Category Archives: technology

Closing the distance between distance education and myself.

Greetings fellow ECI 834 students. I look forward to learning with you over the course of the term!

who am i zoolander.gif

“Who am I?” via Giphy

Who am I?

I am Logan Petlak.

  • High school science educator (biology, health science, environmental science).
  • Football coach (and track coach).
  • Recreational hockey player.

    jesse.png

    Foster kitten: “Jesse” (now adopted: “Lou”)

  • Physical activity addict (weight training, assorted sports)
  • Frequent co-foster parent of stray cats and kittens (with my beautiful partner, Kristin).
  • NFL/NHL fan.
  • Moose Jaw product and resident.
  • Lifelong learner and critical thinker.
  • Proud Central Collegiate, Moose Jaw teacher.
  • Avid gamer and supporter of gamification of learning.
  • Open education supporter.
  • Student advocate.
  • #EdTech enthusiast and;
  • Fledgling distance educator.

This course revolves around the final point! It’s not necessarily a fresh topic for me, I’ve discussed it before. How exactly can I bring the Mr. Petlak experience worldwide? Not for personal gain, but to simply aid in the learning of others? Better question, how do I best deliver online education and learning to others? Therein lies my goals for this course:

  1. Gain resources and tools to create a distance learning classroom. Then utilize tools to best replicate what it’s like to be in a face-to-face classroom with students (and for students, with me).
  2. Connect with other professionals who can provide examples, suggestions and support as I develop distance learning opportunities.
  3. Critique and analyze the learning inherent within distance education and what learning may be lost outside of a face-to-face or in-school setting.
  4. BONUS: begin developing content for my Biology course as part of our module assignment!

 

In our school, some students are already taking distance education courses. Through informal polling, it has received generally positive reviews! Perhaps it was a shift in thinking but I don’t remember them being offered as much when I was in high school and, in my only distance experience in university, I had a hard time getting engaged without the face-to-face piece…

Fast forward.

When picking where to apply for my Master’s, distance education/universities came up, but I assumed they would hold less validity or reverence than other institutions so I decided against it. Whether it was engagement or validity of distance education, I guess I should’ve watched this video first!

Opportunities for distance education are available for most subjects, at many levels, worldwide. How will I fit into the distance education world and can I provide something that others don’t, and will I stick to my open education-centered morality?

If you were a distance educator, would you capitalize on the potential financial gain associated with private education?

How will your distance classroom work?

Am I foolish to hope that I can almost completely replicate the classroom experience, or is being consistently connected (via email) and using apps/tools like Zoom, Remindvirtual reality, google docs or GAFE to include all of the Google apps I guess (thanks Kyle), and socrative not enough to make it happen completely and becomes a blended learning environment (just shy of a completely online course)?

How will I account for students who don’t have as much access? We know they will be affected negatively, can we supply devices at a distance?

 

Regardless, I intend to close the distance between where I am now, and where I want to be with distance and blended education.

 

Thoughts and comments are welcome!
Logan Petlak


Assistive Technology Doesn’t Just Involve Technology

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks Flickr via Compfight cc

I was a little apprehensive about having to write this post discussing the topic of assistive technology. I wasn’t sure that I would have a lot to say because I didn’t think I had a lot of experience with using assistive technology but after reading a few of my classmates blogs this week I was able to think about assistive technology from a new perspective. I teach at the same school as Andrew so my experience is much the same in the fact that I don’t have the variety of students that many other teachers have. I have had very few students with disabilities that need adaptations however there have been instances in which I have had to make adaptations. In my internship I had a student who was unable to read from anything printed on white paper so I had to print everything for them on yellow or green paper.  Another way that I have accommodated a student with a disability is by chunking their work. This involves breaking a big assignment down into manageable pieces for them so they don’t get overwhelmed and fail to finish the assignment.

I didn’t think that any of these adaptations could fall under assistive technology until I read Amy and Heidi’s blogs this week. Each blog discusses ways that we adapt that might not involve technology. If you check out the Understood website there is a large list of assistive technologies that don’t actually involve technology. After reading through some of the items in the list I realize that I do a lot more adapting than I had originally thought. In my math classes, students use calculators, graph paper, rulers, protractors and manipulatives. These are all assistive technologies. Other examples include chair cushions, fidgets, spell-check, timers and graphic organizers.

Dave Eayburn describes assistive technology as: “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability”. I feel like it’s a pretty good definition of assistive technology but I do think it assistive technology can help everyone, not just those with disabilities.

Assistive technologies (or ATs) are specialized technology (software and/or hardware) that are used by people with and without disabilities to adapt how specific tasks can be performed.

Photo Credit: DiegoMolano Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: DiegoMolano Flickr via Compfight cc

I think that assistive technologies go beyond hardware and software and include any object or device that allows us to be more efficient or productive. We all use assistive technology everyday; computers, phones, word processors, Siri, microwaves and cars are just some examples of the daily items we use that assist us. Obviously there are some devices (hearing aids, braile, sensory objects to name a few) that are more helpful to those who have disabilities and which impact these individuals more in their daily life than my everyday life. For example, could I get by without a computer? Sure I could, but my work life would be a lot less productive. I appreciate having the technology to use but if the computer was never invented I wouldn’t know any different and I would be able to carry out my job no problem. However, someone who is blind and never learns to read braile will have significant issues reading and learning.

Google Read and Write was discussed a lot this past week and it was interesting to read teachers discuss their experience using it in their classrooms. Roxanne is able to integrate it into her daily language lessons and I think that it is a great tool to adapt for those who struggle, but is also a great tool for students who may not necessarily need the tool. There are a variety of features and two of them that I thought were really great were the vocabulary list and the word predictor. The word predictor is great for students who may be learning English or who struggle with reading.

I haven’t had any experience with the add on, but after watching this video there are a few suggestions that I have. The first is that when the picture dictionary is used it would be nice to have real, lifelike pictures to choose from as opposed to simple cartoons/clip art. My second suggestion isn’t just for Google Read and Write, but for all Text-To-Speech (TTS) software. It would be nice if the audio didn’t sound so robotic. Is it too much to ask to have it sound more like an audiobook that is read by a real person? Now I know that it isn’t as easy to develop software that can do that but my hope is that sometime in the future we get there. I can’t imagine having to use TTS often and having to listen to Mr. Roboto talk to me. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here is a sample from the article we were asked to read this week. It had a listen option so I decided to click it to see how it sounds. Let’s just say I didn’t listen to the whole file and can’t imagine having no option but to listen to it.

One final thought is based on a recommendation from the article Rethinking Assistive TechnologyThe article has seven recommendations for rethinking assistive technology and the one that stood out to me the most was that we should consider using “technology enhanced performance” as a replacement for the term “assistive technology”. The reason I like this so much is because it breaks down the barriers and stigmas that might be associated with students who use the assistive technology. The adaptations shouldn’t be something that makes users feel singled out or different and changing the name of it might help break down those barriers a bit.

What are your thoughts? How do you adapt for your students? Do your adaptations always involve technology or are some of the adaptations less sophisticated? Have you had any experience with TTS software and did it involve a Mr.Roboto? Do you think TTS software will ever sound ‘human’?


Space Racing through assessments using Socrative

I was challenged to integrate a digital assessment tool into my classroom this week and talk about my experience in a variety of ways. Unfortunately I am without students for the rest of this week (conferences tomorrow, PD Thursday and Remembrance Day Friday) so I am going to discuss an experience I had just last week using Socrative. I have discussed Socrative in previous posts as I spent some time exploring it last year in another course. However, at the time I was off on maternity leave so I wasn’t able to integrate it into my classroom until this year.

Last week I had the perfect opportunity to use it as a method to review for an accounting midterm that was heavily based on concepts and terms involved in the class. I used Socrative to create two quizzes; one was a multiple choice quiz covering 30 terms and the other was a true/false quiz covering accounting concepts learned through the first half of the semester. I decided to use the quiz in 3 different ways.

Students engaged in the space race

Students engaged in the space race

I first used the true/false quiz as an independent assessment that was teacher paced. A teacher paced quiz is one in which I control when the next question appears. One benefit of the teacher paced method is you can display the answer and discuss it before moving on. It was a great way to see the areas where students may be misunderstanding concepts and address these misunderstandings. Being that it was a true/false quiz it displayed the percentage of students that selected true and those who selected false. It was a really good way to see immediate results and discuss concepts.

I then used the Space Race feature to divide the class into 4 teams that competed to win the race by answering the multiple choice questions discussing the terms. This feature was very interesting and has advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages:
– can select up to 20 teams; you can assign students to teams or have site create teams for you
– creates friendly competition
– students were very engaged
– students can see correct/incorrect responses

Disadvantages:
– students seemed to think it was based on the team to finish first which made them rush
– when teams were losing some students got upset and were discouraging their classmates
After noticing that many of my students were rushing through the answers and hearing some of their end results (12/30, 17/30 etc etc) I decided that I wanted students to redo the test independently as a student paced quiz.

The student paced quiz allows students to go about the questions at their own pace. You can select whether the correct answer is displayed after they submit the answer for each question so students get immediate feedback. They are able to go back and change their answers if they get them wrong, but the question will remain marked as incorrect on the teacher report so it doesn’t help the student earn a higher percent. From the teacher perspective I think this is a big plus for the tool.

Students generally thought the tool was a great way to review. Some students took it more seriously than others and it was quite obvious that that was the case for some students. This was really apparent for students who were giving fake names as opposed to their real names (ie. RIPHarambe, Harambe, Mickey Smith). Maybe these students were worried their results would be made public or that their classmates would see their responses, but that is another great feature of the tool, you can select whether names appear or not. If you want to be able to use the results with a purpose students must put their real name, otherwise there is no way you will be able to tell who answered what. After each quiz you can chose to show the results with or without names to the class. Regardless of whether you share the results with the class, reports are created for you to access at anytime.

Screenshot of report created by Socrative

Screenshot of report created by Socrative

As you can see from the results table, this is a great way to see which questions students are really struggling with. For example question 15 & 20 had very poor scores while #13 and #22 had great results. This is an easy way for me to see common mistakes within the class as a whole as well as individual students who are struggling. You can also see the buttons that allow me to see student names (which is off so names are represented as stars), as well as answers. If I turn the answers off all the data will be hidden until I turn the show answers button back on.

Overall I thought the experience with Socrative was beneficial to both myself and the students. I was using it as a tool to review information in a “fun” interactive way so I hadn’t planned on using the results for actual assessment purposes. Having used the site I can see the value in it and will be using it for more formative assessments in the future. I prefer this site to Kahoot because it seems a little more ‘professional’ or academic as compared to Kahoot. To me, Kahoot seems very game based and elementary so I didn’t find it suitable for my high school students and what I wanted this activity to be. I found it to be very easy to set up and user friendly for both the teacher and the students. For myself I don’t know that I would ever use this for a summative assessment only because students need phones or computers to complete the quizzes which opens up the doors for texting/chatting or searching for answers while the assessment is being completed. The biggest disadvantage is the access to technology. I have 22 students in my class and 10 students needed to use a school laptop to participate in class. Depending on the socio-economic status and age of your students this may be the same case for your classes.

I highly recommend giving Socrative a try especially if you teach middle years or high school. If you want to check out my youtube channel I have a few tutorials that demonstrate how to set up a quiz, view reports and run the quizzes that you might find useful. There are a lot of tools out there that provide different forms of assessment, especially formative assessment. Whatever tool you choose remember to choose it wisely after giving the assessment purpose some thought.  Technology can change the way we assess making it more efficient and help us improve the learning environment.

What is your “go to” tool for online assessment? When and how do you use it? Do you think that we will eventually move away from pen & paper type assessments to more online forms of assessment?

 


Throw away that curriculum…web 3.0 is coming!

If only the web and education were as easy as 1, 2, 3. I have read through a lot of blogs and articles this week trying to fully understand where we are headed with education and web 3.0. I’m glad that some of my classmates are still struggling to fully comprehend web 3.0 because I feel the same way. I don’t think you can blame us though, it seems that there really is no clear understanding of it and even Wikipedia struggles to understand it (thanks to Andrew for pointing this out). But we do know some things. Here’s what I know based on my readings, discussions and reflections from this past week.

Jackie Gerstein provides a thorough explanation of web 1.0 through 3.0 and also discusses the transformation of education from education 1.o – 3.0. Jackie summarizes each of these ideas with explanations and also considers the learning theories that are involved. I have summarized what I took away from her article in the table below.

Screenshot of a table I created in MS Word

Screenshot of a table I created in MS Word

Photo Credit: bethannigrams Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: bethannigrams Flickr via Compfight cc

Many of my classmates were able to summarize and explain the differences between web 1.0, web 2.0 and web 3.0. Erin did a great job summarizing the key points and discussing what a “good student” looks like for each of these. I feel as though we are all familiar with a web 1.0 student at this point in time. A web 1.0 student can “look up” anything and find information online in order to memorize or write down information. It is a one way learning situation. The student is a passive learning going with the flow of what they come across on the internet. I feel as though a lot of teachers use this method of teaching when they use the internet. Sadly, I feel as though many teachers don’t move beyond web 1.0 when using the web.

The web 2.0 student is just as easy to spot although there aren’t as many of these students as there are web 1.0 students. The web 2.0 students are able to collaborate, connect and create by using online spaces to their advantage. They have an online presence and personal learning networks established through blogs or social media. Students are no longer passive learners who simply receive information. They produce, discover and generate ideas by working with others to develop and learn. They work with others to build on information and construct understanding of the material.

Photo Credit: marktmcn Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: marktmcn Flickr via Compfight cc

Web 3.0 is a little harder to define as we haven’t really jumped into that part of the pool yet. We are just dipping our toes in at this point. Web 3.0 is going to take us away from traditional learning styles and more importantly teaching styles. When I think about web 3.0 I think of learning that has no boundaries, is extremely flexible and is completely personalized. As teachers, we would move away from actually teaching material to becoming facilitators who help our students along the way. We would work as collaborators and help students locate information they are seeking. Curriculums will no longer be necessary as each student is learning what they want and each student will be learning something entirely different from the student sitting next to them. Outcomes will be done away with and student success will be determined by themselves. Student success may end up being based on whether they have learned what they need to learn in order to land them a position in the career field they are interested in. Some students will find success earlier than others while others will struggle to be self-determined learners. It is the teachers role to encourage students to become self-determined and motivate them to discover what interests them. This is my somewhat EXTREME version of what web 3.0 will look like…am I too far off??

Regardless of where we are at, we must continue to move forward. We may feel as though web 3.0 is a long ways away but technology is changing at an incredible rate so we must start preparing now. As I mentioned earlier, many of us as well as our students are still stuck in web 1.0 when we have been living in a world of web 2.0 for a number of years now. It’s time for us to move forward from education 1.0 to education 3.0. As teachers we need to be advocates for our students and part of this is ensuring we are moving forward ourselves.

What do you see as your biggest barrier in moving away from web 1.0 teaching methods? Would you consider yourself a web 2.0 teacher or do you find yourself being caught in the web 1.0 trap? I’d also love to hear your comments on my web 3.0 thoughts in terms of how I think it could change education.

 

 


The new tools of our trade?

I want to start by saying hats off to my peers, Amy, Krista, Luke, Elizabeth and Rochelle who presented on the topic of educational software and media. I have to admit that although I am familiar with a lot of different great software and media tools I don’t often integrate them into my classes (insert red embarrassed face here). I can’t say for sure why I haven’t integrated the tools in my classes yet, but a big part of it is the fact that I was out the classroom on mat leave all of last year, so having just been back to work for a month and a half I still feel as thought I’m adjusting to the new routine. When I’m talking about not using the tools, I guess I’m talking about tools like Kahoot, Socrative, Quizlet or Explain Everything. I do use other media in the classroom so I will talk about the tools I do use as well as touch on some of the tools I have spent some time exploring in hopes to integrate the into my classes in the future.

One of the tools I use is Edmodo. I enjoy using Edmodo for a variety of reasons. The first is because the interface is similar to Facebook and students so it’s easy to navigate and students feel the same way. One of the biggest benefits is the increased level of communication between students, parents and the teacher. I’ve made a screen cast of my Edmodo page that takes you through some of the features as well as discusses some of the pros and cons of using Edmodo.

I have some EAL students in my class and they spend time working with a language app called Duolingo. I was introduced to this last year when I used it to try and learn some Italian. It has a gaming feel to it and makes learning fun, but the quality of the learning isn’t the best. I used it a lot, but I wasn’t able to actually remember or recall much of the language when I wasn’t using the app or website. To get a feel for how the program works check out my screencast from when I did my post-assessment. During the video you will hear the chime when I respond correctly and a green banner appears. Duolingo is very stimulus-response based lending itself nicely to the behaviourism theory. When I played it was really motivating and the game like features kept making you come back. You can earn badges, points and your progress is tracked making it rewarding to play and learn. The downside to the app is that although there is a lot of repetition it doesn’t allow for deeper connections and learning. To truly learn a language I believe you must converse with people using the language and Duolingo doesn’t provide these types of interactions. Users may chat with others on a forum, but there is no opportunity to speak with others and practice.

Duolingo is a great tool for EAL learners to get additional practice as it is engaging and fun. In order for students to practice outside of the classroom, students need to have access to the website or app. This makes it difficult for students who don’t have access to technology to practice when they are not at school. As a mentioned above, the app itself is not enough for students to master a language, but it is helpful. Language Surfer provides a great list of ways to get the most out of Duolingo and most of them go beyond just playing “the game”. Students who use this need to go beyond the app by writing down new word they learn on paper, writing sentences that they struggle with, reading the hints given by the program and working with others to practice speaking the language they are learning.

Other tools that I have explored for past classes with Alec are Socrative and Explain Everything. Socrative allows you to create quizzes and use exit slips to assess student understanding. I don’t think I would use this tool for summative assessment purposes but I see it as a great tool to get some feedback of learning throughout the unit. Students need to have access to computers, tablets or phones in order to participate so it is difficult to use in a classroom like mine where some students don’t have a phone. I feel like getting computers for everyone would be a lot of hassle to complete a short exit slip or a quiz that will give me some feedback. It is much easier to do a paper exit slip and have students complete it…however not as fun. Explain Everything is an interactive whiteboard app and I have thought about using it in my math classes. I see students using it to walk me through a question while they explain the steps they are using to solve the problem. I see it as an excellent tool to evaluate deeper understanding however it takes time for students to learn how to use the tool so that is something that would need to be considered before it is used in the classroom. You can check out my youtube channel to find the video tutorials I have created for both Socrative and Explain Everything. The videos will give you a better idea of how they work if you are wanting to learn more about them. A few classmates have included great reviews of Plickers and Seesaw; both tools seem beneficial in their own ways. Be sure to check out Plickers as reviewed by Liz and Seesaw as reviewed by Erin (great job guys!).

As I stated earlier, I tend to stay away from many of these question-response type tools because I don’t see a whole lot of value in them for the amount of time it takes to implement them. I do see it as a fun way to review and see the value in using these tools to differentiate the teaching methods. How often do you use these tools? Can you sell me on the value of these tools? I’m not saying I will never use them, but I don’t see myself using them on a regular basis…but maybe I should? Are these the new tools of our educational trade?


The digital life of a teacher-entertainer.

In this ever-evolving  understanding of teaching and learning, educators are constantly on the run from “traditional schooling”, constantly bombarded with news mean to fight the factory education model they are still enclosed within. Teachers, forever exposed to new means of instruction, the new rights, the new wrongs, the new device, and in the case of Sesame Street: the new songs.

Sesame Street Songs (Then and now)

Songs?

In a classroom?

Not allowed.

Unless your students are part of a generation with higher cases of ADD needing various forms of engagement to aid in learning (In this writer’s opinion, higher cases of ADD are strictly due to larger and more accurate amounts of testing).

Oh!

Wait!

Our students are a part of this generation. They need interesting and engaging delivery of content to enhance learning. Not to say it hasn’t been present before, I just think the world is far more engaging than it ever was. Which is why we, as educa-entertain-tors have to compete with the shows we were raised on and then some. New types of entertainment change comes with our handheld devices and while individual perception of change varies, some welcome it, some resist it, the fact is media, television, and devices are always changing. Therefore, to stay competitive, we have to stay on top of our game. Sift through the resistance to BYOD, get your hands on some additional devices for those who don’t have them, and get on the same level as every other source of entertainment your student is exposed to. I don’t mean to discount evidence that indicates BYOD can be bad for learning , but much like shows of the past, learning can still be had from devices and programming, because we watched these shows.

pinky__the_brain_wallpaper

A personal favourite of mine from youth. “Pinky and the Brain” via Looney Tunes Wikia

Even if standard achievement scores went down, there is learning that occurs beyond the ways we measure it. Natalie’s take  on the work of Neil Postman reminded us that: “He indicates that Sesame Street is a series of short commercials meant to entertain that uses puppets, celebrities and catchy tunes.  This is true.”

But why isn’t entertainment considered learning?

Kids don’t always learn the way we want them to, but there still are provided with ways to learn through the apps, social media, and games they play. Apps allow our students to connect with each other, face to face. Apps are reinventing the depth of relationships we may have had before with increased exposure to socialization and different experiences and cultures. Many games are problem-based, objective-completing activities that provide descriptors and feedback on their work. Consistent with that of the classroom but not with the content we would prefer. But can it go wrong? We can observe the history of the learning channel and see the defamation of the “educational program” over the years, and Krista Gates mentions that the shows are not as educational as they once were. But they are just as entertaining, and when I enjoyed the learning that I was exposed to on television, I enjoyed learning.

Sounds like a connection.

 

Television, apps, and devices are fun.

Television, apps, and devices are entertaining.

Television, apps, and devices are engaging.

Engagement leads to learning.

Learning should be engaging.

Learning should be entertaining.

Learning is fun.

 

Thoughts? Disagree? Am I simply brainwashed by the collection of television I’ve been exposed to over the years? Is my naive optimism the product of every show I’ve ever seen where a cartoon character made a joke or managed to smile in a bad situation? I’d like to this so.

Logan Petlak


Entertaining Education

I’ve spent a lot of time this past week reflecting on Postman’s quote regarding Sesame Street and education. Like Andrew it was a little hard for me to think of because I didn’t have a whole lot of experience with educational tv growing up (at least not that I can remember). This is something that made me think more about my own children and their exposure to educational television. I decided to look into Neil Postman’s quote and found that he provides several reasons why parents embraced Sesame Street. He begins with a very important point and it’s something that I can relate to as a parent.

“Sesame Street” appeared to justify allowing a four- or five-year-old to sit transfixed in front of a television screen for unnatural periods of time. 

After reading Naomi’s post and some of the comments that follow, it is easy to see that I’m not the only parent who may be able to relate to this. I too have allowed my children to watch Baby Einstein and it started at a very young age. I remember putting my son into his exersaucer and turning on Baby Einstein so that I could blow-dry my hair, or change a load of laundry. It’s difficult when you are the only parent home and trying to run a household with a little one who doesn’t nap when you need them to. I’m sure we’ve all been there. I don’t think that it’s a terrible thing if we let our kids watch tv, or shall I say use the tv as babysitter as long as we aren’t going overboard.

How do we know how much is overboard though? I was surprised when I read some of the stats on how long children watch tv in a week as provided in the first chapter of “Children’s Learning From Educational Television: Sesame Street and Beyond.” It was interesting to read about some of the negatives such as behaviour issues that may arise due to increased tv time. In response to some of the negatives that may arise due to increased tv time, the American Academy of Paediatrics suggested that total tv time should be limited to 1-2 hours per day and eliminated completely for children under the age of 2. I sure hope no one from the American Academy of Paediatrics comes over to my house while I’m trying to get supper ready, or finish my work, or do anything that needs to be done while the kids are awake. That being said, is that ALL my kids do? Of course not! My kids are great at make believe play and entertaining themselves, but I do allow them to watch tv daily with limits.

A big hit in our house is the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on Disney Jr. When I first saw the show I was quite impressed with the educational value of it. Commonsense Media gave one episode that we have on DVD a 3/5 stars for educational value. I was a little surprised to see it didn’t rate higher. One thing I really like about each episode is the use of “Toodles” and the “Mousketools”. The mousketools are a set of tools that will be used to solve a problem throughout the show. The kids are asked to problem solve and think critically about the tool that will need to be used to solve the problem. Check out the clip below to see how Toodle works. In addition to Toodle it does teach counting, colours, shapes and social skills.

Postman also suggested that parents felt Sesame Street took care of the education side of things in the household. This is something that I can see in tv shows as well as apps and computer games. Although educational tv does teach some skills, it cannot be the only way that our children are learning at a young age. We need to work with our children to develop reading, writing, critical thinking and math skills.

“Sesame Street” relieved them of the responsibility of teaching their per-school children how to read.

We cannot expect our children to learn everything they need to learn from an app or tv show. We need to read to our children, talk to them about money, count things, look for patterns, discuss rules of the road…I could go on and on about the little things that we can do that will make a big difference in our children’s educational lives.

Postman finishes by stating that

We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street”. Which is to say…[it] undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.

I can agree with this point to a certain extent. I believe that educational tv, apps and games contribute to the lack of attention that some children seem to have. From a very young age our children are stimulated by these tv shows and games. They find them fun, entertaining and enjoyable. I do think it may develop expectations in these young children about what learning looks like. As Benita mentions, it’s hard to compete with stimulating games and tv shows when students come into our classroom and it’s exhausting to think about Teaching Like a Pirate. I think we all struggle with making ALL learning fun and to be honest I don’t know if that is realistic. However, realistic or not I think it is something that we need to strive for. Do we need to tell jokes, dance, juggle and put on a show? Of course not! But we do need to engage our students and be excited about what we are teaching. If we are excited about what we are teaching, our students will be excited to learn the material.

Am I being too harsh? Is it realistic to think that everything we teach (or learn) can be fun? What happens as we move through our schooling into post-secondary education or onto meetings in our careers? Is there a point that is reached in which learning is no longer fun?


Learning. It’s complicated.

I loved Amy’s intro in her blog this week and I think that we can all relate to the feeling when we start thinking about learning theories. I think that when it comes to learning theories and perspectives things can seem a little overwhelming. But like Amy said, it really isn’t that difficult to understand. If we want to talk learning theories I think they can easily be described in ways that everyone can understand and relate to. I think what makes learning theories difficult is to understand how and when we should be using each theory. Before I go on to try and answer that I think a brief description of each theory will be helpful.

Simply put, behaviourism can be described as learning a response from a given stimulus. Most of us are probably familiar with Pavlov’s Dog and use this experiment to recall how behaviourism works. I am sure that we can all think of a time in our classroom or our own learning experience when learning happened through the behaviourist perspective. If a you were bitten by a dog as a small child, you may be scared of dogs even as an adult. The dog bite was the stimulus and the pain/fear was the response. You were trained to think that way. In school, we were taught to line up after the recess bell goes. The bell was the stimulus, lining up was the response. We were taught to do that. We might use stickers, charts or apps like class dojo to encourage good behaviour in our classrooms.

What behaviourism forgot to take into consideration was the process of learning. This is where cognitivism comes in. Cognitivists are concerned with the way we learn. How do we process and synthesize things? Learning is viewed not as what you can do, but what you know and how you acquired it. Things like graphic organizers, reflection questions and examining the learning are a few examples of cognitivist theory in practice in a classroom. Constructivism was developed next and takes learning from being purely external to more internal. It is concerned with the way students make connections with their experiences in order to relate to what they are learning. With the introduction of technology came connectivism which attempts to look at how learning happens in a social setting through connections. For more on my perspective and thoughts on connectivism check out my post from a previous class with Alec.

Like Roxanne I can think back to my experience as a learning and through my experience so far as a teacher and I can define moments in which each of these perspectives has been used with the exception of connectivism. In my learning experience, I can’t say that there was one learning theory that was used more often or one that I think I learned best from. As a teacher, I don’t focus on any perspective more than the other but I use them all throughout my classes in different instances.

Photo Credit: Yoshi Shih-Chieh Huang Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Yoshi Shih-Chieh Huang Flickr via Compfight cc

As teachers I think that it’s important that we avoid getting caught up in which theory is the BEST theory to use. As Peggy and Timothy mention all the theories are valuable. It is important to think about the learner and what they are learning about. Smaller children learning rules may be better suited towards behaviourist learning while older students might be better suited for a constructivist approach by completing an inquiry activity.

It is important to understand that technology has changed the way we do things. I really liked that Peggy and Timothy went back after 20 years to re-evaluate their article because a lot has changed in 20 years. Although a lot has changed the underlying concepts of the theories has stayed the same.  What matters most is that we are willing to adapt and try to make learning as student-centered as possible. This is the only way we can reach out to students and ensure their learning needs are being met. We need to understand the learner and learning outcome in order to find a learning theory that is best suited for the job. I feel this is something that we all do on a daily basis even if it is done subconsciously. I do know that learning is far to complex to give the award to one learning theory.


Educational Technology in My Life

Last night we had our first online class for EC&I 833. The class had us looking back through the years at how education and technology have evolved. I couldn’t help but think back to my experiences with technology and education right from the first computer I had at home (an IBM) right through to my teaching experiences with technology. I decided to create a mini presentation/vlog to share some of my experiences. If you want to hear about my past experiences you can watch from the start until 6:40, after that I discuss how my past experiences have shaped my current philosophy on technology and education.

I took some time to look up some of the educational games I used in the past and it brought back some great memories. Number Munchers, Reader Rabbit and All The Right Type are the programs that stand out the most in my mind. I think we all remember the typing programs… fff jjj faff jjj ff jj fjf jfj …am I right?? As a side note, anyone who was also a big fan of Number Munchers should be happy to hear that they have an app! I was surprised to come across it but I’m not going to lie…I will be downloading it. Anyways…back to the matter at hand.

After thinking about my experiences I started to think about how they impacted my education and how technology continues to influence my teaching practice. Technology has evolved over a long period of time and we’ve seen many advancements from the printing press to the computer. I would like to argue that the computer has had the biggest impact on the way we do things, but I could also argue that newspapers, radio and tv have drastically changed the way we have progressed globally and within our society. It doesn’t matter what type of technology is being introduced there are going to be changes that come along with it. Neil Postman describes five ways things that we need to know about technological change and I believe they are all valid points. I think my favourite point he makes is that every change comes with a trade-off. Some might argue that texting is making our students bad writers while others will argue that it is helping our language evolve.  Either way you look at it, we are trading something off.

Neil also states that “technology is not additive: it’s ecological”. This implies that it changes the way we do things. It impacts everything we do and we need to adapt and change to work with technology. This idea really speaks to me when I think about technology and education. As I explain in my video, technology has the ability to drastically change the way we do education. It gives learners and opportunity to go beyond the classroom walls and make connections that may have never been possible before. I know we have a long way to go as not everyone is onboard with integrating technology and we don’t have the funds to get us to where we maybe should/could be. But we are working on it. It is something that will always evolve and seems to be evolving at a very fast pace. It is our job to do our best to keep up with the times so that students are prepared for the 21st century work force that is seeking critical thinkers, problem solvers and collaborators.

I’m not sure I’ve done the definition of educational technology but I hope you can make some connections to what I have said and that I’ve made you think about your own practices and views on educational technology.


Unplugging. What does it mean to you?

We ended our semester with a final Great Ed Tech Debate and it was definitely a great debate. The focus was looking at whether or not we have become too dependent on technology and if what we really need is to unplug. I think this is an extremely important topic to discuss for everyone, not just those of us in our class.  Technology has become a part of our modern day lives, but do we rely on it too much? Do we really need to be on our phones as much as we are? 

Photo Credit: functoruser via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: functoruser via Compfight cc

The first group agreed that we do need to unplug because we are becoming too dependent as well as lonely. The connections that we make online may give us a false sense of our ‘real life’ relationships. Even though we are more connected now than ever before, many people are feel more lonely. As humans we crave intimacy and scientists have proven that to be intimate you need to be vulnerable which requires courage. Social media removes vulnerability and courage because we can pick and choose what we want to say, when we want to say it and how we want to say it. I’m sure we’ve all written a status or post to go back and re-write it 2 or 3 times until it’s exactly the way we want it to sound (or hope it to sound). It is interesting to think about that when we think about all of the statuses and updates we read in a day. How many are authentic? Or are they all authentic? Maybe even more authentic because we have the opportunity to think about what we want to say and put our thoughts together in a way that really gets our points out there?

Studies have also found that using technology can be just as addictive as drugs and that many millennials are becoming attached to their phones.  I think that there is a lot of pressure for students to keep up with everything on social media. Even for myself, I often find myself suffering from “FOMO” (fear of missing out) even though my friends and family don’t even update things that much. I find myself going back and forth between different social media apps throughout the day checking in to make sure I didn’t miss some major announcement like an engagement, pregnancy or birth. The constant ‘need’ to check in seems to be something that just happens naturally throughout the day. It’s almost as if I do it without thinking…it’s an automatic action. I often wonder why I feel the need to check in so often. I’m really not missing out on anything but the moment that’s happening right in front of me in ‘real life’. I try to make a conscious effort to put my phone in a different room while I am with my kids so that it’s not a distraction. But then they start doing something cute and I immediately go to reach for my phone to capture them on camera. Not having my phone with me, I usually run to grab it and by the time I get back the moment has passed. If I had my phone I would have been able to capture the moment.

Photo Credit: Martino's doodles via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Martino’s doodles via Compfight cc

But does capturing the moment on my phone have the same affect as capturing it with my own eyes without my device? A study has shown that we enjoy some moments more when we capture it with our phones. I would totally agree with these findings. However I do think that there is a difference between experiencing something while capturing every moment of it with our phones and experiencing it without capturing every moment with our phones. I think that taking pictures/videos can be a great way to experience an event. It’s nice to have something to look back on. But just like everything else I think there needs to be a balance. At a Garth Brooks concert I was at a few weeks ago, a lady in front of me recorded the WHOLE THING on her phone! She was basically watching the whole concert through her phone screen. Half the time the image being recorded was blurry because she was zoomed in and she wasn’t able to follow him the whole time because he moved all over. We made the comment that she will wake up in the morning and realize that wasn’t the best decision. Now if she had a tripod or something set up to record it so she could watch the whole thing in person and then be able to watch a quality recording of the video the next day, that would be a different story. I took some videos and a few pictures, but I knew I didn’t want to be on my phone the whole time because I would miss out on the experience I wanted in going to see him. I can watch youtube videos of his performances any day, so I wanted to make sure that I took it all in while I was there in person. Did I take some pictures and videos? Of course I did…two pictures before of me and the people I was with, and three short Snapchat videos of a few of my favourite songs. Do I regret not taking more? Not one bit.

Moving to the disagree side I have to admit I completely agree that it almost seems impossible to fully unplug. Even when we are in our cars, going for a walk or run, camping, travelling we are connected in someway. We use our phones to capture images that we will most likely share when we get a chance. Even when we are offline we are thinking about the online world. In reality, our offline and online worlds are not two distinct parts of our lives, they are our whole lives existing as one augmented reality.  It’s pretty clear that our online lives can exist without a lot of our offline lives, but do our offline lives depend on our online lives in the same way? Our offline lives existed long before our online lives, but this isn’t the case for our children who have been born with a digital life right from the day they were born without having any say about it. The idea of unplugging is something that our children will have to learn to manage more than we have had to because technology is still fairly new for most of us (10-15 years). Unplugging may also mean something different to each person. To me, unplugging is stepping away from social media most of all, and putting away our devices. I personally don’t worry about unplugging from TV but maybe that’s because I don’t use it too often, or I feel like when I do use it it’s to watch the news or a movie with my kids which I would consider to be positive uses.

Technology certainly plays a large role in our lives. It allows us to connect with people near and far. We can network, build friendships, meet new people and find communities that we feel welcome in. It allows us to video chat or FaceTime with no added cost. It helps us manage our personal lives including our mental and physical health. I think we can all see value in technology and appreciate social media but we have to be aware of the amount of time we spend on the devices we have. When it starts to take precedence over quality time spent face to face with our family, friends, spouses and kids I think we need to take a step back and think about how we can unplug and reconnect with the people around us.

Photo Credit: rbatina via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: rbatina via Compfight cc