Create and Share: 5 Web Tools for Connected/Productive Classrooms

When I think about the ways that educational presentation and productivity tools have changed over the years it’s actually quite staggering.  From the the chalkboard, to the overhead projector, to the SmartBoard, the way in which teachers present information to students is nothing like what it used to be.  Whether it’s what teachers are presenting to students or what students are using to present information to the class, the tools have become efficient, easy to use and affordable.  However, the key word in productivity is Produce.  If students are simply copying information from Google into a powerpoint, we haven’t really allowed students to move beyond collecting information to the synthesis and creation stage.  As classrooms become more and more connected, students should move beyond simply collecting information to give back to their peers and/or teachers.  stock-vector-green-tree-pencil-with-back-to-school-concept-107615228Don’t we want our students to engage online, create new content, curate, moderate, comment and ultimately contribute to their own learning and the learning of others?  Let’s face it, most of us can remember what I like to call the ‘poster days’ during which our classrooms were full to the brim with students’ posters; much to the chagrin of the fire marshals.  However, I am always keeping my eye out for tools that will allow students and teachers alike to move beyond merely conveying information via slide shows to actually synthesizing and creating new content that can be shared online.  That is the whole idea of the connectivist movement.  So here are my top 5 tools to help students become content creators/producers.

  1. Creaza– This site provides both content and web based tools for students to use.  Students have access to quite a robust Audio editor for making radio broadcasts or podcasts.  There is also a myriad of sound effects and music tracks included and the ability to add and edit layers of audio.  In addition, there are pre-made lessons and activities to use along with the audio editing tool.  In the paid version, students also have access to a cartoon builder, a movie editor and a brainstorming/mind-mapping tool.  The best part is, for those of us who are French Immersion teachers, there are multiple language options available as well.  This tool has been extremely useful in my classroom as students have been able to read a piece of literature, or research a specific topic and then create an engaging broadcast piece that can incorporate audio and visual in a well-knit fashion.  The students loved the freedom to add music, voice overs, and their own pictures to create something more than a slideshow.

2. Glogster– This site allows students to make virtual posters which can incorporate pictures, video clips, music, graphics and text to present information.  Students can select from pre-made themes or create their own.  In this way, students can become more than simple relayers of information but creators of content as well.  Students can record their own YouTube videos to embed into the poster or take their own photos or audio recording to go along with their content.  Here is an example of a project done by some students on the subject of Charlemagne.  One of the best features is that the posters are published online and students can then interact with the content, share feedback and comment on their friends’ work.  I have used Glogster in my classroom quite a bit over the years as well.  It affords students the opportunity to mix media to create something that is unique.  Students are much more engaged when they can view videos, pictures, or audio files along with text.  This also means that students do not necessarily have to get up in front of the class to present.  In fact I would argue that a better use of this tool is to use a jigsaw activity in which students would view each Glog and then provide feedback or report back to the class.       glogster-multimedia-posters-online-educational-content

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kizoa_logo_main33. Kizoa– This free web based tool allows the creation of videos, slideshows and animated collages.  Content can be uploaded from the hard drive, or from social media sites like Facebook.  The videos or collages can then be published to Youtube, embedded in a blog, downloaded to the hard drive or emailed to the teacher.I have used this in the past as an alternative to slideshows and the students really enjoyed blending media in order to get a point across.  They also liked the fact that they could use photos from social media that were already there for them to use.  It worked great when doing biography pieces and they really got engaged in the writing process because of this app.

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nouveau-design-madmagz4. MadMagz– As Editor in Chief of your very own magazine, you can invite collaborators to write, edit, and design the pages of your very own magazine.  This site is great for group work assignments or collaboration pieces because students can work together wirelessly from home or school.  Photos can be uploaded from devices or from the web and all changes are saved in real time so multiple collaborators can work on the magazine at the same time.  Because the magazines can be downloaded as pdf, published online or shared, there is a lot of interactivity built into the final product.  Students can then share their magazines via Twitter, Facebook, or embed them in their blog for example.  This allows content to be reviewed by peers as well as creative and constructive feedback to be given.  Lastly, it is usable in French or English, something that is not lost on this French Immersion teacher.  It has been a great tool for both middle years and high school students

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5. VoiceThread- This an app that allows students to create easy to use podcasts using iOS or Android.  It is useable across platforms and software types which means that students always have access to it.  Students can create voice recordings using their devices while also having the ability to sketch on the screen and/or shoot video clips to accompany their spoken word.  Participants can even watch a video and discuss it in real time.  They can see each other’s comments on screen and even draw on the screen.  This type of tool allows students to not only be creators of content but also moderators of meaningful discussion.  As a teacher, these discussions can then be viewed after the fact and analyzed or evaluated.  You could even add your own notes to the group conversation and provide meaningful real-time feedback.

So, to answer the question, yes I think the Internet has made us much more productive.  If by productive we mean that students can create, moderate, curate, comment on, and share content across a vast variety of platforms and applications.  The world is better for it and I believe education is as well.  Let’s help kids turn from simply consuming and regurgitating online content to becoming creators of content and therefore contributors to the online space and to learning itself.

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A Journey Into the Mind

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For some reason I’ve always loved philosophy and the practice of reasoning.  I took Philosophy 100 as an elective in my first year of university.  The idea of thinking about the way we think is somehow very appealing to me.  From Plato to Descartes, being able to talk about metacognition is a fascinating insight into the power of the human brain.  Although the questions may seem somewhat existential, there is a very real link between philosophy and education.  Questions like “how do we learn?” and “when do we know something?” must be considered foundational pedagogical questions for any practitioner.  The answers to these questions are, in reality, the driving force behind how and why we teach the way we do.  It is why some teachers tend to lean toward lecture vs. hands-on teaching or inductive vs deductive reasoning assignments.  Even the way we assess students or have them interact with information is affected by the way we view learning/knowledge.  Of the major views on knowledge and learning I would say that I tend toward the Constructivist paradigm, although I have been more and more intrigued by the ideas of Connectivism and and Rizhomatic Learning.  I believe strongly that learning is a social construct and that we form ideas through interactions with others.  Building communities of learning with others helps challenge our preconceived ideas and build strong cognitive processes.  In an increasingly digital world, social/digital interactions are becoming a key piece of every young person’s life.  We need only to look at some of the connections that exist already between Canadian classrooms and students all over the world to know that this way of interacting and learning will be crucial in the 21st century.

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Although there are so many variables involved in looking at the way kids learn, I believe there are certain things we can observe about how students process information.  I don’t think we can discount what Maslow has posited that there needs to be a certain set of conditions present.  During my time working in a community school, this became very evident.  If students lack basics like food, proper clothing or the feeling of significance, they are not in a mental space to concentrate/learn.  Once these basics are met, the question becomes, how does this student learn?  In other words, do all students learn in the same way?  According to Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory, we can not apply a one-size-fits-all teaching method to our students.  There are some students who may display better retention of material through audio/visual methods, others may profit from hands-on tactile learning methods.  Even though differences in learning styles may be very evident, teachers need to be able to think about not only how information is taken up, but also how students analyze and process information.  For example, are experiences remembered in the same way as pictures or video?  Are students really constructing knowledge sets built of experiences?  Does the mind really work like a processor of information?  Can the mind be explored to understand true thought?  Or, are we simply reacting to what goes on in the world around us?  Perhaps it’s beneficial to take a cross-cultural view of knowledge and how we learn.

For example, in Africa, age is an  important determining factor and prerequisite for certain social tasks.  Everything is taught through doing.  Boys accompany their fathers or grandfathers to learn to hunt, collect honey, herd cattle, plant/harvest, or pick mangoes.  Girls follow their mothers or grandmothers as they thresh grain, cook, gather firewood, make fires, milk goats or make peanut butter.  The cycle goes as follows; observation of the skill performed by the older practitioner, skill practiced with help or close supervision, and then skill practiced independently until mastered.  These skills are needed for the well being of the family unit and so are given a high priority.  These are in many ways similar to the ways of knowing that are traditional among First Nations in Canada as well.          

In this short video by Dr. Martin Brokenleg, the Circle of Courage is explained as a philosophy of learning that is central to the ethos of First Nations life and culture.  The circle can be used to enhance learning in a different way.  The student consists of a mind, body, heart and spirit.  In order to have a complete and healthy person, he/she must have a complete circle made up of Belonging, Mastery, Independence, and Generosity.  I believe looking at learning from a more wholistic perspective definitely has some benefits.  We cannot simplify learning into a purely cognitive brain function.  To do so would be to say that emotion, interest or engagement plays no role in learning.  This is simply not true and we can often see that when students are engaged or are given some autonomy in the learning process, they flourish.  Building a sense of belonging, independence, mastery or generosity during the learning process will not only help students become lifelong learners, it will also help them become confident and capable members of our global community.  Isn’t that why we are educators?

After looking into the various learning theories, I have to say that I lean more significantly toward Social Constructivism.  I believe that human beings are social creatures and that we learn through constructing meaning from interactions and experiences.  I love the mentorship model that many native cultures around the world espouse.  I find it sad that we here in North America have forgotten what it means for a ‘village to raise a child’.  It takes a community of invested and trusting adults to raise up a child who has a complete circle of courage.  In the digital age, Connectivism is simply a continuation of this same theory.  Growing and learning together whether face to face or online.   It was Orange Shirt day yesterday and I was discussing with my Grade 9 class what reconciliation meant to them in the wake of residential schools.  I asked students to write down words that came to mind when they thought of reconciliation.  This is the list according to frequency that we came up with.  I think this is a good example of the ways in which knowledge and learning are enhanced by connection, support and community.  It is the only way to move forward in the face of difficulty.    wordcloud-1

 

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”

No Fair: Does Technology Support Equity?

Technology is the promise of the future.  It is touted as the great equalizer.  The tools that will bring education to the underprivileged, those with disabilities and those on the margins of society.  It has the promise of breaking down barriers, of helping us all communicate better and of bringing equity to the world.  But, is technology living up to these promises?  What is the evidence that we have indeed begun bridging the digital divide?  In a recent Financial Post Study, evidence suggests that even in a developed country like Canada, disparity with regard to access and internet fluency not only still exist but are being exacerbated.  As is noted in the study, age and income both play significant roles in who accesses technology and also how it is used.

“People with some post-secondary education (and who were no longer students) had Internet-use rates nearly 10 per cent higher than people with just a high school diploma, and nearly 50 per cent higher than those without a diploma.” -Financial Post

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The question has to be asked, can technology really bridge gaps such as income disparity?  After-all, at the end of the day the technology has the potential to allow access to a myriad of learning opportunities.  People have access to apps like duolingo, coursera, MOOCs, online information hubs, and translations tools.  The problem is not necessarily the programs and software but the access to internet service and hardware.  How can these services be considered equitable learning opportunities if students do not all have access to the technology?  In addition, it has become clear that technology, even when applied across a range of different socio-economic classrooms, does not benefit all students in the same way.  Harvard Education has undertaken a study outlined in the video below that indicates that the use of a platform such as wiki as an example, is disproportionately benefiting those students who come from higher income brackets and have higher socio-economic status.

So what is the solution?  Clearly the teachers and innovators need to have a strong social justice focus as we engage in these questions.  As mentioned in the video, tools that are specifically designed and targeted at low income and marginalized youth can have a greater impact than simply applying the same broad technology strokes to the entire class and expect the technology to magically transform our students.  Technology in education is an amazing gift and I use it every day and am so thankful for it, however, it can not take the place of personalized learning.  Due to issues of access and socio-economic status, we are still not able to offer the same advantages to these students as the privileged already receive.

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Growing up in Africa meant I was able to experience a different world of education than what we are accustomed to here in Canada.  My friends went to school in which they had 1 pencil for every 10 students.  This meant that as the students sat in rows on the dirt floor, the first person in the line would copy down the notes, pass the pencil on to the next person and so on and so forth.  Is it equitable that these students do not have the opportunity to experience technology in their education?  Maybe not, but it may not be that far off.  Programs like Youth Learning, and the Text to Change project are being implemented in third world countries in order to engage youth in technology and give them a voice in a digital world in which they were not citizens.

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“Technology has the potential to be a huge force for good but it is not a silver bullet, a fix-all solution to how to fix the education and employment problems for young people in developing countries,” says Kenny. “Yet one thing is clear – it will undoubtedly play an increasingly important part of millions of young people’s lives across the world.”-Charles Kenny

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Technology has tremendous potential to affect positive change in the lives of millions of people who are not currently a part of the world you live in right now.  The ease with which we can access and share information across the world in this day and age is unprecedented.  In our own schools here in Saskatchewan, tech tools are allowing creativity to flourish in those that would not otherwise have an outlet.  They are giving hope to those can can’t access traditional learning environments, they are giving a voice to the voiceless.  But the work is not done.  As you are reading this, just remember that there are millions of others around the world right now, and probably in your city or town, who have no way to read this blog.  As educators, let us not be caught in the techno-colonial trap of presuming that as we bring technology to the poor and downtrodden of society, we will be the saviours once again.  Equity must mean more than simply providing the same tools to all.  Personalized learning is the key to success.  We must ask ourselves, what are the individual needs of this student, of this class, of this community?  For many students throughout the world, physiological needs will supersede a simple piece of technology.

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Then again for others…

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The More We Share, the More We Have

I’ve been thinking recently about openness, sharing, and their places in education.  As technology has made its way further and further into education systems across the globe, the ability to share information has been  made vastly more accessible in recent years.  With a powerful device in almost every student and teachers’ pocket, there are limitless possibilities to how information and learning can be shared.  Teachers are using sites like Twitter, Facebook, Edublogs and Wikispaces to document and share their learning with the wider world.  Open course sites like Coursera, and Massive Open Online Courses are changing the way that information is disseminated and online collaboration tools such as Google and Mindmeister have afforded people the opportunity for amazingly creative works.  This is truly the age of open source learning.  However, open source learning without sharing is moot.

So, is sharing all that it’s cracked up to be?  We now live in a world in which sharing every minute detail of each moment of our lives has become normal.  We share photos of what food we’re eating, the shoes we just bought or the thoughts that pop into our head.  With openness comes inherent dangers as this video demonstrates.

Due to these types of online sharing in which no filter is applied, I have often asked the following questions, how much sharing is too much?  Is sharing inherently dangerous?  What is the role of online sharing in education?  Do the benefits outweigh the costs?  In my teaching career thus far I have been what I would call a cautious sharer.  I have a very detailed form that goes home to parents on the first day of school explaining the different platforms we use and allowing parents to give permission for the use of student photos.  We have student blogs but they are viewable only by parents, teachers or other students.  We also have a class twitter account but tweets are composed by myself or in conjunction with students to share what we are learning in the classroom.  Often the tweets are focused not on students themselves but on the projects or learning happening in the classroom.  Is this true sharing?  I think it’s a start. However, it is limiting in many ways.  First of all, the students’ writing is seen only by classmates and a select few parents.  Opening the blogging platform to open comments would allow more readers and therefore, more feedback and engagement.  Studies have shown that as students perceive a larger readership, their writing improves.  The connections formed with other classrooms through Twitter could be strengthened by allowing more control to be passed to the students.  So why is it so hard for me to open up our learning environment and allow deeper and more meaningful connections?

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There are several factors that can tend to negate the full potential of connected and open online learning in classrooms.  Firstly, there are inherent risks involved with sharing information online regarding what students are doing.  Location services and GPS tracking in many apps can compromise the safety of students.  There are also many instances in which students need to be protected and anonymous do to court orders or protective custody.  Secondly, there must be an incredible amount of trust between teachers and students in order to allow students the control to share and connect openly and freely.  Obviously this looks different for various age groups.  High school students for example,  are often quite capable of deciding how to share their learning online.  However, this does necessitate some deeper conversations around what should be posted.  For younger students who lack the same discernment skills, this must be modelled and taught. Douglas Park School’s Aaron Warner is a great example of this mentality.  He routinely teaches and models the use of social media and online sharing with his Grade 7/8 class and eventually turns the reigns over to the students.  I believe this is one of the key components of open classrooms.

Education is not a secret, although aspects of good teaching practice can seem illusive at times.  It is a public and necessary part of our society.  I often cringe when parents express to me that they don’t know what is going on in their children’s classrooms.  With the tools we now have at our disposal, parents should have a clear and complete picture of their child’s experiences at school, even if the student themselves is vague on the details.  This was demonstrated during the debate with the short skit about what was being learned at school.  If there is something tangible and real to demonstrate, students will also be more engaged in the sharing process.  There is also a permanent record of what the learning goals are, steps taken to achieve them, and what the outcomes are.

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As is demonstrated by the above sets of data, teens and young adults are some of the most pervasive sharers of information online.  In addition, the reasons why people share online are telling according to the New York Times study.  Let’s look at some of the top reasons people share online and apply an educator’s lens shall we…

1.To share relevant Information…Teachers and students should both be in the habit of sharing information.  Information is wealth and whether it’s teachers sharing lessons and resources with one another, or students sharing their successes and failures (failures?..yes I said failures because this is when true learning occurs).  Application: Teachers need to model for students which information is relevant and useful to be shared as well as who to share it with (how public?).

2. To support causes or issues they care about… This seems like a no brainer.  What a great opportunity to engage students in meaningful conversations about what’s going on in the world around them.  Students can be surprisingly charismatic, caring and engaged when it comes to supporting causes in the community or around the world.  Many times the students are the first to take action, quickly suggesting a support video for Laloche students, or organizing a bake sale to raise money for Cerebral Palsy. This is how meaningful connections are made and global citizens are produced.

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Application: Let students share their passions and the things they care about.  Pick a list of causes that the class wants to connect with or support.  Discuss what it means to be a global citizen.  Challenge students to dream big and to change the world.

3. Connecting with others who share their interests… This is a great opportunity to network with other classes in your age category.  It also allows a chance to model who should be in our followers or friends lists as individuals.  Some of the best lessons I’ve used have come from connections with other classrooms in Saskatchewan and throughout the world.  As students share interests on blog sites or through Twitter, they build a wider audience and engage with the world outside the classroom.  Genius hour is a great example of this.  When we look at genius hour projects of other 7/8 classes the students up the anti.  Application: Let students explore passion projects.  Encourage students to share what they are learning or what they’ve created.  Model at first and compose Tweets or posts together as a class.

4. Expressing self identity and feeling of involvement in the world…This is an opportunity to model the permanency of our digital identity.  Students should build an awareness of how the class is perceived online and what our digital footprint will be.  Discuss with students which parts of our identity we wish to share with the world.  How involved should we be?  Application: Extend this thinking to students’ own personal sharing.  Engage them in discussions about how they should present themselves online.

Let’s take the time and get this one right.  Let’s show our students the power of positive sharing through meaningful connections.

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Push-me-Pull-you: The Dichotomy of Ed Tech

Hi Everyone!  My name is Luke Braun and I’ve been a teacher with Regina Public for 7 years now.  I teach Middle Years French Immersion.  I love being outside and learning to make things. Our classroom is the place to come if you need tools, sandpaper, wires, or odds and ends for a project.  Some of my best teaching memories have been outside of the classroom or in a Practical Arts environment where students really have a chance to shine while they apply what they’ve learned through hand-on experience.  I also love spending time with my wife and 2 young kids.  I love cycling and fixing bikes (according to my wife this borders on obsession at times).  Technology in the classroom has been a huge factor in my teaching career.  I wouldn’t consider myself terribly tech savvy but I’m always eager to learn.  It’s been a steep learning curve so far in 2016.  I’ve had this blog for just under 5 months now and I feel like I’m becoming more comfortable with the format and and also with the value of this communication medium.

I enjoyed ECI831 very much and I’m really looking forward to discussing some of the issues that are involved with technology integration in the classroom.  It should be a very interesting opportunity to further investigate my own preconceptions about technology in the classroom.  I have been teaching French Immersion in Regina Public Schools for seven years now and have a dichotomous relationship with technology in education.  As someone who has invested hours into developing MYPAA (Middle Years Practical and Applied Arts) kits, and as someone who loves the outdoors, I see the value of students learning skills with their hands that allow them to problem solve and become creative thinkers and tinkerers.  However, I have a smartboard in my classroom as well as computers and student devices (BYOD).  We use Google Classroom and Google Apps for Education to stay organized.  We also do quite a bit of blogging.  We definitely rely heavily on these technologies in our learning, not to mention the software that accompanies the hardware.

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Through the course of the last class, which was more focused on Social Media and Open Education, I came to the realization that technology in schools is really a lot like the two headed push-me pull-you from the Doctor Doolittle story.  On one side, the technology has the potential to completely transform education through concepts like open access, Connectivism and Rhyzomatic Learning.   I love the way Dave Cormier describes his disillusionment with the idea of teaching as “putting what’s in my head into someone else’s.”  There is just so much more potential in the belief that learning is not the transfer of one set of knowledge to another.  Technology is one of the ways in which we can now begin to encourage students to share and connect, and to foster deeper and more meaningful learning.  The example in the video below illustrates the contrasting nature of the technological reality that our students exist within.

However, there is also the other ‘head’ to the technology creature.  In this side of the issue we find the many pitfalls and problems that come with the use of tech tools in the classroom.  This can be as simple as access and network issues, to issues of protecting student identity online and cyberbullying.  Does this mean that the negative aspects of technology in the classroom negates its use?  Not at all.  In many ways the issues that arise at times through the use of technology in schools should cause educators to examine and carefully plan implementation strategies. Educators should empower students to take responsibility for their online identities, encouraging them to become true contributors to positive digital learning spaces.  There are so many positive aspects to the use of technology in education but I still feel like I am being pushed/pulled from two different directions at times.

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Sometimes, I feel like I need to try every new technology that I come across and find ways to incorporate it into my teaching.  I try to constantly stay up to date with the latest apps, web tools, and tech teaching strategies.  Other times, due to some of the issues involved with technology, I feel the overwhelming urge to take my class outside and plant a garden, take apart a lawnmower engine, or even try building a kite to see if it will fly. This is the balance that I seek to have in my classroom.  A place where students are not bombarded with technology but where they can use it to enhance their learning.  A place where students can feel free to ask questions and get their hands dirty if need be.

In a nutshell, that’s where my head is at as I start this class.  I am looking forward to discussing both sides of these issues and trying to flesh out the realities that accompany technology integration in Saskatchewan Schools.  I am really looking forward to interacting with the rest of the ECI830 team as we wade into the #greatedtechdebate!  My goals for this term include:

a) Discuss a balanced and effective #edtech strategy in the classroom

b) Discover ideas for minimizing or avoiding #edtech problems/pitfalls

c) Hear #edtech success/failure stories (we learn the most through failure)

d) Grow my PLN

What are some of your goals for this term?  Looking forward to meeting them together this term.  Cheers.

Creating a Computer Program Can’t Be That Hard, Can It?

For the past few weeks I’ve been working on coding my summary of learning project so I thought I’d share a little bit about the process of setting up your own program.  I decided to use Kahn Academy programming interface to set up the program which in my head would run like an interactive story of sorts.  The idea was to have characters in the story and include some animations and basic functions.  I chose to start with Javascript because so far it’s the language I’ve used the most and it allows for simple animations and basic functions like mouse clicks.  I have to admit that initially I had bitten off more than I could chew.  Mouse click functions turned out to be fairly straightforward.  The key is to make sure that the correct page is called up when the button is clicked.  Going through the process reminded me again of the connections between editing skills in writing and combing through your code to see where the problem is.  It takes a keen eye.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a missing semi-colon or an un-closed bracket.

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The second new trick I learned was how to make things move on the screen.  This was a bit more difficult because there are more parameters to keep in mind with the movements.  You have to basically tell the computer where you want the image to move, for how long, where to start, where to end, etc.  This took quite a bit longer than expected because I was reading and watching tutorials but I eventually had to take a look at some sample code to get me started.  This is where a open education course may have helped to give some further direction for my learning.  It becomes difficult to self motivate when you get stuck.  The beauty of online learning is that you do have access to a wealth of network options to ask questions.  It was great to go on some of the coding forums and ask questions to get clarification for how to set this up.  Twitter was also a huge help in finding great little nuggets and tidbits of information such as the one below.  This was a good article to read because it helped me realize how my program was being slowed done by clunky pieces of code.  For a smooth running program it is so important that the code is as succinct as possible.

The experience has been meaningful in many ways.  It has taught me patience, persistence, and has given me pride in learning a new skill.  It has also given me an appreciation for online learning and the importance of networks.  They give insights that would otherwise take years to uncover.  It’s a wealth of interactive knowledge that we have access to at any time of day or night.  In the end I will hopefully have the program finished in the next few days and will post the link when it is finished.  Although it has been a long and sometimes frustrating process, I feel as though I have definitely learned a lot and hope to continue with coding in the future.

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