictures, notes. Or maybe you want your students to take you on a tour of their city, province, country. Use Wakelet as a virtual field trip tool.  The extension allows you to quickly add to your collections, and access your collections.  You can even set it up to send you to your Wakelet collection page when you open a new tab.

Seesaw Extension

The Seesaw extension is by no means a revolutionary addition to the powerful digital portfolio and communication tool. However, it does allow the user to take a quick screenshot and attach it right into a student’s journal.  This tool would allow for the augmentation of education because it is a time saver in the classroom, and allows students to showcase another medium in Seesaw through their student journals.

OneTab

OneTab is a Google extension that I started using in one of my first classes when Alec was showcasing the different extensions.  OneTab allows the user to click the OneTab extension button to minimize all the tabs into one condensed tab. If anyone runs internet browsers like mine with 5 Google Chrome windows open with 15 tabs each, then this app is made for you. In the classroom teachers are able to easily open up all their links for the day and click the OneTab button to keep their browser windows and tabs organized.

Grammarly

If I had to suggest one extension on my list, this would be it. Grammarly is spellcheck on steroids.  It is great for any typing you are doing on the web. When I am writing blog posts I often will first write the post in Microsoft Word and then transfer the post into WordPress. Grammarly is able to further pick out recommendations on how I can improve my writing.  There is a paid option for Grammarly (It is rather pricey), but I have considered it multiple times. But to get started the free version is phenomenal. This app is sure to help with your communication.

Read Write for Chrome

This is a paid service that our school division pays for.  I will be the first to admit, that it has its strengths and it’s weaknesses. Read Write for Chrome (RWC), allows the users to use dictation, text to speech, built-in dictionary, picture dictionary, audio recordings (similar to Mote), the ability to generate vocabulary lists, and more.  The downfall is that I find the software cumbersome to use as compared to Microsoft’s Immersive Reader (and Immersive Reader is FREE!).  However, RWC allows teachers to introduce this tool through Universal Design for Learning (UDL) teaching the students the skills and they can apply the skills if needed.

Tweeten

Tweeten is a Twitter engine that allows for multiple Twitter feeds to be available. If you are big into Twitter Chats such as #Saskedchat Tweeten or Tweetdeck would be something that I would encourage you to explore. The only real reason that I use Tweeten over Tweetdeck is the ease that I can add GIFs to my tweets.

Momentum

Momentum provides a change of the bland and plain look when you add a new tab. This provides a clean page that offers a To-Do list, an inspirational quote, and the weather. I will enable this extension when I feel I need a change.

Colorzilla

I learned about this really awesome extension when I went to TCEA in Austin in 2019.  If you are a teacher who is into graphic design, or any sort of newsletter building this is a handy extension you might be interested in. Colorzilla can get a color reading from any point in your browser and copies it to your keyboard. This app works excellent in video editing software, or in a creation app such as Canva.

Terms of Service; Didn’t Read

This application was a game-changer for me.  When COVID-19 hit mid-March, we had many teachers wanting to download multiple different programs and services, often without looking into the privacy concerns regarding the app or service. Terms of Service; Didn’t Read pulls out all the of the important information that could be a concern from within the Terms of Service. Often as teachers, we do not have enough time to read the terms of service for all the applications that we are exploring.  Often this gave me a starting place for the exploration of apps and software to be used in the classroom.

Student Privacy with Extensions and Apps

Many of the extensions and apps that are available right now to educators provide opportunities to teach privacy to students specifically around personal data. It is important that we are getting our students to consent to where their data is going and that the students understand where their personal information is going. Two great sites I often refer to include Commonsense Media and MediaSmarts.

Learning Philosophies Then and Now

This past week we discussed various learning philosophies.  I have not done a lot of learning about learning philosophies since my undergrad.  This was an excellent time to reflect on the question: Which theories of knowledge, and/or learning underpin my own teaching philosophy and classroom practice. As well as,  how have these beliefs shifted or changed over the course of your teaching career?

Behaviorism

First off, I remember as a first-year teacher, I relied a lot on the theory of behaviorism. Ertmer and Newby’s article on Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features from an Instructional Design Perspective highlights some of these key ways I implemented behaviorism.

Pre-assessment of students to determine where instruction should begin.

This is still a practice that I believe is very important.  It is important to have that baseline of what your students know. Or even understanding what students can bring to the classroom such as using classroom inventories of tapping into the knowledge that students already have and use that knowledge to engage students.

The use of reinforcement to impact performance.

Students were reinforced in my classroom.  I rewarded good behavior as I utilized a classroom currency system.  Now, I never took away points from my students, I did reward them for participating in class and helping the classroom community.

Behaviorism is also reflected in the classroom rules that were co-created within my classroom.

Every year we create expectations in Daily Five or a classroom chart that focuses on what the classroom “Looks like, sounds like, feels like.”

I found that the video below also helped me continue to wrap my mind around the learning theory, and explained in VERY simple terms.

Cognitivism

I also use cognitivism as a theory within my practice. As the video below highlights, “Cognitivism focuses on how information is received, organized, stored, and retrieved by the mind”.  I still believe that it is important that instruction be structured in a way that allows students to make learning meaningful.  This is by providing instruction that is structured, organized, sequenced, and presented in understandable ways.  Often in my lessons, I use cognitivism in the following ways.

  1. Hooks in my lessons. To get my students engaged.
  2. Activating prior knowledge, connecting our learning to previous learning
  3. Utilizing graphic organizers. To organize thoughts in understandable ways.

Although as a young teacher, I utilized both Behaviourism and Cognitivism in my teaching. I have become less dependent on those learning theories, and try to incorporate more Constructivist approaches and forms such as the ones listed below.

Constructivism

I found a great blogpost ‘Making’ Does Not Equal ‘Constructionism’ the blog highlights Constructivism as “a theory which suggests that people actively construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world and are not merely passive recipients”. Furthermore, it highlights that when we come across something new, we either assimilate it into our knowledge, or we accommodate it by changing what we believe. Or we just discard the information as irrelevant. This theory lends to help students construct knowledge rather than “regurgitate facts”.  It lends itself to project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, and diving into deeper questions.

Experiential Learning

According to Carleton University, “Experiential Learning is the application of theory and academic content to real-world experiences, either within the classroom, community, or the workplace.  It requires not only engagement in the experience activity, but also requires students to reflect upon their learning and how their skills can be applied beyond the classroom”. Within my current position, we often discuss and reflect on how the skills that we are learning are transferable to other fields, and other settings. It is important for students to have these important conversations and be able to reflect on there learning.

I found this tweet on Twitter from an Edtech coach, Thaddeus Bourassa, that I follow.  I believe that it highlights the importance of feedback, being able to reflect on learning, and taking that learning further to grow as a learner.

 

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Constructionism

Coined by Seymour Papert takes constructivism a step further.  It involves “the deep, substantive learning and ‘enduring understandings’ occur when people are actively creating artifacts in the real world.” Constructionism involves deep conversations with others about the artifacts that are being built.  This can involve the creation of poems, songs, presentations, art, coding, robotics, etc. This is a theory that I want to continue to try to integrate within my current position with supporting teachers and students with technology.

For more information about the maker movement and the rebirth of Constructionism please check out the following blog post The Maker Movement and the Rebirth of Constructionism.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I believe that my teaching practice has evolved as I have learned more about how students learn, and the various ways of how to engage students in learning.  I definitely believe that my teaching philosophy incorporates a plethora of learning theories, but currently, I feel as I have a strong focus and gravitation towards utilizing theories such as Experiential Learning, Constructivism, and Constructionism. To allow students to construct their own meaning allowing myself as the teacher to become a facilitator of learning.

A Personal Understanding of Educational Technology

When I applied to become an Instructional Technology Consultant with South East Cornerstone I asked myself what is educational technology and how can it be used to support students and teachers. I ended up drafting and developing a personal philosophy of educational technology, based around our division philosophy and goals.  Upon reflecting on this philosophy at the time there are pieces that I still believe in, as well as pieces that have changed and evolved as I have grown as an educator.  I believe that technology can be used as a vehicle for learning and it needs to be embedded throughout our teaching practice. However, teachers mustn’t view technology as the goal of learning.  Effective technology use in the classroom involves having a purpose.

I try to tie all the work I do with teachers and students to the ISTE standards. These standards that are laid out for educators and students pave the way for students to develop the 4Cs (Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking).  By looking at how these standards can tie into my lessons on technology reinforce that my teaching practice with technology has meaning.  Furthermore, I also try to be mindful and follow some different technology integration frameworks such as the SAMR model, TPack, and the LoTi framework.  These models again push my technology integration to become more meaningful for students.

In the past seven months, we have seen the importance of educational technology. We have seen the positives that educational technology provides, such as the ability to connect with educators, colleagues, and engage in professional development at a distance. However, we have also seen how these technologies can have negative consequences as well.  Inappropriate technology use, technology burnout, ‘Zoom fatigue’. I have had many situations where I have been asked for advice on how to limit technology for certain students because of inappropriate use, or have had parents ask me how to restrict Wi-Fi access to their students, teachers who are just “done with technology”.  We need to model for our students the effective use of technology.  Part of my contemporary definition of educational technology revolves around the responsible use of technology, as opposed to the acceptable use of technology. This is expanded on in Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt’s Digital Citizenship Education
in Saskatchewan SchoolsFurthermore, students need to be provided with appropriate digital citizenship, and currently, this is ever more important. Vicki Davis provides an excellent post about two essential approaches to digital citizenship, proactive knowledge, and experiential knowledge.

I will be the first one to admit, I LOVE TECHNOLOGY. This being said, I never have spent a lot of time focusing outside of how can technology also be a negative influence, besides the last class I took with Alec where we debated many topics around technology.  However, I found Neil Postman’s article Five Things we Need to Know About Technological Change so interesting. He lists off five points that highlight the consequences of any technology integration.

  1. Technology is a trade-off.
  2. The advantages and disadvantages of new technologies are never distributed evenly among the population.
  3. Embedded in technology there is a powerful idea.
  4. Technological change is not additive; it is ecological
  5. Media tend to become mythic.

I have spent time thinking on Postman’s first point, technology as a trade-off.  When we look at social media. Despite the positives of connection, and real-time knowledge. The trade-off is essentially everything that The Social Dilemma (View it on Netflix) highlights, fake news, loss of in-person connection, polarization, mental health issues.  Furthermore, highlighting the need to address and these issues with our students.

Audrey Walters also highlights in the 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade some of the edtech endeavors that did not pan out.  Some of these I would debate, the effectiveness of the flipped classroom, and 3D printing in education.  However, many of the debacles highlighted are forgotten edtech apps, projects, or technology that raise excellent points of why these did not pan out.  I think when we are using any type of new technology it is important to be mindful of the points in Postman’s articles.  Also, realize that it is important to be mindful of the technologies you are using and how the technology is using students’ data.  Often when we are using a technology that is “free” we are trading and allowing companies to trade off our data to third-party companies.  So “free” might not always be better.  Privacy is a major concern, and thus it is important to understand what companies are doing with our data.

In conclusion, educational technology integration needs to be purposeful, it needs to be explicitly taught and modeled to students, and expectations and routines around educational technology need to be co-created with students.  Teachers need to be mindful that it isn’t about the next big tech tool, or about implementing 30 different apps and programs in their teaching practice. Use technology that works for you and your students.

Summary of Learning for ECI830

It is hard to believe that another class has come and gone.  This semester has been one with plenty of sharing, learning, and debating.  I am grateful for the knowledge of my classmates, and Alec who has guided us through many of the difficult conversations that were had.  Thank you all for being a part of my learning.

For my summary of learning, I decided to use WeVideo as a tool. A tool that I have never used, but was eager to try after watching many excellent videos from classmates.  In my video, I feature my 7 key learnings from the class through personal reflections, the debate videos, and some recommended viewings.

Enjoy!