My Evolution of Media, Technology and Pedagogy in Education

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Growing up, I was fortunate enough to be attending one of the “newest” elementary schools in Regina. It had 2 gymnasiums, an art and science lab and a computer lab (although, that came closer to me being in Grade 6). Teachers would use different sorts of mediums to deliver their lessons. Most of the time, it was simply text, but every once in a while, they would wheel in the slideshow projector with cassette tape or movie reel.  Once the computer lab came, we would go to play some science games or typing activities.

In High School, we had the old Mac computers to do some sort of programming, the typewriter class where we created cartoon characters and the TV that got rolled in to the cafeteria so we could watch the Flintstones at lunch.

Personally, I don’t feel that those types of mediums made any major impact on my education and learning. I don’t necessarily remember any “mind-blowing” movie, or slide, or computer game that greatly impacted what I learned and, as “primitive” as technology seemed to be at the time, it wasn’t the way “things were taught”.

But let’s fast forward to 15 years ago. That is when I began my career in teaching. I had a Grade 5 classroom, no computer in that classroom, but our school had a computer lab. I had a slot once a week to take my students in to use the computers. But really, all we did was play educational software games. That is also the time I had to have my first Digital Citizenship lesson (even though I had no idea what that was at the time). My students were learning about web addresses. So one of my students thought she would try her name. She typed in http://www.kelsey.com and, well, even 15 years ago, porn was already prevalent on the internet. The screaming in the computer lab was quite horrific and I was certain I was about to lose my job. Needless to say, that was when I taught my first digital citizenship lesson.

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CC Image via Flickr by Luigi Rosa

A couple of years later, I’m teaching Grade 3 and we have the colourful Mac computers in the classroom. I used a great teaching tool (one that I still use today) called Kidspiration to introduce new concepts to the class and to have them work on creating basic computing skills (using a mouse, clicking, saving, etc). A couple of years later, those computers are replaced with the more streamlined Macs that also have a built in webcam. In Grade 3, at that time, I had no use for that Webcam, but a caretaker sure did. I would come into my room in the morning to find a post-it note covering the camera. It turns out, certain online dating sites allowed the computer to access the camera so you could meet your future spouse face-to-face virtually. Another lesson in Digital Citizenship for everyone at that time.

Skipping to the present, computers are virtually obsolete. Laptops and Chromebooks have replaced to the old hard drive and monitors of the past. Hand held devices (that I remember thinking back to in Star Trek the Next Generation were totally cool – and that I would never see them in my lifetime) are now almost considered a necessity in all grade levels. And cell phones – certainly a love-hate relationships with them in classroom settings. But how has pedagogy adapted to the ever changing incorporation of new mediums of media in society? What is the role teachers need or are expected to have when it comes to using them? Is there room for the “good-ole ways” of teaching?

Bates states that there are:

three core elements that need to be considered when deciding what media to use:

  • content;
  • content structure;
  • skills.

Regardless of if you are using a textbook, YouTube video or Educational Technology – there needs to be a reason for using it in the classroom. Either the content is relevant to what is being taught in class, the content structure is suitable for the given grade and the skills the students acquire will allow them to develop knowledge. So based on Bates’ views of the different medias offered in education, how am I using them in relation to his three core elements?

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  1. Text

I’m a librarian. Text is my job. I am one who love to curl up with a good book and flip the clean, crisp pages to immerse myself into a new world. And working in an elementary library, my books have to be new because I know where some of those books have been.

For the past 3 years, our school has also developed an eBook library. Personally, I am not fond of eBooks as it is very hard on my eyes. But my students absolutely love have access to books online. Even my own children will grab their iPads and use EPIC to read a book before bed. eBooks have offered my students a new way to interact with literature and immerse themselves into books that they may have not grabbed off of a shelve for various reasons. Length and cover art are generally the big ones. Even now, almost all of Regina Public Schools textbooks come in eBook format which keeps our costs of replacement textbooks much lower.

I fully agree with Bates‘ assertion that,

We have seen historically that new media often do not entirely replace an older medium, but the old medium finds a new ‘niche’

We see that with the explosion of the popularity of eBooks and online textbooks, reading has found itself its new “niche”.

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2. Audio

…recorded audio, which I will argue is a very powerful educational medium when used well.

I couldn’t agree more with Bates on this matter. I, too, feel that audio is a powerful tool that is often forgotten about. Here is my reason why: My son is dyslexic. He has a very hard time with text in general, never mind some of the heavily worded text forms that often accompany typical Grade 8 reading lists. This year, he read The Giver and luckily for him, he was also given the audiobook to read along with. Having the audio with the book caused less frustration and more comprehension of the story. But my experience with audio, isn’t limited to my son, I make sure I have copies of audiobooks of favourites in the library to help my students that need some of those extra supports. And, as Kelly points out, there are so many ways that technology can help those with special needs.

Google Read&Write is another option to help with texts that normally wouldn’t have audio to go with it. Google Read&Write gives students an option to “listen” to text being read back to them in any sort of digital format.

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CC Image via Pixabay by geralt

3. Video

Where would my husband be without YouTube? He has learned to do so much based on videos uploaded to the mega-movie giant! I must admit, it has been a go to for me as well when it comes to teaching, especially in the core element of “content”. When I taught Grade 8 Science, hydraulic and pneumatic pressure dumbfounded me. After extensive searching and vetting of YouTube videos, I found a number of them that provided various explanations of how they worked to ensure my students learning was supported because of my lack of knowledge. As Bates suggests,

One factor that makes video powerful for learning is its ability to show the relationship between concrete examples and abstract principles, with usually the sound track relating the abstract principles to concrete events shown in the video

However, video, and mainly access to the wide varieties of videos, can, in itself, be overwhelming. Even in this class, I have sometimes spent more time looking for the “perfect” video and have spent hours for one 10 minute clip. Online videos have replaced television in my household. My children don’t spend hours watching the “boob-tube“, but instead, they are tucked away in a corner of their room watching YouTube videos. And I’m not always privy to what it is they are watching exactly.

Another concern with video is that the editing makes the videos more flashy and exciting. So when I share a cool video explaining a particular concept that is full of fun music, high energy hosts and a variety of graphics, how can I compete with that level of engagement?

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4. Computing

I was confused at first with the idea of “computing” as a teaching medium. I originally assumed it was the teaching of coding. But Bates cleared it up for me by saying,

  • it is a very powerful teaching medium in terms of its unique pedagogical characteristics, in that it can combine the pedagogical characteristics of text, audio, video and computing in an integrated manner;

However, he does outline a disadvantage that I am currently working on with my collegues:

  • many teachers and instructors often have no training in or awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of computing as a teaching medium;

All to often, teachers are thrown technology and said “It’s a great way to teach!” however, they are never shown how it is a great way to teach and nor do teachers have time to explore all the options with technology. I would venture a guess that most teachers in my school still use laptops and iPads as merely substitutions for paper and pencils. When the Chromebooks were introduced without the capability of printing, teachers couldn’t understand their use, if it wasn’t to simply type and then print. This small feature has forced the hand of many teachers to examine how they are using technology in the classroom and are embracing more computing skills into their own lessons.

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5. Social Media

The main feature of social media is that they empower the end user to access, create, disseminate and share information easily in a user-friendly, open environment.

Bates

There are great debates between many teachers about Social Media in schools. Some have embraced the fact that it is here and our students are using it, so why not make it into a learning tool? Other view it as the downfall of our civilization and just another way for students to either bully each other or cheat on tests.

I have been on the positive end of social media. I have had classrooms throw entire lesson plans for the day out the window because an author has connected with them via Twitter and wants to know about sheep in Saskatchewan. The class then created a report and request for a sequel where the sheep do end up in Saskatchewan. (Those Magnificent Sheep In Their Flying Machine, Peter Bentley).

I’ve used Twitter-like sites where my Grade 8s connected with another Grade 8 class across town on a similar novel study. They used Twiducate to communicate and discuss aspects of the novel with each other.

My library utilizes it’s own Instagram account where students can post book reviews to share with others who follow us on Instagram. It has been a great way to connect and communicate with others.

Bates discusses many advantages of social media and also provides some disadvantages of it as well. However, I think he missed a major disadvantage – most students (and adults) do not grasp an understanding of the digital citizenship piece surrounding using social media. Social media can be a powerful tool when used appropriately, but adults are still trying to figure all of this out. Yet our children are already using it daily (okay, hourly) and we still don’t all have a firm grasp of it’s power and influence. The latest trend is “Fake News” that has plagues social media sites and created false understandings of actual current events. It is imperative that lessons on social media go hand in hand with lessons on digital citizenship and the power they each possess.

Will Adobe “Spark” Something New For Me?

With this being my 4th class with Alec, I am always learning new things, but this particular week challenged me. I needed to find something “new” to try with regards to teaching with technology. A lot of the suggestions put forward by Alec and Katia are ones that I have already tried or am already using as often as possible. It was Jenn that inspired me. She has spoken quite a few time about Adobe Spark and I wasn’t all that familiar with it.

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CC image via Flickr by Vernon Chan

Bates wrote:

Different media have different potential or ‘affordances’ for different types of learning. One of the arts of teaching is often finding the best match between media and desired learning outcomes.

These particular sentences resonated with my own personal belief about teaching. No two children are alike, so how can we teach one way to all of the children? Back in my days (yup, I’m about to date myself…), we were only taught one way – with notes, worksheets and textbooks. That was fine for me, but, as I look back on my classes in elementary and secondary school, I can “see” the struggle that some of the students in my classes had. In elementary school, my particular group was known as “that class”. It was quite challenging in terms of behaviour. However, maybe it was because some students were never offered what they needed in order to feel successful. Granted, technology today allows for those students to explore more options in terms of what they need in order to learn. Today, I feel that it is my duty as a teacher to make sure I explore all different types of media that will allow my students to be successful. So I was up for this week’s challenge! I wanted to create something that would supplement our Module Assignment and fit a Grade 3 learning level.

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CC image via Pixabay by JeongGuHyeok

I thought I would put together an Adobe Spark Page that described how First Nations used all the parts of the bison. The Smithsonian Institution National Zoo already has an amazing, interactive piece that describes all the parts of the buffalo, so I decided to re-create it using Adobe Spark. I would have likely just directed the students to the Smithsonian link, but I knew that for some students it would be difficult to navigate the very wordy sections. Using Adobe Spark Page, I was able to narrow down the text to just the information they would need. Thankfully, the Smithsonian site has a great terms of use policy that allows for usage with proper attribution, which I greatly appreciated.

I did like using Adobe Spark as a teacher, but I feel it is beyond the capabilities of students younger than Grade 5 without a lot of help from a teacher. I chose to do an Adobe Spark Page because it had the most options I was looking for. I could make it interactive (links), it was visually appealing and it had more features to it.

Adobe Spark Post confuses me. From playing with it, I gather it is simply a “digital poster making” page. I did not see a use for it based on what I was wanting to accomplish.

Adobe Spark Video was my original choice. However, I soon realized that everything needed to be pre-recorded and saved to my laptop. I could not pull from YouTube and it would not connect to my laptop camera. This was a major negative for me. The editing features appeared to be easy to use, but unfortunately, it didn’t have the 1 feature I really wanted: to be able to record directly from my computer or pull video from YouTube. It would appear that I will have to have a chat with Stephanie to see how she managed it!

Adobe Spark Page is a new way to create a PowerPoint or Slides presentation. You do need to have a log in and password to access it, which is always a nightmare when working with younger students. However, as a teacher, it is a new way to provide information to students. The ability to share it with an online link or an HTML embed allows teachers to share the content in various ways with their students.

I would recommend that you give it a try and see if it is for you. I could see myself using it again, but it isn’t necessarily my first choice.

Parts of the Bison

To LMS or Not To LMS…

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CC Image via Pixabay by markmags

Let’s move beyond the LMS, back to and forward to an independent Web and let’s help our students take full advantage of it. (Audrey Watters)

Whoa, whoa, whoa… let’s back up a moment here. “Let’s move beyond the LMS”… how about we first realize that most educators in Saskatchewan aren’t even aware of what an LMS is! Heck, most of Saskatchewan’s educators are still “digital visitors” (My Dad, Web 0.1) and may just be getting used to the idea of how technology and learning management systems (LMS) can be integrated in to their classrooms.

That being said, I am not one of those teachers. I value the way that technology can enhance learning outcomes and how students can use technology in varieties of ways to express their learning.  This is where an LMS comes in handy.

My first choice of LMS is Google Classroom. The reason being, this is what is supported in my school division, so when I am in need of assistance when using Classroom, I have tech support that can help me. As Jessica pointed out in her blog, Google Classroom is one of the platforms that are really geared for ease of use and has lots of support in terms of teachers that are already mastering this platform. So this LMS is already top of mind when it comes integrating it in to the classroom.

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Although we were asked to explore different LMS platfoms this week, I feel that if my division is already supporting one particular LMS platform, then I should be mastering it over learning a new one. And, after hearing the different reviews of fellow classmates reviewing LMS platforms (such as Canvas), I feel that, especially in an elementary setting, these other types of platforms are not cohesive to the needs of my students. Kirsten summed up my feelings nicely: it’s another LMS system to have to learn, where I am already comfortable with the one that I am already using.

So, what are my thoughts on Google Classroom as an LMS platform as an itinerant teacher in elementary schools? I fall back to Bates questions he posed regarding Technology Based Education (9.1.3) and adapt them to how I wish to use Classroom for my students:

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Here is how I would answer such questions:

  • I need and want to offer a program that supports all types of learners needs, especially when I am not always in the classroom with the students. And because it is a split grade group, I need to cover all curricular content for both grades. Google Classroom allows for independent learning and teacher led learning.
  • Factors that influence my decision on Google Classroom are:
    • It’s supported by our division
    • Chromebook carts so that students have instant access to it
    • Ease of use
    • Used from class to class, grade to grade (continuity)
  • Because students can easily access assignments and lessons online via Google Classroom, the role of classroom teaching becomes more open. For example, at my school, we tend to have a large population of students who go on extended vacations or visits to home countries. Parents always ask about “taking homework” to work on. With Google Classroom, students will always have access to assignments and be able to turn them in. As another example, an LMS platform like Google Classroom allows students to always have access to their work. No more forgotten assignments at home, or lost papers.
  • The question of the role of the educator can be addressed in all aspects of open and free access. The role of the educator has only shifted slightly. In elementary schools, educators still need to teach students to “find” appropriate and proper information on the free Web and analyze it critically. Educators must also teach students about how to use technology to enhance their learning.
  • When it comes to creating resources and using free resources, I am a believer that both could be one in the same. I don’t know why some teachers feel the need to re-invent the wheel, if what you need already exists. And, when using free resources, adapt it based on the needs of your students. However, should you have to create something, share it- there is always someone else out there who is also looking for it. In this case, an LMS is not necessarily the tool to use for sharing, but other professional LMS-like tools exist. Social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, provide many user groups to share and discuss.
  • The final question would apply, in my opinion, more to University teachers who are interested in MOOCs. As an elementary teacher, the need for me to create an open class for students in Grades 5 or 6 isn’t really a reality as of yet. I would open my lessons to my students who would be absent from class for reasons beyond my control so that they would have access to the lessons happening. However, opening it up to the entire world would require more thought and planning. Too many factors over privacy would come in to play, especially when working with minors.

When considering Bates description of Online Learning Environments in Chapter 6, he describes it as:

LMSs provide an online teaching environment, where content can be loaded and organized, as well as providing ‘spaces’ for learning objectives, student activities, assignment questions, and discussion forums.

I feel that Google Classroom does just this. Content is loaded on to students personal platforms based on classroom subjects and organized based on assignments. It provides multiple tools of learning (whether creating an assignment, posing a question for discussion or providing information) and also allows for immediate feedback between teachers and students.

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CC Image via Flickr by Wesley Fryer

Roxanne put it quite perfectly when she summed up that an LMS platform, such as Google Classroom, can

encourage students to be independent learners and to help them realize that technology can be beneficial to their education.

However, it can also be beneficial to educators who are looking to enhance learning opportunities for their students as well as themselves.

Learning the Past Using the Future

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CC image via Pixabay by geralt

This week, I received some excellent news! I was able to join a group of amazing and talented fellow ECI 834 folks to work on the online/blended course prototype project. Friday night, using Zoom, Chalyn, Justine, Aimee and I met to work out some ideas on what we wanted to do as a project. Very quickly, we sorted out that we were all interested in working in a primary age around the topic of First Nations, Metis, Inuit instruction. As luck would have it, this past summer, I worked with the Ministry of Education in the Office of the Treaty Commission on the new 2016 TreatyEd documents (that are unfortunately STILL in draft form) and we decided that this would be a good place to start.

After perusing some of the drafts, we chose to work on the Grade 3 document which leads with the inquiry question: How have the lifestyles of First Nations people changed prior to and after the signing of treaties?

We are still in the planning phases and, using the information provided in the document, we are brainstorming ways of teaching this using blended and online learning. We have already set up a Google folder and within it we have a PDF copy of the Grade 3 TreatyEd document and a Google Doc in place for us to record our ideas, questions, comments and discussions.

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CC image via Pixabay by congerdesign

The major first step is complete! Now comes the fun part about researching ideas, preparing the lessons and making it all fit seamlessly together! I’m really looking forward to this project and working with some amazing colleagues!

I look forward to seeing what we can come up with and what everyone has in store for their own projects.

 

 

The Return of the Sofa Student…

Long ago, on a sofa, not so far away, I began my adventures in EC&I with EdTech Masters Alec and Katia. ECI&I 831 feels so long ago, but the lessons I have learned continue to allow me to reflect on training as an EdTech Jedi… I mean teacher.

I am currently in my 4th year as a Teacher-Librarian at W.S. Hawrylak School in Regina. It’s interesting that my role as a “Librarian” isn’t at all what my husband thinks it is…

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CC image via Flickr by Erica Firment

I feel that the “library” part of my role as TL has morphed into a “Jack-of-All-Trades” in which I can quite often find myself as a mentor teacher, support admin and sometimes – substitute teacher (because we all know about our “sub shortage”). But I truly do love the diversity my role gives me. I get to work with students from Kindergarten (“Please remember, this is Mme Rugg’s bubble”) to Grade 8 (“Why would you stick that in your mouth?”) to everything in between. I am a technology advocate for my school and a DigCit lover! I can talk DigCit and EdTech to everyone all day long – which is why maybe the staff room clears out when I walk in… hmmm…

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CC image via Pixabay by Click-free vector images

This year, I have vowed to incorporate more blended learning into the teachings that I do. I am already using Google Classroom with my Grade 5/6 Sciences humaines class, but I need to something more with my Grade 3 education artistique group and my Grade 4 Bienetre class. My goal is to make sure that I don’t “do” blended learning just for sake of wanting to do it, but to really find meaningful ways to ensure that my students are getting the best of me and the best of what we can offer as super-awesome EdTechucators!

I am looking forward to the vast knowledge this group of ECI834 will offer and I hope I can offer some assistance to anyone who needs it (believe me – I will also be asking for help). Anyway, chat with you all soon!

Live long and prosper mes amis!

(And yes, I do know the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek 😉

My Summary of Learning for ECI 833

With this being my 3rd class with Alec, I always know what to expect. I also like to explore new tools in education when it comes time to do my summary of learning.

This class is no different. I decided to use an app called WriteReader. I comes with high praises from Common SenseMedia and other reputable software critics. However, I found it to still be lacking in certain areas.

To begin, this app/software enables the youngest of writers to publish their own stories. It is a great tool for kids who love to tell stories. They can use their own pictures or pull from a Google search (which, according to the developers are pictures that are free to use).

One problem I ran into when creating my story for my summary of learning, was I could not insert a page between two pages. My first outline of my story required me to add additional pages to keep my story moving along. However, it would only add pages to the end of the story. After discussions with the developer, they too realized the flaw in this system. So, I had to start over with a paper outline. That was my first frustration.

My second frustration is the limited characters in the writing boxes. It forced me to be concise in my thinking and how I explained my thoughts.

My third frustration with the tech is the recording function. It would work fine for a couple of pages, and then it would simply copy what the previous page’s recording was. After many attempts, hours of trying and re-trying, I finally discovered that I had to re-listen to every recording after I made it and if it began repeating the previous page, I had to leave the program and log back in to start where the repetition began. Finally, it is done. I’m not sure I am ready to share WriteReader with my staff just yet, there are some bugs that need to be ironed out first.

Well – here is my first WriteReader published story. Enjoy!

Adventures in ECI 833

Thank you for a great semester! And Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

Rochelle

 

My Kid has a Learning Disability and is in French Immersion – Does that make me a bad parent?

“You’re just setting him up for failure, you know.”

“Why punish him by making him learn a second language when he can’t handle a first?”

“Just wait until he gets to High School, then you’ll understand why I was right.”

Yup. Those were words once spoken to me by a teacher (thankfully not one that taught my son).

I loved the discussion around assistive technologies last week, but I’ve been dreading this post. This conversation hits very close to home for me as I have a son who is Dyslexic (although they don’t officially diagnose that anymore). On his file – he has a “Reading and Writing Disability”. Because of the hard work of his amazing teachers and LRTs, we were able to get him a laptop to assist him in his daily work. He is currently in Grade 8 and is doing amazing in French Immersion and even has plans to continue in French Immersion through High School.

However, those damning comments always sneak up in my mind. I judge my decisions all the time and then, I remember “He’s got this. He’s got the tools he needs to succeed. Let him do it if he wants to!” And the best part about it- HE WANTS TO DO IT!

“It” is French Immersion. Learning a second language is hard enough as it is. Doing it with a reading and writing disability makes it even harder. Lucky for him, he has the technology to help him along and a mom who also happens to be a French Immersion teacher. So this post is going to be about all the positive ways technology has helped my learning disabled child be successful in French Immersion.

#1: Google Read&Write http://thinglinkURL

Google ReadWrite allows my son to work on documents in Drive, assist him in reading websites and helps read to him. He doesn’t use it as often as I would like him to, but it is because it is still not quite as user friendly as it could be, but it’s much simpler than Kurzweil.

#2: Google Translate

This is a tricky one. French Immersion teachers either love or hate this app. Some students use it inappropriately by simply typing what they want to say in English and then hit translate to French and then copy and paste and turn it in. It happened a couple of times when I taught Grade 7/8 French Immersion. Thankfully, the following video explained to my students why we can always catch them when they copy and paste.

Google translate has its useful purposes. I have used it quite often to look up a word in French or even help getting ideas on how to properly phrase an idea. However, this video reminds me and my students that it is not a perfect system and that we have to make sure that it is used with a critical eye. My son uses it in two different ways: the first is obvious, to help him with his French vocabulary while writing. However, the second is for it’s speech recognition. If he is unsure of how to spell a word (whether in English or French), he simply presses the microphone icon, speaks the word and Google Translate helps him with his spelling.

Another interesting feature with Google Translate is the camera view. When using Google Translate on a mobile device with a camera you can click on the camera icon, hover it over the text and Google Translate will translate the text it “sees”. This is useful to parents who may be helping with homework and are not familiar with the language.

#3 Word Reference

Word Reference is used by the teachers who do not like Google Translate. Word Reference allows for multiple definitions and translations of a word. I find Word Reference very “wordy” and for my son it’s too much information for him to sift through.

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#4: Bon Patron

Bon Patron is a great teaching tool to help French Immersion students navigate the very difficult world of learning the French language. Students simply copy and paste parts of their French text into Bon Patron and then the program provides suggestions and teaches the students how to correct grammatical and spelling errors. It is not a perfect program but it is very effective in helping students. My son uses it for almost every French assignment to help correct what he is working on.

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As you hover over a part of the sentence that is highlighted or underlined, it gives you a rule and options for possible fixes. My students were not allowed to hand in assignments until they put it through Bon Patron first. The nice thing about this is it offers a free version and their is a paid version. However, the free version is perfect for French Immersion students.

I know with all my heart that I am not a bad parent for allowing my son to continue with French Immersion, but the stigma of the difficulties of learning a second language with a learning disability still remains. However, the technologies that are offered to assist those (and basically everyone else) to be successful in everything they do is endless and as long as technology is accepted and supported to allow those to use it.