A Day in the Life of Distance Learning

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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

Stop Multitasking and Quit Typing: Some Thoughts on Productivity

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Productivity.

It’s a loaded word. It means different things to different people. I have always thought of productivity as having the motivation and the efficiency to get tasks done effectively and quickly. However, as I thought more about what productivity means to me and what it means to our society, my perspective started to shift.

In a video called “Single-Tasking is the New Multitasking”, James Hamblin says, “if you asked me the last time I did a thing and just did it and wasn’t also trying to do something else… I wouldn’t be able to tell you.”

These words resonated with me on a whole new level. I want you to ask yourself a similar question…

When was the last time you solely focused on one task?

The older and busier I get, the harder it is for me to focus on one task at a time. This is especially true when I use technology. I started using technology for productivity. I still use it for that very reason, but I wonder if my ability to multi-task with technology actually slows me down and hinders my productivity. Sometimes I find myself using technology tools like Google Docs and Google Slides for the purpose of productivity, but when I am using all of these technology tools at once, it can actually slow me down. The idea of multitasking and pursuing productivity is not only apparent when I use technology, but also in my personal life.

I have always been a multitasker. I like to do multiple things in a short amount of time. I am constantly busy, I have a hard time slowing down, and I have difficulty saying no. I have always thought those were good qualities to have. There is actually a big difference between being busy and being productive, as you can see in the sketch note by John Spencer. As time goes on, I realize that my ability to multitask can actually take away the quality of the task and the completion of the activity.

In March, I ruptured my Achilles tendon. If you need something to slow you down and stop you in your tracks, this is it. Before the injury happened, I remember thinking to myself that I need to slow down because I had too much on my plate. Lo and behold, the injury happened. I had to stop everything. Teaching, extracurricular activities, and my social life all came to a halt. Quickly after I was injured, the pandemic hit, which meant everything else shut down around me too. I was forced to slow down in a way that I’ve never done before. Through that experience, I was able to do one task at a time, at my own pace. No more multitasking needed! I was happier, healthier, and had more energy and motivation in life.

Now that I am back to teaching and taking another class, I am quickly finding that my old habits of multi-tasking and moving at a busy pace are back. I thought the lessons that I learned during my time of slowing down would stick with me today. Unfortunately, I am finding myself at that same point before I got injured, and that’s on the path to burn out.

The idea of productivity and multitasking has been on my mind a lot this week. With assignments due, deadlines coming up, and priorities and commitments in my personal life, I have been busier than ever. I haven’t been slowing down or resting, which has actually hindered my productivity. I am less alert, more tired, and very overwhelmed. This brings me back to the idea of what it means to be productive. I’m realizing that a lot of the expectations that we have for ourselves and others are not sustainable or healthy. Productivity should mean achieving our goals and getting tasks done in ways that allow us to be our best selves. The idea of multitasking is impossible, and our expectations of productivity need to change.

I recently listened to a podcast by Hope and Wade King called, “The New Edu”. They talked all about productivity and completing tasks. One of the ideas they suggest is starting your morning in a way that benefits you. They talk about how introverts and extroverts gain energy in different ways, and if we start our day in a way that suits our personality, it can set us up for success. They also suggest that we “Eat the Frog” by getting the big tasks done first. When we accomplish the most intimidating and time-consuming tasks early on in the day, then we feel less overwhelmed for the remaining tasks. It helps to know that conversations surrounding health and productivity are happening with other educators. Sometimes we all need a reminder to slow down in order to pursue true productivity.

Emily Bonnie, suggests “44 Productivity Hacks to Turn Procrastination Into Action” that fall under four categories: Focus, Save Time, Prioritize, and Get Motivated. Here are some of her suggestions that I want to put into action:

  1. Write distractions down.
  2. Delegate whenever possible.
  3. Pick 3 “Most Important” tasks to complete.
  4. Break big tasks into bite-sized pieces.
  5. Stop multitasking.

As you can see, there are many ways for us to boost our productivity without multitasking and adding more to our plate. There are many ways for us to slow down, yet stay productive. I want to make it a priority to stay productive without burning out.

In Emily Bonnie’s list of 44 Productivity Hacks, she also says Quit Typing and “try speech dictation software to get your thoughts down faster”. So that’s exactly what I did this week. I wrote this entire blog post with the speech to text feature on my phone. Productivity at it’s finest!

Moving forward, I want to follow in the footsteps of Emily Bonnie. I want to find new ways to stay productive, yet healthy and happy. So, who’s with me? Let’s remember to Stop Multitasking and Quit Typing.

-Amanda

What We Can Still Learn From Sesame Street

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“…We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street.” Which is to say, we now know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.” – Neil Postman (1985)

When I think back to my own schooling experience, I remember moments of engagement, moments of excitement, and moments of disinterest. The years that I remember the most always had to do with the teacher and the type of learning that was taking place. It also had to do with the amount of ownership and participation that I was involved in. The lessons that impacted me were rarely done through traditional schooling methods, like taking notes or reading textbooks. Instead, I was moved by real-world lessons and assignments that gave us the opportunity to look beyond ourselves.

When I think about my own schooling expereince, it brings me to this quote by Neil Postman (1985) when he says “…We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street.” Which is to say, we now know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.” I grew up craving non-traditional learning experiences, similar to the type of learning that Sesame Street presents. Why is Sesame Street seen as a different learning experience? Well, first of all, they were always ahead of their time… pushing the boundaries so that each child felt seen and heard. They also moved beyond the idea of “traditional schooling” because their content was delivered through a unique approach… through television and AV technology.

AV Technology in Education

AV technology is “electronic media possessing both a sound and a visual component”, such as movies, television, and projectors. It has been around for quite some time, as you can see in the “Then VS Now” infographic. AV technology has especially been utilized in education, which has changed the traditional model of teaching. Ever since AV technology has been incorporated into education, there has been a shift in the way learning has been facilitated. Educational Technology has changed the way “schooling” happens. Tablets, computers, and interactive whiteboards have all played an important role in education over the last decade. However, the traditional ways of schooling are still the norm in many classrooms, but is it the most effective?

The idea of using Educational Technology in teaching, specifically AV technology, reminds me of my experience in a P3 school. I first applied to work in one of these schools because of the open-concept classrooms, the push for collaboration, and the opportunities for 21st-century learning. The interactive projectors, audio tools, and captivating technology had also motivated me to apply. During my experience in this type of learning environment, I pushed myself to use technology in new ways so that my students were further engaged and excited to take ownership of their learning. I wanted to emulate the type of teacher that I remembered and respected in my own schooling journey. However, if I didn’t have that passion or drive to integrate the technology tools in creative and authentic ways in my classroom, then the learning would have fallen flat. As educators, if we don’t lead our learning with purpose or meaning, then the technology is useless. Dean brings up this point in his post when he says, “it’s not about the technology, it is about the learner experience and technology should be a tool not an ends to a means.” 

The lessons that I remember from school growing up impacted me because they were meaningful and were facilitated in authentic ways. Educators need to facilitate learning that is meaningful. It doesn’t always matter what mode we use to get there, but we need to give students the opportunity to think deeper and learn in new ways, just like Sesame Street does.

Moving Forward with Meaning

It is evident that Sesame Street is seen as a different learning experience that “undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents”, but is that a bad thing? It’s not seen as a different way of schooling just because the program is delivered through television. It undermines the traditional way of schooling because it goes beyond the standard subjects of reading and writing. It represents something bigger.

NPR says that “…Sesame Street has proven for 40 years, sometimes a show is more than just a show.” It’s a platform to reach kids in a tangible way. A show that isn’t afraid to bring up controversial topics and big ideas, which isn’t always the case in the classroom.

If you explore the Sesame Street website, they have a list of “Tool Kits” to help kids understand difficult subjects. The show has a “history of explaining the world to children” in hopes of bringing up topics such as divorce, substance abuse, and grief. In their newest season, they are airing an episode called “The Power of We” to discuss racism. They are tackling real-world issues head-on so that families and children can be a part of these conversations together.

Was Postman right in saying that Sesame Street differs from what the traditional idea of schooling represents? Yes. However, I choose to look at that in a positive way. I think we can all learn a thing or two from Sesame Street and move forward with education in a non-traditional way.

-Amanda

My Take on Chrome Extensions

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What’s your choice of browser?

Maybe it’s Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge, or maybe even…. dare I say it… Internet Explorer? When it comes to a web browser, everyone has their personal preference. My personal choice of browser? Google Chrome.

Steve Johns says that Chrome “allows its users to customize and control their user experience to a degree most other browsers don’t.” One of the other benefits of using Google Chrome is accessing the Chrome Extensions. If you are a Google Chrome user, you have probably had your fair share of using the extensions. Extensions are applications that can be added to your personal Chrome browser to increase accessibility and performance. In order to download a Chrome Extension, you need to:

1. Open up your Chrome browser.
2. Go to the Chrome Extension Store.


3. Search for the extension you want to add to your browser.
4. Click “Add to Chrome”.

5. Read and approve the security settings.
6. Access the extension in the browser toolbar after it’s downloaded.

There are endless amounts of Chrome Extensions to choose from to serve whatever purpose you need. For example, in order to add the photos that I used in the instructions above, I used the Chrome Extension called Lightshot– a screenshot tool. It allows you to screenshot the selected area and save to it to your computer and social networks. It also has a drawing and shape tool to add to your picture before you save it.

Along with Lightshot, there are many other extensions that are useful for educators and students. Here are some extensions that I have enjoyed using during my time of online teaching:

Screencastify:
A video screen recorder

Features:

  • It can capture a screen recording of a single tab or your whole screen.
  • You can show your face with the embedded camera, or you can simply narrate with your microphone.
  • It has a drawing tool and a highlighter when the mouse is clicked.
  • It automatically saves to your Google Drive, but it can also be easily downloaded.

Setbacks:

  • The free version only saves a 5 minute video.
  • The video can only be trimmed from the beginning or end. As soon as you want to add more editing to the video, you need to purchase the paid version.
Bitmoji app icon | Bitmoji app, App, Emoji

Bitmoji:
An extension that connects to your Bitmoji character… because who doesn’t love using them in every lesson possible.

Features:

  • You can easily insert your Bitmoji into Google Docs and Slides.
  • Conveniently search for a specific theme or picture to insert into your document.
  • You can simply copy and paste your Bitmoji so that you can easily transfer it.

Setbacks:

Google Meet Grid View:
It shows every participant with video in your Google Meet in grid-like squares.

Features:

  • Once the extension is downloaded, it automatically shows up in your Google Meet settings.
  • The extension says that it “does not track any user data”, something that is rare for a Chrome Extension.

Setbacks:

  • Honestly… it’s a very glitchy extension. There were times that the extension would stop working and I would have to re-install it. However, it’s difficult to host successful Google Meets without it!
  • The Chrome store has multiple extensions called Grid View, so make sure you download the correct one.

New Chrome Extensions

Math in GSuite with EquatIO and EquatIO mathspace – EdTech Awesomeness
EdTech Awesomeness

I wanted to try out a few new extensions to add to my repertoire. Recently, someone told me about the digital math extension called Equatio. I’ve had a lot of fun playing around with it and can see how it benefits educators and students! Have you ever tried to write a math equation on a Google Doc or Form? It’s not fun! This extension allows you to add complex math symbols into your Google documents seamlessly. You can add your math equations into the “Equation Editor” and even create symbols to add to your documents, as seen in the video below (that I created using Screencastify). This numeracy extension is incredibly convenient to have for teaching and creating math lessons!

Another Chrome Extension that I tried out is called Noisli. I was interested in this extension because it can help with productivity for educators and students. Ever since I started teaching online, I have difficulty remembering to take breaks during the day because I get so focused on the task at hand. With this extension, you can set a timer for yourself and break up your work day. The extension creates nature background “noise” for a calming work environment. The downfall with this extension is that there are limited sounds with the free version. If nature noises help you focus, then the paid Noisli extension might be worth it!

Is It Worth the Risk?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When all is said and done, are Chrome Extensions worth the security risk? That’s something that I ask myself quite often. Every time you download an extension, you have to “agree” to the Terms and Conditions… and sometimes those conditions have to do with tracking your personal data. There are risks to weigh when it comes to using online applications, downloading plug ins and extensions, and browsing on the web. It’s crucial that we focus on not only protecting our own privacy and data, but our students privacy and data as well. Curtis brought up the importance of “getting our students to consent to where their data is going” so that they understand how their information is being used online.

So what now? Should we continue to download Chrome Extensions? In my opinion, yes.

As educators, it’s important that we recognize how much education has changed. Students are primarily online, which means that we need to meet them where they are at. We have the opportunity to make our online teaching experience easier, and make their learning experience more accessible and enjoyable. Chrome Extensions are a great way to engage students and accommodate learning needs. However, instead of downloading every Chrome Extension we come across, let’s remember to read up on the Privacy Policy first so that we know how our data is being stored and used. And let’s continue to make security a priority as we manage this digital world.

-Amanda

A Look into Learning Theories

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Learning is something that sustains our society and drives our world. It is integrated into every facet of our lives. Are you curious how to bake bread? Are you interested in becoming a skilled guitar player? Do you want to know how to solve an intricate math problem? You can learn it! You can learn through storytelling, reading books, researching online, or through experience.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

The list is endless.

If you’re like me, however, you are probably unaware of the theories that are behind this driving force of learning. Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism… these are all learning theories that have been established over time. Little did I know, these theories (and more) have been interwoven in my teaching practices throughout the past seven years. Paul Stevens-Fulbrook does a great job of breaking down the meaning of each theory in regards to education.

Behaviorism:

“Behaviourism is based on the idea that knowledge is independent and on the exterior of the learner. In a behaviourist’s mind, the learner is a blank slate that should be provided with the information to be learnt.”

This theory is about repeating certain actions and then receiving a reward or consequence based on that action.

Cognitivism:

“Cognitivism focuses on the idea that students process information they receive rather than just responding to a stimulus.”

This theory allows the student to reorganize information with their past knowledge, process it, and then apply it to their own world. In the article, “Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features From an Instructional Design Perspective”, Peggy A. Ertmer and Timothy J. Newby state that “when a learner understands how to apply knowledge in different contexts, then transfer has occurred.”

Constructivism

“Constructivism is based on the premise that we construct learning new ideas based on our own prior knowledge and experiences. Learning, therefore, is unique to the individual learner. “

The theory of constructivism is not about facts or memorization, but instead, it allows the learner to gain knowledge based on interactions and experiences.

Theories in my Teaching

All three of these theories have showed up in my classroom in various ways. They have even played a part in my pedagogy, and some currently still do.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I am intentional about cultivating deep discussions with my students, using real-world examples in my lessons, and encouraging problem solving in learning… which all resonate with cognitivism. I have facilitated inquiry based learning, group collaboration, and research projects in my grade 3 classroom… which all fall under the theory of constructivism. However, the theory that I connect with the least is behaviorism.

When I first started teaching, I didn’t understand the negative connotations that this “action and reward” theory can have in education. I am guilty of using it in the past for different activities in my classroom, such as classroom incentives, student behaviour charts, and positive feedback or reward for good behaviour. I now realize that when the theory of behaviorism is used in this way, it has the potential to cause shame and guilt within our students. Like I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, specifically about Class Dojo, it “can create a negative label for students at a young age and wrongfully gives teachers the opportunity to present their own biases towards certain children.”

My Connection to Connectivism

Photo by Junior Teixeira on Pexels.com

As I evolve and grow as an educator, especially as an educator who uses EdTech, so do my theories and educational practices. I have never been able to put a name to my current educational pedagogy, but through our readings this week, connectivism resonated with me. This theory has been established within the internet era, unlike the three other theories mentioned above. I appreciate the modern take on learning that connectivism brings. In an article called “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age”, George Siemens reminds us that “over the last twenty years, technology has reorganized how we live, how we communicate, and how we learn”, and “learning now occurs in a variety of ways – through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks.” The theory of connectivism gives freedom to the individual to learn in their own way and to seek knowledge through different avenues. Learning doesn’t necessarily have a start and an end.

As I look forward in my teaching career, my desire is to give ownership to the students in their learning process so that they learn the skills necessary to “flourish in a digital era”. My pedagogy and practice may continue to change over time, but my desire to instill a love for learning in my students will stay the same. At the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about?

-Amanda Brace

A Deeper Definition of EdTech

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Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

Technology has been a part of my classroom ever since I started teaching. Over the years, I’ve developed a passion for using technology in education, but my definition of Educational Technology, otherwise known as EdTech, has evolved and changed over time. There are many ways to describe EdTech, but according to Wikipedia, it’s “the combined use of computer hardware, software, and educational theory and practice to facilitate learning” and “improve user academic performance.” If I were to critically examine this definition of EdTech, I would say it’s lacking some substance. If I looked at this definition when I first became familiar with EdTech seven years ago, I would have simply agreed with it.

When I first started teaching, I was eager to use technology in my new grade 3 classroom. I didn’t have a lot of experience with it, but I was creative, ambitious, and willing to experiment through trial and error. However, when I first began, I used EdTech for the sole purpose of using EdTech. It was for the image and the anticipation of the “cool” tricks I could perform in my classroom. I didn’t think about the purpose, the repercussions, and most importantly, the privacy or protection of my students. I was unaware that with the use of EdTech comes responsibility to do my research.

Neil Postman, an American author, educator, and critic of media and culture, wrote an article that analyzes and critiques modern advancements and change in technology. He reminds us that “we need to proceed with our
eyes wide open so that we may use technology rather than be used by it.” This is something I didn’t consider when I first started my journey with EdTech as a first year teacher. Postman lists “5 Things We Need To Know About Technological Change.” The ideas can be summed up like this:

  1. “For every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage.” Lisa talks more about this idea in her recent post, “The Price of Technology.”

  2. “The advantages and disadvantages of new technologies are never distributed evenly among the population.” He suggests that we ask ourselves important questions when we use technology and media, such as:

    Why do you do this?
    What interests do you represent?
    To whom are you hoping to give power?
    From whom will you be withholding power?

    As educators, it’s absolutely critical that we ask these questions.

  3. “Every technology has a prejudice.” Postman goes on to say that technology and media have biases. He reminds us that “it predisposes us to favor and value certain perspectives and accomplishments.”

  4. “We must be cautious about technological innovation” because “the consequences of technological change are always vast, often unpredictable and largely irreversible.”

  5. “When a technology becomes mythic, it is always dangerous because it is then accepted as it is, and is therefore not easily susceptible to modification or control.” Postman means that when we think of technology as the “be-all and end-all”, then there is no room to be critical and conscious of what we are using or promoting. He encourages us to ” view technology as a strange intruder.”
Fractus Learning (Mike Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship)

I still have a long way to go, but with the knowledge and insight I’ve gained through my teaching experience and my Master’s classes, I have come to realize that EdTech has multiple layers. These layers include digital access, security and privacy, equality and diversity, digital citizenship… a lot of which are included in Mike Ribble’s “9 Elements of Digital Citizenship.” It is not just about the “cool” tricks I can do in my classroom. EdTech needs to have deeper meaning and purpose, because at the end of the day, EdTech is not the teacher. So what does a deeper definition of EdTech look like? Here is what I would include in my definition today:

Educational Technology: “Using technology purposefully in education to enhance learning, empower students, provide access, establish protection and security, critically analyze media and news, and give equal opportunity.”

What does your deeper definition of EdTech look like?

-Amanda Brace

Back to the Blogging World

#ECI833

After a whole summer off, I am back to the blogging world. It’s hard to believe that 2 months have come and gone, but here we are… ready for another semester. I accomplished a lot this summer, but more importantly, I rested and took a break. After rupturing my Achilles tendon, navigating the world of online teaching, and isolating for months due to COVID-19, I was ready for a summer of relaxation.

Instead of travelling to Europe like I had originally planned, I spent the summer at my cabin enjoying time with family. I read books, slept in, and worked on a building project with my dad. I tried things this summer that I have never had the time for in the past (did I mention that I dyed my hair pink?) I could finally slow down and enjoy what was in front of me.

Now that I had my time of rest and rehab, I am ready for another Master’s class and year of teaching. I am looking forward to learning more about the foundations of EdTech so that I have a better understanding of the online tools and platforms that I use in my own life and with my students.

Even though I am excited to learn about the content in this class, it’s really the people that make it worthwhile. I don’t know about you, but my favourite part about these online classes is the community that we build. I can’t wait to connect with each of you on Twitter, through blogging, and in our weekly night classes. So here’s to another semester… let’s do this!

-Amanda

Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology: Summary of Learning

#eci830

It’s hard to believe that another semester has come and gone. This has truly been one of the most challenging, yet inspiring classes I have been a part of. I never expected to grow and learn so much in just a month and a half. Debating contemporary issues in education is something that every educator should take part in because it allows you to see issues from all points of views and widen your perspective. If you would like to go back to the beginning and read my reflection of each debate, you can click the links below:

  1. What’s Your App Count?
  2. The Big Debate: Does Technology Enhance Learning?
  3. The Deeper Meaning Behind the Digital Divide
  4. Not What we Are Learning, But How: A Look Into Inquiry-Based Learning
  5. Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?
  6. Cellphones in the Classroom: The Controversy Continues
  7. Is it Fair to Share?
  8. Nothing Good Comes From Being Neutral

Like I say in my Summary of Learning video, I am so grateful for everything I learned during this semester. I feel impacted by each one of you in my class… whether it was through your stories, your perspectives, your humour, your blog posts, your tweets, or your encouragement. Thank you for being a part of my #edtech journey and for pushing me to be a better educator so that collectively, we can make a difference in the lives of others and in our world.

-Amanda

Nothing Good Comes From Being Neutral

#eci830

Desmond Tutu once said, “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” These words couldn’t be more relevant to our world right now. These words challenge me to advocate, speak up, and seek change… because nothing good comes from being neutral. Does taking part in social justice look the same for everyone? No. However, I do know that staying silent is not an option.

These thoughts and ideas, along with many others, were brought up in our final #eci830 debate last week. It was a class that I will never forget. I was moved, impacted, and inspired through the words that were spoken and the stories that were shared. The topic was “educators have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice.” For the debate, Mike and Jacquie brought forward valuable points that reminded us that “school can and should be bigger than its walls.” They said that promoting social justice through social media allows students to develop skills in problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and perseverance. They said that if we want equity, then we can’t stay silent. On the other hand, Brad and Michala talked about how instead of addressing social justice issues online, educators should focus on face-to-face communication because social justice starts with relationship. They also reminded us of the problems that can arise with “slacktivism”, which is “showing support for a cause with the main purpose of boosting egos of participants in the movement.”

As educators, I do believe it is our responsibility to teach social justice, but it doesn’t necessarily mean through social media. Rather, social media gives us the opportunity. However, staying out of these conversations because they are too “political” or too “complicated” is a privileged point of view. Your voice is needed in these important conversations. Your voice is needed in your personal relationships, at your workplace, and around the dinner table. For some of us, our voice needs to be used online, within social media, and in a digital setting.

We are living in a time where social media is used by the masses. It has the ability to reach people in an instant and make a mark. This has especially been made known within the last two weeks. We have seen an outcry of support for #BlackLivesMatter through social media movements like #BlackOutTuesday. We have been able to spread awareness, sign petitions, and stand together online. There is no doubt about it, social media has gained an important place in our society, especially when it comes to social justice. Even though there is incredible value in using our voice online, it’s also important to make sure we are amplifying the voices that are needed right now. This is something that I have come to recognize the incredible importance of.

Monique Melton, an anti-racism educator and author, posted two pictures on Instagram recently that struck me to the core. The first post says “Your Silence is Violence.” She goes on to say that “when I think of all the ways in which white supremacy is so violent, one that comes to mind is white silence….So what are you going to do? How will you disrupt this legacy of white silence? It’s not about being an expert or having all the words to say…it’s not about this at all. There’s a way to use your voice without speaking over us or for us—we have a voice and you need to be amplifying it. But instead you’re silent. And that’s violent.”

In another post titled “White Fatigue is Violent”, she says “the white fatigue keeps you silent, apathetic, inactive & violent…Instead of focusing on how this work makes u feel, focus on why this work must be done, daily. This work must be done to end the racialized violence against BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour), repair the centuries of harm done & redistribute power & resources equitably so we can all live fully in our humanity. Do the work, daily.”

It’s crucial to recognize that before we can be effective in using our voice online, we need to look within ourselves and like Monique says, “do the work daily”. We all need to address and evaluate our own biases and privilege in our own lives before we take it to the world. Jacquie brought up an important point in the debate by saying “the deep work is personal.” When we talk about anti-racism work, it’s more than posting, donating, or signing petitions. It’s a conscious effort to not only recognize the privilege in your own life, but to actively stand up to the white supremacy that is embedded into North America. It’s about speaking up for the marginalized and oppressed in every platform or circle we are a part of. We need to collectively come together and dig up the roots of racism and injustice in our society. What it comes down to is that we all have a responsibility to promote social justice, but we also have deeper work to do, which cannot be done on social media.

If you need somewhere to start, here are some resources that have helped me in this social justice journey. But remember, this is just a starting point. The work needs to be done daily… in our everyday thoughts, actions, and words.

As Jacquie said in our debate last week, “maybe we don’t need to go for the home run of fixing the world through one tweet, perhaps it’s those little things and those little moments of leaning into what breaks your heart and creating ways and places that we can act in service, and kindness, and in compassion.” Social media can be the platform of change, but we all need to carry empathy and compassion on this road of anti-oppression and social justice if we want to make a difference in our world. We will pursue the deeper work within ourselves, so that we can continue to fight for change in our work places, families, churches, classrooms, and communities.

-Amanda

Is it Fair to Share?

#eci830
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When I first signed up for social media, I posted pictures on Instagram, status updates on Facebook, and location pins on Foursquare without thinking twice. I had no need to look deeper into the ramifications that these online actions would have. Social media was like a shiny new object that everyone was enamoured by. Looking back now, I realize that since social media was new for everyone, I had no one guiding or teaching me about digital citizenship or online privacy. Openness and sharing online was seen as an exciting new world, yet now we know it comes with some concerns.

We had a great debate in our #eci830 class this week about openness and sharing in schools… something that I didn’t have a strong stance on before the class. Melinda and Altan argued that online sharing in education is unfair to kids. They reminded us that posting pictures of our students on social media is something that should not be taken lightly because it becomes a part of their digital footprint forever. They talked about the privacy concerns and potential dangers that occur when pictures or information are posted online without a second thought. They also touched on the opportunity gap that takes place when we expect students to use Open Educational Resources at home, only to make the Digital Divide more prominent. On the other hand, Dean and Sherrie talked about the positive outcomes that openness and sharing can bring into the classroom and community. It offers deep and meaningful learning opportunities, encourages the use of the “4 C’s” (collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking), and creates life long learners.

Even though each team brought up valuable points that agreed and disagreed with the statement that “Openness and Sharing in Schools is Unfair to Kids,” they both settled on the fact that teachers need to model and discuss positive digital citizenship with their students. This includes bringing up privacy and security concerns with both students and families. Common Sense Education reminds us that “our students need teachers who model pro-social, creative, and responsible social media use.” They come up with a crucial list of ways you can protect your students’ privacy on social media. Teachers, please read this! It’s SO valuable. Some of the points they make are:

  • Review your school’s social media rules so that you are aware of what is acceptable and required before you post online. Make sure you don’t share pictures of students without parental consent.
  • Use signed consent forms/ media release forms with your parents.
  • Have a discussion with your students about how you will be using social media in your classroom.
  • Be aware of any visible student or class information around your classroom like Seesaw codes, first and last names, log ins, passwords, assessment, etc.
  • Go through your online files on Google Drive to make sure there is no sensitive information that could go public. Make sure that your file names do not contain student names.
  • Double check pictures of students before you share on social media. Make sure there are no names present.
  • Disable location services on Twitter or Facebook when posting pictures.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As educators, it’s our job to not only be aware of these things, but to actively share the importance of them with parents and other teachers. When I started thinking more about openness, online sharing, and privacy concerns, the online platform Class Dojo came to mind. I have never personally used this app, but I am aware of how it works and how it can be used in the classroom. If you are someone that uses this online tool, please hear me out before you decide to use it in your classroom next year. When we talk about protecting our students online privacy, it doesn’t just have to do with sensitive personal information like names, birthdays, or browsing data. It also has to do with academics and behaviour. Not only does this app reward and discipline students in an open online setting, causing many problems to arise in itself, but it also tracks how students do academically and behaviourally in the classroom. This platform can create a negative label for students at a young age and wrongfully gives teachers the opportunity to present their own biases towards certain children. It can also record sensitive information for various companies and individuals to use in the future. This is information and data that should not be shared publicly. Natasha Singer says that Class Dojo “is being adopted without sufficiently considering the ramifications for data privacy and fairness, like where and how the data might eventually be used.” Teachers need to be aware of the concerns that arise when we use data-tracking apps in the classroom because these choices can negatively impact our students in the future. Before promoting or using an online tool in the classroom, we need to do our research and look at the bigger picture.

Photo from Pexels.com

When all is said and done, openness and sharing online is intricately woven into almost every part of our students lives. As educators, we need to understand how to use social media and online learning safely and how to teach our students to do the same. Even though there are guidelines we should follow when it comes to sharing online, it does not mean the sharing shouldn’t happen. Instead of deleting social media or staying silent, Jessica Baron suggests that educators and families should “give more thought to what they post, eliminate unnecessary layers of information like geotagging, and talk to their kids as soon as they’re able about what’s being put online about them.” Dean and Sherrie reminded us that if we understand consent and privacy, openness and sharing “creates a safe learning space, culture of collaboration… and an immediate audience.” So as educators, is it fair to share online in an open setting? I believe it is, as long as we are aware of the concerns, the consent, and the citizenship. Let’s remember that there is power in online sharing and learning when it’s done thoughtfully and intentionally.

-Amanda