And That’s the Way It Is…

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The famous Walter Cronkite would always sign off with the catch phrase, “and that’s the way it is.”  News anchors through the years have delivered summaries of important world events.  From Cronkite to Rather and of course Peter Mansbridge, trusted reporters deliver the facts.  So Krista, Liz and I thought it might be fun to try a  news cast for our summary of learning.  They are both colleagues, part of my core team and an incredible support for me in my teaching.  We had never worked with green screens before and it was a great opportunity to learn some new tech and have some fun. This semester has been an incredible journey and a great learning opportunity.  Gaining a deeper understanding of the theories behind tech implementation in the classroom was a big part of my learning during this class.   I had some previous knowledge of theory behind education but my practice has changed now to the point where I analyze each activity using tech to ensure the usage of tech for the right reasons.  Theory has also played a role in the ways that I examine my current practice and the ways that I teach.  In addition, The course created a great community of teachers and learners interested and engaged in pushing each other further along the edtech path.  Also, It offered a great opportunity to learn some new tricks, tips and tech tools to help us in our professional lives.  I especially enjoyed learning about the new technologies that may one day be the norm for teaching and learning such as virtual and augmented reality.  It seems as though the more we learn about edtech, the more there is to know.  I resolved as I was reviewing the course to keep 4 things in mind in the coming year.

  1. Evaluate tech tools based on theory
  2. Design the task and accompanying tech with authenticity
  3. Master tech tools that are useful in your practice
  4. Don’t over extend, take your time

There is no rush to the finish line in learning about edtech.  We are each learning at our own pace and doing what works in our own contexts.  The constant shifting in technology will always mean that we are trying to catch up.  Never forget where tech started.  Pencils and chalkboards were once considered cutting edge.  So I’ll simply end by saying, that’s the way it is…”

Please enjoy…

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Can We Fight the Future?

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In many ways I’m disappointed that this class has come to an end.  Discussing edtech issues with fellow educators from all over the country has been a privilege.  I have definitely had to evaluate my point of view and it has undergone changes again and again.  I have been challenged to think critically about how I use technology in my classroom and I have even been presented with issues that I had not previously considered.  It was intriguing to speak with fellow educators who have very different viewpoints on educational technology.  It was very encouraging to discover that whether teachers are for or against edtech, a genuine love for students and a concentration on their needs was foremost.  Throughout the course I came to several key realizations which I will attempt to summarize here.

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The first debate covered the merits of technology in the classroom and I came to the conclusion that technology for the sake of itself is a perilous venture.  Each integration of technology in the classroom must be weighed and measured for it’s ability to enhance the learning for students.  Teachers should not be scared to abandon certain aspects of their edtech strategy if it proves inefficient or contrary to learning.  Secondly, we discussed whether we should be teaching content that can be found on Google.  I came to a strong realization that there are certain pieces of information that must be scaffolded and therefore must be memorized.  However, I also am a strong believer in challenging students with critical questions and real world problems that cannot be simply searched.  Practical application and skill development are key skills for the 21st century.  When it comes to the role of technology in our health and wellness, I came away with the notion that in many ways screen time, online bullying, and the stresses placed upon children due to technology are indeed affecting our youth.  Although there are many instances in which technology can provide health benefits, if we are truly considering all health aspects including mental health, it seems as though a balanced approach to tech use with youth is warranted.  Ian makes a great point about the resiliency of kids which i think is necessary to keep in mind.   In the fourth debate we tackled the question of openness and sharing in educational settings.  I am still of the opinion that we need to do right by our students and be cautious with how and why we share on social media.  However, some of the greatest lightbulb moments in my classroom have come from making connections with classrooms and individuals from around the world.  It has truly opened my students eyes to a different worldview.

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Tech for equity was another tough topic to tackle but due to my experiences overseas, I still had to come to the conclusion that although technology has made great strides for equity and that the bar continues to be raised, there is still much work to be done.  There are definitely many more marginalized voices being heard because of technology but at the same time, without equal access for all, it can hardly be equitable.  Social media is a huge reason why so many more people are interconnected.  However, it is also clearly playing a major role in the development of children in our society.  As previously mentioned, the sheer number of hours spent in front of screens on social media is staggering compared to even 5 years ago.  In my opinion, this is also an area teachers must approach with good modelling and a balanced strategy.  The appropriate use of social media for positivity must be a part of every classroom.  As Andy states in his summary, “with the right dosage and application, technology has the ability to enrich our lives, not harm them, but it must be used appropriately, responsibly, and we must be explicitly taught directions for use.”  If not, we will continue to see students who are depressed, overweight, stressed out, lacking sleep and unable to communicate face to face.

Lastly we discussed the corporatization of education and the role that companies now play in the future of our children.  Once again I was reminded that these types of decisions must always be made with students’ best interests in mind.  Education is a market that is ready to be tapped by many companies that would love a piece of the pie.  We need to ask ourselves, what’s the cost to our kids? and is it worth it?  I’m looking forward to discussing the overuse of technology and the necessity of unplugging from time to time as well.

In general I have come away with several key learnings from the course this term.  I’m calling these Luke’s Keys to Edtech Use.  Although they may seem simple, when applied to the issues discussed above, they have proven to be extremely good reminders when implemented in practice.  In essence, we will not be able to fight the future.  This is the way the world is headed.  What we can do is insure that students are first and foremost, that we are giving kids a balanced education, and that we are modelling what it means to live in a digital world.  Can we fight the future?  I certainly think we would be foolish to try.

Luke’s Keys to Edtech Issues

  1. Keep Kids First
  2. Take a Balanced Approach
  3. Model Model Model

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In the spirit of the debate format of the class, Steve and I decided to record a podcast in which we tackled and summarized some of the issues presented in this course. We expound upon these in the following podcast.  We also researched some helpful links in our show notes to further explore these topics.  Please enjoy the debut episode of “Steve’s Wrong vs. No I’m Not”

Summary of Learning

I have to say I’m disappointed that this class has come to a close.  Every week was so packed with learning and new opportunities.  I will attempt to summarize some of the major themes that I really connected with over the course of this term.  The first thing that really struck me was the Dave Cormier‘s talk on Connectivism and Rhizomatic Learning.  After spending 7 years teaching using the curriculum document given to me by the Province of Sask.  I realized after this session that networks and connections could be just as powerful as a well laid out curriculum.  The ability to learn from others is so valuable and often we don’t seek out these opportunities enough.  These topics led me into a realization that we need to be preparing students for a world of connected learning and networking.  The jobs our students have may not even exist right now so it’s critical that we give them digital literacy and move them from “knowledgeable to knowledge-able” as Michael Wesch put it.

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Looking at ways that students are using social media was also a huge eye opener for me. I have used a class twitter account for a few years now but social media in the classroom has always been a topic that I’ve tried to teach by being a positive role model.  However, I never really have taken the next step of allowing students more control of how we share our learning.  The tweets or posts are usually created with the class and sent out from all of us.  The student blogs are also highly monitored and closed to outside viewing or comments.  Although this means that I can control the safety and accessibility of the students, I now feel that using blogs and twitter in this way are very limiting and I started to question how to better use these tools.  I also wanted to balance these tools as complimentary to learning and not distracting from learning.  At times I feel as though when teachers pull up Instagram or Snapchat, we are invading student spaces to some degree although I believe it can be very engaging if used properly.  These types of tools can be amazing when utilized with students to build community and network with others around the world.

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The discussion then led into the safety of students online.  Again this was a good reminder for me of the dangers that our students can find themselves in online.  Some of the darker corners of the internet are places that I did not know existed.  4Chan, for example, was a website that I had never heard about and I realized that these are the places that some of our students are drawn.  As educators promoting online activity to enhance learning, it behooves us to know where our students may find themselves online.  Self-Trolling and the Pew study stats on Porn were also a huge wake-up call for me especially because I have at risk kids in my class.  This discussion gave me a whole new perspective of what kinds of emotional trauma students may be going through.  How to teach students to have safe online practices is something I definitely need to focus on in my own teaching.

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Trolls.  An interesting topic to say the least.  I had very little understanding about trolls and who they are when I first started this class.  I did not realize the lengths that people go to in order to disrupt people on line.  I have not really had experiences with trolls as of yet but I feel more prepared to know how to handle situations such these.  The degree to which woman are attacked and berated on line was also somewhat surprising to me.  Maybe I’m a bit naive.  I feel as though we have to do a better job educating students around this as we model how to behave with respect in online spaces.  

I also very much enjoyed the sessions on the open education movement.  The idea of knowledge not be owned by anyone is very appealing to me.  I realize that knowledge means literal power for many people around the world but the sharing of knowledge is such a crucial part of the education piece.  Having grown up in the Third World, I have seen the difference that an online course could make in someone’s daily life.  It could mean the difference between death or survival.  The story of Aaron Swartz as well as the work of Lessig and Shareski were very impactful in consideration of the reasons behind the proliferation of open education.  Even the completion of my learning project would not have been possible if not for the open learning environment of Kahn Academy.  These types of spaces allow people to learn from almost anywhere in the world.  As teachers I believe that we need to be more open with resources in order for the profession to thrive.  Teaching has been a profession in which young teachers do not survive because of burnout and lack of resources.  How much would it benefit our new teachers if they had resources to access when they first started teaching.  David Wiley’s ted talk was one of my favourite non-course assigned pieces that really highlighted what I was learning at the time.

In closing, I feel as though this course was a great introduction to the world of Social Media and open education.  I feel as though I’ve gained a valuable new PLN, learned a lot about safety online, become an advocate for social media in the classroom, and learned how to create a solid digital identity.  There is so much more to learn and I’m excited to continue blogging and documenting my learning in this field.  The key will be to use this new knowledge to move students from knowledgeable to knowledge-able.

Here is the Interactive story I coded to showcase what I’ve learned during the course.

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