Does everyone take frequent brief social media scrolling breaks?

If I’m being honest, I’ll probably type out this sentence and maybe the next one, and then take a small break to quickly scroll through Facebook and/or Instagram. Am I genuinely interested in what I’m scrolling through? Not really. Is there sometimes something that jumps out and catches my attention? Rarely. So, why am I letting myself be distracted?

(be back in a couple seconds…I have some mindless scrolling to do…)

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Right now, at this exact moment, I am sitting in a conference room with roughly 50 other people. We will be in this conference room for two days, listening to a lecturer speak about effective schools. This is an ongoing conference (it is my 7th one in three years), so I allow myself the liberty of distraction; I spent the morning scanning through the required readings for this week and I read the blog posts that I hadn’t had the chance to peruse. I have spent the day reading, listening, participating in group discussions, sending texts to husband regarding kids’ care while I’m away. I considered doing my grocery shopping but figured that would be rude.

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At this moment, I consider myself a great multitasker. The fact that I have access to Internet is allowing me to check things off my long list of to-dos.

This week’s blog prompt asks us to reflect on the Internet as a productivity tool. Does the Internet hinder our productivity? Would we accomplish more if we didn’t have it?

Brooke tweeted about an article that presented reasons why technology has become a multitasking enabler. The author argues that “multitasking is impossible and leads to a decrease in productivity.” Considering how much multitasking I was able to do today, I would argue that multitasking is in fact possible and can support productivity. However, not all multitasking is productive. When I’m taking breaks from my work to scroll through social media, I am not accomplishing anything productive.

Tonight, given my brief stay in Regina for a conference, my ECI833 group is meeting to discuss our group project. Three of us are meeting at a coffee shop and the fourth member is “zooming in”. So far, we’ve started a Google Docs document and a Google Slides presentation. Our entire presentation will be prepared using these productivity suites, and with several zoom meetings. Technology, in this case, has allowed us to do things that we could not do otherwise. There are limitations, some of which were highlighted in Amy B., Amy C., Kyle and Colette’s presentation this week. Amy mentioned that technology sometimes replaces face-to-face interaction, which makes me wonder if our presentation would be better or could be completed more efficiently if we were face to face. Also, our reliance on Internet is indisputable. The first question I wondered about when we decided on a meeting place for tonight was “Will we have access to Wifi?”

There is a way to use our multitasking abilities to our advantage. However, when we allow our access to technology to distract us from important tasks, we are also allowing it to hinder our productivity. My hope is that children today, who are surrounded by technology, grow up to be adults who have learned to use technology effectively.

(I wonder what’s happening in the world of Instagram right now?)

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Resistance to Embracing Technology in the Classroom, Then and Now

Being someone who did not grow up watching much “Sesame Street”, I admit that I had to do some digging around to try to understand why someone would state that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of school represents”. From what I could remember, this television program focused on preparing children for preschool. They learned simple and important things like letters and numbers, but they were also exposed to valuable life lessons, like how to be kind. So, what exactly does Postman mean in this statement? As educators, shouldn’t we embrace learning, regardless of how it is acquired? Did Postman intentionally use the word “undermines”, which has a negative connotation, to make it sound as though education was negatively impacted and threatened by the arrival of educational programming on television?

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So, what did Postman have against “Sesame Street”?

Since the airing of the first ever “Sesame Street” episode, the program has been geared towards young children, and preparing them for school. The goal was to “create a children television show that would master the addictive qualities of television and do something good with them.” (cited in Michael Davis` book Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street.) The program’s mission statement is “helping children grow smarter, stronger, and kinder,” which I think is great, especially because it aligns with our goals as educators. “Sesame Street” was successful in reaching their targeted audience because of the use of multimodality.

Multimodality is about how various modes, such as visual, aural, gestural, spatial, and linguistic modes, are used and/or combined in order to convey and make meaning.

It’s no wonder that kids were enthralled with the show. The use of music and games, along with great visual effects succeeded in gaining and maintaining children’s attention.

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It goes without saying that “Sesame Street” and subsequent children’s educational programming influenced how educators understood education. Brooke mentions in her blog post that the traditional educational system was “rooted in behaviorist learning theory in which the teacher transmits the knowledge to the student”.

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Postman’s comment suggests that with the arrival of educational programming at that time, there needed to be a shift from a behaviorist approach to one that was more constructiviste. He understood what seems obvious to me now: children learn best when they are interested in the lesson.

So, what does that mean for the future of education? How will the roles of the teacher and students change?

This week’s student-led presentation focused on audio-visual technologies. Some of the readings brought forth some of the advantages of AV technologies; and there are plenty! Learning does not need to happen in a classroom anymore. Students from different parts of the world can connect and learn together. Lessons are made more interesting by the use of visual aids. And nowadays, it is so easy to incorporate technology in our classrooms. Gone are the days where a student poses a question to which the teacher replies “That is a great question. I will try to find the answer and let you know tomorrow.” It takes seconds to find answers online! In my precalculus and calculus classes, students can use a graphing app to verify their answers, and they all have the app on their cellphones. The new apps that are available for students are definitely a step up from the old graphing calculators my math teacher tries to make us use!

The benefits of technology are numerous, as much for the students as for the teachers. We can’t deny that technology will be here to stay. The important thing for us to do as educators is to maximize its uses in the classroom.

Coding in the Classroom: Does it belong?

I really enjoyed playing with the LOGO program. Unlike Michael, I had never been exposed to a coding program before. I managed to get to exercise 16 without any real trouble. I enjoyed the challenge!

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Look at me go!

Even though I was able to complete each task successfully, any time it asked me to simplify the program, I was not able to. I jumped to exercise 25, where it asks you to write a program to draw squares. I played with it for a very long time and could not figure it out. I knew how to draw the square, but I couldn’t create a code that would draw out a square of a certain size. Maybe I shouldn’t have skipped ahead…

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The whole time I was coding, I was thinking about how much my students would enjoy trying out this program. I agree with Sapna, who says that Logo programming can enhance students’ mathematical skills. In my Foundations of Mathematics 20 class, I could use it to demonstrate the sine law, including the ambiguous case. I was very happy to see that the program is available in French!

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There are a lot of really great programs that are offered in english, but not in french. I was very happy to see that this one was offered in multiple languages. Win!

 

Sonja Goby tweeted about an interesting article on the benefits of coding for children. I must admit that I had no idea these programs existed for people who were not coding professionally. In this article, the author shares reasons why kids should be learning to code, saying it prepares them for the world we live in today. Computers are a very important part of our world. We use them more and more in education, in our vehicles, in our appliances. It is becoming increasingly important to understand how to use computers, especially because of how quickly the way we use them changes. The author concludes the article by sharing a list of other coding programs that are available for children. There is a whole world of coding out there!

Constructionist learning allows students to experiment, while the teacher mediates rather than instructs. The first few exercises in the Logo program introduces users to basic commands that gradually become more complex. A first-time user like myself could not successfully complete the 75th task without having practiced the more basic skills. Papert’s theory of constructionism enables learning to be constructed, rather than transmitted. This allows students to have a more active role in their learning, and to use prior knowledge to acquire more knowledge. Brooke highlights some of the benefits of learning to code. Her blog response for this week made me wonder if coding should have a place in the mathematics curriculum. If we are aware of the multiple benefits of coding for children, it might be a good idea to start teaching it.

How would you incorporate coding in your mathematics classes?

One theory, two theories, three theories…four

I found the readings this week very interesting and thought-provoking.

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When I sat down to read, I knew that I was trying to identify what theory of learning most closely resembled my own teaching philosophy and classroom practice. So, I started with Ertmer and Newby. The first theory that is discussed is behaviorism. As I read through this section, I kept thinking “Yes, this is totally me!”

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The behaviorist puts an emphasis on environmental conditions and “assesses the learners to determine at what point to begin instruction as well as determine which reinforcers are most effective for a particular student”(p.48). As “the” high school mathematics teacher in a very small school, I understand the importance of getting students to master certain early concepts before progressing to more complicated levels of performance. I also arrange lots of practice situations that gradually become more complex, so that students can demonstrate their understanding of new concepts.

I continued to read. As I read through the cognitivism section, I once again thought “Yes, this is totally me!” My student learners are active participants in their own learning process. When I’m teaching new concepts, I try to activate students’ prior knowledge, and I emphasis the meaningfulness of the lessons.

Was I both a behaviorist and a cognitivist?

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I continued to read. Not surprisingly, I also made lots of connections with the constructivist theory. As a mathematics teacher, I often must present information in a variety of different ways, and I need to bring my students to use their problem-solving skills to go beyond what was explicitly taught in class.

So which theories of knowledge and learning underpin my own teaching philosophy and classroom practice?

I can’t really say that one theory transcends the other two. And I agree with Scott, who says in his blog this week that “by “mixing it up”, I know I’m doing my best to ensure that every student has an opportunity to both succeed while also improving in areas where they need the practice.” Kelsey also agrees that there isn’t a “best” approach. The important thing is that we’re aware of what each of our students needs.

The article by Siemens on connectivism was very interesting for me and made me reflect on technology in my household. I have three small kids and the screen time I allow them to have is limited to a couple cartoons in the morning on weekends. I didn’t grow up with very many video or computer games, so I suppose I just don’t see the value in them. I often wonder if I’m doing a disservice to my kids by not providing them with opportunities to develop technological skills. I know I must change my perspective on this. Siemens suggests that there is so much informal learning that happens outside of the classroom and technology is rewiring our brains. What does this mean for the next generations of children? How do we know how much is too much (or too little) technology for our kids/students?

Educational Technology- What does it look like to me?

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I was sitting beside my partner in the computer lab. The teacher asked if we had chosen our floppy disk for this class. It was those 5 ¼ inch ones, not the smaller version that my teacher called a “diskette”. There was a box of these floppy disks, and each one of them held a new and exciting educational game. The computer screen was small, but the monitor itself was big and bulky. I was in fourth grade, and this was my favorite class.

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Three years later, I was back in the computer lab. It had changed. The room was larger. The monitors were smaller. The computer screens had doubled in size. The teacher asked us to find the “Tap Touche” icon on our screen. We were learning to type. A large piece of laminated paper was place above my hands so that I didn’t cheat. I loved this class.

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The room was larger. The monitors were smaller.

Today, the computer lab is home to a daycare. There are only three desktop computers in the entire school: in the principal’s office, in the library and at the reception desk. Everyone in the school uses laptops. So much has changed in what seems like so little time. I am 32.

A few years ago, the library in my school needed a major cleanup. My colleagues and I sat around a large table on which were piles of old, outmoded books. Someone asked what we were going to do with all the encyclopedias. The older teachers immediately counted off all the reasons why we needed to keep the encyclopedias on the shelves, so that the students could have access to “all this information”. BUT WE DON’T NEED THEM ANYMORE. What about the dictionaries, thesauruses, atlases, and other reference books? What about the Bible? I have all of that in my pocket.

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My daughter is 9 years old, the same age I was when I was playing simple games on a floppy disk in a computer lab. Yesterday, she asked me if she could send an email to some of her friends. I was a lot older than she is when I sent my first email.

Technology is evolving so rapidly. And we have no choice but to evolve with it. Today, my school does not offer typing classes, but my students can type. I learn more about technology from my high school students than they learn from me. “Hey madame, I’ll just airdrop this very large folder of photos and videos to your laptop, so you could use them for the end-of-the-year celebration.” Airdrop…?

By the fifth century, there had been some considerable advancement in the way information was transmitted. The King of Egypt had some major reservations about written versions of information replacing oral transmission, saying it will “implant forgetfulness in their souls.” (Bates, 2015) His hesitations are justifiable, in my opinion. Change is sometimes hard to accept. Neil Postman’s first idea in “Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change” is that “for every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage”. (1998, p.1) What are the disadvantages of technology changing so quickly? How can we keep up?

It is becoming more and more important for our younger generations to “keep up with” technology. As educators, we need to embrace and be willing to use the new and improved educational technologies in our classrooms, much like my fourth grade teacher who made time for games on floppy disks.

References

Bates, A. (2015, April 05). Teaching in a Digital Age. Retrieved September 23, 2018, from https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/chapter/section-8-1-a-short-history-of-educational-technology/

Postman, N. (1998). Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change. 1-5. Retrieved September 23, 2018.