Author: rjsmith (page 1 of 2)

Data Privacy & Awareness

The digital world is everywhere and there is little student or teacher can do to avoid engaging in it.

I read about new and amazing ways to engage students through digital medias and watch as other teachers integrate programs and technology flawlessly. Then I decided to start a Masters program in Educational technology in the hopes that my skill set would grow and I would feel more comfortable and able to integrate technology in my own classroom.

 

Now to back track a bit, I rely heavily on digital technologies because I would at a distance learning school, where students attend part time (Mondays and Tuesdays) and work online for the remainder of the week.  My courses are entirely on an online platform, so students can access content, activities and assignments. That all sounds good on paper, but I continue to struggle with integrated digital technology use beyond an online textbook and typed written assignment.

So, when I see other educators using technology in creative ways, or I find a new app or program I always think of how I could use it in my own classroom.

 

Just when I think I have figured it all out, BAM! Data privacy issues.

Part of me wants to say “Who cares” students have already given access to so much of their personal information through social media platforms and other online things I don’t fully understand.

 

Then the other more practical and reasonable voice in my head speaks up and tells me that data privacy does matter.  Students seem to be so engaged with the digital world, but I can’t assume that they okay with using certain programs and technology just because I think it will fit perfectly into my lesson.

Our school and district make sure that they use programs whose information is stored on Canadian servers. (I think I said that right, but please don’t quote me). Either way – student and teacher’s private information is safe. But there are so many things out there that would be perfect to use for education.

 

Caines and Glass found that “if students want to participate in standard educational activities, they often have little opportunity for real choice or consent around what data is collected.” And it got me thinking, how often do I give students an opportunity to “opt out” of educational activities? Or even more importantly, how often do I consider the privacy of students’ data before planning a lesson?

So, where does that leave me? First, I could offer students to opt out, but not really honor their decision. (Which I don’t think will work in my favor.) Second, I could give students choice in how they participate in learning. (Which the stubborn part of me does not want to have to make a back up plan. It sounds like more work.) Or third, I could become more educated on data privacy issues, and teach my students to be more aware of why data protection is important and applicable to them.

 

When students become more educated on how their data is collected and used, they are more able to protect themselves. Their increased digital literacy can only help them in the future.

Caines, A., & Glass, E. (2019, Fall). Education before Regulation: Empowering Students to Question Their Data Privacy. EDUCAUSE Review, 54(4). Retrieved from https://er.educause.edu/articles/2019/10/education-before-regulation-empowering-students-to-question-their-data-privacy

Open Educational Resources, just one of the things I didn’t know.

Open educational resources sound fantastic. So why are there not more widely available? 

Evidently, there are many open resources out in the academic world, I just have never known where or how to look for them. (Until I was shown in post-secondary classes). And to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I am an expert yet. When reading about these vast resources available to academics and educators I was expecting to see sites that I already use. However, that was not the case – so apparently, I have been doing this whole thing wrong for a while.  

But this revelation, got me thinking … what about high school students? I know that I teach my students to properly cite any sources that they use. And I expect them to give at the very least a list of sources where they found their information. But I don’t know if I have spent any time showing students where to find and how to use open resources.  

Despite these resources being widely available, I feel they are still restricted (unintentionally) to the academic world. Even the articles I looked at this week are all directed at post-secondary education, academics and individuals inquiring about specific information.  

Not to say there is not a place for open educational resources for the everyday, I just haven’t seen it in practice. (That could just be my ignorance to the use of open educational resources, and not a true reflection of their use in the average life of a teacher).  

Maybe the bigger question is why hadn’t I heard of open educational resources outside of the academic world? Or taking a step further and asking how we can make these resources well known and commonly used.  The first thing to look at would be what barriers are in place and how we can remove them.  (Which I’m sorry to say I do not have an answer for.) The second would be to promote the use of open educational resources in K-12 education. The more students are informed about the information that is out there, the more likely they are to use it.   

The more open educational resources are used, the more efficient and effective they will become. Or at least that is the trend I have noticed in the educational world. Take social media for an example, what started as a neat idea to implement in the academic world, has grown to be a highly used and effective source of professional development.  

Maybe it will just take some time to spread the use of open educational resources. Or maybe it’s just me, an out of touch educator who will now begin to learn the use of open education resources in the classroom.  

The Struggles of Innovation

In any group of teachers, you are bound to see some differences. But are there really?

If you take a closer look, I feel like you would see far more similarities. Generally speaking, teachers value education. They are organized (even if the way they organize is different), they have a goal for learning and a clear path to achieve that goal. A+B=C

 

I have seen a strong shift over the last decade or so, where teachers use creative and innovative methods for teaching and learning.  However, there is still an end goal and a clear path (created by the teacher) of how to get there.

 

Creative and innovative education does not come easily. It takes a lot of time, resources and effort by individual teachers to implement. Often, I find that I myself fall short of the glorious advances that could be happening in the classroom. Despite great intentions to transform education, teachers have been successful in a traditional classroom setting and therefore can find themselves slipping into a more traditional delivery method. But then where’s the interactive engagement students are so desperately seeking.  Maybe this is our biggest flaw.

 

Not that reinvigorating educational pedagogies is a lost cause; I just think that some oversimplify the changes that educators are struggling to make.  Even though researchers want to map or outline this process I would say it’s near impossible. Teaching is messy and unclear, there is no straight line of A+B=C. There are too many factors that contribute to the failure and success of any given pedagogical practice. I feel that sometimes research puts additional pressure on teachers to make changes to their class before they are prepared to do so. And research doesn’t account for the uncontrollable environmental factors that influence the success of educational pedagogies.

WHAT ABOUT K-12?

Open educational resources are a hot topic in education. But most (if not all) of the research is examining how open resources impact post-secondary education and further research. Yes, open access is a great idea. Providing universal definitions or information on basic levels of understanding, but how does this impact the K-12 world.

Working in a blended learning model high school, online resources are key to making our program work. We are given a basic online course from WCLN and then have the freedom to make changes. However, with the most recent updates, WCLN has changed some of the information pieces so that they can control the content. However, this means that as teachers we have less autonomy of what students can and cannot see, and therefore how much we can change within the course. Although this is an open resource, it limits what we as teachers can control in the course.

Personally, I like to have full control of the content covered in my class. My first thought is to create a resource, rather than spend the time to find a ready-made resource to use in the class. I also think that previously developed resources inhibit the individualization of education. When I develop a resource, I know it is specific to my course, my lesson and the students that I am teaching.

But there are barriers to this method as well. For one, developing resources takes a lot of time. Maybe I’m the only teacher that has been in this position, but you can’t develop a quality resource the night before. Second, it isn’t always easy to think of new and creative approaches to content.

So, what does this mean for K-12 educators. The use and effectiveness of open educational resources changes drastically between different grade levels. Furthered by the fact that the current research focuses on post-secondary. Hopefully, future research will look into open educational resources for the K-12 world.

if it aint broke, don’t fix it.

There’s this bed, it’s around 50 years old and has been well used within my family. It started as a bunk bed for my father and his siblings and is now a single bed (no top bunk) in the family summer home. And although we have not used the top bunk in several years, we still have all the parts and the mattress just in case. It is referred to as the ‘taco bed’ because it has a special way of bending in the center that allows the user to feel like they are folded in half.

In order to “fix” the bed, my grandparents decided to throw the second mattress on top and tried to convince everyone that it made it “better”. Let me assure you, a second 50-year-old mattresses stacked on top of the first, does not fix the problem. More than a few years ago, I questioned their logic, asking how an old mattress would fix a broken and uncomfortable bed? They responded with things like, more cushion, and you couldn’t feel the springs of the first mattress. Sure, this makes some sense, but the top mattress has the same issues, so what is going to fix those.  Despite my effort to understand and address the issue nothing has changed.

Oddly enough I was reminded of this incident while reading Twenty Years of EdTech by Martin Weller. “Attempting to convince educators that a complex technology might solve a problem they don’t think they have is therefore unlikely to meet with widespread support” (2018, pp.46) The pushback I received when trying to fix a mattress, is similar to the pushback from teachers to implement new technologies in the classroom. I can’t help but think of the phrase, “If it aint broke, don’t fix it.” Why at any point would an educator completely change what they are doing if it’s a) working or b) the alternative seems over complicated and irrelevant.

First, educators need to recognize that there is a problem in the educational field. If there is no problem, then there is no willingness to change. Second, educators need to be given the time and resources to DEVELOP technology that will SUPPORT their new PEDAGOGY. I can’t help but notice a top-down trend in educational technology. Where new amazing technologies are developed and then teachers try to force the technology to “fit” the traditional educational model.

I believe the next step in innovative and applicable education is starting with pedagogy, then looking at curriculum and ending with discussing what technologies are needed in order to make it happen.  This way we can re-invent education and learning, to cater to 21st century needs and skills. A key to successfully restructuring educational environments is understanding what has changed in open and distributed learning over the past few decades.

As educators we need to critically reflect on our practices and continually adjust and improve our pedagogies. It is crucial that education changes at pace with society in order to meet the needs of a diverse set of learners.

TEACHERS TALKING until the cows come home.

Have you ever noticed how much teachers like to talk?

talking blah blah blah GIF

Its true, you get a group of teachers together, they will talk for hours. It doesn’t matter how simple the topic, teachers can TALK!

tired mondays GIF

This became evident while reading through the summaries and watching the videos this week in class. Groups discussed the implications of integrating technology in the classroom, the challenges and barriers and of course the opportunities for learning. What I noticed there was not one answer that addressed all needs. I don’t think there will ever be a ‘one answer fits all’ situation in education, nor should there be. Education has too many variables to have one simple solution. However, it is amazing that most discussions to find answers tended to create more questions.

confused austin powers GIF

There is the pressure to include digital technologies into the classroom. This pressure is from administrators, other teachers and society’s expectations. But this pressure to integrate technology doesn’t always lead to the best results, as teachers may not have the skills to be able to include technology effectively. Moreover, technology (if not properly incorporated) can be a distraction from learning. In addition, educators can’t assume that students will know how to use technology. Therefore, teaching how to use technology can take away precious time from other learning. There is also a concern on the accuracy of assessment. Educators must decide if they are assessing the content or if they are assessing the students’ ability to use technology.

What I find most interesting about integrating technology in the classroom are the opportunities for multimedia, the discussions around using information technology for assessment, and the advancements in flexible learning programs.

what are you talking about han solo GIF by Star Wars

Multimedia:

Multimedia learning has drastically changed in recent years, there are many options for presenting information. Multimedia at its core is combining words and pictures, to increase understanding. The most important thing to remember is that multimedia helps build mental representations of the information. Multimedia is used to support the learning process however; it can become a distraction. When multimedia is added without purpose it can detract from learning. Despite the pros and cons, multimedia learning continues to be a point of exploration and discussion in education.

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Assessment:

Technology provides a unique opportunity to create individualized assessment, both formative and summative. On the plus side, technology provides educators a variety of feedback options and the ability to give quality feedback that promotes self-reflective practices. However, there are concerns with using technology to assess students around privacy and ethics. In addition, there are multiple challenges and barriers when using technology for assessment, including time and resources. The fact of the matter is, current assessment practices are not at pace with the technological advancements we are seeing in education. It will take some time to develop best practices involving assessment and technology.

i know what it means harry potter GIF

Flexible Learning:

Distance, online, and blended learning environments are becoming more prominent in education. The flexibility of this type of learning can fit the needs of our changing society and the many diverse learners in the classroom. Flexible learning is at the crossroad of content, pedagogy, technology and the learner.  But there are some challenges educators in this area face. First, the pedagogical practices used in face to face classrooms don’t always translate to an online learning environment. Second, there are specific skills and competencies needed to implement effective teaching strategies in a flexible learning environment. Despite the challenges, flexible learning environments provide a unique opportunity to integrate digital technology into education.

loofandtimmy gym yoga gymnastics dinosaur GIF

Flexible learning and curriculum challenges have the most implications for me as an educator. Working in a blended program, I have the unique opportunity to use technology daily in my teaching.  However, that does not mean it is challenge free. I find assessment is a continuous struggle, and there is a lot of trial and error. It is hard to predict if an assessment tool will evaluate the students’ ability to use technology or their understanding of the content. If find that it is important to clearly identify the destination, before planning the journey. This is especially challenging when I must look further in the future than the following week’s lesson plan. (But let’s be real teachers, this is not always an option.) The big question is how to prepare students with skills and competencies that will allow them to be successful in the 21st century. This is a continuous battle between getting students and parents on board and having time or resources to plan and integrate the soft skills into the lesson.

boston terriers funny gif GIF by Cheezburger

I strongly believe in creating active learning opportunities for students. But honestly, sometimes my ideas just don’t work out. I’ll plan a game, thinking that it connects the ideas and content, just to find out that students have no idea what I am talking about. The same happens when I try to integrate new technology. Despite the many attempts and failures, technology provides an opportunity to create engaging activities and learning opportunities for students.

The big questions remain:

  • How can educators integrate technology into the classroom?
  • How can educators include active learning experiences to teach across subjects?
  • How can educators increase student engagement using technology in the classroom?
  • What challenges and barriers do educators face when integrating technology?

tired golden girls GIF

I don’t have an answer for these discussions yet, but as a teacher, I look forward to talking about these topics in education until the cows come home.

Teacher Toolbox: Do you have what you need?

As educators we have a variety of tools that we use in the classroom. These tools help us to engage students, deliver curriculum and to be honest, just get through the day.

Where your regular everyday toolbox would have hammers, screwdrivers, a saw, measuring tapes, and other necessary utensils for craftsmanship. A teacher’s toolbox is filled with humor, knowledge, patience, kindness, curriculum content and digital technologies.

Throughout an educator’s career they stock their toolbox, learning from others (borrowing their tools) or developing professionally (buying own tools). I have recently learned about two more tools that I can add to my toolbox, the substitution augmentation modification redefinition (SAMR) model and the technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) model. However, before I move forward in this post, I need to remind myself (and you the reader) that these are merely tools to be used by an educator, and not a stand-alone product. According the Hamilton, Rosenberg, and Akcaoglu (2016) “technology integration is neither an educational goal nor is it sufficient on its own to enhance learning outcomes.” (pp.439)

Both newly acquired tools deal with how to integrate digital technology in the classroom, a seemingly hot topic in the education field. Hamilton et al. (2016) would argue “the complex nature of new digital technologies further complicates the already difficult task of teaching with technology.” (pp.433) Koehler and Mishra (2009) agree that “teaching and learning with technology exists in a dynamic transactional relationship.” (pp.66) Both the TPACK and SAMR models for technology integration examine how to effectively integrate technology in the classroom. These models hope to aid educators in the design and implementation of various digital technologies.

The substitution augmentation modification redefinition (SAMR) model looks at different levels for integrating technology. Hamilton et al. (2016) found “the context in which educators teach matters and is an important consideration for any model connected to teaching and learning.” (pp.436) The first level of integration is SUBSTITUTION, where the technology used does not change the function of the lesson. The second level is AUGMENTATION, where there is a functional improvement because of the technology used. The third level is MODIFICATION, where the task is redesigned to incorporate technology. The final level of the SAMR model is REDEFINITION where the technology allows the creation of new tasks.  The SAMR model outlines the various ways technology can be integrated in the classroom. It acknowledges that teachers need to be educated on how to use technology effectively before integrating it into their curriculum. Furthermore, the SAMR model acknowledges that students’ previous knowledge of the technology will impact successful integration. Romrell, Kidder, and Wood (2014) found “the familiarity that the learner has with mobile devices impacts how they are used.” (pp.3) In addition, Hamilton et al. (2016) agree that “the effects of technology use depend strongly on the nature of the teachers and students using it, as well as the specific tasks for which it is being used.” (pp.437)

The Technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) model “is an understanding that emerges from interactions among content, pedagogy, and technology knowledge.” (Koehler and Mishra, pp. 66, 2009) This model examines every aspect of technology integration, from teacher competence, student ability and accessibility of resources. Koehler and Mishra (2009) found that “teaching is a complicated practice that requires an interweaving of many kinds of specialized knowledge.” (pp.61) This includes educators understanding and feeling comfortable with using technology in the classroom. Koehler and Mishra (2009) discovered that “teachers often have inadequate (or inappropriate) experience with using digital technologies for teaching and learning.” (pp. 61-62) This may be due to teacher education programs being unable to keep up with rapidly changing technology. By the time teachers are in a classroom of their own, the technology they learned to use is outdated. TPACK looks at how connecting content, prior knowledge, alternative teaching strategies and flexibility are essential tools for effective teaching.

Adding SAMR and TPACK to my toolbox, it is hard to determine which model I agree with more. TPACK allows me to evaluate the use of technology from every aspect of teaching, whereas SAMR model outlines how I am implementing technology into the classroom. Both models are valuable, but if I had to choose one over the other, I would lean towards the substitution, augmentation, modification redefinition model. I believe it would help me evaluate if the technology I use is adding to the learning experience. Using technology just because you can or should is pointless. Digital technologies should be used to create a more engaging learning environment, that aids students’ understanding of curriculum content. Romrell et al. (2014) insist that “not all educational tools work well on mobile technology, and the pedagogical value of a learning object should be weighed against its ease of use on mobile technology.” (pp.11) Koehler and Mishra (2009) agree that “technologies have their own propensities, potentials, affordances, and constraints that make them more suitable for certain tasks than others.” (pp.61) Moreover, Hamilton et al. (2016) encourage educators to “understand the relationships between teaching, technology, and learning to promote student growth and achievement.” (pp. 439)

SAMR and TPACK offer unique perspectives on digital technology integration in the classroom. Both are useful tools to include in the teacher toolbox. It is challenging to build anything with only one tool, (could you imagine building a table with only a saw?), the same goes for education. A teacher cannot expect to educate a class of individuals using only one model of technology integration.

 

Images retrieved from the public domain Pixabay

 

References:

Hamilton, E.R., Rosenberg, J.M. & Akcaoglu, M. (2016). The Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) Model: a Critical Review and Suggestions for its Use. TechTrends 60(5), 433-441. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-016-0091-y

Koehler, M. & Mishra, P. (2009). What is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)?. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70. Waynesville, NC USA: Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education. https://www.learntechlib.org/primary/p/29544/.

Romrell, D., Kidder, L.C., Wood, E. (2014).The SAMR model as a framework for evaluating mLearning. Online Learning Journal18(2).https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1036281.pdf

LETS DEBATE: Does anyone know if media influences learning?

Clark would argue that media has no influence on learning and will never have an impact on learning. Technology is merely a vehicle to deliver information to students. His primary argument is that media in education can be replaced, as it is chosen based on cost and effectiveness. Clark (1994) states that “any necessary teaching method could be designed into a variety of media presentations.” (pp. 22) Clark (1994) argues that “learning is influenced more by the content and instructional strategy in a medium than by the type of medium.” (pp. 21) Finally, Clark (1994) explains “only the use of adequate instructional methods will influence learning.” (pp. 27)

To an extent, I agree with Clark. Working at a distance learning school with both online and blended programs, I have experienced that technology doesn’t change the content we are teaching. For example, in my online classes there are “green books” on the course platform, these green books are essentially a digital textbook. In this instance, the type of media (digital text versus hard copy text) makes no difference in learning. Students still must read the content and derive meaning on their own.

However, education is too complicated to say that media can never influence learning. Let’s set aside the fact that this article was written over two decades ago for a moment and focus on the “never”. I strongly believe that media can be a great enhancement to the learning experience. First, students learn more when they are interested. Half of my job as a teacher is to present information in a new or entertaining way, so that students engage with the content. Media can help with this.

In present times, students can look up any fact or information they want, knowledge is at their fingertips 24/7. Yet as educators we must show them the importance of learning and education over memorization and regurgitation. These changes in society are mirrored by the changes we have seen in B.C.’s curriculum over the past few years. The focus for teachers is to create an environment where students can build skills (communication, critical/creative thinking, and personal/social responsibility) using the course content. In Clarks time, the focus was on using various skills to teach the content.

Image retrieved from: https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/competencies

 

When content is the goal I fully agree with Clark, there is no media that will influence learning. However, when building skills is the goal, I believe Clark’s argument is outdated and no longer applicable to education.

Kozma believed that media had the potential to influence learning, however, we had yet to discover the connection. Also written in 1994, Kozma had no evidence to support his claim that media influenced learning. Despite the lack of evidence, Kozma wrote his article on how he believed media would influence learning in the future.  Kozma (1994) argued that “learning is an active, constructive, cognitive and social process by which the learner … create new knowledge by interacting with information.” (pp.8) Kozma (1994) believes the “integration of media and method, in turn with the educational context is also important.” (pp. 16)

The key to education is getting students attention long enough to engage them in the content. Media and other technologies are very effective hooks for classroom teaching. More importantly, media becomes a common ground between students and teachers. Becker (2010) agrees that there is a digital generation gap between students and teachers. Therefore, educators can use media as a tool for engaging students in their course material. Digital technologies provide a platform, a new opportunity to engage with various educational content. Furthermore, Becker (2010) states that it is important to create “a learning environment that actively engages the learner in the task at hand.” (pp. 3)

With our new goals (core competencies) for education media is becoming more present and critical to the learning environment. I believe that media can and does influence learning. Media may not change content, but it does provide a new delivery method to engage students. In my experience, learning can only occur when students engage with the content. It also affords teachers a new platform to deliver curriculum content to students. Reaching students in a media that they use daily and understand, helps them to participate in the learning environment.  Becker (2010) finishes her argument with a quote by Mann (2001) “Instructional technology only works for some kids, with some topics, and under some conditions – but that is true of all pedagogy. There is nothing that works for every purpose, for every learner, and all the time.” (pp. 4) In my opinion this is the truest statement, out of all 3 articles. There is no ONE SIZE FITS ALL, when it comes to education, regardless of what media is used. There are too many variables in education to accept a position that says, ‘media will never influence learning’, especially when the articles are no longer relevant to current society based on their publish date.

There are some instances when research conflicts with each other. I think that this is valuable, as it forces the reader to evaluate the information and come to their own conclusions. It also provides an opportunity for further examination of key issues in education. The classic Clark-Kozma debate is now outdated and irrelevant for our current education system. However, it does raise some important questions about how to effectively educate students.

 

Images retrieved from the public domain Pixabay

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Imagine a world, where teachers have the time and resources required to create innovative and effective lessons. Every day students would feel inspired and engaged with class material and absolutely love being in class. Classes would be so amazing that people would buy tickets, just to learn.

Then the alarm sounds, and reality sets in. It is back to school and despite all the amazing technology and ideas that can be incorporated into the classroom, it feels like there is not enough time. This summer I had planned to reconfigure the structure of my courses and create amazing class activities to inspire my students to learn the curriculum … but September came much faster than anticipated and I have had to adjust my expectations.

 

As an educator, I have often been swept up in the ideal classroom, with visions of what my courses could be. This is elevated by the fact that I work in a blended learning environment, where I have students both in class and online. Oh, the wondrous opportunities I have, incorporating technology in the classroom.

There are many technological trends in the educational field. Some of the top trends of 2019 include robotics, 3-D printing, virtual reality, coding and artificial intelligence. I believe that most educators are working towards integrating these technology trends in their classrooms. I am very fortunate to work at a school that relies heavily on technology and encourages students and teachers to experiment with new trends.

U-Connect is a distance learning school where students are either in a full online program or are in a blended program. For the blended program students are in class part time and then online part time. Therefore, the school provides each blended student their own computer for the year – achieving the 2019 trend of a device for every student. In addition, our students frequently collaborate and use cloud computing as part of our courses. As students spend more time at home working on assignments, any group work must be completed using cloud computing technologies. We also offer a technology course for students in grade 10, 11 or 12 that allows them to learn about and interact with various augmented reality and game based learning technologies. Many courses already incorporate technology effectively into the curriculum, but with new technology appearing constantly, I can’t help but desire to include more technology into my courses.

I believe the most important technological trends to incorporate into a classroom are custom learning experiences, seamless resource access, computational thinking, collaborative computing and adaptive tools such as speech to text. In our fast paced, and hectic lifestyle it only makes sense that education is flexible, adaptive and accessible in a variety of places. Holland and Holland (2014) found that “learners now have small, compact, increased access using mobile devices.” (pp.17) In addition there is a “shift towards more access, mobility, online, hybrid, and authentic active challenge based collaborative learning models to develop leadership and creativity.” (Holland and Holland, pp. 18, 2014)

Another key benefit of technology in education is the opportunity for accessibility and inclusion. Remote learning is becoming a popular trend as it offers students the ability to learn anywhere. Moreover, with the many assistive technologies all types of learners can feel confident and competent.

These amazing new tools we have as educators are both exciting and terrifying. Exciting because we can reach students at a whole new level, and terrifying because I feel ill prepared to use some of the newest technology. Using new technology in the classroom is just another way to humanize the teacher and show students that learning is a life-long process.

There are few technology trends that I didn’t agree with. For example, I feel that smartboards are becoming a dated technology. Although useful in some cases, I don’t know if they are always the most effective form of technology in the classroom. I also find that the gamification trend doesn’t always meet the curriculum needs of a course. Even though students enjoy playing games in class, I am not convinced that it is the best way for students to learn content. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big believer in active learning opportunities and getting students attention with games. But I try to remind myself to use games and technology only when it is the best tool for learning.  Holland and Holland (2014) suggest that “when one analyzes the learning needs, goals, and objectives, then selects and aligns the best tools to accomplish the tasks, one increases opportunities for exceptional learning.” (pp. 23)

With all the technology available to educators, I look forward to implementing, testing, and incorporating digital tools into my classroom and lessons. I return to the dream of amazing courses, overflowing with technology and digital tools, bluntly ignoring the restraints or time and resources. Focusing on how students with diverse needs and learning styles can benefit from technology and begin to take ownership of their own learning and education.

 

Images retrieved from the public domain Pixabay

 

Resources

https://www.techlearning.com/tl-advisor-blog/top-10-k-12-educational-technology-trends

https://www.iste.org/explore/Education-leadership/The-9-hottest-topics-in-edtech

https://elearningindustry.com/educational-technology-trends-top-right-now

https://blog.lambdasolutions.net/biggest-education-technology-trends-2019

https://tophat.com/blog/technology-in-education-2019/

https://elearningindustry.com/2019-edtech-trends-excited

Holland, J. & Holland, J. (2014). Implications of Shifting Technology in Education. Tech Trends. 58(3), 16-25. http://vincross.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Holland-Holland-2014.pdf

An Unexpected Journey: To Masters and Back Again

Where I started

In September I will be starting my third-year teaching at U-Connect Secondary School in Langley. This school is unique, as we offer both fully online and blended learning programs.

U-Connect was my first full time teaching position and it was not what I was expecting. I thought online education was a form of alternative learning that allowed students flexibility and choice in their education. However, what I found in practice was an online textbook and online writing assignments, very similar to a traditional brick and mortar school. I have nothing against this type of learning, I myself did very well in this system. However, it led me to wonder if an online educator could do it differently. Fortunately, with my blended students, I see them once a week. The in-class time is a precious commodity that I use for hands on learning and collaborative work. However, I have always wondered if I could create a better learning experience for online students using a digital platform.

The first challenges I faced while trying different approaches were lack of time, resources, and knowledge. Although I had many lofty goals, I found them hard to implement in the digital classroom. I have been able to take small steps towards a hands-on, genuine learning experience for students in my blended classes. Some of the things I have implemented include games, group work, and debates. Because of my background in physical education, I am a big believer in active learning and movement in the classroom.

As I was trying out new ideas, two things were missing. First, I did not do the research to back up my pedagogical approaches. Because of this, I was unable to defend my choices and their relevance to the content. Second, I did not have the experience or background knowledge to integrate purposeful activities into my courses. Although student enjoyed the activities, I often found afterwards that they did not achieve what I had intended.

This led me to explore various professional development opportunities to access knowledge and ideas to improve my personal pedagogy. Although there were many opportunities out there, very few were applicable to my specific job requirements. This is where I started to investigate different master programs that would be beneficial for an online learning environment. Admittedly, my choice to begin a master program was heavily influenced by the increase in pay. However, it soon became an opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues and improve my personal pedagogical practices. My desire to incorporate digital tools to create effective learning experiences has been a driving force in the beginning stages of my academic journey.


Where I am

Which brings us to the present, I am done the first term of the master program and looking forward to the upcoming school year. I have learned a lot from the courses and have had many realizations and ideas about where to take my pedagogical practices. In general, I have discovered that there is no one size fits all fix for education, that my development as a teacher will never be done, and that it is okay to still be improving.

In e-research: harnessing and understanding technology in research (EDCI 515) I was reminded of the importance of research and how it can benefit my pedagogical practice. Moreover, research is the base for understanding and is necessary to ensure best practices. Up to this point, I have reflected on my lessons, what has worked and what has not, but reflection is not enough. I can use reflection as a tool to critically analyze my practice and inform my pedagogy. In addition, reflective diaries are an important part of research, learning, and having a growth mindset. Being a scholar is part of being an educator, understanding the literature allows teachers to develop best practices through research questions and research. Finally, I learned about indigenizing learning as well as different ways to honor indigenous knowledge systems. The most important thing I can do as an educator is to learn more about indigenous ways and always be aware of how dominant perspectives overshadow non-dominant views. My understanding of research has changed throughout the course. Before, research was just something that had to be done to get through my education. Now I realize that research is an opportunity to gain better understanding of the educational field and make informed decisions in my pedagogy.

While reflecting on my explorations and experiences of methodological perspectives and approaches to research I found that I want the whole picture. Quantitative or qualitative alone, do not provide a clear enough picture to act on. However, if you look at multiple pieces of research and mixed method approaches, it allows the reader different perspectives on the results. Moreover, I am hoping to demonstrate storytelling and métissage for my students, as one way to integrate indigenous ways of knowing into research. I hope to show students the benefits and practicality of research for lifelong learners.

In discourse on social media for connected and personalized learning (EDCI 568) I was inspired by the different ways of educating and structuring a classroom. Many guest speakers advocated for various approaches to education which would allow students to inquire, collaborate, problem solve, and take ownership of their own learning. More importantly, the class discussions and readings promoted conversation and collaboration among colleagues. Even though I have thought of using some of these ideas previously, it finally felt like I could apply them in my classroom. Some approaches that resonate with me are inquiry, problem-based learning and cross-curricular projects. I teach social studies, physical and health education and inquiry and am genuinely excited to start the new school year so I can try some of these ideas out in my classes.

Furthermore, I was reminded how important social media and other digital tools are in the classroom. There are many ways to incorporate digital technology in the classroom, some of which I plan to explore this upcoming school year. For example, introducing video recording in physical education as a way for students to self-assess sport specific skills. Also, I plan to use flipgrid as a method to check students understanding of content in social studies. Social media is not only an excellent digital tool to incorporate into classes but is also a great professional development tool. There are so many opportunities for professional development with the use of social media. Twitter and other sites connect educators to like-minded people and provide a platform to collaborate, support and inspire one another. I am currently working on my social media presence and developing my professional learning network.

As an educator it is important to understand the relationship between the needs of the learner and the responsibilities associated with digital technologies. With all the benefits of integrating digital technology in the classroom, it is important to be aware of the best interests of the learner. In addition, it is important that educators use technology appropriately as well as demonstrate digital citizenship for students. Integrating technology and digital tools can enhance learning experiences, however, technology alone does not make a lesson better if pedagogy does not change. It was brought to my attention that there is no ‘one-size fits all’ fix for integrating technology. Each class has a variety of learners and abilities therefore, it is important to remember to use a range of methods and approaches in each class. Despite everything I have learned, I would still like to explore how educators can better their practice to engage a variety of learners.

I am first and foremost an educator. My specialties are physical education and social studies, but I have come to realize teaching is less about the content and more about the relationships you build with students. I strongly believe in hands-on learning experiences that allow students to interact with content and develop skills. I believe that school should be a safe space for students and teachers alike to learn, try, fail and succeed. I think that educators should do everything in their ability to create genuine learning experiences for students and always act within the students’ best interest.

What I know now

  1. Things are easier said then done, but that does not mean we should not try.
  2. Change is a slow process but is possible with the help and support of colleagues in the educational field.
  3. Research is the base of all pedagogy, you need to research in order to develop best practices.

Where I want to go

The adventure has just begun, but where do I go from here? I am very excited to continue my pedagogical journey and put what I have learned to use. As of now I am trying to implement as many ideas as possible to see what works, what does not, and what needs to be adjusted for my students. It is here I take my next step,

Retrieved from TheOneRing.net

I will leave you with the wise words of J.R.R. Tolkien

“It’s a dangerous business … going out the door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

“The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the road has gone, and I must follow, if I can.”

 

Images retrieved from the public domain Pixabay.

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