Making the Impossible, Possible, with Assistive Technology

Torn small paper saying Possible
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Last class, Megan, Jenny, Leigh, and Kalyn did a fabulous job on presenting about Assistive Technololgy. Who knew there were so many tools to use to help us achieve a goal? And, as they showed, these tools have changed the lives of so many. It was extremely powerful to watch and made me wonder, am I doing my best in ensuring my students have what they need to accomplish the tasks set out before them? Is there an easier way for me to be reaching goals? What is actually even considered AT?

As Judy Heumann states, “For most of us technology makes things easier. For a person with a disability it makes things possible.”

Assistive Technology is any device, software, or equipment that helps people work around their challenges.

I actually had a hard time thinking about what I use for assistive technology in my own home. As I reflected this week on assistive technology, I became more aware of things I use that help me or could help me achieve any day to day goal. Right now our school is overflowing so we have no space for our preps so we have to go to the staff room. Next time I have a prep, I am definitely grabbing a pair of noise cancelling headphones so I can concentrate without outside noise of staff coming and going. Plus, people will realize I need to tend to the task at hand. As well, I have really been focusing on the gym right now and I actually just purchased a pair of lifting straps which enable me to lift much heavier weights when performing actions such as deadlifts. They support my wrists so that I am able to add more weight to my sets. I also use a training belt to support my core so on heavier leg or back exercises. Both of these AT devices help me increase my strengths in my sets. So assistive technology is seen everywhere.

Some of the Assistive Technolology devices I have experienced in my classrooms range from low-cost all the way to high cost. I have used Visual Cues, Wiggle Cushions, Hoki Stools, Pencil Grips, FM systems, noise cancelling headphones, all sorts of sensory tools ranging from weighted vests and blankets, fidget toys, thinking putty and chewable charms. I also have had students use board approved Ipads and computers.  With one student who was not yet approved, I allowed him to use my own phone to complete certain tasks such as writing out his Spelling list to his mom via text message or taking a picture of the agenda board instead of writing it as he struggled with writing tasks.  I even once had Snapchat approved so I could accomplish the goal of getting a student to come in for recess.  Her EA would Snapchat me a picture of them outside and add one filter. When they came in the classroom, she was allowed to come to me and see the picture they sent. It was very successful as she liked technology and otherwise it was a struggle to get her in for recess (not too sure they falls under AT or bribery, but it was a strategy that worked for all of us).

The positives I have seen with AT in the classroom is a task being able to be achieved without the struggle that may normally accompany it, due to the use of the AT, and the pride the child feels after being able to achieve that goal or task. Another positive is seeing some worry allieviated from parents when they start seeing their child succeed. The challenge is that usually an expert just recommends using some AT without letting the showing the student, teacher or parent explicitly how/when/why it should be used, especially if it is a high end tool.  It usually is a “here, use this” case scenario, so the AT isn’t utilized how it should be used and no one benefits in the end.

In watching the video about the structure of UDL Guidelines Structure, the part that resonated with me was the concept of outside-inside. What students use externally to help them process information internally will vary from student to student. The goal is to be able to process that information in a way that makes sense to them.

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The aim of the UDL framework is to create inclusive and accessible learning experiences for all students. Assistive technology can be considered a tool in order to provide these experiences. We need to make sure that everyone can perceive the world they are learning in and be skillful in things like communication (both written and spoken), so we need to give them the skills they need to get there successfully.

Some of the real positive highlights of assistive technology always included an expert who worked with either the child(ren) and/or myself until we became successful in the AT tool. One particular instance was when I was at a school where we used our data to move kids up levels in both Reading and Writing. After testing students, we were able to see their levels.  Students were tiered into groups of green, yellow or red according to the results. Red meaning well below grade level. Yellow meaning just below grade level and green meaning at grade level. From there, the LRT would group students. She would take a very small group (typically around 4) for an extended period of time (if I recall it was an hour and a half a day for six to eight full weeks) from the yellow group so they could move up to green and so on. After the time frame, they were tested again to see the improvement. The LRT followed a very scripted regime. One of the things she went over with them explicitly was Google Read and Write. When these students came back they were the experts on Google Read and Write. After that, the students were so proud of what they could do and this was their time to shine. They always felt so much pride in their work and what they could accomplish there. And to top it off, they had a skill that the other students didn’t. I would always ask them to do a Show What You Know to the other students, teaching them the other students Google Read and Write. Then all students had the option of using Google Read and Write. I know that these students would not nearly have been as successful if they didn’t have an expert beside them, teaching them explicitly for an extended period of time. They became masters of it and so it was easy for them. It was so easy they also transfered it to home so that their parents could see and they could utilize it at home. This would not have happened if someone just told me that they should use Google Read and Write. That is the downfall or challenge of Assistive Technology. Teachers don’t have the skills, knowledge or time to be able to build these AT skills successfully into the classroom as they should be.  It seems like with most things in education, we need more money and PD. More funding needs to be put into educating students and teachers thoroughly in AT so it is used in a way that will most impact the life of the child. I liked the idea mentioned in the video that there needs to be an Assistive Technology Professional hired to specifically work with students and their teachers so that the tools are being utilized to their maximum potential.

Another example, was when I got an ESL student from South Africa and I had the EAL consultant come in to observe and give me ideas for her for writing. She was so helpful. The student was able to use speechtexter in her native language and then use Google Translate to translate it. If she knew some of the English words, she was encouraged to put them in. The consultant also told me where to place her in class physically, what native tongue she may be thinking in (which means I need to give her brain time to process) and just different managerial techniques to use both at school and for parents at home. She made me think a lot more critically when it comes to ALL students.

Lots of times, I think back to the times where I got to see a child succeed in something he/she may have given up on, or become Masters of a new skill no one else knows; or I reflect on the Snapchat girl racing in from recess, with her red cheeks, to see the picture she sent me and those feelings of pride warm my heart. All a student may need is one small device to make their world change for the better, and isn’t that what this is all about?

Quarantine and Quizizz

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Well, here we go! This week my school is closed for the week due to a couple of staff members testing positive for COVID. I am afraid it is just the beginning but I feel way more calm, cool and collective this time around. I have learned so much and continue to learn so much through this class. I have asked 3 boys to be my tech advisors if anyone has any issues. I have a real eager bunch of kiddos this year so they CANNOT wait to help out!

In this blog I am going to discuss my use of Quizizz in the classroom . I chose quizizz because of the gamey features and I have quite a few gamers in my class. I also chose it because it seemed like an easy way to check in with my students. I also liked the fact that you could choose to do it live or just assign it in google classroom and have students work on it independtly. To be honest, because I teach a split, that was one of the winning features for me- being able to assign a quiz to grade 6’s while working with grade 7’s and vice versa. And now that this week will be distance learning, it will work well if students can work on it at their own time as a lot of them are sharing devices with siblings.

Initially, I used it as a formative assessment in the classroom as a checkpoint for Science to check their understanding of Scavengers, Decomposers, Consumers and Producers. My students, who are very competetive loved it! They loved the competetive nature of it, and especially, the Powerups, although I had one boy said the only downfall was that the Powerup screen took too long! And, an added bonus that I didn’t even realize, was that because it was synced automatically into my Google Classroom, their grades also automatically synced as well.

My students, being very competive loved this feature. One other thing they really liked was that they could look for their own games to play on Quizizz without me so this is something I am using this week- for them to find a game they think another student might like. Some downfalls would be students who are at a lower reading level may not be able to read or understand the vocabulary and I didn’t find it very suitable for my ESL student as we needed to sit and discuss the terminology. This was a big downfall as I had to sit with my ESL student to explain things to him.

Another subject I am using Quizizz for, both live-learning and distance-learning, is Math. I teach Math to each grade seperately, so I while I am teaching one grade live, I can have the other class do a quick check in on the unit we are working on. For example, I am working on multiplying decimals with grade 7 and we usually work together with whiteboards until I know they have a good handle on it and then they have an assignment they work through while I switch to grade 6’s who are working on Integers. But while I am working with grade 7’s the grade 6’s have a Quizizz checkpoint which tells me how they are doing, if I need to reteach anything etc. There are tons of already created lessons and it honestly does not take long to create your own. I also used it as a quick comprehension tool on a read aloud we were reading in class.

I would consider this a great tool for formative assessment as it is a quick way to check student comprehension on any particular concept. I don’t believe it would be a great summative tool as it may not give you all the information you need, it may not be a suitable tool for some learners, and I don’t think it is very suitable for ESL students.

One way I was thinking it could be a great summative tool though would be if students could access the creating and hosting feature within it and create their own lesson for the rest of the class as a culminating activity to show what they learned on the subject. I feel that would be an amazing way for students to process their learning. But this feature is very similar to many other tools in GoogleSuite or other tools we have seen.

I am also using Goformative in the same manner as Quizizz. The students like this as well, although they say they prefer Quizizz over Goformative, but I believe it is because of the gamey nature of quizziz.

I am trying to keep to the “keep it simple” rule of thumb through this week (and who knows how much longer), so I plan to use Quizizz a lot. I am also wondering other ways we can use it such as watch a video and have a simple Quizizz lesson after the video or… listen to a podcast and create a simple exit slip. So as my mind is wandering to this, it is hard to stay focused on my blog so I am going to sign out, get a cup of coffee, take a well-earned break before my next task.

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Have a great week! If you have any other great ideas for Quizizz or Goformative feel free to share!

Lisa


Ps I had to share. I assigned a couple of my kids to be the tech advisors for our class. They originally started a discord group to write a team story. That turned into the grade 6 study group. Now it is a whole class study group. They have a notes-resources link which links them to things like a thesaurus. They have roles such as a @helper who you can ask for help on assignments, a @serverhelper which helps you with questions about the server, a @reviewer who checks to see if you’re done your homework and if you are, that person hands out a @funpass role which lets you access funbots.

Newton’s Third Law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction

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After watching The Social Dilemma on Netflix, I was one of the people that ended up deleting Facebook. (I deleted the app from my phone instead of my whole account because I have too many pictures on FB). Originially, when I got Facebook, it was sort of just to see what the hype was about. It definitely had a lot of positives and as stated in the movie, no one ever intended these grave consequences that came with it. It was created with good intentions. For me, I enjoyed getting to catch up with old friends from high school and university. It was a way to catch a glimpse into their lives, to watch their kids and families grow, to see how their holidays were spent, to see where they went on vacations, etc. Lots of my friends on facebook I still have not seen since high school but we connected and caught glimpses of eachother on this platform. This was something that was never possible before, and to me, I quite enjoyed and appreciated it. It was a small way of celebrating their successes, or heartbreaks such as learning about a few friends’ passing or their parents’ passing. It was a way to connect that was never possible before. There were many positives- an easy way to organize high school reunions, free way to talk to someone around the world, a way to find lost loved ones and a way to celebrate those we lost. Every year on the death of my brother, it is enlightening for me to still see his friends light up his memory with a cheers in his honour, reminiscing of good times gone past. Today is the anniversary of his death. It was 19 years ago and I know that a few of his best friends will be raising a glass celebrating him. This is just some of the good it created. For others, they may have found organ donors, raised money for a worthy cause much easier, found a birth parent etc.

Other positives that came about were being able to shop for anything from anywhere in the world via your phone, search for anything your heart may desire, find information through Google for anything you could think of. A person literally would not have to leave their home.

But… as stated above, “Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.”

As Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion states, “With every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” so it was with the world of Social Media. With everything good that came from Social Media, there were also just as many bad. None that were truly intentional, but never the less they now exist and we are dealing with them. People being addicted to their phones like never before, increased mental health problems, fake news which manipulates narratives, cyber bullying, a staggering increase in death rates, suicide rates and hospitalization rates, especially in pre-teen girls. The information age has essentially become the disinformation age and has eroded the fabric of our society. “Humans have become the product. It essentially is the marketplace that trades in human futures.”

I will explain two personal reasons why I had to delete Facebook from my phone.

I always knew the algorithms existed but really paid no attention to them. This summer, though, I had something that really bothered me that I couldn’t shake. I did know that everything I ever discussed would end up popping up on my feed but I sort of just shook it off until an incident that happened this summer. My son and daughter were visiting at my home. They happened to be discussing that my son needed a bed. He had been shopping around. My daughter once mentioned a store that I had never heard of. I wasn’t even in on the conversation. I was just present during the conversation. But it seemed every time I was on Facebook after that that one particular store had an advertisement pop up. This to me felt creepy. I was NOT a part of the conversation nor had been searching for beds on my phone. This time, I was only privy to the conversation. I merely was listening to my son and daughter outside having their own conversation and directly after that, this ad continually popped up. To me, that seemed like it was a huge invasion of privacy. It seemed to go beyond my phone. Almost like it was real and reaching out into my living room. Like a real life horror show (maybe that’s the Halloween theme right now). Anyways, it made me a very uneasy and I never let go of that feeling, so when this show came out that eery feeling came back and triggered me to respond back in the only way I could- delete the source.

As well, this summer I was fortunate enough to take a Teacher Activism class which opened my eyes to so many things. Although all of the classes were profound in content, there was one that dealed with sexism that resonated greatly with me. In class we watched The Codes of Gender which was astounding. It explained how society creates and maintains the 2 sex 2 gender categories of male and female. Females are portrayed as weak, delicate, breathless, vulnerable and passive, while men are portrayed as strong, in control of their environment, utilitarion. This is all done with images. Women are often shown touching themselves, anywhere, especially on the neck which demonstrates vulnerability and weakness.

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They are usually in some awkward position that makes them unbalanced, such as with only one leg holding them up so it looks like they are weak and need someone to hold them up. They are often times, shown looking away from the camera in a dreamy, breathless state which demonstrates fuzziness, or in a dream like state, showing that they need someone to tell them what to do. Men, in contrast are shown standing tall and dominant.

Women’s hands are often used in advertising too. But the hands are shown as only outlining the object or lightly tracing it, which is a sign of weakness.

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While in contrast a man’s hand is shown manipulating the object, in control, with great power and strength.

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This tactics and signals have always been around, but until lately, there has never been Social Media where teens and pre-teens can spend endless amounts of time scrolling through their feed.

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They are seeing these images over and over and over, believing that this is the norm. Then, when watching The Social Dilemma, and learning that the death rates, suicide rate and hospitalizion rates in pre-teen girls are over 150% since Social Media was truly alarming.

Never before in history have we had such easy access to this much information. Now we are seeing some of the effects this is having on society. Huge, profound affects and we need to reign it in NOW.

To further add to amazement, disgust and decision to delete FB was a conversation I had with co-workers at the start of the year. I happened to be explaining the Codes of Gender with colleauges and when I explained how women are portrayed in Social Media with a younger colleague, she informed me that when she was in high school, if they didn’t get 100 likes on an Instagram post, they would take the post down. This floored me and disgusted me. I did not realize these kids let this rule their life. It is like a self-esteem maker or breaker.

To add to this, my niece 13 year old neice was showed me Tik Tok videos and it blew my mind to see the sexuality in the dances these young people are posting and how they are portraying their own bodies because of what they see on Social Media as the norm. No wonder we are living in a world of Snapchat Dysmporphia, where plastic surgeons are getting requests for people to look like they do on their filters. Young people are so impressionable that they believe looking like this is the norm. To me, this is abhorent and ridiculous. I needed to take a stand on it for myself, in my own way by deleting Facebook. Young girls are dealing with so many emotions and stressors as it is, let along to have this giant monster of Social Media rule how they should look.

I did tell my class about somewhat about the Codes of Gender to an extent and had both pose for a typical “female” looking picture. Both boys and girls stood on one leg with the other kicked out and with their hand on their hip in a triangle to demonstrate. They had a big laugh as they did notice then how ridiculous they looked because boys don’t typically stand that way and then they questioned, “why do girls?”

Boys also need to know that they don’t always have to be strong or in control. It is ok to cry, be vulnerable and show your feelings. In fact, it is healthy to do so.

I feel it is time that there is some responsibility or onus put on Social Media platforms and society in general to reverse this cycle so our society as we know it is not in ruins. I know a good start is with Digital Citizenship. But we also need society to back track and take responsibility on some of the negatives this has produced in our society. I am grateful for the Social Dilemma for shedding some light on the subject and making people more aware of the effects of Social Media on our society as a whole.

As an after thought, people have wondered if I miss Facebook, and although at the start I did but I don’t really think about it.

Thanks for reading!

Best Practices in Distance Learning

This week was a great reflection of what is very prominent in the world today. As I reflected back to March when Covid hit and we were forced into a new world of Emergency Remote Teaching, there was a huge learning curve for most teachers. As the presenters pointed out on Tuesday night, there is a huge difference between Emergency Remote Teaching and Distance Education. Emergency Remote teaching is temporary and lacks the resources and support that a typical face-to-face education program provides. Distance Education involves more planning, design and purpose. It is well- supported, purposeful. And by the looks at some of the teachers in eschool, extremely engaging.

One of the biggest take aways for me was that you don’t have to be fancy, you just need to be personal. The students just want to see you. Relationships for me are the foundation of learning so that was really important to hear. Sometimes it is overwhelming to see teachers create such amazing videos for their classes and so you try to compete and it is very time-consuming, overwhelming and in the end the real lesson and purpose may be lost trying to compete.

I came across a great little article about the best practices during online learning.

1. Explicitly teach expectations and engagement

We do this in our daily face to face teaching practice so it makes sense that it would easily transfer to a Distance Education model. This is something I actually never considered until now because I was always just focused on the tools for instruction. So this was a lightbulb moment for me. Teaching explicitly is time consuming at the start to develop routines, structure and to ensure students know exactly what is expected but once developed it’s like a classroom routine or expectation which becomes second nature.

2. Allow for asynchronous learning.

As our presenters pointed out, there are many reasons for students not to be able to access a device or the internet all the time for synchronous learning so we need to ensure they can learn at times that are convenient both for them and their families. Students may have to share one device among siblings so they may not be able to access the device at a specific time. I came across this quite a bit in the Spring and parents explained to me that their high school kids usually took presedence because they needed grades and to know subject specific things for university.

3. Assign note-takers.

I never thought of this one either. But teaching in a grade 6/7 class my students would be all over this. It would give them responibility and purpose. As a side note, this year I have such a keen group of kids. They have started their own study group. They meet on discord about assignments and projects. It is pretty amazing. I have never seen anything like it. So this group would definitely eat this up.

4. Make materials accessible. 

We ensure students have all the tools they need to be successful in class so we need to ensure the same in a distance learning environment. There are many easy online applications for us to do this now so it will just be a matter of getting students used to accessing them correctly. In an organized classroom, your materials are all available to you and the students live. If they are not, chaos usually breaks out which is the same via distance learning. Be organized and teach your students how to be organized. Model the behaviour you would like to see in them.

5. Embrace your students as teachers.

Students have so much to teach us and eachother. It is both beneficial and rewarding to use their expertise in class, whether it be face-to-face or online. This past week I just had a student show me and the rest of the class how to get free music from Youtube to use in a video presentation and he was explaining the importance of giving the source credit. Students listen to eachother. They become risk takers, collaborators and embrace their own learning.

6. Actively build a supportive community.

As in a face-to face classroom, that sense of belonging and community is one of the most important aspects of education. We never know what students are going through at home so making sure they have a feeling of belonging somewhere is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing we can provide them. I have always said that if a student feels welcomed and they want to be at school, in whatever model I am teaching, everything else will fall into place as it should.

It was really beneficial to hear all the advice and tips from this weeks presentation and resources. Some tools I use in my classroom to support best practices in Distance Learning are:

Google Classroom- This is where I post all my assignments, materials, meet with students. This is the hub of learning.

Some video tools I use are Adobe Spark as a creation tool for students to use for small projects to demonstrate some of their learning.

I also love Flipgrid so students can explain their learning in a quick video format. It’s quick easy but effective.

And I am just trying out Wevideo right now. The kids seem to be enjoying this. I am hoping to learn more about it to get more comfortable with it.

BookCreator is another great creation tool that I have used. Students are able to create their own online library books. They can import media, video, change text, record their voices. It is amazing!

Hope you have a great week! Thanks for reading!

Single Tasking is a Powerful Tool plus Nancy is a Ninja!

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Single-tasking is the new multi-tasking…I am so glad we are recognizing this. I could relate so much to this video… I hate reading blogs with a lot of links because I totally forget why I started reading in the first place. I am so glad this is a thing and not just my age. I much prefer a book or an article because then I only have one thing to focus on and don’t get lost in the array of links. So many of us can relate to multi-tasking not only at work but at home with such busy schedules. Like Catherine stated in her blog, We can all relate to trying to watch TV and scrolling on our phones and we have no idea what we are even watching.

I really feel bad for kids these days because parents are so busy multi-tasking few have time to be really present. It is a sad world when we have to learn how to be present for our children. But I am very grateful people are starting to take note and take back their time.

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I was also really grateful to Nancy for her excellent advice on her blog this week (I didn’t realize she is a Productivity Ninja and is a workshop trainer for a company called Think Productive based on the book How to be a Productivity Ninja— so talented!). If you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend it! My big take aways from this great blog were:

  1. Multitasking is inefficient. It is much better to solo task. She gives a great analysis that puts this into perspective. In her workshops, partners are asked to perform a thumbwar and rock paper scissors at the same time. Of course who can do that? So if we can’t do that, how do we expect to be productive doing so many things at once at work, or at home. I really thought that was powerful. When I solo task I feel like I accomplish so much more because I am thoroughly focused and engaged in one activity– I am present. This is exactly what we teach people when we teach them to be mindful. The definition of mindful is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. We learn to focus one our awareness on one thing using our senses and it is so powerful. We cannot truly be aware of something if we aren’t giving it our full attention. I am grateful people are becoming aware of this and taking the time to be present, mindful and focused.
  1. Be Weapon Savvy– there are so many tools out there and it takes time and energy to learn them all. Plus, if you are like me, you become overwhelmed with all of the features etc. I need to keep it simple. Her advice is to keep it in one place. She uses Evernote. I may have to check this out as I am not Weapon Savvy yet. I still keep things in multiple places. My main storage places are on an actual wall calendar because I need the visual tool and I still physically like to write. But I also have a lot of folders just on my phone because I always have my phone with me. I have a lot of different folders just in my notes on my phone which I refer to daily– I actually even journal on my Notes in my phone so I have different categories on it in there. At work, everything is in my day planner/calendar. I like to still physically write things out.
  2. Protect Mental Health— out of all the messages this is the most important one to me. Without your health, mental, physical and spiritual you actually have nothing. I think this is one area in my life I have learned to master. I am dedicated to this part of my life. I am at the gym daily, I meditate, drink 16 oz of celery juice every morning, take many supplements, meditate daily. Lately, I have found that I really need to “unplug”from everything in the world. Between Covid-19 and all the political craziness we are bombarded with, I have had to take a step back from social media and find a new goal to focus on. So this week I created a new fitness goal at the gym and hired a trainer to help me. This will be a big focus for me which I need to get through during this time. It gives me something to look forward to and is sustained focus. It was a great decision for me as I can easily turn away from all the negativity in the outside world and just work on my reps and sets. It will be my own physical, mental and spiritual productivity suite.

4. Pomodoro– Nancy suggested using pomodoro techniques which means to set a timer and focus on one specific task for an extended period of time. This works for me. I set a timer to meditate. I set time aside to journal and I set time aside to train. I also have found to train I need to be phyically in a gym because that time and space is set aside specifically for that reason which gives me a focus. I can get in, get it done, get out and get on with the rest of my day. I also find for me I need to what I call “chunk” my day which was a strategy I learned from my journey with meditation. Really all it is, is organizing your day into chunks in which you know what you are doing and expected to accomplish. This allows me to focus on the task at hand. In a classroom, it is just like a visual schedule so your students know what is next and how long they focus on that subject for. That way you give that extended amount of time on that specific task.

I am grateful for the review of all the productivity suites from this weeks group. I did some fooling around with flippity and created a quiz show for my students this week. There is a lot of really great templates on there.

As for Google Suite and Microsoft Office, I think it is your own personal preference. After watching this video, I really would like to try more of Microsoft Office. When it comes to Power Point, I liked the annotation tools and the assistive tech pieces built into it compared to Google Slides. Office 365 seems more user friendly, smooth and easy to work with compared to Google Slides. I also seemed to like the whiteboard features on Microsoft. I liked that the whiteboard was infinite and it had some great collaborative features. You could also add images, text, sticky notes etc. Google Jamboard was similar except you only have slides, the board isn’t infinite. I use jamboard quite often and it is pretty slick. I would really love to try Microsoft Whiteboard. Again, all of it is just based on personal preference. Simplicity and ease is key for me.

Take Care,

Lisa

AV Technology, help or hindrance?

 

This week we are to reflect upon the following statement by Postman, “…We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school ony if school is like “Sesame Street.” Which is to say, we now know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.”

I grew up in the age of Sesame Street,and to be honest, given the chance to watch it or actually go to school and be with my friends, to read, to play, to participate in real life… Hands down I would have taken going to school any day. I was a third child so never watched much TV and to this day I would still take doing something social as opposed to something in front of a screen. Real life experience, human contact, laughter, connection is something you cannot get from any sort of technology, Sesame Street included. I believe Sesame Street was a program that could aid a teacher in their lesson or give a parent a quick break without feeling guilty but in the end I feel my teachers and parents had way more of an impact on my learning and my life than Big Bird. Like any sort of AV, it was a tool to help with instruction, not to take the place of instruction. I honestly don’t remember some of those big moments like the death of Mr. Hooper because I never was invested in it. What mattered to me were the people and experiences around me.

However, I do understand what Postman was getting at by stating this. Sesame Street, and other educational programs entertained kids while teaching them at the same time. They had all the bells and whistles a kid could ask for- singing, dancing, puppets, famous people etc. Things that a normal classroom could not possibly have on a day to day basis. Therfore, children (and parents) always want school to be “fun”. Let’s face it, we don’t have the tools or the funding to be that entertaining in our classrooms every day. And… to be honest, if we had 6 hours every day of that high energy entertainment, it would be exhausting and tiresome, for both the student and the parent. Postman believed that if students were raised on television they would expect this type of entertainment in school. And let’s face it, this cannot be done. So if you think your class is boring, that is totally ok. I think it is ok for students (and adults) to feel bored. To unplug and have no entertainment. We are so used to being entertained all day every day that we need to learn to sit in boredom and be with ourselves in our own thoughts. This is beneficial.

As well, I do remember being at my grandma’s house and my grandparents put Sesame Street on for all of us kids (they likely needed a rest from us) and my cousins would be “glued” to the TV like zombies. They knew all the songs, including the French, by heart. That always amazed me because I didn’t have the patience to watch TV so I remember trying to figure out why they liked it so much. I would have rather been at the park or working on the plays we used to put on or building haunted houses in their basement. I didn’t like when they were “glued” to the tv because it took away from the interaction that I liked so much, which is also what I understand Postman was feeling. The students were just recievers of information instead of active creators, imaginators and in charge of their own learning and feelings.

I am grateful for all the audio visual technology we have in education this day and age. I am always excited to show my kids something new and to see where they go with it. I don’t know what I would do with out some of the visual, audio and AV equipment we have but it is to enhance my students’ learning, not to entertain them. I alsodon’t think they expect me to entertain them daily with technology… to be honest, I think they are just as happy to hear my oral stories of things I experienced growing up in the good ol’ days. They do however, expect me to provide a safe, caring, risk-taking environment in which they have some say and some active participation in their own learning.

Over this past month, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the kids say they are so happy to be back at school, and it is not because it is because they are entertained, it’s because we are together.

I am going to get quite personal in this blog because the episode about the death of Mr. Hooper hit home for me. On Tuesday, I have a student coming back to my room who lost his father in 2019 and this September just lost his mother. Apparently, he has not spoken a word since his mother died. I am worried. But in the end I think just being with his friends at school will be the best thing for him. It won’t be an episode on Sesame Street that gets him through. It will be playing Covid tag, hanging with his friends and doing normal things. It will be being with others in natural ways that help him.

It was really cool learning about all the different types of Audio, Visual and AV technology and how it advanced over the ages, escpecially reminiscing over the technology I used in my own career. I loved the visual of how technology advanced from the 80s until now. I continue to be amazed at all the new apps and technology that AV has provided to help our kids be collaborate and be creative. Tools like BookCreator, Nearpod, Googleexpedition can enhance learning to a whole new level. As I am a social person, I loved collaborating with Tammy, Caleigh and Tarina the most. I learn best when I get to work with people. It’s engaging and invigorating. And they all brought a wealth of knowledge. This is the best part of learning and ultimately the best part of living.

In today’s age, we are preparing our students for a different world than we ever lived in. A world where techology changes rapidly. I feel students need to know so much more than ever before so by being able to access tools such as Kahn Academy and YouTube as a supplement is beneficial. I don’t feel it will never replace a teacher. Like the book, Why do I Need a Teacher When I Have Google by Ian Gilbert states,

“as teachers, our role in twenty-first century learning is to be able to filter good knowledge from bad, apply it, synthesize it, be creative with it, add to it,  know which bits to use and how to remember key parts. Add to that our role in helping students develop communication skills, creativity, curiosity, ability to collaborate and network, build confidence, perseverance, sense of right and wrong, and have the ability to deal with adversity. In other words, all the other things that computers cannot do” (p.24).

It also hit home that technology is changing at such a fast rate that teachers must use these tools effectively and purposefully and like Nicolaou, Matsiola &Kalliris (2019) state in the article Technology-Enhanced Learning and Teaching Methodologies through Audio Visual, “education must be continuous and must be focused on ‘learning
to learn’” (p.9).

So to sum it up, we need to use technology in meaningful purposeful ways. We need to not worry if sometimes our lessons or content is boring to kids because that is ok too. But what we do need is powerful, meaningful daily connections in a safe, caring, risk-taking environment where kids know that everything is going to be ok.

Letting the Learner Take the Wheel

<a href="http://Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/jillwellington-334088/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=852239">Jill Wellington</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=852239">PixabaySource

“I am convinced that the best learning takes place when the learner takes charge.” ~ Seymour Papert

This week’s class was just what Seymour Papert would want… learnng through pure exploration and fun. I found logo quite hard and a bit tedious. It took some brain power to figure out how I wanted the turtle to move. However, right away, I knew my kids would absolutely love it and I wanted to share the experience to see how they would respond.  One thing about me is I am not that suave with tech BUT… I also have no worries in trying things out and letting them explore. That usually ends up to be the best way for me to learn as well. From there, we all teach each other.

So, the day after class I took all of the old school game websites and put them into my Google Classroom for the kids to explore, the same way we got to in class! What a hit! They instantly took to logo and were helping each other figure it out. Pairs would choose a design and race to see who could build it first. This really proved to me that kids brains are wired differently now because of technology and that link to the theory of connectivism.They just dive right in, learn as they go, and help each other.  The biggest thing is they are not afraid to try. They just figure it out. 

They also think Mavis Beacon is the bomb! They loved the old noises it makes. Most practiced typing before and are competitive at how many wpm they can get (this is the first year I have seen this). Number Munchers was also a hit. They loved how retro all the programs were.  

Brad Raes would have loved to see all the passionate Oregon Trail fans there are in my class.  He may have to be a guest speaker via Zoom. They use it all at home now as well and were excited to show their parents.

This really hit home with Seymour Papier’s theory of Constructionism in which the teacher is a facilitator and the student takes the wheel and draws their own conclusions through active participation and collaboration with others.

Last year was the first year I taught coding in my classroom. I learned a little bit about Scratch from Curtis but I was by no means an expert. But, as I said, I am not afraid to let the kids explore and learn collaboratively. So I taught them the few things I did know and encouraged them to watch the tutorials. Some had coded before at home. So we had all different levels. From there we decided we would have a coding fair in which we could show case our coding projects. Each student had a coding conference with me, modeled after Penny Kittle’s Reading conferences in which they could explain their project.  We held the coding fair for an afternoon in which parents, guests and the rest of the school could come and watch.  It was a gigantic hit and the students’ went above and beyond my expectations (which is usually what happens when they have input in what we are learning). So this year’s class is super excited for the coding fair!

It was fascinating looking at some of Seymour’s research and beliefs. One thing that stood out was when he stated, “We don’t know what the future will look like, but we do know what it won’t look like…” in the youtube video excerpt from MIT Media Labratory.

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This statement, to me, makes it ever more prevelant that we need to ensure our classrooms are ones in which we, as teachers are facilitators, and what we teach needs to be relevant, purposeful and engaging so students are in charge of their own learning.

In exploring all the extension, MOTE really stood out to me. I leave student messages now instead of written comments within GoogleClassroom. I like the personal quality it brings.  I think I will really like Lightshot as well but will have to play around a bit more with it. I also added the distraction free extension on YouTube and am enjoying that as well.

I also played around with POWTOON but I think I need someone to actually show me.  Likely, the best for me is to introduce it to my kids and let them explore and then they can teach me. 

As I reflect I believe the Guiding Principals to support learning from Mitchell Resnick that Jennifer Owens summed up so eloquently in her blog this week is what really needs to be at the forefront in education.

Which “ism” am I?

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Where does knowledge come from and how do people know? This is like which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Which “ism” am I?

What a thought provoking (and maybe a bit confusing) thing to think of. What fits my own teaching philosophy or classroom practice? Which “ism” am I? Behaviourism… Constructivism… Cognitivism… or Connectivism? My mind was feeling a little like the map of learning theories…

I think there is so many ways I cross over within these theories of learning but in reading the map and diving more deeply into it. I feel I most connected to Experiental Education, as I feel building a direct relationship or connection with the student is the most meaningful learning tool and whatever I am going to teach them or how I am going to teach them will all fall into place after the fact. Relationship, content, and experience are key. Another learning theory would be Constructionism as I feel students work best when they can collaborate in a meaningful way, build on new knowledge and so it learning is more student driven so the kids have ownership in their learning. I also resonate with Meanginful Learning as this type of learning is applicable and they are able to transfer it in real life situations.

As a teacher and a life long learner, my most meaningful learning experiences are when I get to network and learn from other like minded individuals in PD opportunities or Communities of Practice. When you are passionate about what you are learning and it is easy to integrate right away into your practice, it is extremely beneficial.

I enjoyed this week’s readings and am very glad I wasn’t around to experience Skinner’s teaching machine. One article that really resonated with me was Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age . In it, Siemens explains that we need to add an alternative theory, connectivism to the other theories as the others were established before the use of technology. Knowledge is changing and becoming obsolete at a much more alarming rate than ever before. He states some signigicant learning trends such as the variety of fields most learners will encounter over their lifetime, the importance of informal learning with things such as PD opportunities and Communities of Practice. He recognizes that we are all life-long learners , that there needs to be more of a connection between the organization and the learner as they are both “learning organisms” and “technology is altering(rewiring) our brains” (p.2). With this ever changing world, students need to know where and how to find knowledge.

I feel more than ever that kids are different learners than they were when I was young, and this is due to technology. This is why more than ever, we need to ensure that technology is fluid in our classroom. It is not an add on. It is, as Dean would say “invisible”in our classrooms to prepare them for the future in a world that is changing so rapidly. As well, more than ever, we are going to have to ensure that Digital Citizenship is infused into our learning environments as well?

When I sat and reflected on the question, how has my teaching shifted from the start of my career to now I have to say that I let the students drive much more of their learning than ever I ever did at the start of my career. I am much more comfortable in giving up that control. I teach the content from the curriculum, but now for the most part let students have input in their own learning. They always blow me away at what they can produce. As well, I let them learn more from each other than ever before. They are great collaborators and learn so many more skills from eachother than just what they are learning in content.

In closing, I am very grateful to be in a class like this to increase my own knowledge as it makes me a little anxious to know that I have so much to prepare my students for.

The Price of Technology

Technology, typically, to me means to be “plugged in, turned on or fully charged”. This however is not always the case as we look around the world of education. Take the pencil for example. It is a powerful yet simple tool that can be used to solve equations, write letters, stories, and draw to your hearts content. Take crayons, where you can add colour, texture detail and make that art come to life with colour.

In my education, the pencil was a major part of my technology, as well as the blackboard, overhead projector, sometimes we were treated to the the odd filmstrip. I actually enjoyed taking notes. I found it therapeutic to copy notes from the chaldboard. It was quiet and focused. In university, I had a great old typewriter. I even got to take typing class in high school. I loved it and found the repetition and clunky noise soothing. I didn’t actually have a computer until after I was finished my degree.

From computers, we moved on to flip phones and now to an iphone which can do so many things. However, with the readings this week there was one that stuck out. It was Neil Postman’s statement in his article, Five things we need to know about technological change … “we always pay a price for technology. The greater the technology, the greater the price.” This seemed profound to me. If we take a look at cars (or modern transportation in general) what have they done? Reaked a lot of havoc on the climate, helped to create an obese society,… but have made it very simple to get to point A to point B in a short amount of time, allowed the world to grow smaller, and have given us easier access to goods from far away. It seems like there is no fair trade.

If we look at technological advancements in medicine, there are amazing things being done in the world that allow people to live much better lives than they ever would have years past. But in the same regard it is almost like we want to live forever instead of enjoying what we have while we have it. It seems like people want quantity of life vs. quality. One profound statement that changed my outlook on life was made from an Indonesian man, when I found out he lost his two sisters because they were both born premature. I was saddened when he told me that they died because the hospital was too far away. But he consoled me and said, “we all have a moment we are born, a moment we are married, a moment we die. But in between, we need to smile, laugh and converse with our brothers of Lombok (which just means to shoot the shit)”. So in the end, shouldn’t we all learn to accept death as a part of life and enjoy the time we do have?

Technology brought about Social Media. Which has made an enormous impact in the world, probably the largest. Social media sites such as Google, facebook, instagram, are all some of the richest companies in the world and have many benefits. But in watching the netflix documentary, the social dilemma social media is creating so many more problems – spreading manipulative narratives, mental health problems, fake news, and a huge increase in suicides and hospitalizations, especially in preteen girls. This show actually prompted me to delete my social media because it scared me so much. Escpecially after hearing younger colleaugues telling me that when they were in high school, they would take down a post if they did not receive more than 100 likes. That made me feel sick.

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In this regards I worry about what the state of the world will be in in the next decade and beyond and is the largest example of “paying the price for technology”.

In the mean time, I also look at how we have to pull back and teach kids ways to “unplug”- with things like, zentangles, art therapy, yoga, mindfulness, and happiness. So in a way, the pencil is still a powerful tool- a tool of therapy where you can write or draw which is therapeutic. So I hope our world finds a healthy balance between “plugged in, turned on, charged up” technology and good ol’ paper technology.

Summary of Learning

Who would have thought that Ed Tech would stretch my thinking in so many different ways other than Tech? Coming into this class I thought I would just expand my knowledge about Technology and find some really engaging tools to use with my students in the classroom. BUT… this class was soooo much more than that.

It made me so much more aware of the importance of the fact that I am a compass to navigate my students success. Not only is it my responsiblity to provide a high quality learning environment in which technology plays a role, but I have to be diligent in teaching and modelling online social etiquette and digital citizenship. I have to educate my students to be INFORMED posters, to use technology and Social Media safely, purposefully and enjoyably.

I was blown away with the fact that an Ed Tech class taught me so much about inequalities in the world and how Technology and Social Justice NEEDS to play a huge part in today’s classrooms. After all schools need to be larger than the walls that make it up.

It made me aware that we have a very powerul role in shaping our children. Technology and Social Media gives them a voice. Let’s make that voice one that we can be proud of.

Thank you to my classmates. Good luck to those who are finishing!

Here it is! My very first Summary of Learning!

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