Summary of Learning for EC&I 833

Well, here it is, my final post for EC&I 833.  This semester began with me feeling like a fish out of the water.  I had limited knowledge about technology and its uses in the classroom.  I must admit that at the start, my stomach was filled with nervous butterflies each Tuesday knowing how so many other members of the class were beyond knowledgeable in this area and I felt like I could never keep up. It didn’t take long for me to realize that although I wasn’t near as capable as many, these people were here to help and never to judge. It is rare to find a group of people so welcoming and kind.  I appreciate how Alec set up Discord as a means of keeping the communication lines open in a non-threatening way.  It is clear why Alec will miss those of you who are now at the end of your master’s journey.  In the short time that I have been part of this community of learners, I can see how strong the relationships are. 

While I may still be a bit of a fish out of the water, I have learned so much this semester and will forever be grateful for the connections I have made.  If I have conquered the world of WeVideo and survived, I am sure I can take on anything!  Enjoy my summary of learning with my re-creation of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas……

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The Ins and Outs of Assistive Technology

Assistive technology has always been an important part of my job and somewhat of a passion area for me.  Thank you to Megan, Leigh, Kalyn and Jenny for a great presentation this week!  I could just feel the passion that they had for this topic too!  They shared some great information on how teachers can use assistive technology in the classroom.  Not only can assistive technology be used to allow for inclusion in the classroom, but it can also be used in our home lives and in the workplace. To most it may seem like that would mean one would head straight to technology such as a computer, but assistive technology can also be much more simple and inexpensive.  

The first type of assistive technology that was covered this week is the low tech type. Low Tech Assistive Technology is the most common form of assistive technology.  This can be as simple as a graphic organizer, visual schedule, pencil grip, using manipulatives or even a highlighter.  Many of us have even been using these accommodations without even knowing that they would be classified as assistive technology.  

The second type of assistive technology is mid tech.  This can include items such as audiobooks, voice amplifiers, which have been very popular during a pandemic, adapted seating, calculators or word prediction software, just to name a few.   

The last type that was mentioned in our presentation was high tech assistive technology.  These types of tech are usually more costly and considered to be the “plug in” type in the world of assistive tech.  These items can include computers, tablets or iPads, electric wheelchairs, smart boards and speech recognition software. 

I remember my first significant experience with applying for assistive technology for a student of mine who had a diagnosis that hindered him from learning in a “typical” way.  At this time, I was quite new to teaching and had not heard of the term assistive technology before.  I also wasn’t familiar with what would be available as I was new to Regina and the division that I was employed with.  In this case, I was lucky because this student was connected with Wascana Rehabilitation Centre.  Once I reached out to them, they were quick to help and began by setting up an assistive technology assessment.  This is where the magic occurred!  I was able to attend the assessment with the student.  The student was interviewed by a team of professionals (SLP, OT and PT). They also interviewed the parent and me. Then the student moved through a number of different stations and tried many different technologies. While the child trialled these technologies, the team continued to ask questions to identify whether each of them would be useful to the student.  Once the correct tools were chosen to assist the student with his learning difficulties, a report was made and the technologies were ordered. Some by Wascana and some by our school division.  I am not sure if the same process occurs today, but I do have another student heading there soon.  It will be interesting to hear how different this process will look during covid times…..

A few years later, when I was applying for assistive technology from within the school division, the process looked a little different.  It was up to the learning resource teacher and school team to decide what sort of assistive technology would work best for the student.  Once we had narrowed down what we may need, there was a wonderful SLP that was somewhat of an assistive technology guru who was happy to help decide upon and implement the chosen accommodations.  She had a wealth of experience and knowledge that I did not.  I was very fortunate to be able to have her support.  Quite often she would even visit the student on multiple occasions to ensure that all was going well with the types of technologies that were being used.  My AT guru would even offer professional development sessions to teach educators about many of the tools that we were required to be using with our students. These sessions were offered after school hours and were completely voluntary.  

Fast forward to today and things seem to look a lot different.  First of all, there are many more students in our classrooms who are requiring Assistive Technology to be able to work around their challenges in the classroom. Now it is fully up to the school team (mostly the LRT and classroom teachers) to sort out what each student needs to be successful and how they will continue to be supported after they receive their assistive technology. Our first step is to fill out our division’s version of the SETT form found below.  The graphic below provides an explanation of the SETT framework that one should work through to understand what the student would most benefit from. 

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Personally, my biggest challenge with our current process is that I am often responsible for knowing and deciding what tool would benefit a child most to ensure that they are able to succeed in the school setting.  I do happen to know the basics and am able to support students with most of the technologies required, but in some more complicated cases, I tend to find myself struggling to know what the best choice may be.  In cases where I am not certain of what to do, our division team, which is made up of a psychologist, slp, and school counsellor, may be accessed to assist with the decision making process.  However, there are times when even our entire team is stumped.  Then what?  Thank goodness for networking and having amazing colleagues to collaborate with!  Moving forward, I am excited and grateful to be able to reach out to many knowledgeable educators that I have connected with this semester.  There are many different resources shared in this week’s Wakelet to help when I am stuck.  I had also never heard of Kathy Schrock before. When I fell upon her website I thought I had hit the jackpot!  It really is a guide to EVERYTHING!  

Once the tool has been chosen, sometimes, the struggle still continues.  Unfortunately, there is often not enough time and training available for the educators that need to incorporate these tools into their teaching.  What if they are afraid to take the leap and learn about the new technology that their student is using, or what if they feel that they don’t want the child to be stigmatized or become lazy by being able to use the tool that helps them to be successful in the classroom?  There are many great educators out there who will do whatever it takes to help their students become more confident, independent and successful in the classroom, but what happens when that is not the case?  How can we be sure that the student is using the tools to the best of their ability in cases such as these?  

The answer to ensuring that all students and teachers have the tools that they need to be successful in the classroom is proper training and also adequate funding. The government needs to make this a priority.  Now more than ever it is important that each child is able to access what they need to be an independent citizen at home and in the school setting, whatever that may look like these days. When our teachers feel more supported, confident and prepared, they will be able to tackle anything!  

Can digital assessment create more of a positive learning experience?

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This week’s presentation by Dalton, Matt and Trevor on different assessment technologies,  left me so excited to share many of the assessment options with my fellow colleagues and students. It is times like this that I miss having my own classroom to be able to authentically try out what we learned this week. 

When we think of assessment, two terms come to mind.  The first being formative assessment.  Formative assessment can be used as evidence to make instructional changes in order to further the learning of our students and is also used to verify learning.  It is a great way to check for understanding in order to inform our instruction.  Formative assessment involves giving students direct feedback.

Summative assessment evaluates or measures a student’s overall performance or understanding of curricular outcomes.  These types of assessments typically take place at the end of a unit and marks are usually used for their final grade.  This type of assessment can include standardized assessments that our school divisions or government often require.  Below you will find a quick summary chart of both types of assessments.  

Formative assessments seemed to be more important than ever with the structures that our schools and classrooms have been utilizing during the pandemic.  The tools that we learned about this week can be easily used in the traditional classroom, during online instruction and in the blended learning classroom.  When many of our students had to learn from home, our teachers needed to quickly adjust to how they would assess their students and continue with meaningful instruction. They had already lost so much valuable learning time in the spring and couldn’t bear to lose anymore!  I hope that by sharing these tools, many teachers will begin to feel comfortable with online assessment strategies and use them to enhance the learning experiences of our students.  

This week I was fortunate enough to spend time in the classrooms and experience a couple of our teachers sharing some formative assessment digital tools with their students.  The results were not surprising….. each and every child was engaged in the learning that was happening while the teachers were able to gather the data needed to move forward in their planning.  In the first classroom, the teacher was using Kahoot as a review of the science unit that they had been working on.  Each of the students eagerly played along. As an observer and not an active participant, I noticed that a few of the students who have learning challenges sat closely by the teacher so that the teacher could guide them along and read the questions aloud. Even though the students struggled to keep up, they appeared to be enjoying the “game” that they were playing and the teacher now had the information necessary to move forward in her instruction.  

In the next classroom that I visited, it was an afternoon of assessment fun!  The classroom teacher had prepped and prepared curricular activities using, Quizizz, Classkick, Go Formative,  and Socrative. Time was spent observing the children utilizing each of these tools and viewing their interactions with each other while navigating through these for the first time.  Then we listened while the students shared their preferences and dislikes about using these formative assessments.  

The afternoon of fun started out by using Quizizz.  The kids were so excited and couldn’t get enough of this one!  They loved how gamified this tool is, so it is not surprising that this one was a class favourite.  The students were beaming with excitement and said they preferred this tool over using Kahoot.  They enjoyed how you could gain power-ups and how the game did not have to be timed. Upon further investigation, I found that there is even the option for the quiz to read the questions aloud.  This is a great option for those that struggle with reading, However, it seemed to take away from the “fun” factor as it sounded quite robotic.  I wonder if there is a way for individual students to set that option on their own devices?   On the teacher end, Quizizz integrates with Google Classroom, which is the preferred platform for our division.  Click here for a quick comparison of Kahoot! and Quizizz.   

Class Kick seemed to be harder for the children to navigate through in a short period of time. The students enjoyed using it, but felt anxious when rushed and not being able to learn how to use the options with ease. I, as well as the students, loved the option of asking for help anonymously.  They explained that they liked that the person didn’t know who they were helping and they did not have to feel embarrassed.  From a teacher standpoint, we found that some of the “helpers” gave somewhat foolish answers that were not helpful, nor appropriate. Teachable moment #1!  As a learning resource teacher, I found that Class Kick would be a great option for struggling learners with being able to leave a voice note to respond to the questions.  

Next, I observed them try out Go Formative. I found this tool great for the diverse learners in the classroom.  Those that struggle academically appreciated the different question options.  Some liked the multiple-choice, while others liked the short answer. I loved that there is even an option for students to share their work on the whiteboard.  The students reported that they appreciated how easy Formative is to use. Some said it reminded them of Google Docs. When a teacher is setting up a Formative, they are even able to upload their own document and add questions on top.  Or search the bank of assessments and save time by using one that is already there. Photos and videos can also be easily uploaded.  You can set up an answer key that will save you time when grading the assignment. The option to randomize questions is great for those crowded classrooms where kids can take a peek at other’s work when they are stuck.  One can even type in feedback for the students, including emojis!  There are so many more content items that I am eager to explore in Formative. I did notice that there is a question mark feature for when I need help sorting out my assessments.  I feel like this may just be my new favourite assessment tool!  I am left wondering which of the many features that I have researched are included with the free version or is a paid version necessary?  

Lastly, the students investigated Socrative.  This tool seemed to be a little more challenging for the students to access compared to the other tools. After some confusion, we found that it was easiest for the students to just google the term Socrative and then use the student login. Once there, students just added the room name. We found that in order to use through Google Classroom, as we did with some of the others,  you needed to set up an account. Now that this lesson has been learned, it will make the next time we use it much less stressful.  I was only able to view the teacher dashboard briefly, but I liked how you can view the student’s responses in real-time and it provides detailed reports for afterwards. This a great feature for knowing immediately what you need to touch on as a class or even for creating appropriate groupings. I also noticed you can create your own assessments or share with colleagues who also use Socrative. 

Overall, I found these assessment tools that we tested out in last week’s presentation would make a great addition to any classroom.  The one piece that I found to be missing in many of these tools is the accessibility features such as speech to text or in some cases being able to have the questions read out loud to the user. I think these types of features would allow more success for our struggling learners.  Perhaps with the paid versions of each of the above, there may be many accessible features that I am unaware of.  I have definitely only seen the tip of the iceberg and I am excited to find the time to investigate further and share these great tools with my colleagues who are teaching in classrooms and online.   When we get assessment right and focus on our individual students and their needs, we are creating positive learning experiences.  Furthermore….academic success!

The Bigger It Gets, The Harder It May Be To Change…

As I write this week’s blog post, I have changed my angle on where this blog will go multiple times.  The first time that I watched The Social Dilemma, I made my children sit down and watch it together with both myself and my husband. I will admit, I went in with a narrow mind and immediately found myself horrified by learning how invasive social media can be and how it has consumed our youth, somewhat including my own children. What was supposed to be an educational family movie night, turned into a giant fight of kids vs parents and how wrong each of our opinions are.  Needless to say, we shut off the tv halfway through and went our separate ways.  

Fast forward to take number two… The second time around, I decided to watch solo.  This time I took into account not only the views of those in the documentary but also those of my own children.  I still left with many worries and concerns but felt much less reactive this time.   As an adult who usually has control over how much I want to invest in my social media apps, I am not near as concerned about my own usage, as I am of the youth in today’s world. I know that social media apps and technology usage in young adults are the norm and this is a fight that we cannot win.  So if we can’t beat it, we need to ensure that we are providing our children with the skills and knowledge to be able to survive this new reality.  

A notable comment made in the documentary was in regard to how can we wake up from this matrix if we don’t even know you are in it?  This is alarming because I really feel that it is true. Many youth consider social media their world. Their mental health relies on how many followers they have or how many likes they receive on their pictures or posts. The statistics around depression and suicide related to social media are staggering.  How can we end up here when the whole motivation of the “like” button was to spread love and positivity in the world?  The bigger this problem gets, the harder it will be to change it. Whose responsibility is it to educate our youth so that they too can make sound decisions in this world of persuasive technology?  

Below you will find 5 of the many reasons why social media is not smart for our tweens:

  1. Most social media sites require children to be a minimum age of 13 to sign up.  (Those that sign up earlier are comfortable with lying to gain a new app.  How comfortable will they feel lying to their parents later on down the road?)
  2. Kids’ brains are vulnerable to apps that are designed to be addictive. (The concept of social media is to keep you online and consume as much of your time as possible.)
  3. Kids see a distorted view of reality on social media.  (It is important for kids to feel like they fit in, but also to stand out.  They often feel like they will never match up.)
  4. Social media can exaggerate a child’s tendency to focus solely on themselves. (They often feel like all eyes are on them, but in this case not in a positive way.  Sadly this can easily lead to depression, bullying and even suicide.)  
  5. Social media can push kids into risky behaviours to seek out the approval of their peers. (My 12-year-old daughter recently shared a story with me about one of her peers who sent an explicit photo that was then shared with many Snapchat groups. Yes….I hit the parent panic button!)  

These reasons are very valid, but the reality is, many of us have already let our kids use social media apps and it is too late to pull the plug. What we do need to ensure is that we set the ground rules and stick to them.  I am lucky that both of my children feel comfortable to talk with me and respect that their parents will always be involved in their social media lives to help guide them to make sound decisions online.  I am sure our luck will run out one day, but until then, we will continue to do all of the teaching we can while their minds are open and they are willing to lend a listening ear.   

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What about the tweens who don’t have the support at home or those that think their parents couldn’t possibly understand what is going on in the world of social media?  Well my fellow colleagues, that is where you come into play!  Is it really all doom and gloom as it was stated in The Social Dilemma, or can we actually incorporate social media and use it as a learning tool in our classrooms?  It would appear that social media and education go hand in hand in our world today.  At the end of the documentary, many of the participants shared ways in which we can make a difference and I strongly feel that in the classroom we need to have open conversations about our roles and responsibilities online. It can even be as easy as never accepting the recommended video on YouTube. Always choose!  Perhaps learning to shut off your notifications and uninstall apps that waste your time.  We can teach them how to check their source before they share information that may not be true or how important it is to follow people you disagree with so you can be exposed to different viewpoints.  These are just a few important skills to foster in our youth.  Below are more benefits of using social media in an academic setting:

  1. Communication and collaboration (Kids can connect anytime with friends or peers anywhere in the world)
  2. Students can find concrete information online (With social media news feeds, students can find information or valuable websites that they can access to stay in the loop. This worked for me! Now that I have a Twitter account I find myself excited to keep reading in order to find more and more great educational ideas and tools to try in the classroom.)   
  3. Parent involvement (School social media sites can help parents stay informed and involve them in their child’s learning. When they are more informed, they can offer better academic support at home.) 
  4. Improved literacy skills (This is one I struggle with. I am fully aware that many kids find reading a book beyond boring.  I should be more excited that when they are reading social media platforms, students are honing their skills, but for now, I am still old school and wish they could just enjoy a darn book!)
  5. Distance learning opportunities (There are many students who do not attend school in a building, but are learning at home. In this case, the live video and calling features can certainly improve learning and academic performance.)

https://elearningindustry.com/social-media-in-education-improve-learning

I suppose all that one can really do is stay optimistic and keep an open dialogue with our children and our students.  After I had finished watching The Social Dilemma the second time, I sat down with my children and read them the blog post prompt for this week. I asked for their opinions on both the positives and negatives associated with social media.  Turns out, I actually came up with more positives than they did!  Who knew I still had the shock factor left in me?  They sure didn’t expect me to end on a positive note after our first not so enjoyable viewing experience. I guess in all honesty, neither did I!

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When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Keep Teaching Online

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Of all the topics to blog about, this one feels like the most relevant blog that I need to invest my time on.  When I attend this class and do the weekly readings or listen to the podcasts, I feel like I am a sponge!  I am taking it all in, just as Kate Gaskill mentioned in this podcast with Kareem Farah.  I spend every moment thinking about how useful all of this information would have been in March when the pandemic hit and we found ourselves knee-deep in remote learning or “emergency learning” as many refer to it.  

Last year was my first year as a vice principal, so my experience was much different from that of a classroom teacher.  I did not have a class of my own to manage, but I did have an entire staff and a community of learners who were dealing with an array of feelings.  Some felt comfortable handling online teaching as they had experience using technology in their classrooms and others were certainly not. Suddenly the mental health of many of my staff and students was impacted immensely.  I was officially in crisis management mode!  Those that were comfortable with using the tech were feeling pretty good about their job and themselves and they knew exactly how to get many of the kids engaged. Others were left feeling lost and not knowing where to start.  I tried my best to steer them in the right direction with resources that I was aware of and if I didn’t have the answers, I tried my best to find them or at least someone who could help.  I knew that I had very little knowledge in the area of today’s technology options, so I spent my days putting out fires and being the calming force for many, and my nights were filled with my own pd to ensure that I knew what the heck I was talking about when it came to Google Classroom and Seesaw!  These were the main platforms that we used in our classrooms at my school. I quickly had to become familiar with both as I needed to field questions from both staff and families in order to keep everyone calm.  As this was a division directive, Kindergarten and Grade One teachers had the paid version of Seesaw and Grade Two and Three teachers used the free version.  In class, we have discussed on many occasions how some tools cost money and others are free.  Let me tell you, there is definitely a huge difference!  

Just as Kareem Farah mentioned in his podcast, teachers (including myself) were feeling frustrated with the lack of pd that was accessible and felt like they needed to figure out so much on their own. I feel like nobody is to blame for this, as everyone (teachers, admin, division office personnel to name a few) were living day by day, trying to sort out what would come next. I am not sure that anyone would have expected that this could be a long term situation.  As time went on, our division knew that communication was key and that they needed to empower their staff to move ahead in this new world of teaching.  Not only did we need to empower our staff, but also our students.  Many had become so disengaged and struggled to feel connected to their learning community. If there is one word I can use to describe the staff at my school, it would be fun.  The students always knew they could count on us to raise their spirits with our shenanigans!  Soon we decided that this was even more important in a pandemic.  We decided to have weekly challenges that we put out to the families on our social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.  Usually, they included some insanely crazy Tiktok or You Tube videos, or photographs that I am sure will come back to haunt me one day! 

Fast forward a few months and now we were all just getting in to the swing of things. Our staff and students were settling into a great year of face to face learning. Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time before our school was infected with the Coronavirus and now our the staff found themselves dealing with what was deemed an “outbreak” in our school.  At this moment, I felt grateful that my staff had a much greater sense of confidence to be able to teach online. They had the time to become familiar with the tech tools that they had started to use in the spring. I believe that we all came back to school this fall with the belief that we would one day need to use them again.  Our staff began the year by ensuring that all students and parents were familiar with the online platforms that we are to use in our school division.  The teachers have done an amazing job of keeping their “online classrooms” up to date with the content that they are teaching face to face.  However, I have heard from many that they are feeling like they just aren’t doing enough for their students.  I think we all need to understand that we can’t expect things to look like it did pre-covid in our classrooms. It is important to look at what we can do to embrace the future evolution of learning both in the classroom and online. 

This leads me to the necessary shout out to last week’s presenters.  Thank you Amanda, Catherine, Kristina and Nancy for sharing your wealth of knowledge and ideas in the area of distance learning.  I have often felt overwhelmed thinking about all of the tools available out there and the time it takes to seek them all out, nevermind knowing for certain which ones will be the most beneficial to our learning. I absolutely loved the resource they shared with us that allows for a one-stop shopping experience for teachers who are educating online. I cannot wait to share this with my staff!  It clearly lays out each area of distance learning and the resource that one could use for each. Amanda’s videos that she created for the reading strategies were fantastic!  As a learning resource teacher, I teach these exact strategies to my students. I have spent a lot of time and money finding stuffies to relate to each of these animals, but never have I thought about making videos!  I think for me, I need to spend more time learning how to use another video making tool other than Adobe Spark. I just started learning about WeVideo with my group members in the past few weeks.  I think it can be daunting at first, but with a bit of practice, I just may become excited to use it to engage my students with their learning if I need to provide support to my online learners in the future. 

After learning more about Synchronous and Asynchronous learning in last week’s presentation, I realize how important it is to provide our students with the opportunity to play instructional videos at a time that may work best for them and their families.  I find this to be especially true at my school as we have had had many families identify that they only have one device to share amongst multiple children or that they need to work during the day and therefore must do the schooling in the evenings and weekends.  Whatever the reason may be, we need to look at the dynamics of our students and families as we create a learning environment that will be optimal for all!  

I believe that we are all doing the best we can on any given day.  Not just us, but our students, their families, and even our school division leaders.  We are all making the necessary changes in the way we do things to assist us and our students not just in the present, but for the long run.  This pandemic may have brought us a lot of chaos that we had hoped would be short lived, but perhaps it has also taught many of us to open our minds and embrace the learning of the future……

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Is The Internet Killing My Productivity???

I used to think I was a good multi-tasker who worked hard to ensure that I did the best job possible for every single task that I completed.  Then as years went on and the distractions became greater,  I realized perhaps, it was time for me to settle in and focus on one thing at a time as I began to feel like I no longer had those strengths to get me through so much at one time.   This week we watched the video titled “Single-tasking is the new multi-tasking.”  It addressed the extent to which multi-tasking has become the new norm for work and suggested that we need to find better ways to focus on only one item at a time.  

I have found that my ability to focus on one task at a time has decreased greatly both at home and at work.  It seems that one thing tends to lead to another (that perhaps may be more engaging than the other)  and then my mind starts spiraling with the worries of all of the things that I know I need to accomplish so I better get going and add more to my plate.  I feel as though when life seemed somewhat more simple for me, I was able to stick to one task and do a darn good job at it before moving on to the next one.  Now, life seems much more hectic and I just can’t’ keep up so I find myself trying to multitask to be more productive.  But is it really working? 

Even as I try to write this blog, I am guilty of having thirty-five other tabs open on my computer that span from work-related items to many, many project-based tabs open.  And then there is my phone that is sure to “ding” just when I am starting to feel like I am immersed in the task at hand and that I am finally getting somewhere.  In this instant, I definitely feel like the internet is not helping me to be as productive as I once felt!  Is that the internet’s fault?   Somedays I feel that it is,  and other days, I feel like it is up to me to take the responsibility on this one.  Do I need to have my phone by my side distracting me to no end?  Nope. I don’t think I do!  While writing this blog, my mind continues to drift elsewhere as I am thinking about all of the new information that I found earlier for my group project. The more time I spend thinking about the topic at hand, the more I feel I need to know.  One tab or article leads to another link until my head is utterly spinning.  Oh and now that I am feeling like I have information overload….I then decide it is a good idea to take a break and check out Facebook or perhaps my new found friend, Twitter, which usually ends with me unable to return to my initial task because now my family needs me to tend to my parental duties.  By the time I get back to the job I was working on, I no longer have the focus or energy to even want to finish what I started.  In this case, my productivity is a victim of the way I chose to use the internet. 

Having the internet should actually increase our productivity with so much information at our fingertips.  We no longer have to spend the extra time searching for the answers.   Our good friend Google can tell us almost anything that we need.  Somedays I feel like this is advantageous and other days I worry that our children will lose the ability to search for information and problem solve when they can’t find it in an instant. That being said, I believe the internet has an abundance of tools that can improve our productivity.  During our presentation last week, the group shared many different tools that educators can use to increase both their productivity and that of their students.  G Suite and Office 365 were just two of the resources that were explored.  Collaboration is proven to drive productivity. With both of these tools, students and educators can collaborate in real-time to achieve their goals and timelines.  In the article,How Collaboration Drives Prdocutivity Suite Innovation,”  it states, “Organizations that properly evaluate and leverage modern collaboration tools will see the greatest gains in productivity and efficiency.”   I agree that using these tools can engage our learners and allow them the opportunity to work with others which tends to motivate us all to be more productive.  When utilizing these tools. the classroom can now be available 24/7.  Check out this link that shares the best productivity tools of 2020.

Now that we have learned why multitasking may not be the best practice for us, you may be wondering what can we do to be more productive?  Check out his video…

When we get the choice,  stop juggling and get the work done faster……. one task at a time!  I am sure that most of us cannot become more productive overnight, but if we decide to make some small changes, such as the ones found below,  we will be well on our way to becoming the productivity or efficiency queen or king that we always dreamed of being!

Increase productivity and become highly efficient with these habits:

1.   Focus on most important tasks first

2.   Cultivate deep work

3.   Keep a distraction list to stay focused

4.   Use the Eisenhower Matrix to identify long-term priorities

5.   Use the 80/20 rule

6.   Break tasks into smaller pieces

7.   Take breaks

8.   Make fewer decisions

9.   Eliminate inefficient communication

10.                Find repeatable shortcuts

11.                Learn from successes as well as mistakes

12.                Plan for when things go wrong

13.                Work before you get motivated or inspired

14.                Don’t multitask

15.                Fill the tank — recharge

16.                Sharpen the axe

17.                Manage your energy (not just time)

18.                Get better at saying “no”

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AUDIO-VISUAL TECHNOLOGY IN THE CLASSROOM….IS IT TIME TO CHANGE MY WAYS?

In‌ ‌this‌ ‌week’s‌ ‌blog‌ ‌post,‌ ‌we‌ ‌have‌ ‌been‌ ‌asked‌ ‌to‌ ‌respond‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌following‌ ‌quote‌ ‌by‌ ‌Neil‌ ‌Postman,‌‌ ‌‌“…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.”‌  ‌Directly‌ ‌after‌ ‌our‌ ‌class,‌ ‌as‌ ‌I‌ ‌reflected‌ ‌upon‌ ‌this‌ ‌quote,‌ ‌I‌ ‌felt‌ ‌like‌ ‌this‌ ‌may‌ ‌just‌ ‌be‌ ‌one‌ ‌more‌ ‌thing‌ ‌I‌ ‌missed‌ ‌out‌ ‌on‌ ‌as‌ ‌a‌ ‌child,‌ ‌or‌ ‌is‌ ‌it?‌ ‌I‌ ‌grew‌ ‌up‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌home‌ ‌that‌ ‌only‌ ‌had‌ ‌one‌ ‌old‌ ‌television‌ ‌with‌ ‌no‌ ‌cable.‌ ‌Just‌ ‌two‌ ‌channels‌ ‌if‌ ‌you‌ ‌were‌ ‌lucky‌ ‌enough‌ ‌to‌ ‌maneuver‌ ‌those‌ ‌rabbit‌ ‌ears‌ ‌in‌ ‌just‌ ‌the‌ ‌right‌ ‌spot!‌ ‌I‌ ‌also‌ ‌had‌ ‌2‌ ‌older‌ ‌brothers‌ ‌who‌ ‌consumed‌ ‌much‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌tv‌ ‌time.‌ ‌Therefore,‌ ‌I‌ ‌can‌ ‌honestly‌ ‌say‌ ‌that‌ ‌I‌ ‌have‌ ‌to‌ ‌this‌ ‌day,‌ ‌never‌ ‌watched‌ ‌a‌ ‌full‌ ‌episode‌ ‌of‌ ‌Sesame‌ ‌Street.‌ ‌The‌ ‌tear-jerking‌ ‌clip‌ ‌that‌ ‌we‌ ‌watched‌ ‌in‌ ‌class‌ ‌was‌ ‌perhaps‌ ‌the‌ ‌most‌ ‌I‌ ‌have‌ ‌ever‌ ‌watched‌ ‌at‌ ‌one‌ ‌time.‌ ‌I‌ ‌am‌ ‌familiar‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌usual‌ ‌jingles‌ ‌that‌ ‌I‌ ‌learned‌ ‌from‌ ‌friends‌ ‌or‌ ‌having‌ ‌the‌ ‌tv‌ ‌on‌ ‌as‌ ‌background‌ ‌noise‌ ‌later‌ ‌in‌ ‌life,‌ ‌but‌ ‌that‌ ‌is‌ ‌the‌ ‌extent‌ ‌of‌ ‌my‌ ‌Sesame‌ ‌Street‌ ‌knowledge.‌ ‌Rather‌ ‌than‌ ‌spending‌ ‌my‌ ‌time‌ ‌watching‌ ‌television‌ ‌or‌ ‌playing‌ ‌video‌ ‌games,‌ ‌I‌ ‌often‌ ‌found‌ ‌myself‌ ‌outside‌ ‌with‌ ‌friends‌ ‌and‌ ‌enjoying‌ ‌our‌ ‌face‌ ‌to‌ ‌face‌ ‌time.‌ ‌Relationships‌ ‌are‌ ‌just‌ ‌as‌ ‌important‌ ‌to‌ ‌me‌ ‌today‌ ‌as‌ ‌they‌ ‌were‌ ‌back‌ ‌then.‌ ‌ ‌

Fast forward to today’s world where I find myself trying to navigate parenting two teenagers and working very hard to embrace the future of technology in both my home and in the classroom.  As a parent and educator, I can agree with Postman’s idea of how the school environment has become a place where we constantly have to entertain our students in order to keep them engaged as learners. I have even heard from my own children how boring school is and how all they do is read and write. It kills me to know that neither of my own children are avid readers (in the traditional sense) as they don’t have the attention span to be still and quiet while reading a book. They would much rather read online or watch a youtube video to educate themselves on their latest fascinations. I just can’t help but think about how my children would have ever survived in the days with nothing to constantly entertain themselves, but each other….or even worse, just a boring old teacher standing at the front of the classroom!  Curious to know more about Postman’s literature, I took some time to dig a little deeper into the context of his book. I would have never anticipated that he wrote Amusing Ourselves To Death in 1985.  Had he only known about how technology would look in the classroom today!

Last week’s presentation opened my eyes to how much I have been missing out on when it comes to utilizing technology effectively in the classroom.  When we were asked to share in Flipgrid how we see AV technology used in the classroom, I had flashbacks of the tv and vcr cart rolling into the room back in the day and could only think of the basics (like the whiteboard and smart boards) currently being used in my school. Lisa, Caleigh, Tammy and Tarina proved that, “The importance of audio visual (AV) technology in education should not be underestimated. There are two reasons for this; one, learning via AV creates a stimulating and interactive environment which is more conducive to learning; two, we live in an audio-visual age which means that having the skills to use AV equipment is integral to future employment prospects. Therefore exposure to AV technology in education is imperative.” I found this reading that they shared to be of great value when determining what the role of an educator really looks like today. It is important to engage our learners and introduce them to the many pathways and tools that are available for them to display their learning in a fashion that is meaningful to them. The relationships that are built with the students are the foundation of their learning. It is still up to the educators to facilitate the learning process (in whatever way that may be) in a safe environment where each individual can thrive and learn how to be contributing digital citizens.

In the Important of audio visual technology in education article that was shared last week, it stated, “Children are exposed from a young age to a range of other AV technologies, which previous generations were not. This includes the television, DVDs, iPods, Nintendo Wiis, computer games and the Internet.” If the goal of education is to create future contributing members of society, then we as educators need to continue to update and change our teaching practices. This is easier said than done with all of the additional stressors placed on us, especially during a pandemic and the lack of funding to education.  I believe that now more than ever, it is important for us to connect with our colleagues and allow time for collaboration to enhance our own learning and the learning of our students. 

With this challenge in mind, many of us may need to rethink how we see smartphones and personal devices fitting into our classrooms or schools.  Each school year always seems to begin with this dilemma and the staff discussion of the pros and cons of why we would allow them in the classroom. Personally, I used to be against students having access to them during the day.  I have recently begun to think differently as I continue to learn more about how technology can be used to enhance the learning experience of students and what the future holds for them. With the lack of technology provided to many of our schools, it seems that for some, bringing their own devices is the only option.  In some environments, this may require much more teacher supervision, yet for others, it may not be as necessary. I don’t think there is a one size fits all option when it comes to using personal devices in the classroom.  When used in a responsible fashion, I feel these personal devices can be a true asset to their learning.

As I begin to change my philosophies of learning and the use of technology in the classroom, I am grateful for the great presentation on Tuesday. Many great ideas were shared that will allow me to get started. Audiovisual technology will now be used to compliment my teaching and engage my learners in ways that I have never imagined possible. I can’t wait for the class presentations to come. I am sure there will be many more tools for me to add to my toolbox!

Before Adopting Classroom Technology, Figure Out Your Goals GIF by Webby  Giants | Gfycat
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The Wonderful World of Extensions!

Let me begin by saying that last Tuesday’s class was a game changer for me!  I must thank Alec for taking us on a trip down memory lane with the many educational games from our past and allowing us the time for some exploration. I was even pretty darn proud of myself when I was able to code and actually create something!  So many firsts for me, including all of the excitement with extensions……

Prior to Tuesday, I had never taken the time to investigate the world of extensions and how they can help me as an educator.  As I am no longer in a classroom and work mostly in small group instruction, I haven’t felt the need or urge to further educate myself in this area. I am beginning to realize that I couldn’t have been more incorrect with my thinking.  Each class I seem to be learning more of what I have been missing out on!  Not only because I could be using these extensions as an educator, but as a learner myself and also as a mom.  

Grammarly is one of the few extensions that I had previously given thought to.  Why hadn’t I used it yet?  I don’t know? I suppose my busy life has left me wondering why I don’t know much about anything that we are learning.  I am grateful for this opportunity to switch things up and finally understand what I have been missing and to start using it both in my professional and personal life.  

The Mote extension was one that captured my attention right away.  I can see how it would be a great way to add feedback to not only student assignments but also to work documents used by my staff. Since the pandemic started, we as administrators decided to utilize Google Classroom so we too could model for our staff and help them to understand that we are learning in this new world alongside them.  Should I have known about this extension earlier, I would have definitely tried out the voice note option on the Google sheets and documents to convey messages to the staff in an easier and more efficient way.  Then I looked at this through a learning resource teacher lens.  How amazing would it have been for our students to hear our voices and be able to feel more connected with us?   This could be a great tool for our diverse learners.  How about our EAL learners and their grown-ups who were trying their best to navigate online learning in a new country?  There are many languages that your comments can be translated into.  My wonder is if the translations would be accurate and allow the learners to understand fully what was said? I have heard some entertaining stories about Google Translate bloopers!

On a personal level, I am most ecstatic about the Distraction-Free Youtube extension.  I have always been apprehensive about using Youtube at school because you just never know what will pop up. 

After I tried this out, I can quickly see how this will allow me to be more focused and allow for better use of my time.  There is so much less distraction and clutter.  And now I don’t have to be scared when showing videos to my staff and students!  Speaking of clutter…. How amazing is the Mercury Reader?  No more ads to steal my attention, just a clean and concise article to read. Next best thing since an actual newspaper in your hands!  

I could go on and on with my excitement of these “new to me” extensions. Especially thankful for my classmate, Megan, who even shared extensions to save money while shopping! Or Shelby’s idea of using Google Read and Write to give feedback while looking through projects or assignments.  I love the idea of not having to stop to write it down.  Until now, I have only ever had students use the Read and Write option.  I am eager to keep reading more of my colleague’s great blogs and to be able to add to my bag of tricks!

So Many Learning Theories….

Source: http://gph.is/28WREYf

As I took time this week to ponder what my own teaching philosophies look like now versus over the course of my teaching career, I found myself a little overwhelmed with the terminology, especially ALL of the options on the Learning Map shared in class.  As overwhelmed as I was, I felt the need to know more and dig deeper.  After spending time on the suggested readings and doing some of my own research, I realized that for me, my classroom practices may have changed, but my belief system has held steady.

I believe that no matter who those students are that sit in front of you at the start of each year, or wherever it is that they have come from, the first and most valuable lesson is that of relationships.  Before I can begin to plan for these children, I need to take the time to build and strengthen the relationships that I share with them.  Until I know more about each of them personally and just how it is that they learn best, I cannot begin to plan accordingly. We can go through the motions and I can teach how I feel is the best way,  but is it really meaningful to the students?

I remember after my first year of teaching thinking that I was the best teacher ever!  My students were all very academically inclined and they showed such growth that year.  I had a small, studious group who thrived on a more experiential learning process.  Together we grew in ways I could never imagine.   And then there was year two……..My class was overflowing and I had 18 IIP’s and an abundance of behaviours to deal with.  Did my teaching practices change that year? You bet they did!  I was still new to the profession and had an abundance of great ideas. However, in order to survive without the knowledge that I have now gained through my many years of experience, I may have used some theories that wouldn’t have been my first choice.   In the article, Skinner’s Teaching Machine by Abhishek Solanki, it is stated that “one of the biggest challenges in the field of education is to provide individualized and tailor-made programs for each individual on a massive scale.” Without the knowledge and experience I have today, including strong classroom management skills, I found this to be incredibly true.  It was certainly a challenge to try to plan to ensure each child learned in a way that was meaningful to them while maintaining a safe learning environment for all. 

Fast forward 20 years and I can see that a lot has changed for me.  I haven’t had my own classroom for 12 years, but when I do have the opportunity to co-teach with many of my colleagues, I find that most of the lessons are embedded with the Constructivist Theory discussed in class. 

This image reminds me of myself using WordPress!

The key is ensuring the information is relevant to the students and allow for collaboration to build on their prior knowledge.  Once we have those relationships formed with our students and we know what is relevant to them, the opportunities are endless!  Well, as endless as the time we as educators have to plan 😊 This is where I see a shift in my practices.  Learning more about the Connectivism approach, I can see how this theory could engage so many of today’s learners. In the article Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age by George Siemens, it is stated that “Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge. ‘I store my knowledge in my friends’ is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people.”  Allocating time and encouraging our educators to connect with their colleagues is key!  Communities of practice are a great opportunity for both students and teachers alike.  I look forward to more networking and gaining a better understanding of how connectivism can best be shared with my staff and students. I hope you find this last visual as informative as I did. I have really enjoyed the articles and information shared by many of you on Twitter. Who knew I would have learned so much on my new Twitter adventure!

https://wegrowteachers.com/5-ways-school-can-21st-century-school/

My Thoughts on Educational Technology…The Past vs The Present

Well, here it is… My first blog post ever! After reading many of this week’s articles, I can’t help but think of how different my understanding of what educational technology is today in the urban setting than it was when I attended school in a rural community.  Today I feel that educational technology can be defined as how technology is used by our students and their educators to enhance their educational experience both in the classroom and at home.   There are so many ways to engage students in the classroom in this digital era.  My own children are prime examples of how technology in the classroom has given them the foundations of success in this techy world. 

This leads me to why I feel less adequate in this area than many of my colleagues and even my own children. I grew up in a time where in my small town, we were blessed with one computer lab in our school and the main focus was information processing (aka…learning how to type). Definitely a needed skill that I am grateful for, but unfortunately it was not one that transferred into any other part of my education at that time as I didn’t come from a privileged home who could afford a computer or that great dial up internet!  In fact my next formal education in technology did not come until university.  I remember feeling just as much of a fish out of water then as I do now. 

The discussion from our last class continues to resonate with me. The references to how we were educated as children and the lack of creativity that was used in the classroom in the past.  Our discussion touched on how essay writing and note taking was a main form of learning in the classroom. For me, writing was my strength and where my creativity bloomed, but that was the extent of it.  The learning that I participated in was so rote and safe that I had no idea what to do when I needed to think out of the box and create in ways that weren’t “normal” for me.  To this day, I still feel instant anxiety when I am asked to use technology in a way other than what I am used to.

Fast forward to my observations as a mom and an educator. I feel blessed that my children have been able to take part in the connected ed classroom.  Their learning and education truly has been enhanced by both the luxury of having a device at their fingertips in the classroom and having the privilege of having all sorts of technological devices and programs in our home.  Their educators have taught them so many more ways to be creative online than I ever could have imagined.  It almost seems effortless for them. This brings me great joy for my own children, but makes my heart ache for those who have less of an opportunity to learn the basics of digital citizenship let alone be able to unleash their creative side in the digital world.

I have spent the bulk of my career working in an urban community school, where the capacity to provide technology to the students was limited.  The equity in our schools is just not there yet! Now that I am able to see the technological education that my children receive versus what students receive elsewhere, I feel incredibly unsettled, but motivated to work towards finding equitable technology opportunities in our city. I too had no access to technology at home as a child and I see how that has formed what kind of learner I was. Audrey Watters referenced this tragedy in her article, “The 100 Worst Ed Debacles of the Decade,” (2019) but this has not just become a problem in the last decade.  In fact, as I think more deeply about this issue, I see that it has hindered me as an educator as well.  With little to no technology available to use regularly, I spent my time developing other areas professionally and never felt the need to grow in the area of educational technology. Of course, that is until the pandemic hit our classrooms!