So many tools, so little time

I had every intention of using Kahoot for this week’s assignment. I had prepared a fifteen-question assessment as a review for a unit I am wrapping up in Science 9. Unfortunately, an unexpected last-minute schedule change because of a Teenaid presentation kept me from seeing my students today.

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I have used Kahoot on multiple occasions. I enjoy using this program as a fun way to review a unit or as an activity before a school break. My students are always very excited to compete against their friends, and they love the game-like feel that this assessment tool provides.

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As a teacher, I am very hesitant to use Kahoot as anything but a fun game to wrap up a learning sequence. Even as a formative assessment, I think the program lacks in reliability. When I used this tool in the past, my students always seemed more interested in achieving a higher score than their friends, than in taking the time to figure out the correct answer. In his blog post, Adam describes having experienced the same frustration as a participant in a Kahoot challenge.

Today, my intention was to use the tool as a more “serious” formative assessment. I would have liked to remove the option of seeing the winners on the screen, but I couldn’t figure out how. I also wanted to explain to my students that they should answer to the best of their ability because the assessment was prepared in such a way to provide me with feedback about their level of comfort with the unit we were completing. I was also going to use the results of the assessment to help me decide if there were areas I needed to revisit before the summative evaluation. Due to the unexpected mix-up in my classes today, my activity is postponed to Thursday.

Why did I choose this tool?

I really wanted to see if I could bring my students to a place where they perceived Kahoot as a true formative assessment tool. I wanted to experience the full potential of Kahoot. In his blog this week, Haiming describes some of the advantages of using Kahoot in the classroom. I wanted to put those advantages to the test. I also appreciate that Kahoot is very easy to set up.

(However, the limit on the number of characters to use in the question is probably the most annoying feature.)

I would not use Kahoot as a summative assessment tool. The fact that I’m very limited in the types of questions I can use is enough of a turnoff. Unless a student has the opportunity to justify his answer, multiple choice questions aren’t sufficient to gauge student learning.

 

I appreciated having multiple readings this week that provided me with a list of assessment tools that are at my disposal. I decided to spend some time searching for one that gives the option to change the website to French. After scrolling through dozens of online tools, I finally found one!

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As soon as I entered the Classflow website, it asked me if I wanted to use the French version because it noticed that my browser was in French. YES please!

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Has anyone used this tool before? It looks like a cool tool to use with a Smartboard. My goal for the rest of this week is to get acquainted with this new-to-me tool.

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Falling Behind: My Thoughts about Education 3.0

I am not “that” old.

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However, I sometimes feel old when I think about all the things I have yet to learn about technology. And as I’m taking time to learn, technology continues to evolve at an exponential rate. I recently saw this video, and I can’t even say that the ideas in it are far-fetched.

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Where is technology heading?

Scott and Adam, in their respective blog posts this week, mention that technology has advanced so quickly that it is difficult to keep up with all the tools that are available to us.

One thing we’ve heard multiple times during ECI833 classes is that we, as educators, do not have access to adequate and sufficient training in the application of technology in the classroom. What worries me is that, by the time our school systems embrace the fact that technology is here to stay and admit that the way we “do” education is strongly affected by the advancements in technology (and, as a consequence, education will need to be subjected to some major changes), we will be “too behind” to be able to implement all the expected changes. I still have 20 years of teaching ahead of me, and I’m excited to experience the benefits technology will surely continue to bring to our students. But the changes to technology are so considerable that it’s hard to imagine our education system being able to keep up. Even so far today, have we been able to “keep up” at a pace that is sufficient?

In her blog post this week, Sage created a table that summarizes the educational approaches that correspond to Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and Web.3.0. This summary outlines the evolution of education in regard to the internet. It is clear that there is a strong correlation between education and technology. And this connection is something that we certainly cannot deny as we evaluate what we’re teaching and how we’re teaching. When I was a student, I remember my math teacher emphasizing the importance of learning mental arithmetic because “you won’t always have a calculator in your back pocket”. Can we use the same reasoning with our students today? Every single one of my students has a cell phone in his/her possession most of the time. How does this change the way I teach? I strongly agree with Amy B. when she says in her blog post this week that, in regard to our students’ cellphone usage, we “need to encourage/ model/ teach appropriate device usage.”  We need to accept that students have a world of information in their back pocket. Imagine what we can accomplish with that!!!

I took the time to read through the suggested readings this week, and I can’t say that I understand exactly how the Internet is going to become Web 3.0. All I can think of is “what else is left for the Internet to do?” I can’t imagine it getting any smarter than it already is.

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It has been mentioned multiple times on the course blogs and during weekly presentations, but it is worth saying again. We, as educators, are not properly equipped to incorporate technology in the classroom at its fullest potential. There is a lack of training, lack of resources, and our curriculums haven’t changed to reflect this new world in which our students are growing…

Without addressing the needs of our education system in regard to technology, we are permitting ourselves to remain static, while the world around us continues to progress.

Consequently, our students will not be adequately prepared for the future.

The blog question this week asked us to reflect on what type of student and teacher is privileged by the shift to Web 3.0. In their blog posts this week, some of my classmates talked about how certain “elite” schools have access to more resources in terms of technology when compared to some of the underprivileged schools. I agree that this is the reality of education today. Fifty years ago, a student in an elite school had access to roughly the same opportunities as another student in an underprivileged school, upon obtaining their high school diplomas. This is not the reality today.  If education is not evolving to reflect the needs of our society, and failing to provide the same opportunities to all our students, regardless of their socio-economic status, our system is failing.

 

Even my old-fashioned self must evolve

Since the beginning of this class, I have been introduced to numerous online tools that are completely new to me. I feel like I’m slowly starting to make my way out of a bubble!

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I’ve participated in some professional development seminars throughout my career, and almost every time, someone would casually mention having used a certain tool in class. I would eagerly do a quick Google search of the new tool. Sometimes, I would come back to class, excited to present this new tool to students, and get them to use it. I’ve used Socrative, Kahoot (I’ve used this one a lot!), and Plickers. My students love using their devices for activities at school. Even my older and more mature grade 12 students enjoy participating in activities that use technology.

While the tools I’ve used are great and they are a lot of fun to use in class, I haven’t really found that I have been able to use them effectively. “Kahoot”, for example, is a great assessment tool. But students seem to see it more as a game than a tool that I’m using to assess their learning. The questions are timed, the music is catchy, the students are competing against their peers. I can’t really blame them for not taking the activity seriously. Consequently, I have shied away from using these tools the way that they were supposed to be used. Instead, I use them as a fun activity to end a learning sequence, or on the last day before a school break.

On Monday this week, my school division had a professional development day. We were asked to select a morning and afternoon workshop. The workshops were delivered using Zoom (I work for the francophone division, which has school across the entire province. One way for us to “meet” is online using Zoom.) The two workshops in which I chose to participate were very dissimilar. In the morning, the presenter shared her screen, and spent three hours going through her Powerpoint presentation, which had 126 slides! She talked; we listened. There was next to zero interaction with the participants. She was very knowledgeable, but had a hard time maintaining our attention.

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In the afternoon, the presenters showed very few slides, and had the participants actively engaged in the presentation. We even got “assessed” by a quick “Kahoot” game. I enjoyed that I got to be a part of the learning. Although both subjects were interesting to me, I had a really hard time staying focused in the morning workshop. I’m wondering if some of my disinterest was because I was in front of a computer. I don’t have this problem when I’m in class for ECI833. Having a variety of small activities certainly helps to maintain my attention when I’m in front of a computer screen.

If ever had the opportunity to teach an online course, it would be important for me to have access to a variety of tools. I would want something like Google Classroom to keep all my assignments in order. One of my favorite things about my own online graduate classes is being able to see what work needs to be done every week. Google Classroom would allow me to share files with my students, grade and provide feedback for their assignments, and organize my course material. I would also need a program like Zoom, that would allow me to easily interact with my students. I like that Zoom allows me to create an interactive virtual classroom. Students could get split up into groups, I could show videos, I could use a variety of online assessment tools, and according to Google Sites, “this conferencing tool offers unexplored opportunities!” How exciting! It would be interesting to discover all the online tools that are available for learning. That being said, I would experience the same hesitations as Sonja, if I suddenly started teaching online courses.

Turns out that student outcomes are not very different in face to face courses when compared to online courses, according to Sterling Academy. This makes me wonder if this is where we’re headed with education. Imagine if each child was able to get through school at his/her own pace! As an online educator, would I be able to address my students’ needs as effectively? Would students’ academic success be greater if they didn’t have the pressure of “keeping up with the group”?

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?