ECI833 – Are Productivity Suites Taking Over Education?

Now, if you are asking yourself what a “productivity suite” is, look no further, follow the link here to find out more, and for further understanding watch this video of an exemplar of a company productivity suite.

Even in the root word of this concept, it focuses on productivity and efficiency. It appears the major two companies that education relies on for productivity suites are Microsoft 365, and Google Suites. Both of these programs create a collaborative method for connecting and communicating with a team in an efficient way. Personally, Google Suite has become a critical aspect of organizing my classroom material, content, and lessons in a straightforward yet methodical manner to maximize efficiency. I really love it when I can easily access previous years’ content and see my own professional growth and development. However, as much as I thoroughly enjoy my experience with Google programs, it is the students who should be the focus of this discussion. , I have noticed that there is a disparity among students and their access to Google programs and technology at home. Some of the reoccurring thoughts and questions this semester are triggered about productivity suites in education and those revolve around:

  • Who benefits because of these products?
  • Do these programs offer deeper learning opportunities for all students?
  • What type of knowledge are we valuing utilizing these programs?
  • What are the implicit messages that we are conveying to students by using these programs?

I certainly do not have an answer or solution to these questions, but I do think there is value in being cognizant of their impact in the classroom, and awareness that we as educators need to have as we often make decisions for the sake of “advancement” in educational technology. I am reminded of a quote by John F. Kennedy that eloquently states the importance of education and how that may contrast key notions of productivity suites in the classroom.

“The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth”

— John F. Kennedy

In reflecting on that quote, and examining the use of various productivity programs in the classroom, it is challenging to have a concrete answer there. It is convicting to think about how the answer to some of those questions above only really benefits the students who do not need it, thus broadening the inequity gap. However, some key takeaways from the quote reveal what type of knowledge are we aiming for students to aspire towards, and what our own understanding of truth and its validity will inherently be transcended to students through osmosis.

I do think that the varying productivity suites that are utilized in the classroom are designed with the focus and efficiency of the teacher (Teacher Centric), yet these tools are to aid in learning, and not become the main vehicle of learning. Therefore, I think it is critical to examine how we use these programs, their positive and negative impact, and reflect on whether the ends justify the means.

EC&I 833 – Sesame Street’s Attack on Traditional Concepts Education

Well, now that I have got your attention with Sesame Street in the title of my post, let’s start to unpack the big ideas here.

Who would have known that puppets could have such a profound impact on North America in the 1970’s.\? Sesame Street provided a non-traditional approach to education that involved the TV as a morning program geared towards children before they went to school in the morning, or even throughout the day for those not yet of age to attend. The style of education provided a breakout in educational technology through AV devices to reach younger audiences. However, as Postman (1985) suggests Sesame Street created a vision of education that students fell in love with, but this method created tension with the accepted view of traditional education and poked at the cultural epistemological lens of schooling. As a society, we typically are three steps behind questioning the theory of knowledge and what we are valuing at the current time, but are more concerned with the threat of how things have always been done with connection to systems theorem, and its threat to change in our lives.

So, it is clear that as a society we like new, fun, and exciting way to entertain and occupy our time, but as soon it starts to threaten our previous held systems or ideas, we do not like it anymore. However, this might be a poor method for handling change, and it would be perhaps beneficial to start reflecting and questioning the knowledge that is being presented and how it challenges our shared understanding previously. Now that does seem a bit intense and plenty of thought involved. So maybe we are back at the drawing board when it comes to change and epistemology, and not rocking the boat.

If we take this perspective and compare it to a broader scope of AV technologies in the classroom, I think we will see pattern of resistance and lack of questioning of these new technologies in the classroom. It is very interesting to think of the SMARTboard technologies and the vision that they would revolutionize learning in the classroom, yet if we took a closer view into the knowledge that is being valued, and the theory of learning it aligns with best… it does seem there is not much of a gap between a whiteboard and a dry erase marker.

I do think that a new method of viewing technology and AV for instance is thinking more deeply about what style of knowledge are we valuing, and what style of knowledge are we not? And being cognizant of the strengths and weaknesses of each because there will be no technology that will offer both. As well, it is interesting to examine the digital world and the role of AI that creates a more accepted and comfortable view of the concept of Sheeple. Additionally, uncovering and aligning which AV technologies connect with different learning theories will be critical when addressing learning needs in the classroom. Crash Course offers a condensed version of a concept or a historical time-period that can be easily viewed, and as the website suggests, “…is one of the best ways to educate yourself, your classmates, and your family on YouTube”. Once again, I ask myself the question what style of knowledge are we valuing here, who benefits from it, who does not, and what does this method of technology offer more than before? And not for one-second am I saying that Crash Course is bad, or not useful in the classroom, but it is important to examine these bigger questions and their impact on students.

I really liked the article that was posted this week about the Transforming Education through AV technology that echoes our presentation this week from Michael and Graeme. One of the quotes that resonated with me around the power of effective AV. AV itself is not powerful, but how it is utilized and understood is what makes this technology powerful, and yet again this is intrinsically connected to the educator who is using this AV technology. Michael and Graeme emphasized this so well in their video of different educator’s views of technology, and how it was the eductors who really made the learning rich through their use of AV. Therefore, it does feel that as AV and different tech evolve in the classroom, it will need to be the teacher that makes it effective, and that must come through a examine the theories of learning, and the style of knowledge that we are valuing, or not valuing.

Thanks for reading, and please share below if there is a style of AV technology that you have experienced in your career that some people thought would revolutionize the educational world.

EC&I 833 – Knowledge, Theories, and… Learning Machines!

When you think of a learning machine, it seems pretty reasonable to imagine some form of a futuristic digital device that offers the most enhanced and deepened pathway to learning. However, when Skinner (1954) created the Learning Machine to aid and revolutionize education, the same thought idea occurred, but it looked very different visually. And I do think that Skinner’s device was what they thought was a very advanced form of technology for learning. Still, perhaps it also reveals a deeper reflection of contextual learning theory, epistemology, and philosophical approach to education. Now, before we unpack all those large syllabus words, let us take a moment to visualize what a Learning Machine looks like and how it functions.

Skinner Teaching Machine. Source.

Epistemology is a big word for looking at the theory of knowledge. What is knowledge, how do we conceive it, its history, and context within a group/individual. If none of that made any sense, you are not alone, but watching this video aided my understanding of this concept. We must discuss epistemology when it comes to education, and technology as it governs the highway that we utilize to reach learning and outcomes.

As educators form and develop their own theory of knowledge based on the accepted view culturally, then we enter into differing theories of how learning can take place, and what that might be for the student and teacher. The three main theories we examined in class focused on behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. I do think it is very important to understand each of these theories, but this post is not focused on explaining these terms, so I will provide an infographic below and links if you would like to read more.

The prompt for this week was to analyze our own learning theories and how they have been shaped and molded throughout our career thus far. I think when we first examined these definitions in class, I certainly felt that I aligned with constructivism with my theories about learning and what I value in the classroom. Upon reflection, constructivism is quite difficult without a deepened pedagogy and knowledge of the curriculum. When Zygotkzy discussed the Zones of Proximal Development that align very well with constructivism, it is not simple task for a new teacher that has not mastered their curriculum and instruction to be valid and reliable in this process of gaging where students range based on their zones.

Therefore, I think most new teachers start with some aspect of behaviorism to begin as a method to manage the classroom and control behaviour as a routine. This method creates a consistent method for new teachers to follow, and the results are pretty consistent. However, it does have shortfalls within what the desired results are, and the inquiry as to why these results are desired and often times do not perfectly align with learning outcomes. Then, we enter into cognitivism as a method to think and process through information by systematic means to store details from short-term memory into long-term memory. This theory feels like it comes next for a new teacher as this seems to offer a better way for students to think and process information which from an epistemological standpoint, and that does seem ideal. However, it does feel like cogntivism offers methods to think and store information, but there is little aspect of reflection, questioning, or deeper levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. Constructivism then enters the conversation as a means to deepen this learning through peer orientation, guidelines, and a more student-centered approach to routines in the classroom.

Although, as I think of this process and my own theories of learning, it does not feel linear anyway. If anything, it feels more like a cycle that reflects the needs and context of the classroom and is a continuum that is everchanging and flowing through differing theories.

Lastly, I would also suggest that even in my own field of mathematics, I really value the theory of Connectivism as a critical aspect of learning too. And I think I would suggest that this theory values the heart and methods of connections for students which I would tend to say makes profound impact on the learning that occurs for each student.

Please let me know what theory of learning you align with the most, or if there is another one that has not been discussed that you value in your classroom. And if your brain is hurting a little bit after digesting all those concepts and ideas, feel free to post your favourite GIF below and I’ll already know.

Thanks for reading!

EC&I 833 – Introduction and History of Ed Tech

Hello and welcome to my first blog post of ECI 833 where myself and classmates will be exploring the history of educational technology. As a fair starting point in this course, we have begun to unpack the historical significant and definition of the technology. Often we associate the word technology with computers and some variation of digital connection, but the root of this word is far more simple, yet complex. Mid century definition of this term states, “the means or activity by which man seeks to change or manipulate his environment.” This definition provides a more broad understanding of what technology could mean, but also allows for a healthy dose of ambiguity to enter this term.

Through this lens, oral language is considered a form of technology. Therefore, it is important to examine the historical definition of the terms used in this course as a reference to expand our understand of this concept while valuing and connecting its cultural relevance and context. From this perspective moving forward, it is instrumental to view and understand technology as a method for change and expansion to our environment. This potentially new way of seeing this word will aid as we begin to uncover and unpack more about the history of educational technology specifically.

I really enjoyed the quote that aids in unpacking this definition of technology as an ecological change. That is, technology and technological change are not simply an additive process to an ever changing world, but these changes impact everything as Postman States, “A new medium does not add something; it changes everything” (Postman, 1998). Viewing technology as technology change as a living organism that evolves and is redefined each time something new is added to the process. However, it is fundamental to examine that as technology has evolved in various methods such as oral tradition, to writing, to computers, to cell phones, there is a deep privilege and bias that comes with these new advancements. Technology changes often reveal the deeper philosophical values that society or culture may share that are implicitly perceived by many. Postman (1998) describes this as, “… there
is embedded in every great technology an epistemological, political or social prejudice. Sometimes that bias is greatly to our advantage. Sometimes it is not. The printing press annihilated the oral tradition; telegraphy annihilated space; television has humiliated the word; the computer, perhaps, will degrade community life. And so on”. Therefore, as we look deeper into technology and its connection to education, it is imperative to examine the history, contextual framework, and philosophical theories that drive the advancement of technology instead of a state of oblivion and complacency that the world will become a “better place” without your own thoughts and actions.

I will close with one final quote from Neil Postman in reference to technology changes and I would love if you could respond or provide your own thoughts/interpretations on the quote.

“… there are always winners and
losers, and that the winners always try to persuade the losers that they are really winners”

Thanks for reading!