The Great Debate

This post was co-written with Lisa Frazer and also appears on her blog.

VS

Schools should not focus on teaching things that can be easily googled.

Our debate was on Thursday, and due to the double negative, we both argued the same side of the debate (the best side).  We based our argument around the Levels of Teaching Innovation (LoTi) model as we feel strongly that this is the type of classroom that is needed in the 21st century in order for students to become the best lifelong learners they can be.  

Daina and Jocelyn brought up some key points as well. Some fit in with our argument. The first being that Google does not expose students to the learning process which is what we based our whole argument on.  They also added that students would not be motivated to remember information as easily because they have such quick, easy access to it with google.  They then went on to state that students needed to get “Back to the Basics” but then brought up a very valid point, “What are the Basics”? 

They stated one very specific key point that we feel should be the key assessment piece in learning— “If you can explain it, you understand it”. This led to a discussion on what assessment should look like. We feel that authentic assessment should be based around a conversation piece with a student in a conference-style manner or small group where students can explain their learning in multiple ways. Traditional teaching models do not necessarily fit this mold as students tend to just regurgitate information without really understanding. Therefore, they are not involved in the learning process.

Our research also found that 21st-century skills favor student-centered work, such as problem-based learning, project-based learning, and hands-on learning.  The LoTi model places great importance on ensuring that learning is student-centered and therefore students are exposed to the learning process. 

We read the book Why Do I Need a Teacher When I’ve Got Google by Ian Gilbert.  This book highlights the need for students to inadvertently learn the 6 skills (Positivity, Bravery, Determination, Self-Belief, Creativity, and Sheer Energy) that will enable them to be well-rounded individuals. Google cannot teach any of these skills. These skills can be taught in a 21st-century classroom using a model such as LoTi (Levels of Teaching Innovation) where technology is only APART of the learning. 

The LoTi Framework focuses on the balance of assessment, instruction and effective use of digital as well as other essential resources to promote the essential skills of higher-order thinking, engaged student learning, and authentic assessment practices.  The framework allows educators to ensure the learning process automatically flows. Teachers can reflect on their teaching practice to promote student-directed learning as opposed to teacher-directed learning.  

It is crucial that students be involved in the learning process and dig into their learning using the 4 C’s (Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity). 

  • Critical Thinking – empowers students to discover the truth, and separating fact from opinion.
  • Creativity – thinking outside the box. This means looking at a problem from multiple perspectives, including those that others might not see. 
  • Collaboration – virtually every job requires you to work with people, this skill is something that you cannot find from the internet. 
  • Communication – In the age of text-based communication, it is so important for students to learn how to convey their thoughts in a way that others understand them. 

We argue the importance of the teacher as a facilitator of learning.  A 21st-century teacher is now becoming a facilitator or the guide to help the students in their learning. This means shifting roles from a lecturer to a facilitator who provides resources, monitors progress, and encourages students to solve a problem. They help the student in the learning process to guide students to be able to apply the learning in real-life situations, making the learning meaningful and relevant. If the learning is meaningful, they will remember it, know when to apply it, how to put it together, and once practiced students can get creative with it.

We also argue the point that learning should be multi-sensory. We have 5 senses in which we can learn and each person learns a different way or a multitude of ways. Learning becomes much more tactile when you can see it, touch it, manipulate it in a multitude of ways. Real-life applications such as hands-on learning or land-based learning where students take ownership of their learning by doing things such as planting a garden is a much more relevant and beneficial way to learn. Students develop so many more skills through this type of process rather than to just learn about the plants themselves through googling it.

We stated the importance of deepening the learning process by utilizing experts such as elders, knowledge keepers, support experts, professionals, community members in the classroom. This process enables mastery of subjects while also providing students relevance to their own learning. It is also beneficial to students as they are exposed to positive role models in their community.

In Conclusion:

 

 

Debate #2: Technology a Force for Equity

Yesterday’s topic on the Great EdTech Debate was Technology is a force for equity in society. Nataly and Kalyn on the agree side, and Victoria and Jasmine on the disagree side.  Coming into the debate I voted in favour of the topic, however, I was unsure how I would feel by the end of this debate.  I was truly on the fence on this one.

Nataly and Kalyn highlighted three main reasons why technology is a force for equity in society.

  1. Greater access to information
  2. Personalized learning
  3. Helps people with disabilities

Victoria and Jasmine took on the opposing side, also made many excellent points on the other side. Their main arguments focus on

  1. The Digital Divide
  2. Techno-Colonialism
  3. The Non-Neutrality of Technology
The Main Take-Aways:

Being on the fence before the debate, after watching the debate left me even more stuck in the middle.  Both duos provided excellent points that highlighted the pros and cons of the topic.

Open Educational Resources (OERs)

Kalyn and Nataly discussed OERs.  OERs are a way to provide high-quality educational resources will no cost.  This would be invaluable to students and educators.  According to RMIT University, OERs provide opportunities for self-learning, and also include literacy skills such as searching, reusing, dissemination, branding, and networking.  All important skills we would want society to have.

Furthermore, in our group discussion we brought up the website Coursera, Coursera is a platform that offers many different university courses for free.  This on the surface appears to be a great equitable idea and service.  However, our discussion pointed out that it was often the most privileged in society that would use these courses.  My thought is that many of the courses still use academic language, and require skills that many people have not had the opportunities to acquire.

Assistive Technology

Kalyn and Nataly also brought up the excellent point of assistive technology.   Assistive Technology provides many for our students to learn.  Tools such as Google Read and Write, and Microsoft’s Immersive Reader provide opportunities to try to “Level the playing field” for students.

In the discussion, we discussed the importance of Universal Design for Learning.  I believe for technology to be truly equitable within Assistive Technology we need to approach if from a UDL perspective.  This means teaching the whole class how to use a program such as Microsoft’s Immersive Reader.  This is because many students would benefit from the tool regardless of ability.  This also allows students to not feel singled out.  Students pieces that they need to be successful.

The Digital Divide

We need to acknowledge the digital divide.

Affordability, the fact is that many cannot afford the technology needed to be successful. However, I do believe that this is becoming more and more realistic in the future as technology costs continue to be driven down.

Accessibility, as Victoria and Jasmine note, many rural areas do not have access to technology.  In our discussion in class we discussed that although we classify high-speed internet at 5mbps, the reality is that we often need a lot more than 5mbps for us to be effective online.  The reality is that often those with the least amount of accessibility are the people who are considered the most vulnerable. This includes northern Saskatchewan and many reserves.

Varying ability,  many people do not have the technical skills required to be efficient users of technology.  This could be due to previous issues with affordability, or accessibility of technology, or could be due to not having the skills taught. Jennifer Casa-Todd explains that there is an intergenerational divide, parents are not fully understanding the tools that their kids are using.

Last semester I also look into the digital divide, another form of inequity is the idea of empowerment divide.  According to the Nielsen Norman Group, when people participate online 90% of people do not contribute, 9% contribute sporadically, and 1% of users contribute often.

In Conclusion,

Overall, I swayed a bit to the disagree side.  I think that often that I become blinded by the fact that I am privileged enough to not recognize the impacts of the digital divide because I have never had to worry about not having access to technology.  I believe for us to truly become equitable these issues need to be addressed.  In the Hechinger Report Should Schools Teach Anyone Who Can Get Online of No One At All that Jasmine and Victoria highlight, “We should be thinking about internet connectivity as a utility right now,” he said. “We  would be horrified if 30 percent of our families didn’t have electricity or water in their homes.”  We need to ensure that our students have internet access outside of school.  Kalyn and Nataly shared an article called How Access to Technology Can Create Equity in Schools, it compares having access to physical technology and having no internet to having a car with no road.  The car is still useful, but it is a lot easier if a road is built.  In the end, I believe that technology can provide equity in many situations, but as a society, we are not there yet.

Debate #1: Does Technology Enhance Classroom Learning?

On Tuesday we started the great Edtech debate. Nancy and Amanda arguing that technology in the classroom enhances learning, whereas Trevor and Matt arguing against the same claim.  Both of the videos were creative and engaging.  Kudos to both duos for setting the bar so high.

Prior to the debate, I would side very much so on the pro-technology side of the argument.  I believe that there needs to be a balance of technology in the classroom.  Technology needs to have a purpose, it cannot be the goal.  Technology is the vehicle for learning.   Being such a pro-technology person and teacher I was excited to hear the opposing argument.

Nancy and Amanda brought up some great points in the video.  Some of the main points that resonated with me include.  The aspect of connecting when a physical connection is taken away.  Currently, we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This has changed our daily lives.  I am curious if this happened forty or fifty years ago, would the lack of technology, resulting in a lack of connection, lead to further mental health problems? The ability to connect is the 5th C that technology allows us to have communication with others that would otherwise be unsafe, or impossible in the past. Nancy and Amanda highlighted that the best part of online learning is that it can happen anywhere and at any time.  We have the ability to collaborate with one another, and we don’t even need to be in the same place.  With technology, schools can go beyond the traditional walls and reach a larger audience, which provides more engagement for our students.

Nancy and Amanda shared an inspiration video that shows the importance of connection.  This video highlights how technology can bring people together.  It also further promotes the ability for us to reach a larger audience.  Imagine the connections that we can have in the classroom if we connect with other classrooms globally.  We have so much that we can learn from each other.

Matt and Trevor did bring up many good counterpoints. Many classroom teachers use unnecessary technology in education.  In this claim often I see teachers using technology for the purpose of using technology.  Your finished your assignment, here is an iPad to consume the rest of the class.  Furthermore, Trevor and Matt explain this technology does not have any pedagogical value if used without purpose.  In addition, Trevor and Matt include that screentime and technology addition are downfalls of technology that can harm student’s wellbeing.

In the article, The Digital Gap Between the Rich and Poor Is Not What We Expected, it is highlighted an interesting perspective of the need to go back to screen-free lifestyles.  The article brings up the new digital divide, stating that more affluent families with children will experience less screen time than those of poorer and middle-class families.  The argument states that there is a concern that children will not know how to interact with other people, and the need to revert to play-based learning.

Within the class discussion, I found some key points that were being shared.  We discussed that often with technology, schools and school divisions do not have the infrastructure, time, or money to provide meaningful training for the apps and programs that they use.  Alec brought up an excellent point suggesting that 50% split between hardware and training.  I shared in the class that I find that technology can provide a voice for those who are more unwilling to share in the classroom setting.  Jill countered my claim stating that she is finding the opposite.  She found in online classroom students are more likely to sit and be passive learners not willing to share as often as in the classroom. Melinda brought up an excellent point, often these tools can reduce some of the anxieties that students have.  A tool like Flipgrid could allow students multiple chances to redo their response until it was something that they were comfortable with sharing.

Another post that Nancy and Amanda directed us to is George Couros‘s Myths of Technology Series specifically the myth That Technology Equals Engagement.  I found this interesting as it gives validity to both sides of the debate.  Often we hear that students are so engaged when they are using technology.  As educators, we need to recognize the difference between “engagement” and “novelty”.  As educators, we need to view this from a different lens. We need to move from engaging students to empowering them.  George highlights the difference between compliance, engagement, and empowerment.

  • Compliance – Do this because I told you.
  • Engagement – Do this because you are excited.
  • Empowerment – Do this because you have the power to do something meaningful for yourself.

In conclusion, technology needs to be used as a tool FOR learning, and must have a purpose. The debate was able to highlight both sides of the argument.  Being so pro-technology in the classroom I believe it is important educators try to understand why some teachers are reluctant to use the technology in the classroom.  Trevor and Matt did a great job of highlighting these pieces.

My mind has slightly changed, I will always promote the use of technology in responsible ways in the classroom, but will be more mindful when I do.

I leave you with this quote from George’s series of myths.

If we can develop meaningful learning opportunities that empower our students to make a difference, our impact will go beyond their time they spent in our classrooms.  Technology alone will never provide this.

– George Couros

A Day in the Life of a Instructional Technology Consultant

My Technology-Infused Traditional COVID-19  Day

My day with technology has altered a fair bit due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This is how I interact with technology for most of my day.  Since I am working from home my day often starts with touching base with my colleagues on Microsoft Teams.  It operates as our virtual staff room.  I then meet with my coordinator and the other two instructional technology consultants and we make a plan for the day to help support teachers with supplemental learning.  Being a Microsoft based school division we use the Microsoft 365 online suite that contains the traditional Word, PowerPoint, Excel, but also more unknown tools such as Stream, Sway, and Forms.   Often I will have tasks such as developing a guide for teachers to follow or creating a quick video that teachers can refer to regarding a certain app or feature that our division is promoting, all while searching and looking at teacher’s needs and wants.  We have to be proactive in our planning to support teachers at this time.  Part of my job is responding to the teacher’s specific needs.  I also field a lot of questions and support requests from teachers that are looking for support with Microsoft Teams and how to best implement the program with their students.  We are also currently looking ahead to the next school year and beginning to prepare our end of year technology responsibilities to continue in the fall.

Currently, our school division has rolled out online Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).  These areas provide our teachers an hour a week to meet together and discuss, and collaborate in any way that they need.  These areas are a great way for our teachers to connect with one another as many of them do not get the opportunity to collaborate with other teachers.  Hopefully, the ability to connect with others continues after COVID-19 ends.

My Technology-Infused Traditional Non-COVID-19  Day

Prior to COVID-19 my days would consist of me going to schools and working with teachers, and infusing technology in what the teachers are already doing in their classroom.  This is how I would imagine that people would think about my job.

Our Instructional Technology Team follows the ISTE standards when we are working with teachers both during the pandemic and prior to the pandemic.  These standards are:

Each one of these outcomes features a video series for each one of the outcomes and each learning goals. We try hard to use these standards and curriculum standards as the foundation for all the lessons that we use with teachers.  More in-depth, I often do a lot of coding with students, through Hour of Code, and Scratch.  We are also diving into robotics specifically with the Micro:Bits, Spheros, mBots, Makey Makeys, and Ozobots.  Teachers will request that I come out to their classrooms and ask that I support them in these areas using these tools. Part of my everyday job is to also support and help troubleshoot with teachers during reporting times.

How do I use Technology Personally?

Personally, I use technology to connect with friends, whether it be by connecting through gaming with them.  I also use many different social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.  For professional growth, I use Twitter as my main platform.  I enjoy developing my personal learning network (PLN), connecting with other educators, and participating in Twitter chats.

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Amanda Brace posted on Twitter asking how many apps people have been using since the start of the workday.  I decided to make a list of all the apps that  I used on a daily basis.  I am sure there is more, but I tried to write them down as I was using them.  My grand total was 26 different applications that I have accessed in the past 8 hours.

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My screentime has definitely gone up over the past 7 weeks, but these times have provided me to grow as an educator by participating in webinars and connecting with others.  Hopefully this connection continues after COVID-19.