Augmented, mixed, and virtual realities provide incredible potential for interesting and engaging learning experiences. As technology increases, particularly in rarity and price, learning experiences can also increase. However, this is often only for those that can afford it.
I find these technologies extremely interesting, and I certainly would be interested in experimenting with using them within the classroom. However, as the presenting group mentioned, any discussion of these topics requires an understanding of the difference between Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed realities. The basic defining characteristics of each are seen in the image below.
My own experience is very brief, starting with something fairly basic, yet oddly futuristic, Google Cardboard. This was an accessible* ($10-20, yet you need your own smartphone) VR Experience that was released in 2014. Receiving one during Christmas of 2015, I was able to use my phone to experience VR for the first time. It was truly a wild thing to experience for the first time, as I was able to explore 360-degree videos from all over the world, with a feeling of immersion that I had never experienced before. From there, I also have limited experiences Beat Saber on a friends PlayStation, while also exploring augmented reality in Pokémon Go.
Within the classroom however, I haven’t had the chance to experience using these technologies with students. I’ve heard whispers of our school division potentially buying some and will be quick to sign up if that happens. I see many potential opportunities, particularly for my Social Studies and Drafting students. It would be incredibly engaging to allow my students to virtually visit the coast of France when we are talking about the Second World War, or vising cities from around the world when we do our project on Cultures of the World. How cool would it be to put on a headset, and virtually visit cities like Beijing, Rio De Janeiro, Berlin, or Cape Town?
Furthermore, particularly for my Drafting students that work on architecture, imagine putting on the headset to experience the scale and beauty of buildings like the Sydney Opera House, the Burj Khalifa, the CN Tower, or the Taj Mahal?
Also, although it’s not first-hand knowledge, I have heard about a community organization that comes into our school and allows students to try various job simulators, using a VR headset. Learning how to operate a crane, heavy machinery, or work as an electrician, seem like great way to utilize this technology. Giving students opportunities that they wouldn’t be able to enjoy otherwise is a hugely understated benefit to this technology.
While I am personally interested in this, I’m a bit on the fence about how far I would go to integrate it into my classroom. Through one of our suggested viewings for this week, we were able to experience how a teacher has designed a probability lesson within the virtual world of the game Half-Life. Again, I am definitely interested in this, but the practical side of my brain wonders if it would be beneficial to do once or twice a semester, rather than utilize it has a regular teaching tool. Thinking back to the SAMR model, and meaningful integration of technology, I’m wondering if the effort and set-up time would be beneficial over other methods of teaching the same content. Another one of our suggested readings tried to measure this, utilizing an experiment that measured the difference in the teaching of a science lesson. Separate groups were taught with video, or instead with ‘immersive virtual reality.’ The research team saw mixed results and concluded that learning in virtual reality is not more effective than learning with video. However, the authors also state something that we’ve been discussing all semester.
“The results suggest that the value of IVR (immersive virtual reality) for learning science depends on how it is integrated into a classroom lesson.”
(Makransky, et. al., 2021)
The other issue with this and all emerging, expensive, or rate technologies, is the potential to further the digital divide. These technologies aren’t available to everyone. Access is dependent on the ability to acquire a smartphone at the very least, or a powerful computer or gaming system on the higher end. We must remain cognizant of how access to these technologies will affect our students, particularly when it comes to our decisions about bringing them into our classrooms.
Have you had a great experience with VR/MR/AR in the classroom? Let me know about it! I’m looking forward to the day where I can bring them into my classroom and get some first hand experience.
This week we were treated to an exceptional presentation by Kristen, Gilles, and Meenu. To be quite honest, this was one of the presentations I was most excited to take part in, as it has strong ties both to my teaching load, and my areas of interest. Coding and Makerspaces have been involved in some of the most exciting, experiential, constructivist-based learning that I’ve been part of, and I am a high proponent of their use in the classroom.
This week we were asked to take a deeper dive into the coding or the makerspace portion of the presentation. As my school is in the very initial stages of creating a high school makerspace, that is the direction I decided to take.
I think it’s important to frame my discussion. A couple of years ago, I was asked to take over my high school’s Drafting and Computer-Aided Design Program. For those who may not know, the bulk of the drafting programs work with CAD or BIM programs. We use these programs to make 2D and 3D mechanical drawings of parts and buildings.
As part of this program, I’ve been able to expand from just designing, to creating. We now have access to two 3D Printers, and a CNC Router. In the future, I’d love to expand into laser cutting, and resin-based 3D printing.
Starting earlier this year, a couple of the teachers in the building came together to discuss creating a makerspace-like area. Our vision is more directed towards the high school end, and as such, would be technology heavy, but not technology exclusive. We’d like to involve things like woodworking, electronics, robotics, computer science, and welding into the area as well as utilizing some of the tools I mentioned above. I picture it as a space that has possibilities to create, to cross curriculums, and to engage the imagination of what’s possible. A place where the student has access to experts in different fields, can conceive an idea, and act on it.
However, I know this type of makerspace is not a one-size fits all. Tailoring a makerspace to your age level, is important. It doesn’t have to be tech-driven as our goal is. Specifically in the younger grades, you could get just as much engagement (or arguably more,) from low or no-tech options. Lego, popsicle sticks, rocks, glue, construction paper, glitter, clay, textiles, cardboard, or sewing materials are only a short list of the type of items that can engage a student’s mind in the same way as I described above.
The design of these spaces can be directly tied to the amount of benefit your students receive by engaging in them. While many low/no-tech options can be easily tailored to many learning levels and styles, it often becomes slightly more work with high-tech options. However, with careful planning, particularly when teaching the basics, it is very possible to get all students engaged and benefiting from the high-tech options, while also giving great opportunity to push your higher-level learners to extend their knowledge further by taking their creations to the next level.
Additionally, I think it’s important to realize that becoming a “techie” is not a necessity for employing a makerspace within your building. Prior to starting my contract that included those drafting classes, I had never opened up a single piece of CAD software. 3 years later, I’ve employed 3D design and 3D printing skills across 4 grade levels, gained great experience in 8 different design programs, 3D-Printed hundreds of items, and gained confidence with a CNC Router (which was new to us this September.) I say this while also confidently saying that I am an expert in none of the above. In my case, all it took to get started was a high interest, and a willingness to work hard, and a couple of repeated asks for budget money.
Finally, one of my favorite parts about makerspaces is the community of people that engage with them. From my experience, I’ve met some of the friendliest, and hardworking people I know through these initiatives. Whether it is connecting with people locally that run 3D printers, or CNC routers, speaking to people on online forums, or meeting them in person at places like the Saskatoon Makerspace, it really is a tight knit community that will go out of there way to assist one another. An added bonus is the open-source movement being alive and well throughout the ‘maker movement.’
One of our assigned viewings for the week does a wonderful job of portraying this. Jamie Leben describes the community within makerspaces. In his words “Makerspace’s build community, so you can come for the tools, and stay for the people.”
Have you ever implemented, or taken part in a makerspace? What was your experience like? Was there any super engaging or must have items? Let me know below!
This week, Nicole, Todd and I, had the privilege of sharing our research on Assistive Technologies. I have to thank my group members, as I really appreciated working with them, and we each learned a ton putting together our presentation.
Our blog prompt this week, has us reflecting on our own experiences with assistive technology, and commenting on the challenges and limitations of using it. Personally, I was thrilled to get this topic for our presentation, as it is something that I have had a pretty high level of exposure to in my career.
Starting in my internship, I was involved with teaching and planning for a student that was partially blind. As I was thrust into learning to teach a grade 4/5 classroom, I was also beginning to learn braille and develop resources to benefit this student’s learning. The inclusion of sight words around the classroom with braille inscribed on them, large format printing, and using particularly coloured paper were all assistive technologies that we employed during my internship.
But it’s important to realize, as Todd mentioned, Assistive Technologies are more than the ‘high tech’ options such as speech to text or screen readers that most may think of when describing these technologies. Low and Mid Tech options can be just as effective to support all learners in various situations.
As I got my first contract, and moved further into my career (particularly into the Learning Support world,) I’ve been exposed to several types of assistive tech. I’ve been lucky enough to have access to things like:
A wireless micrphone that broadcast directly to a student’s hearing aids
iPad’s for numerous academic and social learning pieces
Sensory Objects (Fidgets)
Specific colour/size/spaced paper or hand outs
Specific types of chairs (hooki stool, roller, exercise ball, recline)
Wheelchairs, motorized wheelchairs, mobility scooters, lifts, walkers, and assisted walkers
Kick/Bouncy Bands for desks
Calculators, online dictionary, and translation apps for phones and iPads
Text to Speech, Screen Readers, and Screen Magnifiers
Read&Write for Chrome and the accessibility features within Microsoft Office365 (Click on the table below to see several)
Personal computers to type rather than handwrite
Highlighters, sticky notes, agendas, and communication books
Larger pencils, and erasers
I’m sure there are some that I’m forgetting from this list. Some of these I have only used once in order to support one specific student, but many of them have been used throughout my career both to supports students with exceptionalities, and those that are part of my general classroom. The high majority of these resources worked well to support my students needs within the classroom, allowing that student to become more involved, engaged, and independent.
However, it’s important to recognize some of the limitations and challenges that arise when you are seeking to employ these technologies. As I mentioned during our presentation, assistive technology is not a perfect solution as it is often advertised to be. Many students require multiple assistive technologies and employing one does not guarantee complete or partial success. Many of these pieces of tech require training, for both the student and their adult supports. Employing these technologies without proper training, can cause frustration in both student and teacher. Furthermore, many of these technologies (particularly the high-tech variants,) are extremely costly, on top of often needing to be replaced, upgraded, or serviced often. Finally, students often fear being ‘singled out.’ These technologies may gain unwanted attention for the student, particularly when a student is not comfortable discussing a disability with others.
These technologies have great power to increase the independence, and engagement of all students. However, it does take proper time, planning, and training to ensure that these options are effective, and not destined to take residence in a dusty cupboard.
This week we were treated to a great presentation from Brittney, Megan, and Bret on Assessment technologies. Being someone who’s always been interested in technology, I’ve sought to include technology within my assessment for the majority of my teaching career. I’ve gone through learning cycles of using these technologies, varying in type, frequency, and complexity.
This week we were challenged to explore an assessment technology and employ it in our classroom. I took some time to further discover what’s possible with Blooket. Full disclaimer, I’ve certainly used Blooket in the past, but I know that I’ve only scratched the surface of it’s capabilities. I originally chose this tool as I was looking for a progression from the review games I had used with my grade 8 students in the past. I love the idea of using games as a form of formative assessment, and I have used three main tools over the years. I originally started with Plickers, moved onto Kahoot, and started using Blooket towards the end of last year.
For those unfamiliar with Blooket, the basic principle is similar to Kahoot or Quizziz Teachers create question sets, and then create a live game in which the students answer multiple choice questions. The main difference with Blooket is the fact that a side ‘mini-game’ is being played at the same time. Each correct answer gives students power-ups or benefits within the mini-game. This may be in the form of additional points (double/triple points), but also may affect other players. For example, students may answer a questions, receive a powerup, and ‘take half of the points from the first place player.’ I love this for the simple reason that it keeps my lower achieving students engaged, as they still have a better chance to appear on the leaderboard than they do in a Kahoot or Quizziz. Those that are interested/new to Blooket should check out the video below from their official YouTube page. Please note, more features and mini games have been added since this video was recorded.
This year, I was excited about trying some of the other mini-game modes that I hadn’t yet dove into, as well as the ‘Homework’ feature. During my review period, I allowed the students to vote and select three different game modes to try. We played Gold Quest (correct answers allow you to open chests with random gold inside) Fishing Frenzy (correct answers allow you to catch a fish with a random weight), and Cyrpto Hack (correct answers give you hints towards ‘hacking’ one of your classmates premade passwords.) While all three focused on them answering the review questions I created, switching up the games kept them engaged throughout the class, even though I was using the same 30 questions set in each game. There is no way I would have had the same amount of engagement, replaying a Kahoot 3 times in a row. As there are 14 different game modes on the platform currently, I’m encouraged about the possibility of keep that same level of engagement when I use the platform for future reviews in upcoming units.
After we completed the review, I gauged my student’s opinion on the program, using a simple thumbs up, middle, or down system. The program was new to all but one of the students. Around 95% of the students indicated that they liked the program more than Kahoot, with all of the students wanting to play it again in the future. Opinion was nearly evenly split when asked which of the three mini-games was there favourite. By the noise level and sounds of excitement during the games, I wasn’t surprised with their positive feedback!
Although I used this as in informal way of reviewing our information, you could certainly use the site’s well kept stats to collect grades for a means of assessment. After each game is completed, a Leaderboard/Results page is displayed. Conveniently, these stats are also stored in a History tab on the website. A word of warning however- be wary of using the leaderboard alone, as ‘power-up luck’ may be a better indicator of leaderboard placement than amount of correct answers.
I also investigated another feature this week, realizing I could ‘assign homework’ within Blooket. This feature allows you to create a game code that can be provided to students to use on their own time. Some of the mini-games are built to be played individually, so you can assign them as homework, using your same question sets. It also tracks how many questions each student completes and gets correct. You can also look at overall results by question, to note for any problem areas.
While I certainly see the potential for this technology to work as an assessment tool, I believe that it will be most effective as a review tool or formative check for understanding. While it is highly engaging, all questions must be multiple choice which supports fairly superficial learning. When used sparingly, I find that Blooket is going to be a wonderful addition to my toolkit. If you have any questions about it, or suggestions on how to use it, feel free to let me know below!
As web and social media use grows exponentially, it’s important to take time to step back and reflect on how it affects our society. This week, we had the option to watch and discuss the recent Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, and comment on how Web 2.0 (the social web,) has influenced our lives, and what affects it may have on schools and society.
Before diving into specific aspects of the film, I found it important to differentiate between Web 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. One of our resources this week was a video by Ken Yarmosh. As Ken explains, Web 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 aren’t literally different versions of the internet, but more a description of how the web was used during different time periods.
Ken has great production value, particularly for an account with under 500 subscribers. I encourage you to go explore his videos further, as he discusses various topics around remote work, applications, and the future of technology.
The Social Dilemma, released in 2020, comments on this shift between versions of the web, particularly the gathering and selling of data from social media apps that became commonplace during Web 2.0. While social media and Web 2.0 has certainly affected our lives in positive ways (remaining connencted, sharing with others, instant access to information and news,) the film also portrays multiple negative aspects. Some of the major elements discussed in the film included the harvesting of data, online advertising (and the greed that surrounds it,) and the dangers of having newsfeeds tailored to only your interests.
The Dilemma: Never before have a handful of tech designers had such control over the way billions of us think, act, and live our lives.
The Dilemma, as stated on the film’s official website.
My girlfriend and I were particularly perturbed by the psychological descriptions. The film describes how social media apps are designed give us ‘positive intermittent reinforcement,’ that keeps us coming back. While this might seem obvious, understanding that algorithms change based on how they’ve best learned to keep human attention is a bit disturbing. Additionally, that fact technology and social media are often specifically designed to be as persuasive as possible, often with the goal of changing our wants or behaviour is something I hadn’t considered this deeply. If the positive reinforcement can (consciously or unconsciously,) persuade me to continue opening the app, the same principal can apply when it comes to advertisements. We had an interesting discussion about how tailored our ‘suggested ads’ have become, and how it’s almost impossible to forget about something that you’ve recently searched or considered buying. I guarantee these types of advertising tactics have led to me purchasing things I wouldn’t have otherwise. Clearly it works. But is it morale? Or ethical? That conversation seems to just be beginning.
The other major theme that was concerning in the film, surrounded the control of information and news. As young adults turn to online platforms as their primary source of news, we must be cognizant of the potential effects. Online platforms are notoriously difficult to regulate, Fake News is a growing issue, and everyone, regardless of credential, can have a platform to share their version of ‘news’ with the world. We have to encourage those around us to be aware of the dangers of trapping ourselves in our own echo chambers, only hearing the news we want to hear.
I find it interesting to note how severe some of the levels changed in only three years. Of important note, we can also reasonably expect that the numbers will have continued to trend in the same direction in the last two years since this data was compiled. With students finding more and more of their news through online personalities and/or social media, I think teachers have to remain ever vigilant around teaching Digital Literacy and critical thinking skills.
Being able to decipher quality and poor sources, fact check information, and interact responsibly online are skills that are going to be absolutely necessary in our student’s lives. Social media and technology aren’t going anywhere, but questions should continue to be asked about these company’s values, transparency, and motives.
In March of 2020, the world was turned on it’s head. The resulting Covid-19 Pandemic forever changed the way the world looked at health, employment, and education. Teachers all over the globe were forced into a panicked and rushed version of online teaching. This lead to numerous discussions about online learning, and it’s feasibility and effectiveness going forward. What’s important to remember however is that this discussion has to differentiate true online or blended classrooms, between the emergency Covid-19 response. Online and Distance Education can be an extremely effective form of education, and employing the right tools within these classrooms is a large part of that equation.
When designing an online classroom, I find that there are some key areas that must be addressed, typically by some sort of software. I’ve broken down the following paragraphs into what I consider the most important of these areas, giving several examples for each.
Online Platform (or Learning Management System)
Each online school, class, or blended classroom must have some platform to house their information. Ideally these platforms give students and teachers the ability to organize lessons, link or embed other resources, upload/submit assignments and communicate, all in a clean, easy to navigate manner. There are numerous tools available to schools or classes looking for an online platform, and it’s big business in the Ed.Tech world. Some examples:
Edmodo was a suggestion of mine in the past, but as of the writing of this post, it appears the company is shutting down. Link)
Many teachers wish to prerecord lessons, directions, or explanations in an effort to aid in the flexibility that is common within online and blended classrooms. Having access to screen recording software that is powerful, yet efficient, is important for any online teacher. Many of these tools, also have editing features built into them, allowing teachers to ignore the annoyance of having to record in one software and edit in another. Additionally, some tools offer for the ability to directly upload to places like YouTube, Google Drive, etc. right within the software. The suggestions below are a mixture of free, fremium, and paid versions, each having highlights and drawbacks.
Additionally, many online meeting platforms (Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc.) allow for screen recording within online meetings! This can be extremely helpful for those that wish to record meetings for students that miss.
While some of the tools above also have editing capabilities, having a dedicated video editing application that you are comfortable with often gives you more options, and allows for a higher quality finished product. Another thing to consider is the device you will be editing on. While some software is extremely efficient in your traditional desktop computer setup, there are other options that excel on mobile devices or tablets or
The motivation behind this section is simple- let’s include the collaboration in our online classrooms that is often touted as one of the major differences when comparing a face-to-face classroom with it’s online counterpart. Parents that are on the fence about having their children join online classrooms are often curious about the potential for seclusion. Teachers that are able to effectively employ tools such as those listed below offer students the potential to engage with their classmates and teachers, even from behind the screen. Some of the software below promotes collaboration by allowing real-time updates in the same document, while others allow for collaboration through projects, assignments, or games.
Please note, these are only some of many, many, tools available online. All of the tools listed above are one’s that I have or currently use in my day-to-day teaching. However, it’s easy for me to say this and a far stretch from employing it in reality. Our blog post asked those of us that do not currently teach online to consider how our current context would shift in an online/distance education format. Like I mentioned above, I was one of the many teachers who had never taught online a day in my life, and rapidly became an emergency online teacher in March of 2020. Although it was a tremendous shift, I found that I was in a better spot than lots of teachers, as I was familiar and embraced many aspects of technology prior to the pandemic. While there was certainly a great deal of planning that went into it, I was happy with my ability to employ recording, editing, and collaboration tools to offer education that was as effective as possible given the situation. Furthermore, as mentioned it is important to distinguish this emergency response to true online teaching. Given more time to plan and prepare, I believe my online teaching could have been dramatically more engaging and efficient than it was during this time.
Additionally, as my role within the school has recently shifted to include much more Learning Support, I believe that my context would change greatly if we were to shift to online or distance education today. My belief is that Learning Support is highly conversation and relationship based. Forging these relationships and conversations online can be quite difficult, as I find that online discussions can lose some of the authenticity that face-to-face discussions have, particularly when discussing sensitive topics or with students who are not fully mature. Keeping students engaged and interested in these important discussions are also more difficult behind a screen. While there are certainly ways to combat these issues, I find that my current context would be much more difficult to do effectively online.
Finally, let me know what some of your favorite tech tools are! What things do you enjoy using in your classroom or planning? What get’s the greatest engagement from your students?
The internet has changed society in literally countless ways. As I’ve mentioned earlier, authors like Neil Postman have explained that for all the positives that come with technology, a list of negatives follow. Technology and the internet have created a world of multitaskers, that need only a few clicks or swipes to seamlessly hop between tasks. However, the ability to lose focus and distract yourself form your most pertinent task is a risk for students and adults alike.
I love being connected. Whether it’s my phone, laptop, or desktop, I truly enjoy being able to quickly and efficiently have access to the world’s information. This being said, I actually surprise myself with how easy I can slip into a pit of distraction. I’m the type of person that has 20 Chrome Tabs, a dozen Microsoft Programs, and numerous pieces of drafting software running all at the same time. And I wonder my laptop runs hot.
It’s no better on my phone. I’ve consciously cut my homescreen down to only the most necessary apps, yet I typically have 10-20 apps (with another 50-60 Chrome tabs) open at any given time. My girlfriend says it’s a problem. She might be right.
Personally, I think this behavior stems from a few places. My career requires attention to detail, keeping deadlines, and numerous meetings. As such, I often fear being disorganized or forgetful. It’s oddly comforting to know that I will see that window several times throughout the day, subconsciously giving myself several reminders of what needs to be done. There are certainly better ways to do this, but this seems to hit a sweet spot between time efficiency and effectiveness, which leads to the process’ continuation.
The other, and arguably greater factor, is how easily I let myself become distracted. Constantly being distracted, results in constant multitasking. This is partly due to my teaching load crossing disciplines, and age groups, while also needing to work closely with families, administration and outside agencies as part of my Learning Support role. These realities result in numerous notifications and requests, all of which compete for my attention. This makes me realize that, by far, my favorite feature on my phone is simply the ability to double tap the menu button that allows you to switch back and forth between applications nearly instantly. I’m able to hop between text messages, gradebooks, emails, learning applications, calendar invites, attendance reports etc. quite efficiently.
However, reflecting on all this also makes me concerned. How fully present am I in the moment? Just because I was able to quickly respond to a request doesn’t necessarily mean I gave it my full attention when doing so. Additionally, with the numerous grabs for my attention present (re: soooo many Chrome tabs,) I often end up slowing myself down from my most pressing task, with the numerous amount of distractions that are present.
So what can I do to improve? For the life of me, I cannot remember where I originally read this, but I came across an article discussing a CEO’s approach to dealing with his email inbox. (I thought it was in this class, but I couldn’t find it within the weekly plans, so it could have been within someone’s post or in one of my other classes. I apologize if it was from you!) Regardless, the advice has stuck with me. The article explains how Brad Smith, CEO of Inuit (TurboTax) approaches his emails. His goal is to ‘never touch something more than once’ or in other words, to deal with each email immediately rather than to leave it to deal with later. He decides between ‘Read, act, file or delete.’ This is a strategy that I feel I (and likely others,) could adopt regarding my own emails (and chrome tabs.) Giving my full attention to a task will make it easier to deal with it in the moment. This has the potential to reduce the amount of ongoing tasks within my day, leading to the opportunity of feeling more organized.
Tied into this discussion, is the group presentation from this week. Maddy, Raegyn, and Casey provided an extremely engaging presentation on Productivity Suites and Presentation Tools. While diving through their provided readings for the week, I found many similarities between the author’s findings and my own experiences. While discussing the effectiveness of interactive whiteboards, Miller, Glover, and Averis write “it is also clear that neither of these add to teaching effectiveness unless they are supported by teachers who understand the nature of interactivity as a teaching and learning process and who integrate the technology to ensure lessons that are both cohesive and conceptually stimulating.” Within my classrooms, I find that technology is such a regular part of students life, that is no longer engaging on it’s own. It takes teachers to properly design lessons in an effort to engage students, something technology can certainly aide, but can not do alone. When not designed properly technology has the potential to distract students from the lesson content, just as easily as it can engage them (and just as easily as it can distract me!)
What constitutes traditional or formal schooling? What Constitutes informal education? Can one type of education undermine another? As society and technology evolve, we often look to new services to provide education beyond the traditional school setting, but how much could these services affect what goes on in the classroom?
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.”
If student’s find a learning method that they enjoy, how will they react when forced to learn from an alternate method?
What are the implications of learning that takes place outside the traditional environment, on schools, teachers, and classrooms?
How can this quote be extended to the current culture of devices, applications, AV Technologies, or external resources that are available to students inside and outside of the classroom?
The more I begin to unpack this quote, the more I seem to come back to it being primarily about the vast variety of teaching and learning methods that are currently available to students. Being exposed to this variety of methods (both in person and online,) allows students to compare the effectiveness of each method on their own learning and find what truly works for them. However, this comparison also leaves room for potential conflict or disagreement when a student’s desired method does not match with what is offered by an educator, particularly in the traditional school context. While Sesame Street certainly has an educational component to it, the methods they employ vary greatly when compared with teachers in a traditional classroom, and this is where I believe that Postman argues for the potential to undermine the education system. While songs, sketches, and comedy are engaging educational tools for younger students, it can be argued that they are not practical in all traditional situations, particularly as students age.
This thinking can lend itself to more current debates among the employment of technology, and devices in the classroom. For every positive that is argued, a negative can also be discussed. Postman explored this in 1998, when he explained that “… for every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage. The disadvantage may exceed in importance the advantage, or the advantage may well be worth the cost.”
While this may be the case in many instances, Scott Widman adds to his discussion during his Tedx Talk. He argues that it doesn’t matter if technology is more beneficial or harmful to our students. He explains that due to technology being so common within our society, utilizing technology is less of a choice than it is a responsibly for educators. He continues by explaining that as we are mentors to our students, we should prepare our students for appropriately interacting with the digital world and build Digital Literacy skills as we do so. (If you are interested in more of my thoughts on Digital Literacy, feel free to check out this link to a post from a previous class.)
In today’s age, students are engaging with education materials online, whether teachers encourage it or not. Khan Academy, Crash Course, Udemy, Coursera, Lynda (LinkedIn Learning) are just some of the numerous formal learning academies offered online. There are also an unthinkable number of educational tutorials or walk-throughs available on websites like YouTube or WikiHow. Students that utilize resources like these may enjoy more independent, self-directed learning. On the other hand, some students may find this approach impersonable, boring, or hard to focus on. The clash in preferred learning styles makes it difficult as an educator, as traditional teaching has typically had all students accomplishing nearly the same task in nearly the same way. However, this is where I would argue that teacher’s can and should be creative in the way that they use technology.
Creating small group instruction, varying assessment methods, and utilizing multiple technologies will allow teachers to engage with a larger variety of learning styles and engage a wider breadth of students. While this may take greater startup work, teachers have the potential to see students take greater interest and ownership in their learning.
Although it’s always been an interest, the theories and philosophies behind teaching and learning is something I continue to find difficult to wrap my head around. Teaching and learning are an incredibly diverse, fluid, and unique experiences, and it seems difficult to boil it all down to into a specific theory. This being said, the more I learn about the various theorists and their viewpoints, the more I can identity these theories within my own work.
When doing some initial research on the differentiation between theories, I came across this image. I found it quite effective on comparing theories across different areas of the classroom. The ability to compare across theories really aided my understanding. Additionally, Andragogy was new to me, and led me down another research rabbit-hole, investigating how adult educations methods contrast with K-12 Education.
What types of learning are best explained by the theory? (p.5)
When asking myself these questions, along with some comparisons between my class notes and the graphic above, I began to see numerous theories at work in my day-to-day.
I find Behaviorism, and it’s focus on reinforcing behaviours to be ever present in the management of classrooms.
I believe behaviorism is present in the majority of classrooms, if not simply as a means of classroom management alone. Positive or negative reinforcement starts early in elementary school with feedback given for sitting in chairs, raising your hand, or cleaning up after yourself. Feedback around these types of traditional classroom behaviours follow students as they progress through school. In middle and high school, this theory can also be quite common in Math or Social/History classrooms. The extreme structure, undisputable answers, as well as the repetition and reinforcement that are common in these classrooms lend themselves to the behavioral model. (B.F. Skinner’s Teaching Machine is a prime example.)
I see Cognitivism taking place throughout the our schools, particularly in higher level math or science courses, or other courses in which specific steps are necessary to be able to achieve the desired outcome. As quoted by Ertmer and Newby, “cognitive theories are usually considered more appropriate for explaining complex forms of learning (reasoning, problem-solving, information processing) than are those of a more behavioral perspective (Schunk, 1991).” While the learners are certainly active participants, Cognitivism puts large importance on attention, memory, and how knowledge transfer occurs. I notice this theory come alive within my own teaching in terms of my planning. I seek a logical sequence of events for my lesson, guiding students through step by step, similar to Robert Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction.
I find constructivism to be the most similar theory to my teaching methods and philosophy. Constructivists are concerned with experience, environment, context, and the social situation in which a learner learns. As I progress within my career, it becomes more evident that I cannot expect students to achieve highly within the classroom when they are their environment is struggling outside of it. Additionally, I find creating comfortable structure and environments within the classroom allows for better learning to take place. I continually look to elevate student voice through small group sessions, exploration, co-constructing expectations, and allowing for reflection pieces into my teaching. I’ve found that the more I include pieces like this, the deeper the learning becomes.
To summarize, while I see aspects of each theory present within my classroom and my school, I look to Constructivism when considering my own philosophy, and the methods I want to continue to include in my classroom. As I progress in my career, I find myself shifting from more traditional methods, rooted in both Behaviorism and Cognitivism, to methods based in Constructivism. It’s my hope that I will continue to see success with these methods and will keep me motivated to further expand their use in my classroom.