A Flash to the Future: Summary of Learning

Hello everyone, what a whirlwind of a class! I felt that I came into this class knowing a lot about educational technology and using it in my classroom, but through the presentations and conversations that we have had throughout this winter semester my perspectives and approaches to using these tools has definitely shifted. At this point in my career, I still cannot say I have all of the answers, however, after this class am optimistic that I have gained the tools and perspectives to support my middle school students through navigating this online world we are living. I do still fear how teaching will evolve as different technological advancements come into play, but I do know many teachers are adaptable and we will make it work together.

For my Summary of Learning I have decided to create a narrative to showcase some of my key takeaways and perspectives gained throughout this course. From our conversation last week this story is set in the future and my main character Sandy goes through a personal journey of what educational technology can be or was… I will not uncover all details here, but invite you to listen to my story while being guided by a combination of pictures that resonated with me throughout our time in EC&I 833. (Pre-warning, my video is a little longer as I could not tell the story fast enough!)

Link to Summary of Learning Video

If you have any trouble accessing and watching the video, please let me know! Screencastify changed their settings on me so this is a new way of posting the video.

I am excited to hear some thoughts and perspectives on this. Thank you all for being a part of my learning journey and I look forward to being in future classes together.


References from presentation:

Transform Education: The Role of AV Technology in Classrooms

Chapter 2: Productivity Suites

Five things we need to know about technological change 

A short history of education technology

Chapter 2: The nature of knowledge and the implications for teaching 

How Google took over the classroom

Moving from Education 1.0 Through Education 2.0 Towards Education 3.0

The Social Dilemma 

Decreasing Creativity in Elementary School Students During online learning transition

A review of digital formative assessment tools: Features and future directions

Assistive Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities

What is a Makerspace? 

Double-Edged Sword of Generative AI in Education: losing or winning?

Double Standards with Generative AI

This week was very enlightening around the world of generative AI. Prior to this class I thought about how I use AI in my life and I really couldn’t say that I used it a lot. However, our presenters this week brought light that AI has been in our lives a lot longer than I think most knew about. In the video Evolution of Artificial Intelligence, they quoted John McCarthy where he stated AI in the 1950s was considered “any task performed by a program or a machine that, if a human carried out the same activity we would say the human had to apply intelligence to accomplish the task.” With this definition, we can see that Artificial Intelligence stems a lot further then the present Chat GPT that many think about when they think about AI. The video went on to discuss that a of the AI we use in our everyday lives would be considered “Narrow AI” which specifically was used to carry out specific tasks which could include internet searches, digital personal assistants (Siri) and suggestions on what to watch on Netflix just to name a few! With this information it is clear that we are constantly using some form of AI in our every day lives and we have been for awhile. When thinking about my everyday life, I use AI through simple tasks like facial recognition to unlock my phone, digital assistants through asking Siri a question and through electronic payments such as etransfers and online shopping. The question that has stemmed however in just the past couple of years is how do we navigate these AI programs as they are requiring less human input and are becoming very accurate in being able to do the creative work on its own. Where do we go from here in the education field? 

Now teaching grade 7 for the first time I would be lying if I said that I do not use generative AI to support my resources and teaching. Using Magic School AI  to support me in creating a quick math sheet for a concept I am teaching or using the Report Card Comment generator to support me in knowing how to state different sentences or traits that I want to highlight for specific students are two areas I have used these programs the most. I have found it a very beneficial tool to give me different ideas, or to make my lessons and projects that I do with my class more engaging and interesting. In this context, I find AI as a benefit, however, on the other side I feel I have a double standard when it comes to students using AI as a tool. 

In this weeks class we had the debate around students using AI to support them and it is conflicting to me to know a right or wrong answer to this question. To me, I fully think students need to know how to write in many different ways, whether that be an essay, email, create a presentation, etc. Those skills like proper paragraph and essay formatting, creating clear and concise presentations, and structuring formal and informal writing are huge goals that I start working with my grade 7s on to prepare them as they move up into high school and into their everyday lives. I also believe that no matter where that students life ends up, they will need to have these writing skills even if it is just to write their resume and cover letter. However, now with the advancements of AI we are running into students plugging in the information into the description boxes and getting AI to generate the writing for them, or the presentations for them. Those problem solving and creativity skills are becoming obsolete as they can plug in three words and get a whole essay. In the article The Double-Edged Sword of Generative AI in Education Marco Neves states “the ease with which AI can produce content and solutions may lead to an overreliance on technology, diminishing critical thinking and problem-solving skills among learners.” Marco extended this quote in stating “the convenience of AI-generated answers can discourage the deep, often strenous cognitive processes involved in learning, leading to superficial understanding and retention.” With this in mind, is AI purposeful and helpful to our students. When looking at the big picture of supporting our students in building resiliency and determination does the use of AI support or hinder these life skills that will benefit someone no matter their life choices? I really think the answer is no. As we have seen throughout this class the use of technology can support so many, however, it also comes with a cost. Again, holding double standards, because I feel students should not be able to use it, but here I am using it in my professional career to support me? So what is the answer? 


bro submitted a 2000 word essay before it was even assigned 💀💀 #college #university #school #student

♬ original sound – Kipper.ai
This popped up on my TikTok this week!

I have been struggling with this idea throughout this year now teaching middle years they have access to these different devices at their fingertips. They are going to be on social media, they are going to be using Chat GPT to “help” them with assignments, telling them that they can’t or shouldn’t I don’t think is the answer as it is not supporting them in navigating these diverse tools. What I do think needs to occur, however, is to teach them how to use it in a beneficial way instead of them using it to just complete the assignments or work for them. For example, in my classroom we used a AI picture generator app (Canva) that students had to take the main character from their narrative stories they were writing and they had to generate that character using descriptive language. Students really enjoyed this assignment and I noticed a lot of description come out through their writing as when they were too broad in their descriptions what they visualized in their head was not being replicated on screen and they would have to alter it to get the picture to match what they wanted. In this form, the students were able to see that AI can be used to support their assignments. This is just a start and I have a lot more learning to do to support my students in understanding how to navigate these different tools and also support them in understanding the importance of completing work on their own. I am interested to read and hear different opinions around this topic as I am not sure my approach is the correct on yet. 

Let’s Break the Code!

This weeks presentation reminding me of all of the possibilities teachers have to create learning opportunities that are engaging for our students. As I have started a new grade this year, I find that so much of my planning time is ensuring I am creating units and assessments that connect with our curriculum expectations. It has been easy to put these different forms of learning on the back burner. However, now as we enter March I always find that as the students are often in a solid routine and know expectations, the end of the school year is a great time to start bringing these different forms of learning and inquiry into the classroom. In this blogpost I will be diving into the world of coding and recognize what options and opportunities I have for my students. 

As mentioned in this weeks article, “coding is the process of writing out steps for a computer to follow to achieve a goal or perform a task.” Knowing that the digital age we are living in, students are going to be seeing coding more and more as they get older and head into the workforce, this is a great place to start building these skills. As stated, coding allows students to creatively represent their learning, gain critical thinking skills, form a deeper understanding of technology, build resilience and problem solving skills, and to show that learning can happen in a variety of different ways. When thinking specifically around my middle school classroom I believe coding has the opportunity to engage my reluctant learners as most of us know the attitudes and eagerness changes in these grades, coding may be a space to motivate the students. A good point that was brought up in class and in the articles I have read around coding, is it is important to not think that coding is only for the students who want to pursue a career in technology, or the “tech” driven students, however, through the use of coding we can gain skills that support any student. The idea of perserverance and problem solving is a huge life skill that needs to be used no matter where the student goes in their life, through coding we allow for students to build these traits in a supportive environment. 

As we can see from a quick google search, there are many advantages and positives of teaching coding in the classroom. However, as with any technology and form of teaching there are some negatives. From my own experience the two that continually impact my classroom is time and resources. Learning to code takes a lot of time and students need support to limit the high levels of frustration and them just giving up. Unfortunately, our school systems currently do not always allow for this learning space with class sizes and limited classroom support evident. Another huge impact is the access to different tools to code. Yes, there are a lot of different coding options online, however, the tech divide amongst school divisions has become very apparent to me throughout this class and not all classrooms readily have access to enough devices to support the students. In this article the authors state a few barriers teachers may face when trying to teach coding in the classroom. These included: overemphasis on technology, frustration and burnout, and rapidly evolving technology. The last point around rapidly evolving technology is huge especially when trying to support the students in gaining these skills, what is taught from year to year or even month to month may not be relevant as technology is continuously changing and evolving. 

Another huge barrier that I hear often with colleagues that I work with is that they are nervous to try implementing these different forms of learning as they themselves do not feel competent in their skills. One thing I have learned throughout my few years of teaching is that I do not need to be the expert in everything and that I can lean into the resources I have to support my students learning. One amazing thing about coding is it is a lot of problem solving, that opens doors for students to be collaborating and discussing with each other to support the success of one another. That goes for all technology. For example, this year I have a student who knows a computer inside and out, he is our “IT Support” in the classroom and the students know to ask him if I am busy with another student as he is able to support them in anything Chromebook related, and sometimes they go to him first because he has been able to answer even some of my questions. The idea that we as teachers always need to know the most needs to diminish, I love the opportunities that I can ask the students questions when I am unsure as it not only supports my understanding, but also teaches the students that we are all experts in our own way and we can all work together to learn! Once a teacher can get over that barrier, they will have a lot easier time working with different learning opportunities such as coding! 

So where do I go from here? In the past I have used coding in the classroom, from bringing in Ozobots and the students work on ABAB patterns in math, or create storylines for their Ozobots to retell through movement and into Scratch where students use online coding to complete a task. My past experiences with coding are limited, however, with both of these projects I remember how excited and engaged the students were to use this in the classroom and it made the learning very meaningful! As I move into our term 3 of the school year, I have been looking in to using coding for at least one project the students will be completing, I look forward to hearing from all of your what kind of projects you have done in the past!   

The wonders of assistive technology!

This week’s class was very beneficial and enlightening of all the assistive technology, we have to support students with varying needs in our classroom. The term assistive technology is not something new to me, however, I am a little disappointed to say that I do not use as much as I want or should in the classroom. As stated in the article “Assitive Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities” assistive technology is defined as “the devices and services that are used to increase, maintain, or improve the capabilities of a student with a disability.” The article goes on to discuss that different ideas of assistive technology, not only being related to computerized devices, but also can be very low tech items including pencil grips, standing desks, diverse seating options, etc. With this definition in mind, I will start by going through some assistive technologies I use in my classroom. 

  • Standing Desk 
  • Wobble and Rocking Chairs 
  • Thera Bands on desks 
  • Text to Speech and Speech to Text using iPads 
  • Word Predictions 
  • Use of Calculators 
  • FM system to project my voice 
  • C-Pen (one student) 

Now from different conversations with my classmates a long with the presentation, I merely see these forms of assistive technology as just brushing the surface. These sources have been great as a starting point, but now in middle school the need for these assistive technologies seem to be more necessary with the bigger learning gaps I am seeing in the classroom. 

Benefits and Challenges I have noticed in the classroom using assistive technology: 

Benefits:  Challenges: 
Provides students with the opportunity to be independent and find success. Access to tech – when using programs such as speech to text or text to speech it is nice to have constant access that the students can lean on however, that is not always possible 
Reaches students where they are at. Time and teaching – with a new tool, the students need to be modelled and supported. 
Equity vs Equality – allows students to understand that we all need different tools to support our individual selves. Cost – one of my students has a C-Pen that the parents decided to purchase, however, that is not available for all students. 
Opens doors for cooperation and peer to peer teaching when using these tools. Misuse of technology – Need to ensure the students fully understand expectations prior to gaining access to this technology 
Supports my EAL students in the classroom. Depending on students abilities, sometimes programs do not support them. 
Supports students with varying needs when an Educational Assistant or teacher is not available. May need seperate quite spaces which is not always possible in a busy classroom. 

It is evident that assistive technology is warranted in our classrooms today. With the vast technology students have available to them I am a firm believer that we as teachers have the oppurtunity to give them tools to support them into their future lives, I just wish some of the barriers were not in the way when trying to provide this support! 

Moving forward: 

From this week I was really inspired to start incorporating some more assitive technology in the classroom. As a goal to start investigating and finding different assistive technologies that support my students I want to try a new program moving into term 3 of the school year! 

  • Google Read and Write: As we have access to Chromebooks and Google is my students’ main source of inquiry based learning I would like to introduce my students to Google Read and Write and have them explore this a little deeper to support their learning. Many of my grade 6 and 7 students have strong listening comprehension, however, have difficulties with the decoding of words, through using this tool, I am hoping to support my students as they move into their individual inquiry project that will be coming up! 
Dictionary, picture dictionary, and word predictions available at the click of the cursor!

I look forward to hearing what others use in their classroom and if you have a program that you think I should look into send it my way! I am open for options. 

A Kahoot may not always be the answer!

This week’s conversation around assessment technologies was very eye opening. When thinking about assessment technologies I often think lots of teachers resort to well, technology is the new age so this assessment tool must reflect that. However, as mentioned in this week’s presentation, that is further from the truth. When talking about the different assessment platforms teachers have access to, Alonzo, et al., states “most online assessment platforms are built for one-way interaction where students are presented with assessment tasks and respond to it accordingly” the article goes further in stating “these platforms do not allow for more meaningful assessment practices.” I found this to be a fundamental quote to understanding the use of assessment technologies in the classroom. When I first began teaching I would create Kahoots to support my math assessments or any other subject, however, all that the data was telling me was the students who were able to be successful with rote memorization instead of critically understanding the content. The same goes for different platforms such as Socrative and Quizlet to name a few. It is great that students can get that “real-time” feedback, however, through this model of assessment we continue just to reiterate the behaviorism learning theory. Through these different platforms and structures, I find my students more likely to shut down after getting two or three questions wrong, then to continue working through the questions. This form of assessment continues to reinstate the idea that the grade is all that matters and what do I have to do to get full marks. So where do we go from here? 

As we saw in this week’s presentation, there are numerous platforms online to support our assessment practices. The key question is how do we use these platforms to support higher levels

of thinking that allow our students to apply, analyze, evaluate and create, instead of simply remember as stated in Bloom’s Taxonomy. In the article A review of digital formative assessment tools: Features and future directions the authors dive into the most popular forms of assessment technologies in the field today. They stated that these different tools “offer valuable components that could facilitate formative assessment, enrich instruction, boost learner engagement and motivation, introduce gamification and make classeses more interactive” however keyed in on the piece how all of these platforms are very closed ended. Further on in the paper they continue to state that development is needed, specifically in the areas of “automatic grading of open-ended questions through artificial intelligence, the use of keywords to grade responses to open-ended questions, the use of quiz items or features that aim to help learners acquire higher-end cognitive skills.” I believe, that teachers are starting to transition to this form of assessment through the use of online platforms and social media. Alonzo, et al., states “using social media in learning and teaching has demonstrated several advantages including: 

  • Social media allows for stronger relationships to be created between teacher and student 
  • Allows for students to create and exchange ideas with both teachers and classmates 
  • Social media use in classroom instruction can increase learning performance by engaging in learning activities that shift students from passive learners to participatory learners. 

So what might this look like? 

I think it can be daunting to involve social media into the classroom, especially as we know lots of the negative social media can have on our youth. However, through the right platforms and permissions, it can be a valuable and relevant source to support students. For example, setting up a class blog much like what we do in this class could be a great option to start connecting students. Through the blog, students are able to take the learning outcomes they are working on and apply key concepts in their writing. After that, the students are then able to learn from their peers through commenting, liking and sharing. Furthermore, the use of platforms like YouTube can connect the classrmates together through teaching and learning, but also connect with other students who have created content around the certain topic of study. These would be a few examples of how to incorporate the use of social media to support learning. When we branch off into the platforms of Facebook, Twitter and TikTok I am a little more cautious. I would be interested to hear from some classmates how they believe these platforms could warrant deeper level thinking and engagement!

Are we all under a spell?

As one of the presenters this week I had spent a lot of time investigating the different versions of the World Wide Web from Web 1.0 to Web 3.0. Jenni, Brianne, and myself have had some big conversations of the different versions and we did some extensive research on all three areas. My main focus was on Web 2.0 the “Social Web” and I never intended I would go into such a rabbit hole of information when I began. The answers were not clear, the definitions were not precise, and the opinions about this form of web was all over the map. That is why when I saw the option to watch The Social Dilemma to investigate more the influence Web 2.0 has on our lives I jumped at the opportunity. 

I write this prompt on a Saturday afternoon. I do most of my university work on Saturdays as it is time that I have to really sit down and focus on the tasks at hand. However, shamefully I also spent an hour and a half on tiktok and other social media platforms before I actually got into this assignment. I was quickly disappointed in my decisions when I went to begin watching the documentary to realize that it too was an hour and a half and I could have been done watching it and writing this blog a lot sooner if I did not get sucked into the social media platforms of endless scrolling. That is the social dilemma. 

As I began watching the documentary, I was hooked right off the bat with this quote “Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse” (Sophocles). Meaning, nothing so grand and great can come without some kind of consequence. Through my research of Web 2.0 that quote seemed very accurate. As many of the interviewees mentioned, the changes that occurred to the web and these platforms at the beginning seemed like a good idea. For example the person who engineered the “like” button on Facebook initially wanted to spread joy and happiness, in no

way intended it to cause extreme anxiety and depression amongst users. Another example that was mentioned was the idea that these platforms were create to help connect people of like interests, rekindle family and friends who do not live close to one another. In my presentation this week we also went into the opportunity Web 2.0 gave for users to now be able to share content and knowledge instead of only a few experts sharing such knowledge that we saw in Web 1.0. All good intentions, however, it was forgotten how fast technology can evolve. 

Tristan Harris, then went further to begin discussing how the social web started to evolve into the atmosphere for “persuasive technology.” He stated that the main goal was to modify human behavior to inturn captivate their attention. This form of technology has three main goals as outlined in the documentary: 1. Engagement (catch and keep your attention), 2. Growth (keep users coming back), and 3. Advertising (make as much money as possible). This idea connected with our presentation this week around the idea that if you are not paying for the product, you are the product. Meaning, the users are the product as they are not paying for these “free” social media platforms, but instead the ones redistributing and taking in all of the different advertisements. The thing that I found the most horrifying is how these platforms and algorithms feed you exactly what you are looking for. Through users being watched, tracked, and their data collected these algorithms know exactly when we are feeling lonely and they can pick up on our interests, personality types and even our schedules. This form of advanced technology is moving at a pace much faster then humans. When they sense us being enactive, they send us a notification that a new post was made by someone, or a news article released that you may be interested in. The video compared us to voodoo dolls on a string and I think in the lens of social media that is exactly what we are. Going back to my morning on social media, I had no idea how much time had past because I was captivated in the 10 second videos playing, and I continued this because the platform is able to continue feeding exactly what interests me and what I want to see. If I, someone who has a background in how social platforms work and the idea about the algorithm can so easily get wrapped up in the mindless scrolling, what does that mean for our our students? 

As I went through the documentary, I couldn’t help but continually be thinking about the 11 and 12 year old students that I work with every single day. With this being my first year teaching in a middle school classroom, I did not know what to expect when it came to their access to technology and specifically social media. I too grew up having Facebook in high school so I knew that by now some of the middle school students would have different social media apps, but as I continue to move throughout the year I become more and more shocked with the realities of these students. Over 75% of my students have a mobile device of their own and of those students almost all of them have the common social media apps such as Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube accounts, BeReal, and more. I have a lot of conversations with my students about the important of internet safety and trying to teach them how once it is out there we have given away our rights to those pictures and posts and the students often go unfazed. Continuing through the year I also take notice of the differences I see with the students who have access to these apps and the students who do not and there is a couple key differences that I notice: 

  • Tiredness: A lot of my students openly disclose how late they are staying up scrolling through these different apps, causing them to have limited energy in class.
  • Attention: The students who do not have access to tasks have a lot easier of a time being able to focus in on an assignment, video, lesson then the students who do have access. One of my students even said to me one day that they would have a better chance at listening fully to my lesson if they could scroll Pinterest at the same time. Students are so
  • used to be stimulated constantly through these platforms that lots of times they are uninterested in what provide in school. 
  • Maturity: In middle school you see students at all different levels. However, the way students with these platforms talk and make conversation show that they are exposed to a lot more than they should ever be. 

The documentary supported these ideas and stated that there has been a significant increase in depression and anxiety in pre-teens and teenagers since 2011 and the statistics continue to rise. Students are relying on instant gratification and define their self-worth through the amount of likes they get on their tiktok then through the interactions they have with their friends. Through this the documentary went further to discuss that these students have become fragile, depressed, not interested in taking risks, and okay with isolating themselves. It worries me this path for my students because the actions I see in grade 6 and 7, I worry what they will turn to when they get to high school. What they will turn to when a selfie isn’t enough or when just texting a friend isn’t enough. As mentioned in the documentary, it is up to humans to change this course. They created this technology and they also have the power to change this technology to be less product and profit based and more humane. The different interviewees in the documentary were optimistic, however, from what I see in the classroom I am a little on the fence. However, for my future children and future students I hope to see a shift, because it fears me to know how middle schoolers will continue to change if social platforms continue to evolve to be more addicting. 

One quote that I took from this documentary is “how do you wake up from the matrix when you didn’t know you live in the matrix” (Tristan Harris). As  educators, how can we ensure our students know the realities of the online world, when they have known nothing outside of it? What can we do to support families in navigating these challenging terrains of social media and youth? I look forward to hearing some ideas! 

The possibilities of distance learning…

As we have seen through this week’s presentation on online learning tools, there are numerous tools available to educators to connect their learners online. With that, the question that often comes into play is how do we decide what to use? When to use it? Does it benefit my teaching? In this blog post I will go through some different tools I used in the past to support my blended learning environments that I offer to my students. 

In a previous blog post, I mentioned that being a new teacher, I often rely on online tools to support my teaching as I do not have all of the information needed to be able to lecture about certain curricular topics. As we have seen throughout the past weeks, this form of teaching is becoming popular and using technology in the classroom is helpful to support the learning of your students and support them in preparing for their future. I currently am teaching in a in-person classroom where my students have access to Chromebooks that we share with other classrooms, with that in mind we do not always have access to this technology and a lot of the tools that I use online are planned to be shared either through a projector, or in a small group scenario. Using LMS such as Google Classroom has allowed me to share my lessons easily with students, and the students also are able to complete assignments through this platform as well. I love this management system as everything my Grade 7 students need is right at their fingertips. They need a link to a video, I can post it as material. They need to create a slideshow for an inquiry project, they are able to connect it right with my assignment description and I can always see their progress. We need to meet on a Google Meet, the link is open and ready to be used. In the field of middle school education Google Classroom has been a great place to teach students different online tools and how they can represent their work in an organized and teacher guided way. The idea of Learning Management Systems (LMS) is supported by Tony Bates when they state that a “LMS provides an online teaching environment, where content can be organized, as well as providing ‘spaces’ for learning objectives, students activities, assignments, and discussion forums.” However, what would this look like if I was completely online? 

As mentioned above, I do not teach in an online/remote setting, thus, the way I use YouTube videos, websites and LMS tools may look very different than if I only taught online. I think that I would still stick with an LMS tool and keep it simple. Working with middle school students they do know a lot about technology, however, it would be important to keep it organized and simple to ensure they know where to access the information. I would continue using Google Classroom that is something I am comfortable with, allows my students to connect everything to, and is supported by our division. With that being said, the layout of my day I believe would look much different. For example; my in-person lessons usually all begin with a mini lesson with me at the front either going through some kind of slide show, examples on the board, and discussion with the class, we then fall into a practice formatting where the students have the opportunity to go and practice and apply either in small groups or individually depending on the task at hand. Most of my lessons fall under the gradual release of responsibility “I do, We do, You do” model. When thinking about what my instruction would look like in an online format, I would maybe have to rethink how the lessons would look. The approach I follow with in-person teaching allows for ample time for questions, conversation, and observation of my students to ensure they are understanding the concepts before I let them work on their own, however, if I were to do this same approach online I would be concerned that I may not get the same feedback as I do in the classroom as body language is a lot harder to read. Instead, I would maybe consider following a flipped classroom approach. The flipped classroom looks at the idea that the “lecture” is done at home, and the “homework” is done in class to provide students with the opportunity to ask questions, and work with the support of a teacher. Now this formatting doesn’t always have the best feedback with full in-person classes, however, I believe it would have some benefits in a full distance learning atmosphere. The flipped classroom online would have the students work through a video of the lesson (for example dividing decimals) and then when they would come to the Google Meet would be the students time to work. This would allow the students and teacher to work through examples together, students have a chance to ask questions and teachers to gain an idea of where their students are at with the learning at hand. It would take me some trial and error to ensure I was able to reach the students, but that is the same as all classrooms. 

When thinking about teaching completely online or through distance learning here are some apps/tools I believe I would utilize to ensure I was sufficiently teaching: 

So… Should I reconsider my productivity suite?

Starting my career amidst a global pandemic made me turn to productivity suites very fast. I needed a tool that I could easily access from different places, that my students could access from home, and something that was easy for parents to navigate. That is when I turned to Google Classroom to support students who were in the classroom and who were home sick. Through Google Classroom I was able to post my lesson slides, worksheets, interactive online activities, etc. I quickly fell in love with Google Classroom for its ease in use and that my students were able to access anything they needed in a one stop shop. However, after this week’s presentation, I think it may be time to be more critical and understand the implications of using these productivity tools. 

As seen in this week’s presentation, productivity suites have been around for awhile and continuously adapt and change to the digital age that we are in. This is supported in this article as they state that productivity suites have been around since 1988 when the first email server was created. From this, there have been more advancements occurring to these suites and as stated in this week’s presentation, the suites have hit the education field. 

As I mentioned above, I have used Google Classroom a lot in my teaching, primarily in Grades 5-8. What I love about Google Classroom is I can create an assignment and create a Google Doc for each student that is ready to go. I can also track their work and how far they are with the assignment and then turn and mark it right on the same platform. This allows for ease for the students as they are not worrying about having to share it with me through email, and for sure keeps my email a lot less full! One thing I found missing with Google Classroom was that home to school connection. Sometimes students found it difficult to log in to their accounts on home computers using their school emails, and also there is no built in space to communicate with family members. When working in other grades I have also used the platform SeeSaw. This was not discussed much throughout the class, however, it was a great platform to communicate with families, and assign little activities that the students could complete both in the classroom and at home. I used SeeSaw when teaching grade 3 and younger as I found the activities more suitable for that age group. One aspect that was nice about SeeSaw is the younger students only have to scan a QR code and select their name to access their account instead of logging on with an email and password. The set up was also communicated and connected with their families as they also signed up for the class account. These two platforms have been my favorite to work with and I have had great response from both the students and families when using these platforms. A new platform that my division has been working with for the past two years is Edsby. Edsby is another platform that allows teachers to connect with home, post to their gradebook, and work on Report Cards. Teachers also have the opportunity to post information to their forum page that parents and students can see content. One thing I am still trying to figure out with Edsby is to easily teach my students how they can add their assignments to me to be marked. Edsby is still missing that LMS formatting to easily do this with younger students. Overall, I really enjoy using all of these different platforms and it depends which grade I am in to decide what platform I use year to year. 

However, like all forms of teaching, there are some problems I ran into with these platforms that have made it difficult. The biggest struggle I am facing specifically this year is students and households no longer have computers or laptops at their homes, but instead rely on their mobile devices. This makes sense for a lot of things like paying bills, sending emails, etc. Can all be done from your cell phone, however, these different platforms, specifically Google Classroom is not easily accessible through a small screen. This creates a barrier for some students to complete assignments at home as they do not have the same access to technology and again reinforces the digital divide. We still are also facing the students who do not have access to any technology at home, which again makes it challenging when all of the other students are able to access the extra practice for the test and that one student can not. I am still finding myself ensuring that I have paper copies of these assignments to ensure all students are able to complete the work in ways that best fit their situations.

As mentioned above, I use Google Classroom lots in my classroom, it allows students to work on assignments easily both in groups and individually, and keeps the tracking of assignments effortless for teachers. However, now that I am teaching grade 7 I am starting to see some impacts that this technology may be having on my students. I like to assign inquiry projects to support my students in learning different curricular content as it usually allows them to pinpoint areas of interest and show their learning and understanding in different ways. However, I am beginning to see that there may be an overreliance and decrease of critical thinking coming from these projects. Now don’t get me wrong, it could be the age because we all know what Middle Years can look like! But all too often I am answering questions like “the blurb that first popped up didn’t give me the answer, there must not be an answer” or “why would I do this if I can just google the answer” or “why do I have to make this project about ______ topic when someone online has already done it.” In the article “Decreasing Creativity in Elementary School Students During Online Learning Transition” the authors supplied the graphic you see here, and state that through the transition to online and blended learning, students are learning to rely on just copy and pasting their work instead of critically analyzing and ensuring they have understood the content they are learning. With that, I am becoming a little worried about my classroom maybe being over reliant on technology specifically, the online world and these different platforms as it may be too easy for students to not use their creativity skills or critical thinking skills as they are just given the answer right away. I find it difficult at times to have these conversations with students because when they just want to jump and get the answer right away, it doesn’t always teach them the overarching skill of problem-solving and communicating with their peers to find out the answer. They are having trouble making inferences and reading between the lines because they are so used to being able to just find the answer out. 

Retrieved from: ResearchGate

At the end of class this week, we began discussing the ethical implications that these productivity suites entail. This article then went further to state that through using Google as a young student, those students will eventually get older and need a platform when they hit higher education and more often just stick with Google programs because that is what they know. This consumerism idea takes over, and we as teachers are essentially reinforcing it through the resources we have available to use and the lessons and skills we are teaching our students. With that in mind, I am curious to hear some responses. How do we get away from these ethical and privacy red flags? Is there a platform out there that ensures our students’ data is secure?

Why do I still feel guilty about using YouTube in my lessons?

“Can you shut the door before the video plays?” This question often came out of my mouth before I started a YouTube video to support my lesson. My first contract was 4 years ago in a grade 5 classroom, the other grade 5 teacher and grade 4 teacher have been in their classrooms for 20 years and they had ample knowledge of the curriculum that was to be taught. Me on the other hand, was still reviewing the night before long division steps to ensure I taught these steps correctly! The use of AV technologies four years ago was nothing new, I had nothing to hide when I used a video or website to support my teaching, however, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of shame everytime I leaned to one of these sources to support my lessons. That is until I noticed how my students were responding to my lessons, their eyes lit up when we reviewed a math lesson with Math with Mr. J, or were beyond engaged when I changed up my regular pen and paper morning work to completing a question using MentiMeter. These small changes made a world of a difference to the engagement and understanding my students gained. 

I then flashback to my school days, AV technologies as we know from this article, have been around since the 19th century, however our teachers still stated the use of online research, or Bill Nye the Science Guy as an extra time activity, instead of using it to support their lessons. As mentioned in the article “The Evolution of Audio-Visual Media” the writers state “audio-visual media has proven to be a powerful educational tool. In classrooms, audio-visual content helps to make learning more engaging and interactive” So why do we not use it to our benefit? Why do we as teachers not openly adapt and change to these AV technologies? Why does it take years to start seeing what they have to offer? That is where the quote from Postman comes into play: 

“…We 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” 

I had to sit on this quote for a while prior to writing this blog post, mainly because I was trying to wrap my head around what Postman was saying, and how that applied to my own teaching. As I am writing this blog post today, I am still unsure if I have come to fully understand this quote, however, I am able to apply some ideas to it. A word that really sticks out to me in this quote is “undermines” after doing a quick Google search for a definition that undermines is “lessen the effectiveness, power, or ability” of something previously done. To go further, some synonyms they suggested for this word included: sabotage, threaten, weaken, etc. I have a hard time with this quote however, because Postman is essentially stating with their wording that Sesame Street is making the world of teaching obsolete. However, after the presentation this past week, along with my understanding of Audio-Visual Technology in the classroom I would challenge this quote and state maybe instead of “undermine,” we can see AV technologies as a way to “enhance,” “amplify,” or “strengthen” the traditional idea of schooling. Without a doubt, we live in a digital age, our students are immersed in technology and their futures in some shape or form will more than likely require them to be able to use the online world to support them, it may be time to redefine “traditional” schooling. 

This idea of using AV to support or strengthen the education system is supported by the article “Transform Education: The Role of AV Technology in Classrooms.” The article states “gone are the days of passive lectures and monotonous textbooks; with the integration of AV technology, educators can now deliver interactive, multimedia-rich lessons that captivate students’ attention and foster deeper understanding.” This article goes further to discuss many benefits of the use of AV technologies in the classroom including real-time feedback, enhanced engagement, visualizing abstract concepts, collaborative learning spaces, inclusivity and much more. With that, it is evident the many opportunities AV technology has to support the enhancement of the traditional classroom, and with the right tools and training teachers can begin implementing these into their classroom. 

When I talk about the use of technology in the classroom with my coworkers, I find there is a huge barrier for them to want to try. Whether that be out of fear, denial, or their personal beliefs around technology. I believe these emotions stem from years of teaching and becoming comfortable in the way things were always done. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure one day I will be the veteran teaching scared of change, however, with simple reminders that the overhead projector, the whiteboard, and the use of the radio are all forms of AV technologies that they use in their classrooms, they begin to see how even from when they began teaching much has evolved. 

In conclusion, exploring new AV technologies can be a daunting task to introduce into the classroom, especially when your students may at times know more about that technology then you do yourself. However, reminding yourself that through the use of audio and visual teaching forms reach diverse learners, I believe the benefits outweigh the risks. 

I look forward to hearing from all of you around your thoughts about AV technology and how it can “enhance” the traditional view of schooling. 

Putting Theory into Practice:

I was first introduced to the different learning theories in my undergraduate studies and since then continue to find these conversations so interesting. From first learning these theories over 5 years ago, to now exploring and diving deeper into understanding them, it is interesting to reflect on how I use these different theories in my classroom. 

Just to begin, I found this great visual, along with a quick blog to summarize these different theories. When reviewing this graphic, and reflecting on our class discussion, it becomes evident that in some shape or form, we as educators use all of these different learning theories throughout our teaching day whether that be consciously or unconsciously. However, as we explored further in class, we can see how some theories are becoming outdated, and maybe a new spin needs to happen to ensure we are providing our students with an authentic learning opportunity. 

So how do I use these different theories in my own practice? 

Let’s start with behaviorism. As our discussion in class, and from the graphic above, we see the theory of behaviorism often through our classroom management strategies and repetition learning. In Chapter 2.3 Objectivism and Behaviorism, the text states “behaviorism, with its emphasis on rewards and punishment as drivers of learning, and on pre-defined and measurable outcomes” creates a structured learning environment where students are able to succeed and receive immediate praise for their actions. I think of my classroom management when I think about the positive and negative reinforcement. Something that has worked well this year in specifically teaching my own Physical Education classes is I do a countdown for the students to be in their spots for instructions. At the beginning of the year I started my countdown and while I counted down I also gave verbal instructions on my expectations, they also would no longer hear our music playing. If the students get to their assigned spots before I hit zero they are “home free” where as if they do not make it they often get a negative reinforcement in the turn of a workout move (burpees, pushups, situps, etc.) for however many extra seconds it took them.  As the year went on we continued to practice this procedure over and over with me giving verbal and hand cues to them. Now in January the students have associated with the music off what their job is to the point that I can countdown in a whisper voice. It works great in the gymnasium and also transfers well to the classroom. When reflecting on Skinner’s theory and approach, I still see these approaches as filling in the blanks and multiple choice questions in some of my exams, but specifically I see them in the CAT testing that my grade 7s do. I try not to turn to these forms of learning as much in my daily instruction as I often find the answers I receive to be vague and I do not get a good read on what the students actually understand. 

The next theory I want to dive into being Cognitivism. As outlined in Chapter 2.4, the cognitivism approach would focus on “teaching learners how to learn, on developing stronger or new mental processes for future learning, and on developing deeper and constantly changing understanding of concepts and ideas.”  This idea reflects well with Bloom’s Taxonomy and the understanding that we can gain knowledge in a variety of different ways. When I think of the cognitivist theory of learning, I think of the wording in our curriculum. In the chapter, the authors state cognitive approaches to learning have a focus on “comprehension, abstraction, analysis, synthesis, generalization, evaluation, decision-making, problem-solving, and creative thinking,” when viewing the curriculum, no matter the grade level these key words pop up many times. The goal, as outlined by our Saskatchewan Curriculum, is to teach and support students to comprehend, respond, interpret, understand, analyze, create, experiment, set and achieve goals. When comparing the language of this learning theory, and the outcomes teachers are mandated to teach, it becomes very clear the goal of education. Is to build students’ knowledge around certain topics, through different themes and subjects. So then is there a problem with the cognitivist approach? As mentioned above, I do think that there is a time and a place for these learning theories. When it comes to the cognitivist approach, we are looking at students as being on an assembly line, we teach them new content, they practice it, they put it in the back of their mind and it may stay there and maybe one day it will resurface. There is little room for interpretation and inquiry in this theory and often leaves the students conforming to the understandings of what the textbook taught them instead of having their own individual thoughts and conceptualizing and understanding those new topics. What becomes tricky with my classroom instruction in using this approach is I will have students fall through the cracks, whether it be because they are uninterested in the topic, or have difficulty in the way they have to complete certain tasks. With that, when referring back to our curriculum, I have yet to find a way to teach subjects such as mathematics, English Language Arts, and other subjects without relying on this theory. As our curriculum is layed out, a lot of what is deemed as “important” learning topics, often follow this approach which in turn sometimes make it difficult for teachers to branch past these rote memorization, lectures, and right and wrong answers. 

The last theory I want to look into on this blog is the constructivist theory. As outlined in Chapter 2.5 constructivists “believe that learning is a constant dynamic process” and that understanding becomes deeper throughout time. The chapter goes on further to state “constructivist teachers place a strong emphasis on learners developing personal meaning through reflection, analysis, and the gradual build of layers or depths of knowledge.” In my experience in both an early years setting and now a middle years classroom, the lessons and learning activities I plan that follow this theory through personal experience and exploration have been the most successful. My younger students were able to self explore and be comfortable with trying new things, whereas my middle years students were open to taking risks, picking something that engaged them in the learning and in the end created the best products to showcase their understanding. As I am just entering my fourth year of teaching, little by little I am trying to find new and engaging ways to apply this form of learning into the classroom and showcase myself as the facilitator instead of the teacher, however, as mentioned above it is sometimes harder than it should be to do this. I know as I become more confident in the grade level I am teaching, the more flexible I will become with having my students reach the different outcomes that they are supposed to. However, through giving students the opportunity to do genius hour projects, and doing inquiry projects related to big themes it is evident that this form of learning and then learning from their peers is beneficial. 

It is good to still be cautious and critical

One article this week made me think critically about my own teaching practice and how I am introducing these inquiry projects to my students. In the article Tales of the Undead…Learning Theories: The Learning Pyramid the author stated “a librarian might decide to implement a peer coaching activity because the pyramid says teaching others is the best way to remember something, but if the students don’t have the appropriate knowledge, they will probably just end up confusing each other.” This quote stuck out to me because I think that my students just know how to do inquiry projects, or use technology in the best way because they have grown up with it, however, when diving into these guided projects it is crucial we still give our students the tools for them to be successful. Throwing them into the deep end without the background knowledge will not support their understanding or their peers. With that being said, trailing back to the beginning of this blog post, there is a time and place for these learning theories, a time to discuss, to present, to ask questions, and to create. A good combination of them all I believe will support our students gaining a strong understanding of a variety of different learning objectives. 

Left with a question
In the chapter reading this week, as well as my first picture, they brought up the theory of Connectivism. After reading the chapter and reflecting on your teaching practice do you feel you bring in this theory?