The Productivity suites: suit the Education

10 Best Productivity Apps for Students

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, declares in Article 26, that, Education is a fundamental right, however, many around the world still don’t have it. The Evolution of the Virtual and Online learning has disrupted the comfort zones of many people around the world. Factors like climate change, economic struggles, and health issues have added to these struggles in many ways. But as said:  

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” – Albert Einstein 

And here’s where technology steps in to save!

Today, I feel, digital productivity tools are like superheroes for education. These tools give the power to create, problem-solve, and express like never before. They’re not just about getting stuff done quicker; they’re about unlocking creativity so then whether it’s building models, organizing thoughts, collecting data, or showcasing the work. Productivity and creativity tools support users in constructing models, publishing, planning and organizing, mapping concepts, generating material, collecting data, developing and presenting other creative works (Paulus et al., 2013; Tsatsou, 2016; Oloyede and Ofole, 2016; Egbert and Shahrokni, 2022).  

I was prompted to write this blog as a part of my Study program, coincidently I have always been grateful to the productivity suite especially Google and its paraphernalia, Microsoft office, Teams, Zoom, Canva, Jamboarding, MentiMeter…….These have been my favourite eversince because I feel I can multitask more effectively and efficiently, I can reach out to my trainees despite the geographical differences.

I personally feel, in the contemporary times what has eased the learning process is the administration part both from the Teacher, institution and student side. With the advent of Google and Microsoft It’s practically like carrying all my books and stuff with me wherever I go, I am in touch with my teachers, Institute and classmates wherever I am and moreover I can today sit and write my blogs during my lunch breaks at my workplace. Accomplishing study goals, work goals has become super easy with technology. This affects a lot of other areas of life, like managing the work life balance, managing everyday stress, managing time and connecting people effortlessly. That is why probably Connectivism is one of the prominent Learning Theory nowadays in the Education space   

While I was writing this blog and searching on google, I came across this video on Youtube titled:

The Paperwork explosion

IBM’s, corporate video delves into how their technology aims to enhance people’s productivity by 50%. There’s a line towards the end of the film that runs, “IBM machines can do the work so that people have time to think. Machines should do the work, that’s what they’re best at. People should do the thinking, that’s what they’re best at.” 

And 50+ years down the line now, It’s the productivity suites, that do the work and spare us some more time. 

An intriguing aspect about the rise of productivity suites is, the comprehensive ecosystems that has catered to the increasing demand of work and have been an answer to the massive disruption. Initially, productivity suites primarily consisted of word processors, spreadsheets, and presentation software. However, with advancements in technology and the increasing demands of modern work environments, these suites have expanded to incorporate a wide array of features and functionalities. 

Eversince the collaboration tools became part of productivity suites, the world has shrunk further. People can easily connect across work and education. Real-time collaboration features like Google Docs, Zoom, MS Teams, canvas design, and others have revolutionized teamwork, overcoming distance barriers and  fostering seamless communication. 

Additionally, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms into productivity suites have remarkably accentuated their efficiency. AI-powered features, such as predictive text, smart suggestions, and automated workflows, help in saving time and reducing manual work. 

Productivity tools have contributed to education in many ways. It’s worthwhile to think: What methodologies result in better knowledge gain? And How can teachers and learners benefit and how this Treasure Trove be uncovered?  

Prudent teachers employ various methods like: working in groups, giving lessons in bite sized pieces so that students can build up on them, sharing ways that the productivity tools can be used for better results, creating a connect between institutions and students to better facilitate the purpose of learning. When designing cooperative computer-based strategies, teachers must deal with issues such as the size of the groups,equity concerns,and software that is designed for individual use. However the good comes with some bad too! Because these tools are like ATM- that add value to users, people can learn at their pace, anytime, anywhere therefore people seek information more than they seek knowledge. This may lead to over reliance on these tools and students may undermine the importance of cognitive skills, social skills. 

The cost and sustainability of using this type of infrastructure may not be affordable for all and may lead to social, emotional, moral and digital gaps. Another important concern is the The collection, storage, and sharing of student data through digital platforms which has raised privacy concerns regarding the protection of sensitive information and potential misuse by third parties. 

Yet for me they are no less than a magic wand. I can create these kind of simple images in a jiffy 🙂

References

Oloyede, G. K., & Ogunwale, G. J. (2022). Digital productivity tools as a necessity in education, research and career in the 21st century. In Proceedings of the 31st Accra Bespoke Multidisciplinary Innovations Conference. Accra, Ghana: University of Ghana/Academic City University College (pp. 1-6). 

Googlification of Education

Fifteen years ago, when I first began teaching, the division I work for gave all of their teachers Apple laptops. Schools were piloting Apple computer carts for a short term lease. As an Apple product user in my private life, this felt like a dream. For those first few years, I was very creative with my students using the apps that Apple provided on those laptops. But alas, the lease ended, the pilot project was over. Our Apple laptops were suddenly gone and replaced. And replaced again and again. 

Soon we entered the Chromebook generation. For better or worse. As the Chromebooks were first introduced, teachers were not instantly in love as they were with Apple. The first round of Chromebooks were glitchy and were easily broken. Students had difficulty staying connected to the internet. These were not a suitable replacement! However, as the Chromebooks were rolling out, so was G Suite for Education. I have to admit, that while I might have complained about the Chromebooks initially, I was hooked on G Suite!

I instantly loved that students could collaborate on documents and access them from home. This immediately changed how I assigned work and communicated with families about school. As I gained more experience and familiarity with the rest of G Suite, such as slides, sheets, and calendar, rumblings of a new app were being talked about at my school. Google Classroom was so exciting for our students and teachers. A group of us began using Google Classroom and supporting each other as we figured out how to best use this new app. 

As G Suite continues to grow, I continue to integrate the new apps into my daily routine and planning. All of my students, even those that move from other schools, school divisions and other countries, are familiar with G Suite Education. They know how to navigate Google Classroom, have a GMail address (they are assigned one at school), can easily complete tasks on Google Forms, Google Slides, Google Docs, Jamboard, and check the Google calendar. Google is a part of their everyday lives! So much so that several students have bought their own Chromebooks. They are familiar with Chromebooks and teachers can help troubleshoot if there is a problem. 

When our division initially moved to G Suite for Education, we sent home letters to families explaining how the platform worked, where information was stored and also asked for permission for students to use this platform. In reality, parents did not have much choice, our division did not offer an alternative. The biggest hiccup at the moment was that all information collected by G Suite for Education was stored in the United States and they have different privacy laws than Canada. This hiccup is just overlooked now as school divisions K-12 have become so reliant on G Suite for Education. 

As an educator, I appreciate the way I am able to reach more students, how flexible G Suite is, and how easily I can differentiate programs for students that need it. As our classrooms grow in size and complexity, G Suite has made it possible to offer entirely different math programs to students by simply creating a Google Classroom with their material in it while maintaining their privacy. Or let students use Google Read & Write to adjust the reading level of a piece of text.

My view of Knowledge and its effects on My Teaching Philosophy

I am a reflective teacher, hence I do think about how I am teaching, facilitating or running my classroom and if it is effective around student learning. But to define what theory or theories underpins my teaching philosophy, I am forced to dig deeper than just what I do but what I feel is right at my core. I need to look at who I am as a person, and how I view knowledge. Anthony Bates explains our “epistemological position has direct practical consequences for how we teach.”

At my beginning of forming my own ideas I believe I would have named myself a positivist. In school I was trained to find the right answer. The academic classes I enjoyed were math and science which had right, or wrong answer and I was praised if I figured it out. The creative classes I did not enjoy, it was too arbitrary. I was and am still very motivated by solving complex problems and finding the answers.

https://twitter.com/j_stokesparish/status/1390805902622478336/photo/1

However, into my adulthood I started to learn there were multiple answers and multiple experiences and these are all valid types of knowledge.  Even with an objective reality there are mysteries and unknowns. Knowledge is ever changing but I believe it is objective in the idea that what we know now is true until we can prove it is different otherwise. I also realize in certain subject areas experiences do shape our knowledge and this is also valuable. This is why I have developed to be more post positivist as I am moving through university, teaching in a classroom and my masters. I believe there is objective truth but I think this truth is individualized. We all have bias and background experience. This will influence our world view. This won’t affect objective scientific truth most of the time but when it comes to the discovering , and analyzing new ideas this will affect learning. It is important to explore different perspectives, abstract ideas and unique processes. Hence in a classroom to have intellectual conversations and abstract thinking we will need multiple theories of learning for success.

Firstly students need their basic needs met, feel safe and feel like they belong. This is Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs which is involved in the Humanistic Theory of learning. Learning will never occur without these basic things. Students need to have drive for learning, have structure and organization, feel safe, enjoyment, and praise. All of these things I accomplish through the Behaviorism theory. This means we need to use behaviorist techniques to teach students how to behave. A specific one I use is “Tribier tickets”. They are little cards that give students privileges if they complete their personal goals. Goals could be completing work in class instead of being distracted by friends, or handing in assignments on time or getting a certain grade on an assignment.

With some support, motivation and organization we can move to teaching concepts. This is a cognitivist idea. It is the process of learning, connecting, explaining, and applying information. This still has the idea that there is right answers and we go through a process to find or explain these answers. In my classroom I do this through direct teaching different processes, activating prior knowledge to make connections between ideas, science labs to experience concepts, and problem solving real life math questions. The cognitivist theory uses Bloom’s Taxonomy which explains at what level students are learning. I find it to be a very thin line between high level concepts of thinkings such as creating, and evaluating in the cognitivist theory with the constructivist approach to learning.

“For a constructivist, even physical laws exist because they have been constructed by people from evidence, observation, and deductive or intuitive thinking, and, most importantly, because certain communities of people (in this example, scientists) have mutually agreed what constitutes valid knowledge.” . I love this quote, we wouldn’t have science without people who have tried to make sense of our world when there were unknowns and no right answers. Hence why forming your own thoughts, through experiments, trials, proofs or exploring new ideas is so important in education. It just takes a long time and effort to get there. The constructivist approach is about creating ones own ideas, and forming opinions. In the classroom I have used debates, inquiry research, interactive gizmos, manipulatives, experiments, discussions and videos that provoked opinions and feelings about a topic. This has all been successful to get students to develop their own ideas around science theory.

However, it can be unsuccessful when it is used alone. I remember when I was first introduced to inquiry learning, I would send students onto the world wide web to read and interact with new concepts without giving any background information. The depths of knowledge they obtained was minimal. They could not have deeper discussions about the topic because they didn’t understand first. Students need guidance from the teacher to find appropriate knowledge base. This includes teaching students how to find information, credible sources, fact check, find evidence before they can create. I will continue to use a blend of these theories as this is the bests practice in my opinion. Is this the best practice? As time will tell new theories, and new knowledge will arise. So true best practice is to continue to be a lifelong learner and keep trying new ways to grow as a teacher.

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!