Ahhh, the end. I am posting this with a bit of sadness. I am FINALLY getting the hang of technology and using ed tech more effectively and I don’t want the semester to end. With the wonderful opportunities for MOOCs and other learning that exists online, I know this is really just the beginning of my journey to grow as an educator.
Completing my Summary of Learning was so much fun! I tried some brand new tools – AdobeSpark and Bitmoji – to create the video, with the help of my trusty Snipping tool and Google Images. What on earth would we do without the internet??
“What are your experiences with assistive technology, and what are some of the limitations?” When I read the blog prompt for this week, I thought “I have no experience with Assistive Technology – this oughta be fun!” However, after watching Channing, Kelsey, Jill, and Haiming’s presentation last week and doing some readings, I realized that I have more experience than I originally thought but there is still a vast world of AT out there that is waiting to be explored. Universal Design for Learning benefits not only students with specific needs – it benefits all learners. “The ultimate goal is to create a flexible instructional environment that works for all students.” (source) Where to begin? Well, if I’ve learned anything in my grad classes the last three semesters, it is that often the best people to provide answers to a question are the classmates who are living it with you. So I sat down with some popcorn and read my classmates’ blog posts to see what they are using and what they recommend.
Daniel’s post on his experiences being colour blind was fascinating. Just think of the implications of colour blindness – the resiliency and tenacity that it takes to function in our society is inspiring. Daniel’s descriptions of some of the frustrations he faced as a student and that he faces as a teacher made me think of something that happened to me during high school. I spent many days locked in a dark room during my adolescence not knowing what was going on and why the light hurt my eyes. At first the doctor thought it might be migraines. It wasn’t. Since I could go all summer without an “episode” and within a week of returning to school the headaches were recurring, we started taking a closer look at my school environment. The culprit? Fluorescent lighting – coupled with mostly white paper in my notebooks, handouts, and resources – resulted in wicked headaches. Low tech AT fix? Coloured transparencies to put over handouts or books while reading. As a result of these experiences, I am more aware of the conditions in my classroom. We never have the lights on full bright – having a dimmer switch is a bit of a necessary luxury for me! The lights in my classroom were recently changed out for a different kind and boy oh boy – it’s like being on the sun! Even on the dimmest setting the room was far brighter than my students and I were used to. A quick email off to the principal and the electrician was there within hours to adjust the lights. Little things such as the brightness of the room can affect students. I always ensure I ask students what brightness they prefer when working on different learning tasks. Most often, the answer is the same as mine. The more dim it is, the better!
The one stumbling block for implementation of any technology in the classroom is time. As Sider and Maich point out in “Assistive Technology Tools: Supporting Literacy Learning for All Learners in the Inclusive Classroom,” “Assistive technology tools are only helpful if efforts are made to implement them effectively for student use. There are numerous barriers to this, including limited training for students and teachers and limited access to technical support.” This is so true. There are many tools at our disposal as teachers, but the trick is to find the time to learn how to use them in order to tap into their potential. I feel this way about One Note. I know it can be effective – I’ve seen colleagues use it effectively – but it feels so foreign to me. Trying to find the time to wade through and try it is daunting and I end up pushing it aside as something to do “when I have time’… which, in teacher terms, likely means during the summer.
Some assistive technology that I think is/could be especially useful for me and for my students:
Translation / Language Learning Apps
Having students who are learning English as an additional language in mainstream ELA classes is a challenge, especially when they have recently arrived from other countries. My classmate, Kyle, mentioned translation apps in his blog post. I would love to see more translation apps for our newly arrived students from other language speaking areas. One tool that students could use is called HelloTalk – students can select what language they are wanting to learn and will be partnered with a native speaker of that language who wants to learn their language in return. This partnership and meaningful dialogue can be especially useful in attaining new language skills, as both users have a vested interest in making the relationship work.
Google Read & Write virtues were extolled by Joe in his blog and by Scott in his blog. Some of my colleagues use this daily for their students (especially those who are on personalized learning plans). I’ve used it as well, but not often. It is a tool that I plan to incorporate more fully in my teaching to enhance learning for all students and not just those who have a particular need for the tools.
The single piece of AT that I use on a daily basis is my Sound Field. I have students who need it for hearing disabilities but it truly does help all listeners with their ability to hear and focus on the lesson.
By wearing the portable microphone, I can speak in a normal voice and my students have no trouble hearing me. It also saves my voice from strain which makes me a happy camper! Since I only have tiny computer speakers in my classroom, I use the mike to amplify sound when watching videos as well. I just place the microphone in front of the speakers for a more audible experience for my students.
Our challenge this week was to choose an assessment technology and use it in our classroom/teaching this week. This is timely, considering that many of my classes are currently working on viewing and listening assignments – an area I struggle to incorporate beyond the boring watch/listen and then discuss or answer questions. Yeah, it checks off the outcome, but how is this interesting or engaging for students? It’s not. This challenge prompted me to reach outside of my comfort zone, and I was inspired by the SPDU workshop about Embedding technology in the Secondary ELA classroom that I recently attended. Using video or audio in the classroom can be fun! Watch and see:
With the goal of creating an interactive video that would be more engaging for students, I chose EdPuzzle as the tool I wanted to explore this week. EdPuzzle allows teachers to crop, customize, and remix online videos for use in their classrooms. It is free to use and did not require me to watch a bunch of tutorials or attend a whole day PD on how to use and incorporate it – it is very intuitive and user friendly! I was quickly able to search for a video relevant to the curricular outcome and topic I wanted to cover – in my case, an introduction to the play Bad Seed which we study in ELA 20. The title of the video is “Narcissist, Psychopath, or Sociopath: How to Spot the Difference.”
Using EdPuzzle, I was able to edit the video, crop the length, and build in questions that students must answer while they watch. Though I did not use the voiceover tool, the option is available for teachers as well as the ability to comment, include resources, and create quizzes. The best part is that teachers can use EdPuzzle with any existing online video to create an interactive experience for students. Here is the link to a brief Screencastify showing the teacher view of the screen while editing and how the questions are tagged in the video:
The biggest challenge I had in creating this was simply the time to sit and play with the tool – starting from scratch with a video was not an option for me this week. 3 Way Conferences, a full PD day, and a full weekend of coaching left me very little time to play around to any extent. If this is an issue for you as well, fear not! There are a vast array of videos that are ready to use on the EdPuzzle site with some of the work already done. I accessed a copy of the video I wanted to use which already had questions developed from another user. Then I previewed the video, cropped it for time and relevance, changed the questions to better suit my students’ needs, and DONE! Ready to use viewing activity for my classroom.
Since I am not currently teaching a regular ELA 20 class until next semester, where I would use this video as a pre-teaching tool or formative assessment, I decided to test out the video on my Pre-AP ELA 20 students. The students appreciated that they could access the video themselves and answer the questions at their own pace. I used the video as a stand-alone activity for my Pre-AP class but many of them were able to draw connections to characters in some of the literature we are reading.
This EdPuzzle Review states that “while it will meet many needs, Edpuzzle could use more features to annotate and remix videos, especially the ability to combine multiple videos.” Regardless of this deficit, I found this tool simple and easy to use while still being effective for engaging my students. Many of the viewing assignments I’ve used thus far in my career are a bit lackluster to say the least. They only required lower-level thinking skills. EdPuzzle gives me options to encourage interaction with the video which increases the desire to learn the material. Adding supplemental resources and links would further enhance this. Students can also use EdPuzzle to research, create, and share their own video lessons – it could prove very useful for them as a learning tool.
EdPuzzle is a tool that I will continue to use — check it out and see for yourself how fun and easy it is to create interesting and engaging content for your students!
Web 1.0. Web 2.0. Web 3.0. No, these aren’t Spiderman movies. It is the terminology used to describe the evolution of the World Wide Web. For those who need a quick overview, here’s a video:
Interesting to think that all of this has happened in a relatively short amount of time. Have we as educators helped our students to embrace what the web has to offer and taught them how to most effectively navigate this awesome tool they have at their fingertips? I can say, for me, the answer is probably a resounding “NO” – not because I resist the use of technology, but because I myself haven’t always had access to the tools or the knowledge on how to best support students and teach them to use the tools. There are so many avenues to explore when it comes to using the web, all while trying to instill good digital citizenship and develop social responsibility in students and in ourselves as educators.
In one article I read this week, I found these lines: “Using Web 2.0 tools offers the perfect opportunity to introduce students to good computing practices from how to safely share information to how to engage in civil discourse. If students do not have the chance to try out these tools, they will be left somewhat defenseless when they encounter them outside the classroom.” This is something that the ELA teachers in our school have discussed and tried to incorporate into our planning and teaching. Modeling how to be effective online citizens is an important part of teaching our students how to use technology effectively and appropriately. This knowledge is going to become increasingly important with the development of Web 3.0.
What in the world is Web 3.0? Essentially, it will change the internet from a searchable tool to a tool that can predict user needs. This Techopedia article said “Web 3.0 can be likened to an artificial intelligence assistant that understands its user and personalizes everything.”
If we let it, Web 3.0 can have a significant impact on education and on our students’ learning. Students could potentially gather a wide variety of relevant information about the topic they are researching, cutting research time down and allowing more time to sift through the information and organize it in whatever way they deem necessary for understanding. That’s just a tip of the iceberg, I’m sure. Just as I couldn’t have imagined the world we live in right now, I’m sure the advancements of the web will also bring an increase in applications that we are not even aware of yet. As my classmate Melanie said in her post, “What worries me is that, by the time our school systems embrace the fact that technology is here to stay and admit that the way we ‘do’ education is strongly affected by the advancements in technology (and, as a consequence, education will need to be subjected to some major changes), we will be ‘too behind’ to be able to implement all the expected changes.” Not only will implementation be a struggle, but equal access to resources may also prove to be an issue. Those who have access to technology would be the privileged while those who live in poverty may be disadvantaged due to lack of access. But as our presenting group pointed out last week, there are ways that we can help eliminate some of those barriers. There are more free wi-fi zones in various places throughout most communities and public libraries offer not only wi-fi access but access to computers as well for those who may not have access to technology in their homes.
My classmate Sage in her blog post this week eloquently summarized the key features of each version of the Web and corresponding educational approaches. Check it out! What scares and excites me at the same time when thinking about Web 3.0 and how it will affect education, is the barriers to technology and the lack of PD in this area. In our group presentation last week, there was a comparison made between the cost of two textbooks and the cost of a Chromebook. Think about that. Two textbooks costs about as much a a Chromebook. Which would you say would be most useful for your overall learning?
Gerstein said “The Web, Internet, Social Media, and the evolving, emerging technologies have created a perfect storm or convergence of resources, tools, open and free information access.” My question to you is this – will you weather the storm or will you hide from it?
Living and working in Weyburn, a good hour away from the University of Regina where I am enrolled in Graduate studies, is a challenge. On campus classes in the evening require that I leave home by 4:00pm to travel to the city (encountering traffic and wildlife along the way), sit in class for 3 hours or so, and then drive home – roughly seven hours of time for one class. This takes a toll on the mind and body. Not to mention that I hate winter driving … and Saskatchewan seems to have 8 months of winter every year. Not an ideal way to motivate me to attend classes in person.
Enter web-based classes! Online/blended learning has been a surprisingly fantastic experience, despite me being a tech dinosaur. Tech usage may not come easy to me, but the benefits of learning in this type of environment are far more positive than negative. Despite my lack of experience with and knowledge of technology, my online/blended classes have been fantastic for a variety of reasons. “Flexibility of online learning is clearly of great value to many mature adults trying to balance work, family, and study requirements” (Appana, 2008). My classmate Scott pointed out in his blog this week that online learning is very beneficial to him as a busy dad, and I agree – as a mom/wife/teacher/coach whose schedule is packed, learning from the comfort of my home and eliminating the commute to an evening class saves me invaluable time. I use that time to work on class readings or to collaborate with my classmates on group projects using a variety of online resources. Or to do laundry. You know – fun stuff like that!
For those who don’t know what is meant by online or blended learning, these might help:
My first hybrid online/blended class last semester was a huge learning curve, made easier by the communication and support from Alec and my classmates. I wish all of the grad classes were offered in this manner as it would make my life less stressful. However, I know that not everyone feels the same. This type of learning environment may work very well at a graduate level, but for my elementary teacher friends, it would probably not be as effective. My classmate Brooke talks about her struggle with this in her blog for this week. I agree that face to face interactions are vital for young students, but have been thinking quite a bit lately about how a more blended approach could be utilized in my high school ELA classes. I currently have three students who have a variety of medical challenges and are missing quite a few classes while they deal with their situations. Blended learning would greatly increase their chances of finishing their courses on time and obtaining their ELA credits. The online delivery or environment would likely not be as much of a challenge for them as it has been for me since they are quite adept at the use of technology, and it would likely alleviate some of the stress that they feel for not being able to attend class on a regular basis. I have done my own version of “correspondence” courses for students in the last ten years. I have had students who have started at our school due to living in the community for hockey and then they transfer back to their home schools but want to finish my courses for a variety of reasons. This type of learning was made possible through the use of the internet and was supported by my admin team and by the students’ home schools. The students obtained their credits by communicating via web tools to “participate” in class, by sending me assignments electronically, and by attending some days in person (final presentations and final exams). Could we have done it better? Yes. Overall, though, it was a good learning experience for me and for the students. My experience with that and with taking Alec’s EC&I 832 and EC&I 833 has motivated me to take EC&I 834 next semester to learn more about designing online and blended learning environments.
Some of the online/blended learning tools that I feel have been of benefit to me and/or to students are:
Digital libraries – though I love books and physical copies of resources, digital libraries have played a huge role in education for me over the last ten years. Being able to access online databases and libraries for educational research has saved me time and money.
Partnerships & Professional Learning Communities – the collaborative experience when using the internet for learning has been key to my growth as an educator and as a grad student. From technical support to collaborating on projects to sharing our resources for teaching, the relationships that I’ve been able to foster have been beneficial to me in so many ways. I am very lucky to have an amazing group of colleagues in the ELA department in my school with whom to collaborate but am also blessed to have a larger group of professional colleagues online. Reaching out and discussing what is working for other educators in other parts of the province and across North America has been an incredible experience that I plan to continue.
Blogs – I love writing. I truly do. Writing helps me to organize my thoughts and contribute to my own learning. Though I’ve never been really shy about sharing my opinion in traditional classroom settings, I do enjoy having time to think and organize my thoughts on a given topic before being required to respond. Developing a blog for my EC&I classes has been a great learning tool for me! I have many ideas for how to incorporate blogging into my high school ELA classroom because of these experiences.
Microblogging – though I am not a huge fan of Twitter on my mobile device, I do appreciate and enjoy the quickness of the microblogging experience. Using Tweetdeck and other time-saving elements have made the experience more manageable for me. I can click on the articles that interest me, easily see what my classmates are viewing or reading from their posts, follow people and organizations who have content that is of concern or interest to me as an educator, and connect with a variety of people all over the world in a matter of seconds. There is value in microblogging as a tool for learning in my classroom as well, though I know that incorporating this would be more of a struggle for me than blogging, for instance. I would have to become more adept at the use of it myself before I would start introducing it to students.
Social Networking – hands down, this is the way students communicate. An area of great interest to me as an educator is in how we can incorporate the use of social networking to enhance student learning. The power of connecting to others around the world could be of great benefit to students in the growth of their social responsibility, a concept embedded in our SK ELA curricula.
Zoom – using Zoom for online meetings and classes has been a game changer! It saves time and money for organizations such as the provincial sport board I am on – we don’t have to pay for mileage to have meetings. It is a very valuable tool for online learning as classes can meet at a specified time to participate in class discussions. The ability to share screens, form break out rooms for small group discussion, and to record the sessions are great perks to using this online conferencing tool.
Online sharing and collaboration – with tools such as Google docs and slides, working on projects or collaborating with classmates is very simple and effective. Autosave features are helpful and working in real time with others on collaborative projects is easy. Though it does have some limitations ( for example, I don’t like Google sheets due to some performance issues I’ve had with it in the past), the projects for which I’ve used Google docs and slides have all been good experiences.
While thinking about and searching for information on how to become a blended educator, I came across this useful infographic:
Though I don’t think I am ready to be an online educator full time, I can see the benefits of using blended learning for myself and my students. As an educator, I value the relationships that I am able to foster with my students in the classroom and I fear that I would not be as effective in fostering those same relationships online. Fear of change and doing new things can be crippling, but it can also be used to grow. Tackling the aspects of online/blended learning that cause me to feel apprehensive may take some work, but ultimately would be rewarding. Using some of the tools I’ve encountered, such as Zoom, could help me with this. Who knows? Maybe someday I will be required to teach in an online environment. I am thankful that I’ve been introduced to some of the tools that would help me make that shift and am even more grateful for the professional learning community that I’ve been able to foster as a result of my teaching career and my time in undergraduate and graduate courses, in person and online.
It is no secret that I am a master procrastinator. I have the best of intentions to attack my workload in a timely fashion… and then I end up doing anything BUT what I am supposed to be doing. It is definitely true for me that the more “tabs” I have open, the less likely I am to finish any of the many tasks I need to accomplish. The internet can be a huge blessing as an educator, but it can also be a huge distraction. However, it is not the only distraction we have in our work days. Email, announcements that interrupt instructional time, supervision, extracurricular duties … sometimes it never seems to end. Often I wonder when the last time was that I felt truly relaxed and wasn’t thinking of the next thing on my To Do list or what to make for supper or if I remembered to change the laundry from the washing machine to the dryer. The internet or my use of “screen time” isn’t the only culprit here. More often than not, it is simply that I am trying to do too much without properly prioritizing my “need to do” and “want to do” lists. Kyla Ortman said in her blog this week that “perhaps people are hyper focused on all of ‘the things’ they need to accomplish while not being present in the moment.” I agree wholeheartedly!
The video “Single-tasking is the New Multitasking” was a humorous take on this idea. The quote within the video “When workers don’t check email, they focus for longer periods on tasks and show less physiological signs of stress” stood out. This is true for me both at work and at home. It is one of the reasons I refuse to have my work email available on my smartphone and one of the reasons that I have set aside time in my day to check and respond to emails. Running a small business as well as being a teacher and a mom/wife means that I have multiple email addresses and To Do lists to stay on top of. Part of managing this workload is in creating balance.
I truly can’t imagine what my daily life would look like without access to the internet. It truly does help me prepare better lessons, with videos to pique my students’ interest or an infographic to help explain a concept or a poem to project for the whole class to read without killing more trees by photocopying for each student. As Kyle Ottenbreit said in his blog this week, “technology is an incredible source of information that serves to capture the attention of our students. But technology is no substitute for a prepared teacher holding the attention of students. If we can create that level of engagement with our students, then the technological aspect only puts us over the top.” I think this is so very true.
Can I teach without the internet? Yes. But do I have to? Power or internet outages happen but they don’t halt the teaching or learning process in my classroom. I think this is partly because I am “old school” and love physical copies of books and handouts… but also because I am fully prepared for each class and know my material. I was not as confident ten years ago when I was first starting my career and often relied on the internet to help me fact check, gather data, research, or connect with my support system of fellow educators. Though I have never relied on technology to teach my classes, I am very thankful that I have it as a tool in my back pocket!
Postman wrote: “…We now know that Sesame Street encourages children to love school only if school is like Sesame Street. Which is to say, we now know that Sesame Street undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.” The idea that Sesame Street undermines traditional schooling has merit when you look at it in the broader context which Postman explains in his article. However, more than twenty years after the article was written, we as educators have embraced some of what Postman seemed to look at as harmful to students’ learning. Instead of fighting against technology, we have (mostly!) embraced it as a tool for learning and as a method of communication for ourselves and our students.
Smartphones, computers, and other Internet enabled devices are becoming more mainstream as educational tools across North America. Our current culture of smartphones has pushed educators to incorporate the technology – the seeming current language of today’s youth – into our classrooms and our schools. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and the integration of smartphones in classrooms does not just happen automatically without thought to acceptable use. Educators must think about the advantages and disadvantages the incorporation of technology bring for students’ learning and incorporate digital literacy into our teaching.
In Educational Technology: Historical Developments, Santosh Panda describes the evolution of AV Tech in Education. ” [T]he initiation of educational technology movement started with audiovisual aids and behaviourism and programmed learning. In the process educational technology/ instructional technology systems got developed, learning was more personalized (i.e. oriented to one’s own ability, need andstyle), and group ‘interaction’ was frequent and enriched. The later developments in distance education largely used the educational technology developments so much so that today both constructivist learning and personalized learning environment on the web can combine together to offer customized and enriched learning experiences.” AV Tech has evolved so much in the past few decades that it is hardly recognizable compared to the earlier modes. With the evolution came necessary changes to the technology and the way educators and learners use technology. In other words, as technology has evolved, so has educational practice. Educational theory has shifted from earlier theories such as Behaviourism into Constructivism and then continued sliding into Connectivism. Most educators today will agree that in order to effectively teach learners with a vastly differing set of abilities and learning styles, it is vital to deliver curriculum in a variety of styles and ways to meet the learning needs of students. For instance, I am a learner who thrives on the written word but I do know that, for me, images and illustrations contribute significantly to the meaning and retention of the written word. Haiming wrote, “One of the benefits that Audiovisual aid brings is that learning via AV creates a stimulating and interactive environment which is more conducive to learning.” Multimodal literacy is changing and enhancing the way students learn. You can get an overview in the video below, posted on Youtube by Petra Judd.
With a vast array of AV technologies, such as apps and interactive educational shows, the format of schooling is changing. Last week I explored and blogged about the use of Google extensions in the classroom. These tools can aid educators in reaching the needs of the students. The connectedness of our world is not going away. We might as well get on the digital train and take it for a ride all the way to Learning Street. Just be prepared for a bumpy ride and sudden stops along the way, as this train does not always promise a smooth ride.