A New Endeavour: Digital Literacy for Kids

#ECI834

There is nothing more valuable than raising a generation of kids who are knowledgable and experienced in our online world. The only way we can combat misinformation, apathy, and online hate is to instil digital literacy skills in our students…. and that is exactly what I have set out to do.

Digital Literacy for Kids

Our most recent assignment in #eci834 was to start developing an online or blended course prototype. I had the idea to create a course on the topic of digital literacy so that students learn how to succeed in a digital world. After brainstorming, planning, and adjusting… my “course” ending up turning into website called Digital Literacy for Kids. I initially wanted to host my course on a Learning Management System (LMS), as you can read in my initial Course Framework, but I soon changed my plan. With my experience teaching grade 2-4 and my passion for EdTech, I have come to realize that digital literacy resources for kids are challenging to find. I decided that it was more important for all teachers to have access to the lessons and activities than to isolate them using an LMS. In the end, I created a website to curate digital literacy lessons, activities, and resources for educators to openly access online, similar to the concept of Open Educational Resources (OER). I created a WordPress site, bought the domain, and started building my course.

I broke down my website menu into various categories: Course information, which includes my Course Profile and Course Outline, lessons, and resources. For the resources section, I plan on adding a list of other reliable digital literacy resources for people to easily click and access. Each time I create a new lesson about digital literacy, I will add it to the lessons menu category. It’s amazing to see how quickly a website can come together when you have the inspiration to develop a project.

Planning, Creating, and Implementing

My first lesson for my Digital Literacy for Kids website was an introduction lesson to the concept. I designed my lesson around the theme of “adventure” in order to make it more engaging for kids. I always start the beginning of the school year as an adventure theme for my grade 2 and 3 students and they LOVE it. I knew that this concept would be easily enjoyed by primary students. Everything I created for the lesson, such as the instructional video and the resource templates, were all created using Canva. I have the Canva for Education account, so I found that it had everything I needed. I was able to make various types of activity templates, a digital literacy poster, an assessment guide, and an instructional video. Each of these resources were added to my Lesson 1 post on my website. I added the activity pages to the website as downloadable files so that teachers could just click, download, and use. I also created a Seesaw activity and Google Slides template that teachers can copy and distribute. The instructional video had a lot of images and text options to choose from in Canva, however, the animation and song choices were limited. Even though I didn’t have as many content creation options as a paid program like VideoScribe or Powtoon, Canva still gave me what I needed to deliver a successful “adventure” themed instructional video, as you can see below.

Feedback from the Dream Team

In class last week, we had the opportunity to meet in groups, show our courses to each other, and then give constructive feedback. I met with Matt, Erin, and Mike, in other words… the “dream team,” as Matt called it. We had a great time hearing about each other’s courses and having positive discussions. I found it extremely beneficial to have my classmate’s hear my vision and then give me constructive feedback to make it even better. Some of the feedback and advice I was given was:

  1. The website is organized and easy to follow.
  2. The font used for the activities and video lesson are easy to read for kids.
  3. The self assessment rubric is too advanced for young kids. Adapt the rubric so that it’s more “kid friendly.” Break down the word “understand” so that students know exactly what they need to do to reach expectations.
  4. Add audio to the Seesaw activity so that it’s more accessible.

I decided to take each of their suggestions and apply it to my project. I added the audio to the Seesaw activity and created a new self assessment guide for students.

After I received my feedback, Alec popped into the breakout room and gave me some feedback as well. He said that I should consider putting a Copyright on my website and resources. He explained how to use Creative Commons in order to make a license for my work… which is much easier than I thought! The steps are as follows:

  1. Go to creativecommons.org.
  2. Click Share Your Work
  3. Click Get Started
  4. Choose “yes”, “no”, or “sometimes” when it asks if you want to allow adaptations of your work to be shared.
  5. Click “yes” or “no” when it asks if you want to allow commercial uses of your work.
  6. It will then show you the license you selected and give you an embed code to use for your website.

Next Steps

It is so important to pause and reflect before moving forward in any project. I am grateful for the opportunity to meet with my classmates, share our work, and hear various perspectives. Moving forward, I will keep these considerations in mind when I continue building my course and creating my lessons. So as I move forward with my course design, I’m wondering…

  1. What types of themes or lessons do you want to see in my critical thinking lesson?
  2. After looking at my course so far, is there anymore feedback you have for me?

I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts! Feedback is essential in this process so that we can make our courses the best they can be!

-Amanda

Resource Review: Spark Reading Digital Library

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Teaching guided reading online, during a pandemic nonetheless, is a completely different experience than what educators are used to. When schools initially closed down due to COVID-19, many teachers used Epic, Read Works, Newsela, and Raz Kids to facilitate reading online. While all of these resources have an important place in the online classroom, I was still looking for a simple resource that was more specific for guided reading.

Recently, Pearson came out with a new online literacy resource called Spark. It’s a paid digital library full of books that can be used for virtual instruction, online guided reading, and at-home independent reading. Some of the book collections include Turtle Island Voices, Sails, Mathology, and Time for Kids. This resource “ignites literacy learning with exceptional books, personalization tools, and teaching/learning supports.” Spark Reading just made its debut in 2021, but it has quickly become a fan favourite with its versatility for online and blended learning.

Image result for spark pearson

Spark Explained

Not only is Spark straightforward and easy to understand for teachers, but it is also user friendly for kids. When teachers first log in, they can access their “library,” which includes over 700 titles. They can then search for books based on level, the topic of interest, subject area, genre/text type, and comprehension strategy. The ability to filter and select different books based on levels and strategies is convenient for facilitating guided reading online.

Once teachers have chosen a book, they can either assign it to an individual student, a group of students, or the whole class. The students can then choose the assigned books from their “Book Boxes” or pick a book from the digital library. Teachers can also use books for guided reading with its long list of interactive digital book features and tools. You can see more of what Spark includes in the video below.

Benefits of Spark Reading

There are multiple reasons that Spark stands out. Here are some benefits I have come to recognize in just a short amount of time:

1. Audio versions (read by professional actors) are available for each book.

2. There are interactive activities and quizzes during the story, which help with comprehension.

3. Teachers can use the interactive whiteboard feature for guided reading and online instruction. These whiteboard tools include highlighting and drawing, adding text and shapes, and using the “masking” fade tool for highlighting important parts of the page.

4. Teachers can access the student dashboard panel to monitor student progress.

5. Both students and teachers can enlarge the text in the books, which is especially helpful in guided reading when students are reading on a screen.

6. Each book has teacher notes with before, during, and after reading strategies, as well as extension activities that students can even do at home.

7. There is extensive training and support for both teachers and students. This help centre includes articles and “how-to” videos for every topic.

8. Students are able to stray from their “Book Boxes” and choose the books they want to read from the vast digital library. The books are colour coded so that students are not distracted by reading levels.

Areas to Consider

When using a new tool or resource, it’s important to review all of it, which includes the potential drawbacks. Here are some areas that need to be considered and will hopefully improve as Spark becomes more developed and widely known.

1. The biggest drawback is the price. It costs money, but if your division or school is willing to purchase it, I would say it’s worth it!

2. Since it is new to the digital library market, there are features that have not come to fruition yet. My hope is that as time goes by, more tools will be added, such as a student audio and video recording tool.

3. Even though there are Indigenous authors included in Spark, it is still only 13% of the whole library. I would like to see more selection with Indigenous books, as well as collections that represent more diversity.

4. The resource is strictly web-based right now, which could interfere with the interactive activities. An easy-to-use Spark app would be beneficial and accessible for both students and teachers.

Photo by Olha Ruskykh on Pexels.com

Let’s Review

As you can see, there are many benefits to choosing Spark as your digital library. It’s also important to keep in mind the areas of concern before you or your school division purchases the resource. There is no doubt about it… we need more resources for online and blended learning because it’s not going away anytime soon. Pearson has kept up with the need for this and has quickly developed a functional online library for educators and students. As Spark continues to develop its online library, I am confident that this resource will be a top contender in the online learning world.

-Amanda

Let’s Dive into Digital Literacy: A Course in the Making

#ECI834

Digital literacy. What is it? How can it be achieved? Where do we start?

These are all valid questions that are asked by many of us. Digital literacy encompasses a range of different elements and themes that contribute to our online identities. It also intersects with the topic of media literacy, which is crucial in our world right now. Media Smarts reminds us that “media literacy generally focuses on teaching youth to be critically engaged consumers of media, while digital literacy is more about enabling youth to participate in digital media in wise, safe and ethical ways.”

As we have seen in the past month (or the past 4 years), misinformation is detrimental to our society. As educators, it is our responsibility to encourage our students to be critical thinkers, creators, and consumers. With this in mind, I was inspired to create a course on the topic of digital literacy so that students learn how to succeed in a digital world.

Course Framework

Target Audience: The course will be directed towards grade 2-4 students in a face-to-face, virtual, or blended setting.

Course Timeline: The course will focus on 5-6 main themes of digital and media literacy. Each theme will have a video lesson and activity. There will also be conclusion lesson to wrap up the course. The course can be done within a 6 week time frame with one lesson a week.

Course Delivery: This course can be delivered through an asynchronous learning format or in a blended model that involves face-to-face instruction and online learning in the classroom. The instructional videos for each course will be accessible on YouTube or within the course. The lessons will have both independent and collaborative activities that can be accessed online through Google Slides or Seesaw.

Course Objectives and Learning Outcomes: In the Digital Citizenship Guide for Saskatchewan’s School, there is a framework based on Mike Ribble’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship. Element 5 in this framework is digital literacy, which will be the course objective.

In the Digital Citizenship Guide, digital literacy is referred to as “searching for information, evaluating the content of websites, collaborating in networks, and organizing the abundance of information available online.” These skills will be the focus of the course. It’s also important to recognize that digital literacy includes social responsibility, empowerment, and awareness. Media Smarts, Common Sense Education, and Teaching Tolerance are all incredible resources I will refer to when including these critical aspects of the course.

The Learning Outcomes for the course will also fall under the Saskatchewan Curriculum. Both English Language Arts and Health have outcomes and indicators that point to digital literacy. Each outcome can be achieved online, which in turn develops digital literacy skills.

For example, the grade 3 outcome CC3. 1 says, “Comprehend and respond to a variety of grade-level texts that address identity, community, social responsibility and make comparisons with personal experiences.” These “texts” can be online articles, tweets, or blog posts. When students are developing their digital literacy skills, they are building their digital identity, learning how to thrive in an online community, and understanding the empowerment of online social responsibility.

The ELA outcomes for composing and creating allow students to remix and create online artifacts. The Health outcomes talk about online safety and etiquette, which is a big part of digital literacy. As you can see, there are many ways to incorporate online skills into the curriculum in order to meet the objectives.

Course Materials: The course can be accessed online with internet and a device or computer. Each activity is done in an online format, but with the option to be printed.

Special Considerations: The purpose of this course is to enhance the digital literacy skills and abilities of younger students so that they know how to thrive in a digital age. In order to achieve these skills, the learning in this course needs to be accessible to everyone, no matter the circumstances! Here are some areas of consideration for this course:

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com
  • The outcomes in this course can be achieved in various ways so that it meets the needs of every child. Students will have choice in their learning.
  • Every instructional video will have Closed Captioning.
  • If students are unable to access the video portion of the lesson, for reasons such as low bandwidth, there will be “Summary Points” to review the important themes in the lesson.
  • Each activity will be digital, but will also have the option to be printed. If students do not have access to a device or computer, their teacher or learning mentor can print out the materials for them.
  • The Digital Divide is an obvious reality in our world right now. In order to help students with this, there are libraries throughout the city that are open for anyone who needs computer and internet access. They also have programming that can assist students with their learning in a socially distanced and safe way. This information will be accessible within the course.

Activity Completion and Assessment: The course modules will be within a Learning Management System (LMS), but the video lessons will also be uploaded to YouTube. The activities for each lesson will be available within the LMS, Google Slides, and Seesaw. Students need to accomplish the lessons in order so that they have the necessary background knowledge for each lesson. There will be formative and summative assessments for the course, with a digital literacy completion certificate at the end.

Photo by olia danilevich on Pexels.com

The course is still in the “making”, but I have no doubt that it will evolve and adapt as the weeks go on. I’m wondering… is there anything you wish you would have known about the digital world when you were a kid? What do you think is essential for students to know about their digital identities? I am looking forward to hearing your feedback and I am excited to see the course take shape! Join me on this journey and let’s dive into digital literacy together!

-Amanda

The Essentials of Online Learning

#ECI834, A Digital Literacy Course

“Can you hear me okay? Is my mic on?”
“I’m just gonna share my screen real quick.”
“Please mute your mic…. nope you’re still not muted.”
“Thanks for introducing me to all of your pets… again.”

Online Course GIF By OpenLearning

If you are a teacher, you have probably said or heard these words more than once since the pandemic started. Everyone has had to shift their teaching styles and dive into the online world in some way since COVID-19 began. Some teachers have moved completely to an online learning environment and others have added digital elements to their physical classroom. These changes are easy for some, but much more challenging for others.

My teaching experience has varied over the years, but I have always implemented Educational Technology in some way. I have always used the blended learning model to some extent in my classroom, which is the blend of both online learning and face to face instruction. I have improved and altered the way I use blended learning as I have become more comfortable with it. The part that makes blended learning stand out is that “it requires the physical presence of both teacher and student, with some elements of student control over time, place, path, or pace.”

When I first started teaching, I was ambitious and used online learning in any way that I could. If there was a new website or app, I was always willing to try it in my classroom. This mindset is what guided a lot of my instruction and teaching methods. Even if my school had a limited amount of devices, I would intentionally implement the blended learning model within small group rotations or inquiry. However, the part of blended learning that was lacking in my classroom was the “student control over time, place, path, or pace.” This reminds me more of the Modern Classrooms Project framework of learning, which starts with blended instruction, moves into self-paced structure, and then allows students to progress when they demonstrate mastery. Trevor reminds us “it’s largely about choice and giving many options for students to express their learning” with a blended learning model.

Kareem Farah says that “when we micromanage the learning environment, we do a disservice to our students. We strip them of the opportunity to become self-regulated and self aware young adults. It may be intimidating to release control, but it is profoundly important.”

The freedom for students to choose their place, path, and pace in learning also reminds me of my current experience with online teaching. With the current online school that I work at, students are able to work at an asynchronous pace, but still get the benefits of meeting their teachers and classmates in a synchronous environment. Just like a blended learning format, students need the opportunity to build community with their peers, but also have time for their own learning and discovery. The blend of asynchronous and synchronous learning is essential for a successful online learning environment.

After working in an online learning environment for the past 5 months, as well as integrating blended learning into my classroom for the past 6 years, I have come to recognize the benefits and challenges of both these models. Since I am currently working with an online learning model, I decided to make a list of what I believe is essential for a thriving online learning environment and the areas we need to consider.

Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

Online Learning Essentials

1. Student Centered Lessons: Just like any form of teaching, it needs to be student centered. Keep the students at the center of the conversations that surround their learning and make sure each activity and assignment is possible for them in their current online learning situation.

2. Asynchronous Learning: Use asynchronous learning for video instruction, assignments and projects. This allows students to work at their own pace and learn in an atmosphere that benefits them. It’s also important that the assigned lessons and activities are achievable. If they cannot be done independently, then there needs to be planned synchronous time to answer questions and support students.

3. Synchronous Learning: Synchronous opportunities are needed for building community and having conversations from various perspectives. Students still need these opportunities to recognize their own biases, learn from their peers, and feel heard. Students should leave these meetings feeling celebrated, known, and confident. 

4. Instructional Videos: Instructional videos are a great way to keep learners engaged. Keep them short and concise, use Closed Captioning, and save it to a platform or in a video format that each child can access.

5. Asynchronous Assessment: While informal/formative assessment can be done in a synchronous format, summative assessment should be administered in an asynchronous way. Students who are unable to attend meetings or don’t have the necessary technology should still be fairly included in the assessments. 

6. Professional Development: Training and Professional Development is crucial for educators who embark on the journey of online teaching. Teachers need to know how to use the technology and online platforms. It’s also important that teachers understand the importance of the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship, which includes digital security and privacy.

7. Communication: Building relationships with families and caregivers is incredibly valuable with online learning. It makes all the difference when you make space and time for families to ask questions and share their input. Having synchronous information meetings or inviting families to send emails allows them to be a part of the learning process. Remember to use your e-portfolios or online learning platforms to share positive experiences and personal encouragement with families.

8: Accessibility and Equity: Online learning needs to be accessible and equitable. There are many obstacles that stand in the way of online learning, such as the Digital Divide. Students might not have access to the internet, they may not have a device, their software could be outdated, or there could be multiple siblings who need to share one device during a synchronous activity. These are challenges that many families face during online learning, so it’s important that your school has strategies in place to support and provide access for the students and families. 

Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

As you can see, there are many elements to consider if you are moving to an online or blended learning format. I am sure that as the year goes on, I will have many more points to add to this list. So I am wondering… if you have taught in an online or blended learning environment, what are some things you would add to this list? What are some of the challenges you have faced or experiences you have celebrated?

It’s important to remember that whether you are using a blended learning or online learning format, it needs to be intentional, authentic, and student centered. The best part about any kind of teaching is that we learn, adapt, grow, and improve- just as our students do. If you are starting to embark on this online or blended learning journey, remember to have fun, be flexible, and connect with others who are experiencing it as well.

-Amanda

Onward with Online Learning

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Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on Pexels.com

Another semester is upon us, and I can’t believe it’s already my 5th graduate class. Once this class is over, I will have successfully completed my Master’s Certificate in Educational Technology and Digital Media and will continue classes to finish a Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction. My current graduate course is called Online and Blended Learning. I have been immersed in this topic since the pandemic began, but my understanding of it has evolved over the past 9 months.

A Photo from Emergency Remote Teaching in the Spring

When schools had to close down last spring, teachers had to suddenly begin Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT), which is significantly different than Online or Blended Learning. In an online post called, “The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning“, they explain that ERT is “a temporary shift of instructional delivery to an alternate delivery mode due to crisis circumstances.” As we have experienced first hand this year, moving to online format during a pandemic is very complex. Students, families, and teachers are dealing with trauma and multifaceted issues. It’s hard to prepare and adapt to an online learning model when it’s forced, rather than developed over time. However, it is important to remember that even after this time in history, Online and Blended Learning is here to stay.

After we experienced Emergency Remote Teaching in the spring, I was given the opportunity to teach at the online school with my division in September. I was able to use the skills that I gained during my Emergency Remote Teaching and the knowledge I gained in my EdTech classes to enhance the online education for my students. I created instructional videos, facilitated synchronous classes, and planned asynchronous activities in a purposeful way. I soon moved into a new position that allowed me to support other teachers, students, and families with technology and online instruction, which is the role that I am currently in. My love for online learning has given me so many opportunities in just a short amount of time, which is why I am so excited about this semester of learning.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Even though I have gained a lot of experience with Online and Blended Learning this year, I still have so much to learn. My desire is to become more knowledgable about Online Learning as a whole. I have 3 goals that I want to accomplish this semester, but I know these goals will continue throughout my education career.

1. I want to develop an online course that can be used by both students and teachers, that is easy to navigate, and engaging to learn. My hope is that it can be used beyond this class to help other educators and students.

2. Another goal that I have is to gain more insight into the most effective models for Online and Blended Learning. Keeping up with the weekly reading materials, reading my classmates blog posts, and engaging with tweets and articles on Twitter will help me with this goal.

3. For my last goal, I want to know more about the social, economical, and ethical concerns with Online and Blended Learning. I have learned a lot about the barriers that stand in the way of Online Learning, but I also want to develop strategies to overcome some of these problems.

These goals can not be easily accomplished within 4 months, but I am determined to grow and learn in each of these areas. I am confident that each of my classmates will have an important role in my growth this semester and I am looking forward to being a part of their journeys as well. Looking back, I never realized how rewarding and engaging this Master’s journey would be. I have learned so much and feel even more passionate about EdTech than when I started. Even though I am nearing the end of my Master’s Certificate program, I am still looking forward to the new semester and all the learning opportunities it will bring.

-Amanda

The Quest for the Summary of Knowledge: An #ECI833 Adventure

#ECI833

It’s hard to believe that we are at the end of another semester. Throughout this course, I have gained so much knowledge about the history and foundations of Educational Technology. Not only that, but I have also benefited from building a community with others who are passionate about EdTech. I have made great connections with my #ECI833 classmates over the semester, which has added so much value and meaning to the course.

One of the connections that I made early on in my Master’s journey was with my classmate, Catherine. We worked together during my first year of teaching and then re-connected during my first EdTech class. Coincidently, at the start of this semester, Catherine and I started working together at the online school in our division. Throughout this semester, we have had a lot of great conversations about EdTech and online learning. We thought it would be the perfect opportunity to collaborate on our Summary of Learning together!

This Summary of Learning project was a blast! We had so much fun creating and collaborating and also learned a lot in the process. Here is a break down of how we created our project:

1. We wanted to think outside of the box, so we brainstormed a creative story to summarize our learning. We sent Snapchat videos back and forth whenever we had an idea for our project. Once we had a theme, we created a shared Google Doc to organize our ideas.

2. We both had experience with WeVideo, so we decided to use it as our video editing platform. I thought I knew a lot about WeVideo before we started our Summary of Learning, but I gained even more experience and knowledge throughout this process.

3. All of our video footage was filmed in front of the green screen. This allowed us to use any type of background we wanted! Every time we filmed, we were intentional about wearing our masks and keeping our distance. Catherine says in her blog post, “We were very mindful of recording safely in person. We wore masks and if scenes included both of us, we recorded the scene separately and then edited the clips together. This is very easy to do when you are using a green screen background.”

4. When we finished our filming, we took turns editing the video. Originally we wanted to use the Collaboration feature on WeVideo, however, this feature didn’t include the crop tool. Instead, we used FaceTime and Zoom to work together virtually on the editing. We both had so much fun on this project… it honestly didn’t feel like work!

This semester was so rewarding. I am so thankful for everything I learned from my classmates each week and I know the learning will continue! Thank you for joining me on this EC&I 833 adventure. I hope you enjoy our Summary of Learning… “The Quest for the Summary of Knowledge.”

-Amanda

Assistive Technology Tools to Empower Students with Online Learning

#ECI833

Technology gives us the ability to reach our goals, to complete tasks, and to succeed in ways that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. Assistive Technology (AT) is what makes a lot of this possible. Assistive Technology is “any device, software, or equipment that helps people work around challenges so they can learn, communicate, and function better.” In education, it has opened doors and broken down barriers so that learning is more accessible for students.

During our ECI 833 class last week, Kalyn, Megan, Leigh, and Jenny highlighted the 3 categories that Assistive Technology can fall into: Low Tech, Mid Tech, and High Tech.

Melissa Finch gives an extensive list of the 3 types of AT in her blog post “Low Tech, Mid Tech and High Tech Assistive Technology” and outlines some of the examples in the photos below.

Low Tech: Equipment or devices that do not have electronic features, can be easier to use, and are usually less expensive. This type of Assistive Technology is frequent in the physical classroom and is often used by teachers in their daily lessons and activities.

Mid Tech: These devices or equipment are harder to come by. They can be battery operated and are usually more complex to use.

High Tech: These devices are digital or electronic, are usually the most expensive, and can be the most complex type of Assistive Technology. This type of Assistive Technology is used most often in an online classroom environment.

As I reflected on the different types of Assistive Technology, it got me thinking about the difference between the physical classroom and an online classroom environment. Both types of learning experiences require Assistive Technology in order for students to succeed. There are AT tools that can be used in both types of classrooms, but over the past couple months, I have seen how specific tools can benefit teachers and students during their online learning experience.

Reading Rockets calls attention to 5 categories that AT can help with. I have decided to round up some of my favourite Assistive Technology tools that can be used by both students and teachers within these categories. By no means is this an exhaustive list, but rather a starting point.

Listening

Google Meet Closed Captioning

Google Meet has a feature that captures what the speaker is saying by typing it on the screen. This allows teachers and students to read what is being said, which can remove a barrier if someone struggles with hearing. All you have to do is click the Closed Caption button.

Math

EquatIO

I have mentioned this math tool before in a previous blog post about Google Chrome Extensions. This is an Assistive Tech tool because it has a calculator built into the extension. It also has a “Screenshot Reader” that allows you to select an equation and then it reads it out loud for the user. It creates an accessible math experience for both teachers and students.

Organization and Memory

Evernote

Evernote (@evernote) | Twitter

This has been one of my favourite tools lately! I recently transitioned into a new position at work, which required a lot of learning and taking notes. Instead of writing my notes out, I kept everything organized with Evernote. It allows you to keep your notes in “Notebooks”, which are like categories. Within each note, you can add text, links, charts, sketches, photos, attachments, and even Google Drive documents. You have the ability to copy templates of calendars or schedules, and you can even share your note with others. This is a great Assistive Technology tool to help remember important notes and stay organized.

Reading & Writing

Google Read & Write

Google Chrome Read&Write

This is a dynamic Assistive Technology tool that can assist students and teachers in many areas. With its tools like “Text to Speech,” “Talking Dictionary,” and “Screenshot Reader,” it can drastically assist students with their reading activities and assignments. It assists in the area of writing with the “Word Prediction,” and “Speech Input” tools as well.

There are so many possibilities with this tool. If you are interested in using it but don’t know where to start, this “Read & Write for Google Chrome Quick Reference Guide” describes each tool in detail.

Areas to Consider

Before implementing each and every Assistive Technology tool possible, it’s important to recognize what’s needed, especially if you are teaching in an online learning environment. It’s not as simple or straightforward in an online classroom.

It takes a lot of communication with the child and family to find out what they need at home in order for them to access their learning. The number one priority is making sure they have access to technology and the internet so that other online tools can be accessed and implemented. Above all, building relationships with the child and family before embarking on the learning journey is what’s needed first and foremost.

Technology not only gives us the ability to assist our students, but also empower them. It’s crucial that we strive to get the right technology tools into the hands of our students so that they can learn and succeed in whatever learning environment they are in.

-Amanda

Edpuzzle: An A+ Assessment Tool for Distance Learning

#ECI833

Assessment is an integral part of education. It can be used to evaluate progress, determine next steps, and monitor the learning that is taking place. The definition can differ from person to person, but the goal of assessment should always keep the child at the center of the process. There are two types of assessment that stand out:

Summative Assessment:
-It assesses the learning at the end of a unit or lesson to evaluate the product.
-This type of assessment is usually completed for grades or marks.

Formative Assessment
-It evaluates the process of learning.
-This type of assessment is used to provide feedback to improve the learning and checks for understanding.

The big difference is that formative assessment is all about “discovering what students know while they’re still in the process of learning,” as Laura Thomas says. This type of assessment is imperative for learning, but can be seen as a challenge when it comes to distance learning. Even though distance learning is facilitated through a screen, there are still strategic ways to check for understanding and use formative assessment.

Distance learning is unique because it allows students to learn at an asynchronous pace in their own home. Providing self-paced instruction through videos and online activities is an important way to engage students in their learning. However, you might be wondering… “how do I assess their learning if I am not with them?”

Fortunately, there are many online tools that allow for formative assessment, as MattTrevor and Dalton outlined so well in their presentation about Assessment Technologies last week. Common Sense Education has a list of the “Top Tech Tools for Formative Assessment.” One of the tools that stood out to me was Edpuzzle, an online tool that allows teachers to create or customize videos for their students to interact and engage with.

Before I even got started with Edpuzzle, I was able to read more about it through the Common Sense review site. They break down different areas, such as:

  • Learning Rating
  • Community Rating
  • Privacy Rating
  • Subject and Skills
  • Pros and Cons
  • Tips for Teaching with the Tool

Edpuzzle passed their review with a 4 star learning rating, 5 star community rating, and an 88% privacy rating, as you can see below.

I dove into the Common Sense Privacy Evaluation to get more information on Edpuzzle’s stand on data collection, security, rights, and safety. Even though I felt confident about using the tool after reading the privacy ratings and reviews, I will always check my school’s approved technology list before implementing a new tool with my students. Before you use a site, platform, or app with your class, it’s important to make sure the data, security, and privacy rules line up with your school division’s policies. The tool is not worth using if your student’s privacy is at stake.

Based on the customer reviews, it was clear that Edpuzzle is innovative, efficient, and effective. The platform explains how it works in 3 steps:

  1. Find a video on YouTube, upload your own or re-use a video lesson created by another teacher.”
  2. “Then, edit the video to create your lesson. Record your voice to personalize it, and hold your students accountable by embedding questions in the video.”
  3. Assign the video to your students and check their progress in real time while they learn at their own pace.”

I wanted to get a better idea of how the tool worked, so I signed up for the Edpuzzle “Self-Paced Classroom” course that was created in collaboration with the Modern Classrooms Project. It allowed me to use Edpuzzle while learning more about the topic of self-paced learning. It was a great experience!

Here are some Edpuzzle features I loved:

  • There are notifications to remind you what assignments need to be worked on and completed.
  • It saves all your progress in the “in progress” section.
  • There are checkpoints throughout the video to ask questions and keep you engaged.
  • The checkpoints can be true or false questions, multiple choice, or even just a “note” to further your learning or give you a link to another site.
  • It shows your results at the end of the video assignment.

There’s no doubt about it, this course on Edpuzzle was engaging and informative! I learned so much about the tool itself while hearing a unique perspective on self-paced learning in an online environment.

If you are interested in receiving professional development through Edpuzzle, check out a list of their online courses! Some of their courses include: “Privacy and Security”, “Google Tools”, “Diversity and Inclusion”, and “Tech Integration.” Through their course, I was able to gain valuable insight into Edpuzzle as a formative assessment tool. I encourage you to join me in completing an Edpuzzle course so that you can learn more about it too. You can even get a certificate of completion and a shiny new badge like I did!

It’s important to recognize that formative assessment is still attainable during distance learning, especially with tools like Edpuzzle. Andrew Miller leaves us with these 7 strategies for implementing formative assessment in an online environment:

  1. Know your purpose
  2. Collect data over time
  3. Focus on feedback
  4. You can check for understanding in synchronous sessions
  5. Leverage personal conversations
  6. Check in on students’ well-being
  7. Make it useful

Formative assessment is an essential piece of distance learning. It may work differently than in the classroom, but in both circumstances it’s important to remember, the student is always at the center.

-Amanda

Social Media, the Social Dilemma, and Break Ups

#ECI833

The Social Dilemma, a documentary about the impact of social media on society, has made waves since it premiered this year. The film has caused people to think through their online actions and has even influenced people to delete their social media accounts altogether. It exposes some of the challenges that have emerged with the development of Web 2.0.

The Dilemma of Web 2.0

Daniel Nations says that Web 2.0 “marked an era where we weren’t just using the internet as a tool anymore—we were becoming a part of it.” This is something that was reiterated in The Social Dilemma. Everything we do online is an extension of ourselves. The digital world affects our day to day life, especially with the use of social media.

The movie sheds light on several issues that can arise from social media, such as mental health struggles, lack of productivity, and the spreading of false information. However, the topic that seemed most alarming was the privacy and security issues that arise with Web 2.0. In the film, they say that “every single action you take (online) is monitored and recorded.” The interesting part about that is, it is not monitored by people but rather powered by algorithms. These algorithms are used to predict the functions of the user for 3 main goals:

  1. engagement
  2. growth
  3. advertisement

Tristan Harris, a former Google design ethicist, says that the companies who rely on these algorithms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, are fighting for your attention because “their business model is to keep people engaged on the screen.” This might seem like a harmless idea… but when tech companies are in “the business of selling their users,” then it’s our security, privacy, and data at stake. The documentary brings up the interesting point that:

“…if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”

When you hear all of this information from the Social Dilemma, it sounds like our world is doomed. However, both Leigh and Tracy remind us that these arguments can be one-sided.

Is Social Media All Bad?

If our privacy is at risk and social media causes a long list of problems, should you get rid of it for good? I would argue no.

In The Social Dilemma, Tim Kendall talks about the initial reasons for creating social media and how it has positively impacted the world. He says:

“It’s easy today to lose sight of the fact that these tools actually have created some wonderful things in the world. They’ve reunited lost family members. They’ve found organ donors. There were meaningful, systemic changes happening around the world because of these platforms… I think we were naive about the flip side of that coin.”

Kendall reminds us of the value that social media can bring to our world. It allows us to connect with others in an instant and gives us opportunities that would otherwise not be possible. However, it’s critical that we do understand “the flip side of that coin.” If we engage in the online world. then we need to be equipped.

Instead of deleting all your social media apps right now, do some research about how you can better protect your online privacy and data. Instead of telling your kids that Tik Tok or Instagram is bad for you, have an open dialogue with them about the benefits, but also bring awareness to what they need to be careful of. Rather than getting scared about using the internet, learn the importance of digital citizenship, and read up on the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship. It’s important that we look at both sides of the coin.

At the end of The Social Dilemma, Jonathan Haidt suggests 3 tips for helping your kids with social media balance.

  1. All devices out of the bedroom at a fixed time every night.
  2. No social media until high school.
  3. Work out a “time budget” with your kids. Talk to them and ask how many hours a day they want to spend on their device. Have an open conversation about it.

When I heard the rules that Jonathon Haidt suggested for social media use, it reminded me of a book I read this summer.

Should I Break Up With My Phone?

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Over the summer, I started reading a book called “How to Break Up With Your Phone.” I thought it was the perfect time to take a break from social media and work on my “digital well-being.” The first half of the book is all about the impacts of social media on our bodies, brain, and our society as a whole. Again, it was another one-sided perspective with similar information to The Social Dilemma. What makes this book unique though, is that it gives a 30 Day Challenge in order to have a better relationship with your phone. It does not suggest giving up your phone altogether because it would not be sustainable or effective. Instead, Catherine Price says in the book, the goal “isn’t abstinence, it’s consciousness.”

I attempted the 30 Day Challenge in the summer, and during the first week, I was asked to respond to some prompts so that I could determine my purpose for the challenge. Here are some of my responses:

What do you love about your phone?
-escape
-connection to others
-stay “in the know”
-“information + accessibility
-texting
-photos/camera
-social media
-music

What don’t you love?
-comparison
-waste of time
-feel down
-too much noise/ overstimulated
-overwhelms me

These responses show that there are both good and bad characteristics of our phones. I wanted to complete the challenge so that I could balance out the good and bad. The funny thing about this challenge is that I didn’t actually complete it. I gave up after week 1 because I fell into old patterns and habits.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

After reading Catherine’s post this week, she inspired others to join her in a phone challenge. I reached out to her and asked if she wanted to try the 30 Day Challenge from “How to Break Up With Your Phone” so that we could do it together and keep each other accountable. The book actually suggests inviting friends or family to join so that you have someone to keep you on track. We are now taking part in the challenge and I’m glad that I can finally have a do-over! If you’re like me and want a better relationship with your phone, but don’t want to give it up altogether, join us in our phone challenge!

Instead of breaking up with my phone, I’m going to declare it a “break.” I want to have a healthy relationship and balance with social media and my device, but I also value the important role technology has in my life. I’m ready for a challenge, but not a breakup. Besides, I don’t know what my life would be like without memes or cooking videos.

-Amanda

A Day in the Life of Distance Learning

#ECI833

This post was a collaboration between Catherine Ready and Amanda Brace.

With any school experience, tools are needed in order for students to succeed. When it comes to an online learning environment, there are many online tools, apps, and sites that can support and facilitate learning. With the recent events of COVID-19, education has shifted. In the spring, teachers quickly moved to teaching supplemental learning online as an emergency response. Now that a new school year has begun, many schools have changed the way the classroom functions, with some schools even taking their schooling online with hybrid models or with distance education. In Regina Public, eSchool was created to accommodate students “who require an alternative way of learning outside of a school classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic.”  Since both of us have recently started working at eSchool, we wanted to share the online tools and platforms that have been most utilized during this time. 

4 Tools for Online Learning

Moodle 

Every online learning environment functions in their own unique way, but it’s crucial that they all have a platform for organization and learning, otherwise known as, a Learning Management System. A Learning Management System (LMS) is “a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, automation and delivery of educational courses.” Every LMS has different features and functions, and there are many different options to choose from, such as Schoology, Canvas, and Blackboard

The LMS that Regina Public eSchool uses is called Moodle. It allows teachers to create content and assess learning in a functional way. It gives students the chance to demonstrate learning and interact with their teachers and peers in both synchronous and asynchronous time. Moodle also provides a safe learning environment with their commitment to “safeguarding data security and user privacy.” There are many tools and features in Moodle that make this LMS stand out among the others. The chart titled “Moodle Tool Guide for Teachers and Educators,” gives information and tips about the tools that can be embedded in the platform. From this user guide, here is a breakdown of our favourite plugins and tools on Moodle. 

Label: Insert Text and Multimedia

We use this tool for organizing our classroom homepage in a variety of ways. It can be used as a header for assignments, links, and activities so that it improves the layout of the page. It also has the ability to embed videos and photos right into the page. Moodle states that “labels are very versatile and can help to improve the appearance of a course if used thoughtfully.”

Assignment: Use to Collect, Assess, and Provide Feedback on Assignments

A lot of teachers at eSchool use the Assignment tool for their day-to-day activities and assignments. It allows students to add files, photos, and videos. In addition to inputting grades, teachers can also give written feedback as well as audio feedback when they use the microphone tool. 

Chat: Hold real-time text chat discussions

This tool is a great way to communicate with students. With its instant messaging abilities, it gives teachers the opportunity to send group messages or communicate with individual students with the private message feature.

Feedback: Gather data from students on any topic

The feedback tool allows teachers to create custom surveys and quizzes for students so that feedback can be collected. The questions can be presented as multiple choice, yes or no, or with text. At eSchool, the feedback tool has been useful for anonymous surveys and for students to respond to lessons.

Scheduler: Book a time with your teacher

This tool has been a life saver during online learning! Teachers can create multiple time slots so that students can book an appointment. We have been using this feature for booking individual Google Meet times with our students and families. Moodle also sends out automatic reminders so that students are notified about their time. It’s a great way to manage communication and keep everyone organized! 

With just a small preview of the tools and features Moodle provides, it’s evident that this LMS is effective and versatile. Moodle continues to give students, teachers, and families at eSchool an organized learning platform that promotes communication and collaboration. With Moodle as the homebase for our online school, it makes other digital platforms and tools, such as Seesaw, G Suite, and WeVideo, easy to access and utilize. 

WeVideo

WeVideo is a “cloud-based editing platform” that can be used for screen recording and producing video content. This tool is essential for online learning as it allows for teachers to create asynchronous instructional videos. It can also be used by individual students or for group projects since there is a sharing setting that allows for collaboration among multiple editors. 

Many teachers at eSchool use WeVideo for adding a unique and creative element to their virtual classroom. Add multiple video or audio tracks, input sound effects or music, and add creative backgrounds or text. The easy-to-use green screen tool can create any type of background for the video or picture. As you can see in the video below, WeVideo is a platform that can be used to teach lessons and deliver content that is both engaging and informative for students. 

G Suite for Education 

Many divisions use the G Suite for Education as a tool to “collaborate anywhere, communicate your way, manage your classroom simply, organize your tasks and administer confidently”.  

Communicate 

All students in our division have a school email address that is accessed through Gmail. This email address provides students with login information for a variety of integrated apps and allows for quick and easy communication between student and teacher. 

For synchronous meetings, we use Google Meet for individual student meetings and whole group class meetings a few times a week. It is important to note that eSchool is an asynchronous learning design. We use Meets as opportunities to build relationships with our students and clarify any questions or concerns with learning activities, so that learning is accessible for students.

In Google Meets, the screen sharing function is an excellent way to share information with students using Slides. An example is going over examples with students or guided reading with individual students. The chat function can be turned on or off and gives students an opportunity to ask questions and participate in discussions if they do not feel comfortable using their mic to speak.

Collaborate

Through Google Drive, we share folders and files with our teaching teams and students that can be accessed from any mobile device, tablet or computer. You can store any file type in Google Drive and it also integrates seamlessly with Slides, Docs, Sheets, Forms and Jamboard.  

There are a variety of sharing settings that include sharing the file or folder with select users, only users in your organization or to anyone with the link. Furthermore, there is the ability to change the settings to make the users “viewers” or “editors” for more control of your files. Also, if you want to share a file with students but do not want everyone to edit the same file, you can change the settings to force the students to “Make a Copy” that will allow for individual editing. 

Google Drive has been an integral part of the sharing and collaboration process as we are able to work on documents together at the same time. For example, we have a document that outlines our weekly plans and each team member can contribute to it on their own time throughout the week, but we can be assured that every team member has the most recent update. We also enjoy the ability to access Google Drive through the app on our phones. 

Organize

Scheduling individual meetings with students is a simple process through Calendar, as you can select a start and end time, add Google Meet conferencing and send invitations to student emails (which they access through Gmail). This is useful when scheduling multiple meetings in advance and saves time as all the details are organized in one place. You can also add reminders and alerts and can be notified when an attendee “accepts” the meeting invitation. The automation of these steps means the teacher can focus more on the meeting and less on the logistical details. 

Engage
One of our favourite tools to engage students is through the use of Jamboard, an interactive whiteboard tool. You can use the tool in a synchronous environment, like during a Google Meet, or as an asynchronous tool, like posting a daily question or morning message that students can access on their own time. Similar to a classic classroom whiteboard, students can add or erase, use their finger or stylus pen if using a tablet or phone and collaborate with their classmates at any time. 

A note on privacy

Like all technology tools, it is important to understand the privacy and safety implications of using the tools with students. Most organizations have strict guidelines on the type of information that can be collected and stored on cloud-based storage solutions. From a productivity and organizational standpoint, Google Drive is an excellent tool that integrates very well with other apps, but it’s critical to have an understanding of the security and privacy before using them. 

Seesaw

Seesaw is a “platform for student engagement” and allows teachers to “empower students to create, reflect, share, and collaborate.” (Seesaw) There are many ways that Seesaw Stands Out, but here are some typical uses at eSchool.

Activity Library
Teachers can create their own activity, assign an existing activity from a large Seesaw community library, or copy and edit an existing activity to suit their needs. Teachers can include templates, voice instructions, links and examples for students to complete the activities.

Schedule Activities
Teachers schedule activities in advance and can also select if they want to assign to the entire class or particular students.

Post Approval and Commenting
There is a setting which requires posts to be approved before they are posted to a student journal. Teachers can provide comments (written or voice), “like” a post or go in a directly edit on a post before approving.

Folders
Teachers and students can sort activities into folders, like “Math, ELA, Science” for easy organization and later access.

Announcements
Teachers can send announcements to students and/or their family members that are connected using the Seesaw Family app.

Pin to Top
This tool allows teachers to pin a post to the top of a student journal for easy access. Some examples include a daily message, weekly plan or Google Meet information.

Seesaw is an amazing tool to engage with students and families and build relationships.  It is very easy for students to record themselves reading or explaining an answer to a question which makes for a more personal online learning experience.  The Seesaw Family App allows family members to be connected to their student’s journal and is an easy way to communicate questions about activities.  Seesaw will also translate notes, comments, captions, announcements and messages to over 55 different languages.  The family engagement keeps students motivated to learn in a distance learning environment. 

From a teacher perspective, there is a very welcoming Seesaw community of educators through Facebook Groups, Instagram, Twitter and training programs. This includes the Seesaw Pioneer  program followed with the Seesaw Ambassador program to help connect like-minded educators around the world that are using Seesaw. For example, this October 2020 challenge is to “Treat Yourself to 5 New Ideas” and share how you are using the ideas with the educator community.  

Honourable Mentions 

There are many other tools and platforms that are used during a “Day in the Life” of an eSchool teacher, but the four tools listed above are some that we could not live without. Some of the “honourable mentions” that could have made that list are:

If you find yourself venturing into the world of online learning like we did, we hope our list of tools gave you some insight and inspiration. We also want to leave you with some tips for success in an online learning environment.

  1. Have a growth mindset and be open minded
  2. Communication is key 
  3. Have flexibility and grace for yourself and others
  4. Keep it simple

And remember… have fun! 

@Catherine_Ready and @amandajebrace