For Every Goal There is an Assistive Technology!

In the What Works? article there were a number of different ways to implement assistive technology in a learning environment, one option that stood out to me was, “Use assistive technology as part of the regular rhythm of the class. When assistive technology becomes part of the classroom’s “DNA,” students and teachers will use it naturally and organically.” This really struck a chord with me, as a grade seven and eight teacher. I have had a number of students that have been in my class that have had “board-certified” computers as assistive technology. While most of the students who have had these devices embraced them, there have been some that have viewed it in a different light, they see themselves as different and using them makes them seem less “cool” to the rest of the student population. To counter this negative connotation to a positive tool I found it really helped those students when everyone was on a device. I started to incorporate more lessons that were tech-based and giving students the opportunity to utilize technology, as an assistive tool, for most assignments. It was through a couple of these assignments where the student who needed to use the assistive technology became comfortable using it and realized how lucky they were to have this tool at their disposal all of the time, this really helped to break the stigma that they had about using their board-certified computers.

Once a comfort level was reached they began to utilize the programs that were available to them more efficiently. Google Read and Write was one such tool that has had an impact in my classroom. There are students who do not need to use this program, but still do because it is such a great tool and lets them try to do tasks a bit differently than they would normally approach it. It’s in these moments you kind of wish that every student had a board-certified device because it is such a valuable tool that will assist any student gain greater technological literacy.  The great thing about Google Read and Write is the fact that it is free for teachers

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In an article by Keetam D. F. Alkahtani on assistive technology they state, “The effective use of assistive technologies is the difference between experiencing success or failure in the educational setting for students with disabilities.” This is the most important part of utilizing these technologies in education. If assistive programs and technologies are not taught and used properly you are failing the student and their educational needs. It’s in these circumstances that educators are given the proper PD in order to meet the needs of these students and students utilizing these great technologies need to be taught how to properly utilize them otherwise we are failing them in their educational potential.

It was quite clear in the presentation when we were able to see a number of different tools that were used by Brittany Thies in her developmental classroom. It was neat to see the different tools that she uses with her students. The assistive tech that I liked, and forgive me because the name escapes me, had a large yellow ball that students could nudge to perform a function, her example was when they hooked it up to a blender. In another article about assistive technology in the classroom the author echo’s the sentiment the group had stating, “These devices promote independence for people with disabilities as they adapt and interact in their environment.” Reflecting back on the presentation I was quite amazed at the different technological advancements that have been made and are utilized within our classrooms for students of all ages and needs.

The last point I want to cover is the fact that, as Michael states in his blog “…and the students spent time showing me how they used Dragon Dictate and Kurzweil.” students are a valuable tool in learning about assistive technology as well. There have been many times throughout my career where I have had student help to solve issues with assistive technology in the class and its in these moments that they get to be the expert and it’s a great feeling watching them get the satisfaction of problem-solving, and being a big help.

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Kahoot Scoot Boogy!

Throughout my short seven-year career in education, admittedly, I have not used many different assessment technologies. The one that I was introduced to a couple years ago was Kahoot. I had the opportunity to use my smartphone in a staff meeting and participate in a quiz. At this point, I was kind of hesitant, I found the website, and a screen popped up where I had to punch in my game code.  After entering the game code and coming up with a name I was in!

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This experience for me was eyeopening in two different ways initially. The first thing I really felt was a need to get the question that was presented right. I looked over the answers and chose the correct one… but not as fast as a couple of other teachers that were actively partaking in the activity as well. I kept answering the questions correctly but someone would always remain ahead of me in the accumulation of the total points, this is where my competitive side really started kicking in. I really wanted to get the next question right, but fast, so I could stack up the points a bit faster than the others because I was slowly falling behind. The question came and I had my fingers ready to move the cursor and click. the four possible answers were up and I quickly misread them all and picked the wrong one. This happened a couple more times throughout the game and my frustration grew. The assessment failed me and I failed the assessment…all because I wanted to win so I shortchanged my intelligence for the need for speed.

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I think this is the detriment that comes with the Kahoot as an assessment tool. I do see value in it, which I will get to, but if it had a negative effect on my ability to think and process efficiently it was not effective in reaching the outcome I think that our assessor wanted. It left me feeling defeated in an area in which I should only be competing with myself.

As an assessment tool, I thought that this might not be the greatest one to use when it impacts a students mark. As a formative assessment, I think it works better and agree with Scott when he states, “So, why do a Kahoot? Well, it’s an easy way to check for understanding (hello, formative assessment!). ” Sonja echo’s this sentiment about Flipgrid as a formative assessment and I think it’s important that educators do not put much stock in these as major summative assessment tools.

There are many ways in which Kahoot can have a great impact on students and learning, however. Having students create their own Kahoot to reflect their comprehension in a subject area is a great use, and it gives them ownership over something they have created that they are able to test out in small groups. Another way I have witnessed Kahoot used effectively was last year. Our school along with four others had a couple of math Kahoot games with just over 200 students in grades 7 and 8. It was just for fun and it was exactly that! The students started to bond within the classrooms they were playing in, cheering for anyone from our school that was in the top five. It was an experience that I think had a profound impact on all of the students that played as well as all of the educators that were collaborating to make it possible.

As educators we need to make sure we are using these assessment tools correctly and that they are benefitting the students within our classrooms. In Section 4: Measuring for Learning it states, “Continued advances in technology will expand the use of ongoing, formative, and embedded assessments that are less disruptive and more useful for improving learning.” This is an important point and the tools that keep surfacing on the Web continually have been improving. In an article by Audrey Watters she makes the point, “We also have, thanks to new technologies, a renewed faith in “data” as holding all the answers: the answers to how people learn, the answers to how students succeed, the answers to why students fail, the answers to which teachers improve test scores…” We need to keep this data in mind because we have such a vast array of learners that walk through our doors each day, we ultimately need to do what is best for all of them and utilizing different assessment tools is important, both summative and formative.

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Education 3.0

Food for thought:

“The web influences people’s way of thinking, doing and being, and people influence the development and content of the web.  The evolution of the web from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 and now to Web 3.0 can be used as a metaphor of how education should also be evolving, as a movement from Education 1.0 toward that of Education 3.0.  The Web, Internet, Social Media, and the evolving, emerging technologies have created a perfect storm or convergence of resources, tools, open and free information access.” (Jackie Gerstein)

This is a powerful quote that should resonate with present educators. The technological advancements have been so drastic in this lifetime that it has become a bit difficult to keep up with all of the tools that are at our disposal. Once we have mastered a new social media app or educational tool, a new and better one has been created. In this regard, it can be a daunting task to think about utilizing Web tools within our classrooms.

Daniel Nations states in his article, “This allows websites to harness the collective power of people because the more difficult a website is to use, the less people that are willing to use it.” This notion is so true, especially for a number of educators I have talked to about using tech tools in their classrooms. Teachers are easily overwhelmed by these new tools and lack the proper training to use them, so they decide to stay safe and stick to what “worked” for them in the past. Wouldn’t it be great if students got to see their teachers take new risks, whether they are successful or not? We grow as students and professionals through trial and error, but we are so focused on getting things “right”, that we are too scared to try new things and fail with them and ultimately learn through that failure. Such a gross word…failure.

In another article entitles The Role of Web 2.0 Technologies in K-12 Education it is stated, “Continued exposure and familiarity with free, online tools will enable students to develop valuable communication skills in a 21st century environment.” We need to enable this exposure so students can garner confidence and a literacy with the free tools that are offered so they may reap the benefits of them in the future, in jobs and classes that they will eventually have or take.

What we need to keep in mind is the fact that we do not need to use ALL of these tools. The beauty about Web 2.0 and 3.0 is that they have this abundance of tools that are at our disposal, as educators…..and a number of them are FREE. That’s right folks this is a great time to be a teacher! Free internet and supplemental tools to support your learning environments and harbour engagement within our schools, for NO MONEY DOWN!

The vast amount of choices we have is quite incredible. I, for one, could definitely improve upon the number of online tools I use in my classroom. This past week the group that presented gave our class the opportunity to try an online tool that could be used in education. I was paired with a tool called Timelinely, I had never heard of this online tool before… With this tool, you are able to take a video from “The YouTube” (A term my father-in law uses) and paste the URL into Timelinely. From here you are able to add any comments, Gifs, photos or other videos into parts of the main video you are using from YouTube. It’s actually a pretty incredible tool for students to utilize to show their learning and comprehension in a completely plugged in and unique way. This is a tool I am going to challenge myself to implement at some point this year within my teaching.

Everyone would benefit from the many tools that are available to us over the internet. With practice and continued exploration of some of the programs that are available, we are equipping the youth of today with tools they will be able to master and use in their tomorrow.

In moments where I am introduced to new aspects and tools of the Web 2.0 and 3.0 that I am happy to try new tech tools that will assist in delivering an engaging education. They might not work, they may fail miserably with one group and completely succeed with another, but it’s important that I try some new things as an educator to stay relevant and create engaging lessons for the students that enter my class.

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Keep Your Distance…I’m trying to Learn!

When I reflect on my educational experience as a facilitator of learning and as a student there are a number of different online tools that I have found very useful and relevant. In the realm of Regina Public Schools, every student and teacher has a Google account so we have access to all of the great programs Google has to offer. One of my favourite productivity tools has been Google Classroom. This tool is great for distance learning as well as in school. The nice aspect to Google Classroom is that it’s private! as the facilitator of the class, we have the ability to create assignments that grant us the ability to attach any supporting materials and rubrics that students may need to be successful.

Google Classroom has created an online environment that helps students stay organized with their work. Having the ability to create documents, slides, and other such representations for learning and having them attached to the assignment created by the teacher also creates greater accountability for students within that class. The best aspect programs like this are that it would be perfect for distance-based learning.

Some of our students have attendance issues and this is the perfect fit for students who are struggling to get to school, whatever the circumstances might be, and gives them a greater accessibility to the work and content that they would normally miss without it.

Zoom rooms, online forums such as UR Courses, and blog sites have been a blessing for my personal educational journey, they gave me the ability to attend class from the comfort of my home. Scott put it best when he stated, “The flexibility that online courses provide is the #1 gamechanger for me. I love the freedom of being able to work at my own pace while not necessarily having to be in class for an entire evening.” Not only are these outlets efficient for gathering as a class online, but they are great for being able to give me the time I need to gather and formulate my thoughts and ideas in a less rushed and more reflective way.

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There are some barriers that are present in most schools when utilizing this productivity tool within the class. I talked about the socioeconomic background of different students in my previous blog post and how not every student will have access to technology outside of the school and we need to be sympathetic to their circumstances and make sure that there are alternative options for students. Students with greater needs within our classes may also have difficulty utilizing these types of tools and it is our responsibility to assist them and possibly create adaptations that harness success for them.

If my class was converted into an online format I think I might enjoy my job a bit more. An online learning environment might cut down on some of the distractions that are present when there are 25 to 35 students in your classroom space, although there are different distractions when using online outlets. Students would not lose or misplace their work as it would be constantly connected to the assignments created by the facilitator. I would also bet that more assignments would be completed.

In the Learning Theories and Online Learning article, it is brought to attention, in the connectivism section that, “…connectivism is really the first theoretical attempt to radically re-examine the implications for learning of the Internet and the explosion of new communications technologies.” Although many educators might be hesitant when it comes to incorporating online modules and resources for students, education is headed in a connectivism direction and we will soon see greater student engagement with these tools in practice in the future. Technology and Tools for Online Learning makes a great point about the globalization of technology stating, “…the educational benefits of these technologies may be easier to articulate due to their worldwide acceptance and use, and they can be integrated into existing curricula without major change or re-validation.” With access to these great tools, I would not be surprised if we start moving away from traditional teaching practices and start applying distance learning within our education systems.

We have to remember that this shift would have some negative impacts as well. Lack of human connection and social aspects would put a strain on students and might make their lives less enjoyable. Elementary aged students love their recess, it’s a time for them to bond with classmates and friends, play sports together, even just to get outside for some fresh air. There is a human element that is really important in education and being a social being is one of the skills that students walk out of their educational experience with.

Overall, I think online tools for distance learning are only going to improve and create greater opportunities for online learning and communities. We see the impact Twitter has had and how discussions have occurred through it, minus the trolls. It is exciting to think that the many different tools at our disposal may have a greater impact on education in the future. I have had a great experience with them throughout my Master’s program and I hope they continue to grow throughout education.

 

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6 Tabs Open and I Still Managed to Finish My Blog!

In the video Single-tasking Is the New Multitasking (posted below), James Hamblin says at one point, “I don’t doubt that you’re probably doing something else while you’re watching this.” I was guilty of this assumption as I had picked up my iPhone and went into my NHL fantasy league to check the availability of goaltender Corey Crawford while listening…At this point, I came to the realization that we have become so accustomed to over stimulating our brain and getting multiple things done at once in a lackadaisical fashion that we are slowly losing the ability to maintain focus on doing a great job on one task. I blame all tablet companies for creating these genius money making devices that grant us the ability to multitask all of the time.

I have a difficult time hanging out with a number of my friends. I find that as I am talking with them they are on there phone doing something else and I then feel like I have become almost a nuisance to them, I am not important enough for their full attention, their newest app or the people they are “snapping”, texting or messaging is much more important than the conversation they are currently having with me. Our society is becoming almost zombified due to the complete ability everyone has garnered as they have the ability to do most tasks from their phone.

All that being said I believe that the internet has become a greater productivity tool. It gives us access to resources we normally would not have at our disposal. As teachers we can certainly be more productive with the internet especially with tools that our presenters last week had brought up such as Google Docs, Classroom, Chrome, etc.. Moving toward the goal of a paperless classroom is quickly becoming a reality. But we also need to be aware of some of the roadblocks that we may encounter in education.

Not all students have equitable opportunities to finish online work outside of school. A socio-economic background can be a hurdle that educators need to be aware of and become flexible with. Whether that looks like one more work period with tech, letting students stay in at recess, come early or stay later to utilize these great tools. Melanie makes a great point about using these tools, stating that “…when we allow our access to technology to distract us from important tasks, we are also allowing it to hinder our productivity.” We also need to establish online literacy for all students as well as positive digital citizenship.

There are also students that have attendance issues throughout divisions and it has always been a struggle to keep them up to date on their school work and what is happening in class. This is another area in which the importance of technology can shine through and keep those students up to date with everything that they have missed, In the article entitled, What is a Productivity Suite in Computers?, the point for online based programs is stated, “Online productivity suites are free to access on multiple platforms and enable you to conduct business from a remote location without having to access your company’s computer network or your office computer.” If we start utilizing these types of programs, we will be able to reach and educate those students who are having issues getting to school regularly.

We have always had distractions throughout our lives that have made us better at managing a couple different tasks at one time. When I was in school I would constantly do homework while watching a movie or listening to the latest Blink-182 album. More recently I have been doing dishes while listening to a podcast while holding a baby and entertaining my other two sons. Multi-tasking was here just in different forms, it just seems to be evolving within technology and creating a cholesterol for work efficiency in our current day and age.  

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I would go as far as to ask, is there such a thing as multitasking? …Perhaps a topic for a future blog.  Self-control is mandatory if you have access to the internet and we need to start modelling and teaching efficient working habits for our student population.

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Today’s Episode is Brought to you by the Letters A and V!

Sesame Street, the pillar of my first experience in education that I can remember. A harmonious neighbourhood that was one of a kind for the era in which it was born. With such an array of people from different backgrounds, it encompassed the true meaning of what community was in the most positive sense. Throw in Jim Henson’s Muppets (Yes, they are Muppets, even without being on the Muppet Show!) as well and it’s an even more diverse universe that a kid would forever want to visit…Heck, even adults who had the Sesame Street experience growing up. I for one am guilty of this proclamation! In 2010, while in my second year of my Bachelor of Education, my class had planned an education trip to New York and I was determined to visit Sesame Street. After a number of phone calls and promises to get back to me…I was unsuccessful at gaining the opportunity to visit the street where a lot of pre-school learning went on in my life…oh well…I will keep trying until I am granted that opportunity!

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I’m getting carried away… Our blog post this week is about a quote from Neil Postman in which he states, “…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.” What Postman means is that children, from an early age, that watch Sesame Street have this idea of what learning will be like after being accustomed to watching the educational programming before heading into a school system. I think Scott put it best, in his blog post, when he stated, From what I can tell, Sesame Street can, in fact, give the impression that schools are (or at least should be) an educational utopia.” They see different videos, songs, mediums, and instructors of the content in monsters and creatures as well as all of the humans that live on Sesame Street, so this sets up an artificial foundation for what to expect when heading into mainstream school.
I truly believe that we are heading in the right direction within the realm of education, especially with all of the technological advancements that have been made over the years. With greater access to laptops and the internet and all of the great tools that we are able to utilize to assist us in delivering and executing an education that harbours curiosity and engagement among students.

In the article, The importance of audio visual technology in education, it is stated that “Children learn differently and audio visual equipment gives teachers the chance to stimulate each child’s learning process with a combination of pictures, sounds and attention grabbing media.” With the ability to utilize different multimedia we could possibly be seeing the growth of student interest in school-related learning and experiences within our classrooms. This coincides with the fact that students are able to bring their own devices to school as resources that they are able to tap into at any time!

In the article The pros of AV, Rebecca Paddick concludes with “Any investment made by an educational facility is ultimately an investment in its students, and a fully-integrated AV system can be a huge benefit, affording seamless interaction and an engaging, varied work environment, tailored to the requirements of the end user, improving the learning experience for both student and teacher.” Learning can only happen when engagement is peaking and technology draws in increasing interest from students throughout schools. 

I know that this might be a stretch for some schools throughout our province as we do not all come from the same socio-economic climate, but I think all schools are well on their way to being able to utilize technology in meaningful ways within their classrooms. The issue becomes funding for these tools and it is just not there, quite possibly a rant for another blog… 

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FD 35 YRS, Coding 1st Time!

I have never done coding in this lifetime, until a week ago in EC&I 833. When we were introduced to the Logo program I couldn’t understand why there was a little green turtle right in the middle of the web page. As we were introduced we were also given an online work booklet that gave us an introduction to the world of coding. Instruction on how to move the turtle to make different shapes and designs, I was immediately addicted!

This program taught basic commands and teaches one to use their mind in a mathematical way that we don’t always get to. I found it challenged me to think about the design I was trying to emulate and figure out the different angles and lengths of lines that were needed to be successful. After figuring out how to successfully create stars, squares, 20 step staircases and other such designs, I was challenged to try to shorten codes and see if it would work with a “repeat” command. Each step became more complicated, but as time went by it continued enhancing my coding literacy. 

Exercise after exercise created more challenging conundrums that I was fiercely focused on solving. I was so enamoured with coding and trying to master each exercise I lost complete track of time wanting to spend about fifteen-minute stints on the workbook but when I looked at the clock a full hour had gone by.

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This would be a great tool for math classrooms for middle years through high school. Not only are you trying to construct shapes but you are utilizing line length, direction, and angles. In an age of connectivism and a need for computer literacy, this would be a great step in obtaining a deeper understanding in regards to computer programming. There are also coding programs that are available that Sage talks about near the end of her blog for kids.

If there was ever an updated curriculum for math it should have a unit on coding. Students would absolutely love having this type of programming in school, I think it would harbour more curiosity, teamwork and problem solving within a classroom community…not to mention a greater technological literacy. This also ties into Seymour Papert’s theory of constructivism having students using their mind to help them construct different models and creating them in a program like Logo. One of my EC&I classmates made another great point in regards to including the Logo program as an educational tool stating:    

Logo in and of itself is also a way in which students can understand and, through logic, reason the movements of the turtle based on their own understanding of their body’s movement.” – Michael Graham

As teachers, we are always looking for different ways to engage our classroom populations and when it comes to math this would bring a new element of engagement, curiosity and excitement to student populations. In order to be able to properly utilize these programs that would be beneficial in schools, education needs greater funding.  

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