Artificial Intelligence…Yay, or Nay?

Before taking this course, I did not realize just how much AI impacts our day to day life. Initially, when I thought about AI, I assumed it was something that only “techies” knew about and knew how to use. However, after learning more and experimenting with it a little, I realized just how easy it is (kind of scary actually!) Let’s get into it…

I typed into the Google search bar, “What is AI?” and here is the definition it gave me from…”Artificial intelligence, or AI, is technology that enables computers and machines to simulate human intelligence and problem-solving capabilities.” To me, this sounds CREEPY…anyone else?! I never thought that we would get to a point where we have computers/AI that simulates human intelligence. I cannot imagine talking to my 97 year old grandma about this and having to explain what this means.

In the presentation about AI, we learned that it actually has more of an impact on our lives than we (or I) originally thought. An example used was flying an airplane. Yes, the pilot works…but what helps to control the plane? AI. Crazy! As far as generative AI goes, I have only really used Chat GPT. I use this when I have brain fog and need a little inspiration to get started with an assignment. I also find myself using Chat GPT when it comes to writing report cards. For example, sometimes I find it hard to find the correct/professional wording. All I have to do is type in a few key details (child’s name, some strengths and weaknesses, etc.,) and BOOM…there you have a well-written comment to use or to take certain points from.

We all know that there are benefits and drawbacks to everything, especially when it comes to technology and using it in the classroom. I think that one of the main benefits of using generative AI would be the fact that you get very quick answers/results and it is easy to use! Again, I am not “tech savvy” by any means, but using Chat GPT has been a life saver for me on many occasions, and so simple for me to use. It helps me make decisions, and provides me with new ideas and concepts to get my thoughts flowing. However, when it comes to the drawbacks, I think that the main one would be that not everyone uses AI as a “tool,” but as more of a cheat sheet. I do not teach high or middle school, but I can only imagine how hard it would be to mark an essay or tests to make sure that student’s are not completely copying and pasting answers from AI/ Chat GPT…I guess that is why there are sites that detect plagiarism. BUT, I still think that just adds in more pressure and steps for the instructor and teacher to handle. Another drawback would be the privacy issues. After taking this class, I realize how much the internet and websites take from us (our personal information, our interests, our searches, etc.,). What data is collected from us for AI purposes? What is safe and private, if anything? How can we keep ourselves and our students’ protected and private? I do not have these answers…

The future scares me a little bit. We were all raised knowing how to read, write, and think purposely, deeply and constructively. We were taught how to solve problems, do our own research and collaborate with others to do so. Will our kids and future generations have the same abilities? Will they be taught to think the same and problem solve? Again, I do not have these answers. But, from how things are looking… it does not seem like these skills will be valued in the same way we valued them. I feel like I am sounding old by talking like this!

In conclusion, generative AI has it’s benefits and drawbacks (as does everything else). I think that there needs to be a “happy medium” in how we use it and how we go about using it in our classrooms and with our students. I am all for using AI to benefit us and make our lives easier, but I also do not want a future where humans solely rely on it. Maybe I will ask Chat GPT what it thinks…

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Currently Not Coding…

  • Blog prompt: Using this week’s readings, videos, the group presentation, activities/discussions within the presentation, and any previous experience using coding/makerspace with students…within your blog address some of these questions about EITHER coding or makerspaces:
    • What value could this bring to your students?  
    • Do all students benefit? Who may not?
    • If you do not currently engage in this, what obstacles are holding you back?  
    • If you have taught this before, what has your experience been like? 

So, I will get right to it… as my title suggests, I am currently not using coding or makerspaces in my classroom and here are some reasons why…

First off, I do not consider my self a very “tech savvy” person. I know I have said this before, and I will say it again. I have always struggled to understand certain aspects of technology, and it has always stressed me out to feel almost ‘pressured’ to learn about coding, how to code, how to do it in my classroom, etc. I teach primary (currently Pre-K), so coding and using tech in my classroom is not on the very top of my list, as my students are currently learning how to independently take off their winter gear, zip up jackets, share and play with others, etc. But, even when I was teaching first and second graders, I felt like coding was not a priority for my classroom. I was always feeling overwhelmed and focused on reading scores, writing, and creating hands-on lessons for my students.

However, after saying all this, I will also say that I am not against coding/makerspaces and I do think that this technology could be very beneficial for learners! As the presenters suggested, coding/tech can build students’ problem-solving skills. It allows for student’s to be creative and build on their confidence. In the future, understanding coding/makerspaces could allow for better job opportunities…the list goes on and on about the benefits! However, in my person opinion, I think that coding would not benefit my class. I think that it would be more beneficial to the older grades. I understand that there are age- appropriate coding activities for younger students (like the one we participated in during the presentation), but I still do not see how it would truly benefit my kiddos. I also think that if teachers, like myself, had more time on their hands to actually learn about coding/makerspaces and attend different PD sessions, that more of us would be inclined and encouraged to bring our knowledge into the classroom. I feel as though I do not know enough about this technology to then teach it to my students and I feel that it would be time consuming to learn. I would be open to learning more if I had the opportunity…and time.

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C Pen Who!?

What are your experiences with assistive technology, and what are some of the challenges and limitations?

When I chose the topic of assistive technologies, I thought that I knew SO much about it! Turns out, I did not know as much as I thought I did. I hope that all my colleagues learned as much as I did from tonight’s presentation, because assistive technology can be extremely useful in the classroom setting, and our goal as presenters, was to make you all aware of these technologies so that you and your students benefit from them!

As far as experiences go with using assistive technologies, they were actually quite limited. I use PECS (Picture Exchange Communication) boards with some of my students, to help my kiddos with speech delays or my non-verbal students communicate and to give them choices and independence. These boards are easy to use, straight forward, and do not require training to be able to start using them and seeing the benefits in your room. However, as we learned from the presentation/research, assistive technologies are not just used for communication. Assistive technology could be things like crutches or wheelchairs to help with transportation, hearing aids to help with hearing, or braille to assist with reading. Assistive technology can be cheap/free, or quite expensive. One of the tools that was presented in tonight’s presentation was the C Pen, for example. This tool scans words and sentences and reads outload. This helps to build understanding and enhances learning. Some schools can provide these for students, other school boards cannot and do not have money in the budget for it.

One of the things we chatted about with our breakout group was exactly this…MONEY! Sure, assistive technology can be wonderful for us and our students, but how can we afford this? We chatted about how some of us (as classroom teachers) have access to iPad’s for our students. For example, when I taught first grade, we had five classroom iPad’s. But, this is not always the case for others. Some of us chatted about how it was almost impossible to gain access to a class set of iPad’s or any technology for that matter. iPad’s cost money, phones cost money, C Pen’s cost money. Which, I believe, is one of the downfalls/limitations in using assistive technology in the classroom. Another limitation would be that not everyone is supportive. In order to be able to properly roll out and use assistive technology, parents, school boards and teachers have to be “on board” and be able to see the benefits they can potentially bring, but again…this is not always the case.

I do believe, however, that assistive technology has more benefits than it does downfalls or limitations. I do not use Immersive Reader, C Pen, or Dictation (all described in the presentation), but I now understand how to use them if I ever needed too. Most of these technologies are relatively cheap or easily accessible and extremely beneficial. I continue to use PECS to help my students communicate, gain confidence and independence. I find that this works for myself and my students.

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“Good” Assessment Practices in my Pre-K Classroom

The late educator Joe Bower wrote, “Assessment is not a spreadsheet, it’s a conversation.” Unfortunately, however, assessment often feels a lot less like a conversation than like a series of “objective” numbers and scores. As we heard in the presentation tonight, assessment technologies can sometimes exacerbate this issue, prioritizing types of assessment that have traditionally lent themselves to technology (e.g., multiple choice, scantron, etc.). As assessment technologies become increasingly prevalent in the classroom, how can we ensure that these tools are used to support “good” assessment practices that support high levels of student learning and thinking and that address the potential negative cultural and social effects that can accompany the use of these tools? Where possible, make connections to tonight’s student presentation as well as the readings provided by the group.

I have only been teaching now for six years. In those six years, I have already learned so much about assessment. I have learned how to manage different assessment tools, what works best for myself, students and parents and how to use assessment in ways that actually benefit everyone.

A huge change for me happened this past year. I have taught grade one for the first five years of my career, and finally got the Pre-K position that I was hoping for! One of the biggest changes in doing so, is assessment. Assessment looks so different than what it did for other “mainstream” classrooms. In Pre-K, our assessment is focused on the child as a whole (opikinawasowin- raising a child together). We assess based on the strengths’ of the child in their relationships/identity, movement and growth, wonder and curiosity, and knowledge and wisdom. Most of the children’s learning and knowledge happens through play! So, my assessment is taking pictures. I take many photos throughout the day and post them to their learning story on Edsby. From here, parents can not only see what their child is doing throughout the day, but also see them interacting with peers, creating new art, or exploring using their fine motor skills. I find this form of assessment to be WAY more beneficial than your typical form of assessment (adding an assignment, giving them a “ME,” “BE,” etc.) I find that seeing a photo of the child with the outcome/indicator attached is easily understood by all parents (including our EAL families), the teacher and the student. My 3 and 4 year old’s can go home and explain to their parents what they did and what they learned by looking at the photo that was shared online. We also focus largely on family engagement in Pre-K. We have multiple “family days” per year, as well as home visits and conferences, and this on it’s own is a form of assessment. Just as Joe Bower stated, “[a]ssessment is not a spreadsheet, it’s a conversation,” and I have multiple conversations with parents and students on a daily basis in this form of assessment. However, I feel like this form of assessment can be hard for some parents to understand, because we were all brought up thinking of assessment as a spreadsheet, grades and scantrons (at least, that is how I thought when I thought of “assessment.”) So, I always have to sit down with parents and go over how we “mark” in Pre-K so that they have an understanding.

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Technology makes this kind of assessment possible! Even 10 years ago, I could not share what I do now with parents. We could not communicate the way we do now. It was actually just this past year, that the new Pre-K assessment tool came out. We are now able to take pictures, attach the outcome/indicator, add in the student’s voice/words and make a teacher comment! Technology has made assessment easier, more convenient and beneficial for student learning, but also for our families. It sounds crazy, but my 3 year old’s can even take their own photos of their learning so that they can be involved with the assessment process. Now, imagine if every teacher could use technology to their advantage. Imagine if assessment was not a “scary” thing and imagine if everyone thought of it as a “conversation,” such as what Bower suggests…

The Drug We Love

 If you have access, watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix and comment on how Web 2.0 (the social web) has influenced our lives in positive and negative ways and how this might implicate (or has implicated) our schools and society

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Well…that was scary. I just finished watching “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix and it honestly made me want to delete my social media. I know…WAY easier said than done. Why? Because it is the “drug” that I am addicted to. I never put much thought into any of this before. However, when you do, it is really freaky! Every single thing we do online is tracked. In the show, they made a comment about how when you are on Facebook, you are dealing with “someone” who knows every little thing about you, and you know nothing about them. We could be sitting beside our friend and log onto Facebook at the same time, and see two completely different “worlds.” Why? Because our devices and internet track us and our uses. It calculates our interests and our next move. The craziest part about all of this is how rich these internet companies are! How do they make their money? Off of us of course! They make their money by creating this strong drug that we are all, in some way or another, completely addicted to.

So, how in the world is this a positive thing? Well, first of all. Web 2.0 has allowed us to connect with people from all over the world. We connect with friends, followers, family members on a daily basis. We share photos, news, recipes, etc. This gives us a voice. We can collaborate through blogs, Facebook, etc., (literally what we are doing right now!). I can share my own ideas with people. I can share photos. I can look at other people’s ideas to gain understanding. At the touch of a few buttons, we can have our questions answered for us instantly. I can find news articles, updates on the weather/road conditions. With another few clicks, I could plan my next vacation. I can educate myself on whatever I choose. Web 2.0 has drastically changed all of our worlds…and yes, in all of these positive ways. Our students use Web 2.0 to research and answer the questions they may have. They communicate and collaborate with each other online. Web 2.0 has changed all of our lives in all of these positive ways! But, as we know, there is a flip side as well. Let’s dig into the negatives…

I think the first “negative” of this whole this has already been mentioned…we are literally being tracked and stalked in everything that we do online. Anything we look up, anything we start to type, even how many seconds we look at a certain photo for. This was mind blowing to me! “You’re easily manipulated” by Facebook and other apps like Instagram. “We aren’t actually being constructive individuals.” Why? Because you are only seeing what you want to see. YOU pick your friends. YOU pick your followers. YOU pick what you are interested in. The documentary then goes on to explain how this creates this false sense and reality that everyone agrees with you and thinks the same. Yet, we all have different “realities” online. How does this affect our students and schools? Well, as I mentioned above, our students can easily access the internet. They can have their questions answered at the click of a button and easily do research on different topics. However, I now see just how easily fake news is spread. Especially since we are all seeing different “news” articles and it is all based on what we want to believe and see as individuals. Obviously, the privacy of our students is a priority. But, how can we protect them from this “drug” if we cannot even protect ourselves? Lastly, Web 2.0 makes communication easy! Students can share ideas, thoughts and photos with each other online. This also makes bullying a huge issue. Cyberbullying is more of an issue now than ever before. How can we put a stop to this? How can we protect our students’ mental health, privacy and ultimately, protect them from this “drug?”

Re-Learning How To Teach

We are now midway through the semester, and you have both used and been introduced to a variety of tools. 1 ) Thinking of your own context, what tools for online and blended learning seem most useful/relevant and why? 2) If you currently teach in an online/remote/distance setting, how have you/might you bring these tools into your current context, and how has your experience been impacted by the online or distance format? OR If you do NOT teach in an online/remote/distance setting, how would you feel about teaching with these tools in an online or distance education class, and how would your current context be impacted if you were to shift to an online/distance format vs. face to face? Where possible, make connections to tonight’s student presentation as well as the readings provided by the group.

I found this week’s discussion very interesting, especially because I did not realize how many others felt the same way as I do when it comes to online learning and/or teaching. One of the main things that I have discovered throughout this course so far (and something that I have mentioned before), is that there are benefits and downfalls to everything when it comes to technology and using it in the classroom.

Thinking back to the peak of COVID days (2020-2021 ish), our division used Zoom and Google Classroom to not only communicate with students, but to also teach them lessons. I found these platforms as the most useful/beneficial while teaching online/remote, because Zoom is fairly easy to navigate as a teacher. I was able to see my kids’ smiling faces, and they could see mine (which at this strange time, was very important!) As some of you already know, I am a primary teacher (PreK-grade 1). When everyone was making plans to teach over these platforms, and teaching others how to use them, I do not think much thought was put into primary teachers or their students/ unique situations. I say this, because our students are between the ages of 4-6 years old. They do not have their own devices, they do not know how to access these platforms without their parents helping them (and lots of the time, their parents were still learning too), AND I think the biggest downfall is that these kiddos need face-to-face interaction in these formative and important years of their life. These are their first years at school. There was a LOT of pressure on us, or at least that is how I felt. I tried to plan fun, engaging and beneficial lessons, but often times it seemed impossible and it just was not the same as in-person learning. I had to re-learn how to teach, and all I can say is “thank goodness” that I was not a first-year teacher at this time. It would have been so stressful to navigate how to teach, while all the experienced teachers/mentors around you are also having to re-learn how to teach in an online setting. What a mess! On the other hand though, and going back to benefits of online learning tools, what would we have done 10-15 years ago if the COVID outbreak happened then? How would school have looked? How would we have taught or connected with our students and families? Technology has come a long way, and continues to grow and benefit us as teachers and students.

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While in our breakout spaces from the last presentation, some of us were chatting about this. I realized that others feel the same way! We know that technology can benefit us in so many ways! We can see teachers using educational technology in the classroom settings to benefit their students, keep lessons engaging, as communication tools, the list goes on and on. I have also personally learned about how to navigate different platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, and Jamboard (tech doesn’t seem so scary anymore-haha!) However, some of us (especially middle years-high school teachers), are seeing a decline in students’ education. Some teachers see their high schoolers attend class, not knowing how to write or read. This, in my opinion, is a problem that does need to be addressed. I believe that there needs to be a balance of technology, and basic life skills such as reading and writing involved as well. Even as a PreK teacher, I see my 3 and 4 year old’s coming in, and not being able to complete simple fine motor tasks. These tasks include putting beads on a string, cutting, colouring with a crayon or using tongs to pick up items. Is this related to the overuse of technology at home? Is this what our future will be? Is this to be blamed solely on tech? Where do we go from here?

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The “Cracks”- Productivity Suites

After hearing this weeks presenters speak on productivity suites, I realized a few things…

  1. There are cracks that need to be filled in.
  2. There are pros and cons to everything.

Now, let me explain and ramble on about what I mean exactly. Productivity suites, like Microsoft Office, Google Workspace and Apple iWork (just to name a few), have their benefits for our students and prepare them for their future in the workplace. With productivity suites, students are able to be creative! They can make and design their own presentations to share with their colleges in the workplace. Using productivity suites allows for students to collaborate with each other and foster team work. Technology is an ongoing thing. It is not going away anytime soon. The more we teach our students HOW to use technology and how to manage different productivity suites, the better prepared they will be for their futures. I wish that I had these opportunities when I was in school, because then I would feel more prepared and advanced when it came to working through spreadsheets, presentations, etc., as I think that many of us had to teach ourselves how to navigate these platforms.

So, yes. There are benefits to productivity suites and they play a role in digital literacy. They are valuable tools in both school and workplace settings. For example, I use Microsoft Office daily as I create and share my lesson plans. I use spreadsheets to help with me class lists, staying organized, assessment…the list goes on and on.

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However, there are “cracks” or gaps to fill as well. Not everyone will find these benefits in productivity suites. I believe, especially after engaging with last weeks discussion, that privacy and affordability are the two biggest cracks/gaps.

Who is paying for these fees? What about the upgrades? What about the devices themselves? Not every school board has the funds to cough up money for these things. Are we, as teachers, properly trained to help guide students through using productivity suites in a safe and beneficial way? I for one, don’t think I would confidently say that I am.

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I think as educators, we need to think about how to fill in these “cracks,” before we get too excited about going forward with using the new productivity suites on the market. We need to be mindful of all of our students and think about benefits vs. downfalls.

Thanks, “Sesame Street”…

  • Postman wrote: “…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.” In a blog post, unpack the implications of this quote, particularly the idea that Sesame Street undermines traditional schooling. What does Postman mean here, and how might we extend this idea to the broader effects of AV technologies in schools, from the earliest AV technologies all the way up to the current culture of smartphones and the push towards BYOD and the integration of smartphones in classrooms? What are the grander implications of the array of AV technologies, from film projectors to apps and interactive educational shows to personalized devices and tools like YouTube (Khan Academy, Crash Course, etc), when we think about the format of schooling? How do AV technologies change the way we might think about school? You should tie in tonight’s student presentation as well as the readings provided by the group where possible.

In this post, I will be unpacking the above blog prompt.

There is no doubt that audio visual technologies do enhance education in certain aspects. They make it more fun, engaging, and interactive. The presentation from this week definitely showed us that! We did break out spaces, watched videos, and were put into groups to answer questions using pictures and GIFs. By allowing our students to participate in activities like these ones mentioned, and by using more audio visual tech in our classrooms, we engage our students and peak their interests. However, will this go “too far?” Are there some negative outcomes because of all the use of audio visual technology to make learning “fun”?

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I believe that Neil Postman’s quote reflects the fact that we are constantly trying to “entertain” our learners/students as teachers. Although I believe that AV tech can be very beneficial (as mentioned above), I also agree that it can make things harder for us as educators. Shows like Sesame Street portray school and education as always being engaging, fun and interactive. Whereas traditional schooling involves levels of discipline, structure and focus. This can be a downfall for students who come to school with this image in their head. Not ALL learning is fun! This is true. I loved certain aspects and activities in school, but I also disliked some and found some lessons “boring.” This is also the reality of life and work in general.

Many of our learners come into our classrooms today with lots of exposure to AV technology, such as televisions, smart phones, iPad’s and tablets. I hear of people saying they don’t want to raise an “iPad kid,” for this very reason. When children have no limit on screen time, and always need to have AV tech in front of them to stay engaged, it makes our jobs as parents and educators harder to keep them focused and learn. Teachers have become entertainers on top of all the other “hats” we wear on a daily basis, just to allow our students to stay engaged and learn something from our lessons.

There is a big push on “bring your own device” to school. I teach Pre-K, so this does not really affect me as much as teachers who teach middle-high schoolers. However, I cant help but think about those who come from lower-income households. Where does this technology come from for them? Do they then get the same education as other students who come to school with the newest smart phones and technology to enhance their education? How do we, as educators, know that our students are using their technology devices to enhance their education? How do we know that they are not cheating or distracted? This also ties in to our previous discussion from the last couple of weeks. Using audio visual technology in classrooms also has implications on the teachers, who now need to teach students exactly how to use these devices to benefit their learning (which websites to access, how to protect their privacy, what could be dangerous, etc.)

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In conclusion, AV tech enhances education in many ways, but it also continues to have it’s downfalls and brings up a lot of questions that many do not have the answers to. There are definitely grander implications to AV technology integrated into our schools and classrooms and we continue to unpack these as educators.

Our students are smart!

Every single one of the students in our classrooms are smart and capable. I think that one of the hardest parts of my job (as an educator) is to find out what works for all of my students, to encourage them to do the best they can.

As we talked about in this week’s discussion, learning brings change! There are different ways of learning and different theories. Personally, I have learned about these theories before, but never really dove into what they mean for us, in the classroom setting. For example, Katia used the example of Class Dojo being apart of the Behaviorism theory of learning. When I first started teaching, I actually used Class Dojo with my students. However, after awhile I realized that it seemed to be making those behaviours worse. In learning theories like Behaviorism, you are either right or you are wrong, just like Skinner’s Teaching Machine. Yet, I found that there are other (less demeaning) ways of classroom management.

Again, as we talked about in class, I think that the majority of teachers, myself included, fall under the Constructivism learning theory. I believe that all of our kiddos come to us with some sort of understanding and knowledge and it is our job to build on that. The most beneficial learning that I did throughout my university experience as an undergrad student, was my pre-internship and my internship. To be in the classroom, watching other teachers, and actually able to learn from role models, helped shape who I am as a teacher today. I do believe, however, that a lot of us (teachers) and our education system continues to function with a “mix” of all of the learning theories (ie: Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism), and that is not a bad thing!

I mentioned how I shifted my thinking about strategies such as Class Dojo, but I do also believe we need to shift our mindset away from “one size fits all” approach. When we think of Cognitivism learning theory, we think Piaget Stages of Development. This is where the “putting students in the same grade level based off their age”, can be a downfall. This is a bigger issue, but I think that less of our students would “fall through the cracks” if we chose to follow a more Constructivism approach, because as teachers we know that our students are diverse. They learn differently, they come to us from different backgrounds and they have their own strengths and also weaknesses.

I am by no means a perfect teacher, but I hope to continue these learnings to better understand my own management skills, and how I can construct my classroom to benefit my learners.

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