The Magic wand(Tools) for Online and Distance education

The world did not understand the Online education as much as it understood post pandemic and then onwards, they just became indispensable for educators. The schools and universities relied mainly on these online tools so the session could begin. Today now when we are mostly covid free, we are also technically much competent. The education world has moved ahead with a lightening speed. The classroom experience for students is much more engaging, interesting and personalized. The administration of education has become digitized and thus there is more time to innovate both for the educators, administrators and innovators 🙂 The COVID-19 pandemic surely accelerated the adoption of online technologies, prompting educators and institutions worldwide to rethink traditional approaches of teaching and embrace the digital solutions.

As an educator for adult learning: I have worked with organization more than I have worked with schools. The organizations that found Training and development difficult to handle; found out the miracles of MS teams, Zoom, LMS and other applications that facilitated online interaction for communication and collaboration.

When it comes to the tools for online learning, the first interface that I always vouch for is: Zoom It’s like my go-to buddy for hosting virtual meetups and classes. The way it lets us share screens, break out into smaller groups, and even record sessions is just super handy. And let’s not forget about YouTube and Facebook Live – they’re like the rockstars of asynchronous learning. I mean, who doesn’t love tuning in to a live stream or watching a cool tutorial whenever it fits into their schedule? I have personally attended some most worthwhile course on Facebook and You tube. The latest being the 4 days/7 days live course by Tony Robbins.

By creating and sharing pre-recorded lectures, tutorials, or live-streamed events, educators can extend their reach beyond the confines of the traditional classroom, catering to diverse learning preferences and schedules.

Google Classroom, is another LMS that has amazing features like the seamlessly shared word docs, Sheets, slides and so many more that make education personalized, interactive, encouraging, fear free, inclusive, foresighted, equitable, seamless and the adjectives don’t seem to end. Its integration with other Google Workspace tools streamlines workflow and enhances collaboration among students and instructors.

My another favorite and frequent tool is Canva and with its AI assisted technology, it has become the best content creation tool ever. Another worthwhile tool is Adobe Spark , these tools empower educators and learners alike and are useful for creating engaging and visually appealing content, catering to diverse learning styles. These technologies have revolutionized the way we teach and learn, offering flexibility, accessibility, and interactivity like never before.

As educators, I have personally learnt from Tony Robbins adoption of Online tools for education. Before the pandemic, he never offered anything online ever however the pandemic and his farsightedness has today made him one of the best in utilizing these tools. He got a 360 degree zoom screen constructed, gathered all the engagement tactics and had over 20K paid participants online with him.

In conclusion, the tools for online and blended learning are now an essential components of modern education and learning rather than just being convenient add-ons. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of these technologies, transforming the educational landscape and reshaping the way we teach and learn. Whether in a fully online, blended, or face-to-face setting, these tools have truly revolutionized education and empowered all kind of takers.

Revolutions: Agriculture, Industrial then and now AI (Artificial Intelligence) Revolution

The last presentation during my EC&I 833 class was about Generative AI. The presenters’ content took the audience on a journey of mixed emotions. Some were dazed, others (like me) confused or scared and some were thrilled, others were inquisitive…. Woah…..what a subject!!

I have always found the name – “Faustian Bargain” so apt for the computer technology- so whether it is AI, WWW…..  You gain some and you lose some. Ideally I look at AI as transformative  and has the caliber to transport us into a “qualitatively different future”. Therefore the title- Agriculture, Industrial and then AI revolution.

How many of us can imagine living in a world without AI- how comfortable would it be to survive without Siri waking you up, the GPS system and maps helping navigate, the smart software and apps that are favs in the workplace or finding the best tickets for travel, ordering food, grocery, or for that matter shopping online? If we narrow down to education: it’s a whirlwind of AI in education? how many of us could have imagined the kind of learning platform that exist now; adjusting the lessons personally for every one!! That’s what DreamBox and Knewton are doing. They use AI to tweak learning materials in real-time, making sure each student gets the most out of their lessons. In my EC & I sessions my class mates introduced me to some outstanding educational tools like like Socrative, Mentimeter, Padlet, Quizlet, Kahoot etc  that make assessment and student engagement effortless. Thus making the learning process more engaging, personalized and interactive. They give detailed feedback, letting teachers focus more on teaching and less on grading. So, AI isn’t just a buzzword; it surely has worthwhile substance and has made education more personalized, efficient, and interactive. How cool is that?

AI has entered everyone’s life; so be it; student, elders, professionals( all professions that you can think of) at all levels, industry etc: it looks difficult to subtract AI out of the whole system. However, the damage can also be potentially great. The systems can be corrupted, it can be trained to affect the physical, mental, emotional security at any level. The video that was shared in one of our classes on AI also mentioned Elon Musk calling it “Catastrophic” and worldwide people talking about regulating it so that it does not become a Faustian bargain.

Very recently I saw a bolly wood movie and here is the clip where the main character is a Robot and it is disturbing to see and imagine: if something like this will ever happen in the future.:

It is disturbing to see and imagine: if something like this will ever happen in the future.

One famous quote on AI is by Stephen Hawking, a renowned theoretical physicist:

“Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks.” – Stephen Hawking

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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Andale, Andale, it’s the A.I., A.I. … What’s Happening Now?!

“Artificial Intelligence will be part of our future. It’s inevitable.”

Sundar Pichai

Human vs artificial intelligence concept.

Now that we have established that A.I. is inevitably part of our future… how can it be incorporated into education?

I think most educators can agree that when ChatGPT arrived on the scene, it seemed to be terrifying how easy it was for students to have a computer do their work for them. I know the feelings I had can be related back to a, 1858 quote about the telegraph from earlier this semester..

There can be no rational doubt that the telegraph has caused vast injury. Superficial, unsifted, too fast for the truth…

There was fear that it was too fast and too smart. That students would use it to write essays for them and that the world of education would forever be changed (not necessarily for the better). I will admit that I was also very fearful of how Artificial Intelligence would change everything; however after learning more about technology this term I am realizing that humans just have a natural fear of things that they don’t understand.

In the video Evolution of Artificial Intelligence, it is mentioned that in June of 2023, ChatGPT generated 1.6 billion visits. These numbers tell us that we can’t just stick our heads in the sand and ignore that AI is here to stay. It’s now time to ask ourselves some essential questions when it comes to the use of new tech in education:

Blue digital question marks background 3D rendering

  • What are the good/bad things that this can bring about?
  • How does it change the student experience?
  • How does it change the way we think about learning?
  • What might it solve?
  • What new problems might it bring?
  • Is it going to help us potentially do better things?
  • What ways can we use this technology?

What are the good and bad things that this can bring about?

In the context of education, there are many different answers that I see here. It gives educators and students easier access to an seemingly endless information.  AI can be used to help with research and lesson planning, which in turn makes sure that students are receiving top-notch information. However, this could also lead to students and teachers relying too heavily on AI, using it to do tasks that require human thought and communication. As stated in AI Ethics and Governance in Practice, “In order to manage these impacts responsibly and to direct the development of AI systems toward optimal public benefit, considerations of AI ethics … must be a first priority.”

How does it change the student experience?

After sitting with this question, I’m realizing that AI can have a positive change on the student experience. It calls educators to question WHY we teach the things that we teach. What facts and statistics do we require students to memorize in a world where they have quick and easy access to everything they could ever need? Should we be thinking about shifting to a different type of teaching, that is thought-provoking and allows students to form their own thoughts and opinions? The funny thing here is that I find myself using MagicSchool to help lead me down the right path when it comes to AI-resistant assignments. Key word there being “lead.”

How does it change the way we think about learning?

Learning is “the relatively permanent change in a person’s knowledge or behaviour due to experience.” (Mayer, 1982, p.1040) I look at this quote from earlier this term and see that the idea of a change in behaviour stands out to me more than a change in knowledge. Perhaps having access to Artificial Intelligence really calls on us to focus on WHAT and HOW we learn in this new world. We want students to interpret, evaluate, analyze, connect… things that we can’t ask a computer to do for us. Through writing each of these blog posts, I myself am learning to form my own connections and access a deeper level of understanding.

What might it solve?

Oh, so many things! I have started using AI to tackle mundane tasks to free myself up to focus more on my content and providing the best learning experiences possible for my students. I am also hoping to try AI to correct grammar and spelling errors in student essays so that I can better use my time to focus on content.

Young man is typing on laptop keyboard over white office desk. Top view with copy space, flat lay.

What new problems might it bring?

There is definitely the possibility of many problems arising from the use of AI in the classroom. The simplest problem would be students using it to complete assignments. As I stated earlier, however, it is up to us to teach students how to responsibly use Artificial Intelligence, and to create assignments that require deeper thought. I always try to stress to my students that the point of coming to school isn’t’ just to get good grades; it is to learn life skills that will make them successful and happy in their futures.

Is it going to help us potentially do better things?

100% yes. There are so many ways that Artificial Intelligence can help us. I used an AI Chatbot to help plan a 3 week trip to Europe this past summer. It gave me some great destinations and travel advice, saving me a ton of time and stress while planning an itinerary. I have also used Artificial Intelligence to allow my students to ask questions of great historical and fictional characters – a few weeks ago they were asking a chatbot Luigi Galvani insightful and thoughtful questions about his findings in the field of bioelectricity. There are so many amazing possibilities with AI!

What ways can we use this technology?

In this week’s presentation, Christina gave us an amazing list summing up where we can use Generative AI in Education. I personally use AI to help me expand my vocabulary when it comes to report card comments, creating basic slideshows that I can build from, locating resources, and finding new ways to support my diverse group of students.

In the future I want to teach my students to use AI to help them with their essays. What if I had them print their peer-edited drafts, THEN plug it into AI to get corrections? They would be able to then write these corrections on their original drafts to show what they are taking from it. I genuinely wonder if this would help them learn from errors, and over time prevent them from making the same mistakes.

Go ahead and continuously improvement concept, silhouette man jump on a cliff from past to future with cloud sky background.

As far as the future goes, Max Roser puts it best by saying that “A technological development as powerful as this should be at the center of our attention.” Artificial Intelligence isn’t going anywhere, and we need to continue to ask ourselves questions to ensure that we are giving our students the best education possible with AI in their world.

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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Creativity at it’s best – in my limited thought though :)

Last week’s classroom presentation in my EC&I 833 course was on coding and makerspaces, and let me tell you, I was expecting it to be a boring session because I have never been much interested in Coding and makerspace wasn’t a very familiar term for me. And guess what- it left me curious !!

So, what’s the buzz about coding? Well, I realized that my thoughts were Null and Void and that coding isn’t just for the tech gurus or future computer scientists; it’s a tool that can help all students develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and perseverance. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how coding can be integrated into everyday learning, making complex concepts come to life in a fun and interactive way. The interesting examples in the class presentation were Ozobots. I found out that these tiny robots help students develop an IQ for coding by using colored pens to develop logical and sequential set of commands to create storylines that the Ozobots would act out through movement. It sounded like a hands-on way for students to see the real-world applications of coding.

And then: I was bowled over by makerspaces. Makerspaces have become a hot topic in education. While not a new concept, makerspaces are gaining traction for the many benefits they provide students as these spaces are integrated into classrooms and schools. Designed to challenge students to create and learn through hands-on, personalized experiences throughout elementary, middle, and high school, here are a few of the many benefits of makerspaces: In recent years, makerspaces have become increasingly popular worldwide, thanks to the rise of the maker movement. The recommended reading from the session (The role of makerspaces in innovation processes: an exploratory study) was really interesting and educated me too. This movement began with the whole DIY and Hacks culture and has made digital fabrication tools accessible to a wide range of people. Makerspaces, also known as Fablabs or hackerspaces, are physical places where people can access shared tools like 3D printers, laser cutters, woodworking and metalworking tools, and microcontrollers. Those who use these spaces are called makers.

It is a culture of collaboration, curiosity, experimenting and learning through trial and error. I feel the result of all this has to be some form of learning, some outcome and sometimes an invention that can revolutionize the world, make it better, happier in some way. Additionally It also teaches some values like: taking failure in stride: In experimentation, testing, evaluating, and modifying are part of the process. Participants learn how to make failure into a learning experience and not become discouraged or frustrated when something doesn’t go as planned.

This University’s website and illustrations were very attractive and interesting to me. It reflects that in Makerspaces People have showcased their creativity and capabilities by developing innovative products, such as the first consumer 3D printer and smartphone-based payment devices. Notably, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, makers stepped up to address the urgent need for medical supplies

To me one of the most fascinating tools in our makerspace is the 3D printer. Did you know that 3D printers have been used to create prosthetic limbs, build houses, and even print food? It’s incredible to think about the possibilities that this technology opens up for students! In fact, NASA has used 3D printers to create tools and parts in space, revolutionizing how astronauts can repair and maintain equipment during missions.

However, it’s not all smooth sailing. Some challenges like limited time, resources, and the fear of not being an expert in coding, society pressure in different forms etc will always be there. But here’s the thing I’ve learned after knowing Coding; makespaces: I don’t have to know it all. It’s okay to lean on resources and collaborate with students to navigate the world of coding and makerspaces.

And lastly I must share one video on makerspace that was so interesting


They See Me Coding…

… but what is coding??

Writing programming code on laptop. Digital binary data on computer screen

What my brain sees when I think about coding…

Jamie K. tells us that “Coding is the process of writing out steps for a computer to follow to achieve a goal or perform a task.” Over the last ten years of teaching, I have learned that coding does not have to be as scary or overwhelming as we first think!

My first exposure to coding was when I was introduced to Hour Of Code. I was a new flappy bird game background for parallax effect with city and trees in the back pixel artteacher with a very rambunctious group of third graders and my division’s consultant brought the idea to me. To be honest, I saw something that could get my students settled, engaged, and building their skills in problem-solving.  It allowed me a solid 10-15 minutes each day after lunch to get my students calm after the excitement of lunchtime so that I could sort through the drama of that day (type my log entries for the office, call parents, etc.)

However…. when my administrator asked me what specific outcomes I was teaching with Hour of Code, I was a little stuck.

Fast-forward a year, and my principal at the time approaches me to ask me if I know anything about computers. I say yes, of course… and next thing I know it I am coaching the school robotics team with First Lego League.

wide-eyed and bushy-tailed at the 2018 FLL Provincials

My awesome, mighty team… 3 of whom are graduating this year!

I was never into robotics or really big into technology myself at this point. I had literally no clue what this league was about, or how to do anything. I was blessed with a group of students that were excited and passionate about coding and robotics, and together we figured it out!

The best way I found to learn this was to invite our high school’s robotics coach and students to teach us about the basics. We set up some times after school to head over and practice with the robots and coding programs.

The blessing in disguise with my utter lack of knowledge was that my students were able to take the lead and have a lot of independence on their journey. I remember being at this competition at the U of R… our principal came to watch and was in utter shock that I let the kids take the robot as well as the lead with almost everything. They had learned with me from the beginning and I knew that they were able to do this confidently.

 This experience is also the reason why I strongly believe that coding and makerspaces do not have to be taught by “techies.”

My experience with First Lego League really showed me how much value there is in coding with students: they learned about the scientific method, researching real-world problems to solve, teamwork, and resilience. The students that I had take part in this club were students who weren’t interested in playing sports, but still wanted to be part of a team. It was a beautiful thing to see.

There is More

I have found that there are a lot of amazing benefits to teaching coding in this capacity (as extra-curricular, or as work students can do when they are finished classroom tasks). I do, however, see some obstacles preventing me from bringing it into my daily classroom lessons.

  1. CURRICULAR CONNECTIONS – I would need to really sit down and see what curricular connections I can make between coding and the outcomes outlined for me. I know, I know — it’s possible… I just haven’t taken the time to do it. I have made some connections between curriculum and Minecraft Ed (building the scene where a novel we are reading takes place, or building a rocket for the Artemis mission to align with our space unit), so I know it’s possible. I have been looking into CoSpaces Edu and am hoping to try that at some point in my near future with some help from my students.

2. COST – During this class presentation, my group learned about Sphero, a coding robot. It looks really fun and I know that students could learn some lessons about resilience/the scientific method from using it, but I’m not sure the cost is worth it. I had a both a hard time relating it to the curricular outcomes I teach, and reconciling that with the cost that it would take to get this for my school.

All that said, the conclusion that I have come to with coding is this… it is a GREAT experience for students to have. Maybe it doesn’t tie in to all of the curricular outcomes, but it can be used to touch on some. Coding teaches valuable life skill such as teamwork and resilience — if schools and teachers want to give it a shot, why not start by running a small coding club with students as an extra-curricular activity? This gives everyone the chance to figure it out, learn, and see how it can be used in the classroom later on.

I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?

Little cute boy kid wearing casual white tshirt clueless and confused expression with arms and hands raised. doubt concept.

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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