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Openness In Education Reality Check

This week’s debate really made me think.  I started somewhere in the middle; on one side, sharing is a fantastic opportunity for our students to learn important practices, share their accomplishments, and interact with other like-minded people around the globe.  On the other hand, sharing can create a lot of issues with privacy, as well as cyber-bullying and consent to use specific photos posted online. This dynamic created a lot of debate in our class this week, and honestly a lot of debate in my own head.  g

Whenever the ideas of privacy laws and practices come up, it can be a very controversial and scary idea. What if what we post is wrong? What if we get in trouble? Can I lose my job for this? There are no shortage of horror stories out there to scare teachers into 6.gifnever posting a single thing on the internet again; class or non-class related.  I too, often think and rethink what I share online about my students, which to be honest is very limited. Beyond team, athletic, and grad photos, I hardly post about my students online. Everything remains nameless and it is almost always acelebration of accomplishments.

I think the biggest struggle I had with this week’s debate was a lot of the focus was on the
elementary stand-point and teaching young students how to be responsible online.  What should you post?  What shouldn’t you post?  A lot of conversations circled around the idea of parents being super involved with their child’s tech use and also the teacher helicopter-parent-main-imageoverseeing the practices. Seesaw, I’ve learned, is a great tool to engage parents and create important conversations with kids at home.  This technology is awesome because it can often bridge the gap between school and home life.  However, there is the down side of over-involvement of parents and the idea of “helicoptering.”  In fact, Robyn Treyvaud states in her article, Dangers of Posting Pictures Online, that “more than 1 in 4 children admit to feeling worried, embarrassed, or anxious when their parents post photos of them on social media,” which goes beyond the idea of hovering or helicoptering.  I know many of my friends are having children right now and seriously, the amount of “baby spam” I see in a day is ridiculous and the consequences can be even more serious!  It’s something I don’t think my generation really understands, making it even more important for the next generation to comprehend!  What parents post, even at a very young age, can affect a child’s mental health later on in life?  It begs the questions, do you want the whole world to see a baby photo of you?

I think both sides of the debate did a fantastic job of making their case!  When it comes to my world in a high school, photos, technology and phones are everywhere.  We even have a school Snapchat and Instagram account run by the Spirit Committee, run by a print screen.pngcouple of awesome teachers!  My students are on their phones constantly; I use Remind 101 to contact students and my athletes for various things like deadlines, practice changes, or just general reminders for the next day.  It allows my students to connect me as well without directly having my phone number. I also use Google Classroom for all the students’ homework, assignments, deadlines, and I also used it for Track and Field this year – creating an online platform for athletes to access permission forms, schedules, dates, and results.  It worked fantastically and never thought twice about using these online platforms with my students. However, everything I use and do online is “private.” I’m not sharing student photos to the internet, not posting on Twitter about our interactive activities, and although I feel my students are safe because of this, maybe I’m not properly preparing them for the online world?

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My Google Classroom!

I feel like it is my responsibility to help teach and guide my students through this online world they have become accustomed to.  I loved Amy’s point this week: “We need to stop
telling students how to live, but instead empower them to make the correct decisions regarding technology. We want students who use their powers for good, we do not want passive students.  Teachers can have an influence.
”  I think especially at the high school
level, students need to be empowered and use technology for good, like Amy said, instead of being the passive “likers” online.

Randi Zuckerberg stated in his article that, “technology and the world around us is evolving so quickly that even children a few years apart may experience two very different forms of childhood.” And I think this couldn’t be more true.  I know my childhood was vastly different than kids today and even looking at my current students.  I graduated high school nine years ago, and THINGS HAVE CHANGED.  EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED! I think it’s important that we don’t shut down these differences and Online-Worldinstead we embrace them, because if we don’t, they we run the risk of not helping our students be successful in the outside world. Their world is online, and it will continue to be for the rest of their lives.  They need to learn how to adapt and post appropriately online and protect themselves.  It lends itself to the idea that we cannot protect our students by banning the internet or posting pictures online because what is that teaching them?  They will rebel, and in turn post inappropriately online because they were never taught, nor was it modeled for them.

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I think digital literacy and creating a positive digital footprint is incredibly important for students.  What is the first thing their employer will do? Google them. What is the first thing someone just getting to know them will do?  Google them. They need to understand that their online identity will exist online whether they want it to or not. If they do not create it for themselves, and twist it into the story they want to tell, someone else will tell the story for them.  I think once students understand this concept, the rest becomes more simple than we think.

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It becomes about education, about what they want a future spouse, family, employer, etc. to see online. There are many dangers to the online world, but the opportunities and positives far outweigh these negatives.  “Students are, for the most part, growing up in this digital world without any explicit or universally adopted rules about how to behave, and there is little guidance available to adults. As our digital connections and interactions grow, the lines between our education and personal lives, our career and private activities, become blurred” (EdTek White Paper, 1) and it is our job to help advocate for ourselves and for our students online.  I know after this week, I am going to try to be more involved with their online world and help my students navigate it.  I feel as though it is my responsibility as an educator to do this much for them and prepare them for their future, and their online portfolio that is all their own and no one else’s.

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To Google or Not to Google

Should we focus on teaching things that should be googled?  I still stand by my debate team and say a resounding yes!  For our debate, we decided to focus on three key ideas:

  1. Critical Thinking Skills Without the Aid of Google
  2. Memorization Holds a Key Part in Education and in Life
  3. Google is Hindering Our Ability to Concentrate and Focus

To watch our introduction video, click here!

After the debate, I realized there is even more we could have focused on, including the einsteinidea of “fake news” and our students’ ability to interpret it, and the idea of curiosity as a skill.  I touched on this slightly in my closing statements, but I hold strong on the idea that children and teenagers NEED to be curious!  If they are not curious with their ideas, then where is the creativity?  Where is the innovation?  Where are the skills that they will NEED in the future?  The “agree” team posted a video: Knowledge is Obsolete, so Now What? spoken by Pavan Arora and I do agree with them.  Some knowledge is becoming obsolete, but not all of it is obsolete.  Key math skills, and basic understanding of the English language are incredibly important!  And whether my students believe it or not, they will need to add, subtract, create ratios, convert measurements and be able to do it quickly and will not always have the assistance of their phones.

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Examples of the consequences of bad grammar!

autoWhen it comes to English and writing skills, everyone will need to know how to properly write an email, a cover letter, and important text messages.  You cannot text your boss that you are ill, and send something full of abbreviations and misspellings.

Of course, Pavan’s argument goes beyond this.  He discusses the idea that children of today, will not have jobs that exist today, so how do we educate them so that they are ready?  He states our job is to “teach our children how to access knowledge, how to assess knowledge and how to apply knowledge.”  Our group never stated that teachers should not use google or that students should be banned from using it for research.  Our focus was to use it with purpose and not simply answer students questions by saying “google it.”  Students need to use their critical thinking skills first and develop their own opinions before they start accessing the internet and using someone else’s opinion for make their opinion.  Things like facts, should be checked and students need to figure out how to weave the web to find the good stuff, the right stuff and make educated decisions based on the information found.

The same goes for memorization.  Imagine having a conversation with someone who didn’t know the basics of the discussion and everything they had to say, had to come from google.

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These ideas of fact checking have their place, but it is much easier if we teach certain skills and basic understandings so that students CAN apply the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Memorization is the base of the levels so students need some ideas or thinking critically or innovative will not happen easily!

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Students always ask me why we have to study Hamlet.  I’ve thought about it, and is it necessary, no, but is it relevant, absolutely.  I tell my students, what better way to learn than from a story.  There are many life lessons from Hamlet that can be applied to the real world, and probably some irrelevant information as well but sometimes a piece of literature can help a student through a situation or they find a quote that really means something to them, and they hold onto it.  In a world where mental health is a huge concern and we are trying to advocate for it, I show my students Hamlet – a depressed character who has been through a lot (the murder of his father and the marriage of his mother and uncle) voicing how sad he is, and no one listens.  We discuss the importance of listening to each other and helping each other.  He even has soliloquys about dying and wanting to die.  Some of my students can unfortunately relate to that so we discuss the ideas of suicide and how Hamlet really feels right now.  We talk about mental health and the differences between then and now and I would say it’s the most important thing we discuss in my class.  to beAnd you know what, they don’t forget it.  I have students come back and tell me, it is still their favourite Shakespeare play and they still remember the story!  Of course, there are also ideas of following through with your actions and thinking before you act; watching the effect you have on others around you, and many other life lessons that are better experienced through literature than life itself (I mean, I don’t think anyone wants to plot the murder of their uncle and see what consequences follow, so probably better to read about it 😉 )I think Shakespeare also helps interpret language we don’t understand, students have to find meaning in it, and it helps them understand bigger ideas, and see how far our language has really come and it’s awesome to watch!

This example also leads into our third argument about deep-reading and reading for understanding.  Of course, the internet and the process of skimming are valuable skills but so is reading and actually remembering what you read.  I know I struggle to focus on the computer, especially for long articles or even books online.  If I print them; totally different story!  Anyone else??  The idea of reading and understanding is becoming a lost art and I know my students struggle with it.  Lots of them turn to Sparknotes or other websites to tell them what happened in the novel instead of reading it themselves which can be really frustrating as a teacher.  5There is so much more to a piece of writing than just the summary and it can help them become better writers, and critical thinkers if they actually attempt to interpret the writing for themselves.  Even looking at the ideas of themes or choices characters make can help them deeply in terms of their depth of knowledge and understanding of other people.  In Is Google Making Us Stupid, Nicholas Carr makes an excellent stating, “our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged” when we are browsing the internet.  I think he is 100% correct.  I know the “agree” team argued this point stating that it’s a different type of skill we are gaining and I totally agree.  And I think it is excellent that we can skim dozens of articles to find something meaningful to use for our own research but I’m also talking about stories and books and those need to be read to be truly understood.  Deep reading is a valuable skill and one I’m worried we will lose if we don’t continue to make kids read!  What will happen to all the old literature, the beautiful stories, and even our own history if we only skim it in the future?

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So to conclude, I still think there is a place for memorization and facts in the classroom.  There is value in teaching things that can be found on the internet.  Do I think we should erase the internet all together?  NOPE!  It’s not going anywhere and we do need to teach our students to be responsible digital citizens and be able to navigate the web responsibly and effectively for information.  It all depends on your purpose.  And honestly, if we are teaching students that the first response to a question is to google it, I don’t think we are teaching them correctly.  We should let them be curious, think about the answer, find their own idea, and then turn to the internet because that will have more meaning, they will remember the lesson more, and they will automatically think more deeply and critically about the response they found if it contradicts their own.

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Does Tech Enhance Learning in the Classroom?

To say that technology enhances or does not enhance learning is a complicated question.  We live in the day and age of technology, and as educators, it is our responsibility to teach for the future and that future includes technology.  I think a big part of having technology in the classroom enhances learning.  This year alone, I have found myself relying more and more on it to help my students learn effectively.  For example, with my Calculus class, I was relying heavily on Khan Academy to help supplement my students’ learning.

2It was my first time teaching it, so there was a lot of “learning together” going on.   I was also using graphing calculators and apps to help my students visualize first, and then internalize what certain graphs look like so when it came time for the big exam in May, they wouldn’t even need to look at a calculator to know the behaviors of certain functions.

One of the biggest factors to integrating technology in the classroom that we debated on Monday was cost.  It costs a lot of money to integrate a new set of laptops, or a new program, or a new app.  I’m lucky at Prairie South that we do not have the 1:1 rule that many of the Regina teachers were discussing on Monday.  However, the tech accessibility at Central is limited.  We have three working computer labs, and at this point, they are all

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being used as classrooms for majority of the day so booking into one is nearly impossible!  We also have two sets of chrome books, which are awesome….but slow.  The Wi-Fi is not the most reliable in the school which can render the chrome books almost useless in the hour of time we get to use them.  As a result, I definitely do not use tech in my classroom as frequently as I’d like.

However, I am pro-tech in the classroom as there are so many benefits to using it!  Vawn Himmelsbach at TopHat.com stated these 6 pros to using tech in the classroom:

  • Using technology in the classroom allows you to experiment more in pedagogy and get instant feedback.
  • Technology in the classroom helps ensure full participation.
  • There are countless resources for enhancing education and making learning more fun and effective.
  • Technology can automate a lot of your tedious tasks.
  • With technology in the classroom, your students have instant access to fresh information that can supplement their learning experience.
  • We live in a digital world, and technology is a life skill.
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Via Pinterest

The last one is the most important one to me.  Knowing that my students live in a world of technology, teaching digital citizenship is the crucial to their success in the bigger world.  With so much access to technology, I love teaching my students how to research properly, how to think critically about what they are reading online, and how to search for things effectively.  I encourage them to use sites like Khan Academy (I actually linked it to my Google Classroom this semester, and used their AP Calculus prep course to help my students study for the exam), SparkNotes and No Fear Shakespeare (for when my students miss a reading or just need more help understanding the language) to help enhance their understanding of course content.

My favourite is being able to teach the teenagers in my classroom those important life lessons when it comes to cellphone usage.  We discussed a lot on Monday about appropriate use of cellphones and how to structure it.  I allow cellphones in my classroom, and I often have students working on projects, connecting to my Google Classroom, or reading on their phones.  However, I am not naïve that they are “only” doing school work.  We discussed the idea of multi-tasking and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for students.

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The fact that I teach high school influences my opinion and I believe that they need to learn how to multi-task effectively because as teachers and adults, we are expected to multi-task daily.  Of course, I reprimand students for being on their cellphones while I am delivering a lesson, but when it comes time to their individual work time, I allow them to figure out a balance that works for them.  As long as they are on task most of the time, cellphones are allowed — otherwise, they lose the privilege.  They need to learn for themselves when is the appropriate and inappropriate times for their usage.  Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty stated, “it seems inevitable that some sort of hand-held wireless device will eventually become part of education systems across the country” in the Maclean’s article: Don’t give students more tools of mass distraction, so why not embrace this change?  If we fight it, what are we really doing?  We are hindering our students’ abilities to be able to use their mini-computers in effective ways, rather than as just a social connection tool.  Would you not rather teach students about all the tools and information that is out there and give them access, as well as teach them how to effectively use it to create something big?

Thinking_Face_Emoji_largeStudents learn from teachers more effectively and will remember a story, or an experience much more than something they read once on a device.  So why wouldn’t you want to us this knowledge and power to teach students the “how-to”, the “why”, and teach them to ask questions about the tech world and what they see, and the social do’s and don’ts of society, instead of leaving them to discover it on their own?

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The Beginning of My New Sewing Career

It all started with an idea, and a need to be able to sew.  I knew this skill would serve me later in life and come in handy, then I remembered a pin I made back in my early university days to make a t-shirt quilt and there it was: my brilliant idea for a learning project and I couldn’t have been more excited!!

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I started off by testing out my hand-sewing skills and after a few trial and errors and re-watching a couple of videos, I felt like I had the hang of it.  To begin, I know I was reliant on my mother for reassurance because as noted in other blogs, I am a slight perfectionist…I crave perfection and the idea that I can learn from making mistakes is absurd.  If I make mistakes often enough, I will quit.  It’s been my nature from a young age, and this project really challenged me to be okay with making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes.  Beginning with hand-sewing was a slow and confidence building technique I needed to start this massive project!  The great thing about hand-sewing was it was easy to fix mistakes and redo stitches.  I was able to do this quite a few times until I felt like I had gained a comfortable understanding of threading a needle, making a stitch, and sewing buttons.

IMG_2034Then came the real test.  I began my quilting process.  I did not expect there to be as many steps as there were and beginning on the sewing machine was terrifying and infuriating.  I know when I get frustrated, I need to step away.  The sewing machine was frustrating and annoying to figure out, but with some help from Youtube and my mother, I got the hang of the ancient machine.  What I don’t think I mentioned in my blogging was that I tapped into my school resources and borrowed a sewing machine from the school.  SO MUCH EASIER!!!  I am so grateful l did this, as I am confident my quilt would not have turned out as nicely and I would have ran into a lot more problems and would have needed to troubleshoot a lot more.

I had to select my shirts, and then cut them all, which was again super time-consuming.  It was at this point in the project that I was questioning my idea and questioning whether I would have enough time to finish.  I used my grandma’s tools and advice for cutting and interfacing the t-shirts.  In this, I also learned that I like to take a lot of different ideas for how to accomplish a task, and work it into something that makes sense to me.  I received advice from my grandma, ladies at the quilt shop, and the internet.  From these sources, I combined methods to complete my quilt in a way that made the most sense to me.  Having advice from so many sources could get confusing, but I also enjoyed having different options and ideas for how to complete this quilt successfully.

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GIF via Mashable

When I was cutting the t-shirts, I struggled at first with being perfect once again.  Knowing what I know now, the edges DO NOT MATTER!  I could have saved a lot of time as most of the edges end up as ruffles in my quilt.  I also would have sewed the interfacing on first and then cut!! Even when I did make mistakes cutting, I kept going and convinced myself that it would all work out in the end.  By the time I started cutting the flannel, I was set!  I persevered, and this is not something that I would normally do, but this project pushed me to just keep going and figure out how to fix the mistakes I made. 

IMG_2161Once the cutting was finished, I feared making mistakes on the sewing.  I pinned my flannel to my t-shirts, and I began sewing.  It wasn’t even that bad!  Again, I needed reassurance that I was doing okay and my mother was a great support to answer every call or she was there just to make sure.  This support and reassurance was key to my success because I probably would have struggled more or even questioned my methods has she not been there.  I found having a person to directly talk to, bounce ideas off of, and reassure my work an incredible resource and helpful for the success of the project.  It wasn’t a constant, “Am I doing this right?” but a gentle “good work” which is what everyone needs on occasion.

Once the individual squares were cut, the quilt flew together and I couldn’t have been happier with the way it turned out!  It was difficult to sew together because it was so thick but I now I have the coziest quilt to curl up with at night!

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I learned a lot about my learning style in this process.  I found out that this is not relaxing at all, and until I gain more experience, I will not find it relaxing.  The most stressful part of the project was thinking I would screw up and upon thinking more

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Lily’s Quilts

about it, I figured out why.  I was working with t-shirts, but not just any t-shirts.  These shirts hold a lot of meaning, and memories for me.  If I screwed up, the shirt and the memory was gone.  This was a high pressure project because it was SO meaningful for me.  I’m grateful I took the risk, but I feel that if I was using regular material, I would have been more relaxed with making mistakes and not as rigid.  I learned that I am an independent learner, and I enjoy things I can do on my own that give my brain a break from a stressful day of teaching, as well as challenge me in other ways.  It was nice to break routine, and make time to learn a new skill.  Overall, I really enjoyed this project and I learned a lot about sewing and about myself as a learner!

If you’d like to see the whole thing unfold, here is the link to my project! Until next time!  Thanks for stopping by!

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My Summary of Learning

Here is my finished Summary of Learning Project!  It was a lot more work than anticipated, but I only ran into a couple of hiccups in the process! I used Adobe Spark, and I really liked the simplistic layout and the ease to record. My laptop mic wasn’t working the greatest, which causes a lot of re-records so it was nice to be able to do it over and over again until I was satisfied with the slide! The only thing I didn’t like was that I couldn’t place a lot of imagery on the slides unless I created the images myself. The download speed took awhile but that could have easily been my connection.  Anyways, here it is!
Enjoy my video and I’ll see you all on Tuesday! 🙂

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I’m DONE Sewing!!

there-done-yay-2016-the-aukuard-yeti-doesnt-it-feel-10405833I finally finished!  Sewing that is…with the machine!  My quilt is all put together and I am so so happy with the results.  I ran into a few problems finishing it up, but nothing new.  Mostly, my needle kept unthreading and my lines weren’t lining up as I had to sew my rows back to back.  It was frustrating to see it not be perfect lines when I finished a row, and I need to remind myself that this is my first project, it’s a huge project, and I have room for error since my seams will be hidden by the extra material.

IMG_2209All said and done, I’m incredibly happy with the results and now I only have to complete it by hand stitching all the corners!  Because there is so much material in the corners of my t-shirts, I cannot sew over top so I have holes in the corners.  Not a bad thing, as I made sure to reverse stitch on either sides but if I accidentally put my toe or finger through the quilt, it could tear and I don’t want that!  I will need to hand stitch and knot the corners to make it stronger.  Then wash it three or four times and I will have a completely finished t-shirt rag quilt!!

 

I’ve learned so much throughout this project, especially about myself and what I need in order to learn.  I need time (chucks of it), and I need to do whatever it is in a way that makes sense logically to me, but I also need reassurance and quick feedback to make sure I’m actually on the right track.  I learn well on my own, and I learn by example.  It’s very interesting to me that I learn this way because I have always thought of myself as a “drill and practice” type of learner, so to find out that I actually am also a “visual” learner adds a cool dynamic to my learning style.  Did you guys learn anything interesting about yourselves during this process?  I find I learn completely differently/more dynamically now, but more to come about that next post!

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Formative Formative Formative!

I decided to take a closer look at Formative and I was impressed.  Going in, I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but it is very similar to Socrative.  It is a formative assessment tool for teachers to help track data, give quick assessments, get real-time results and track student growth.  It can be used for any subject, and there are a variety of different types of questions you can create.  This was my favourite part!!  So many times, teachers are limited to multiple choice for online assessments and this tool really pushes the

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boundaries for what is offered.  You can create questions as well as upload existing documents, PDFs, or questions you’ve already made (no reinventing the wheel here!).  I think the thing I like most about this tool is that you can track and see the student data live.  There is a video that explains the process very well, and you can even give students hints, and give them feedback as they are working.  There is a ton of potential using Formative and the best part….it syncs with Google Classroom!!!!  I’ve been really thinking about moving from a paper and pencil classroom, to a more online and paperless environment, and I think this tool may help me get there.  I have also struggled with getting students to buy into my Google Classroom.  I post all notes, assignments, and due dates/exam dates on it, but I can’t get EVERY student on it.  They reject it or are too lazy to figure out how to access it and I think this tool would help me get the rest of them on board.  They will need their log-ins and if the two systems are linked then I am set!

Continuing, I think this is a great tool for teachers to use in the classroom because you can see real data, in real time!  It is quick to make, easy to integrate (as most students now have a device) and students don’t even NEED a log in; just a code for your assessment.  If you’re feeling brave and want to give my Calculus problem, a try here is the link and the code is: LSPPBN. I think it would be an effective entrance/exit slip assessment that I would be able to assign as homework or get students to do on their way out the door.  It’s flexible and provides many different opportunities for learning, and answering.  There is even Math Tools available!!  It even could have the potential to link to the outcomes of our curriculum, as it is already linked to Alberta’s.

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One thing I didn’t like was that I could assign math problems…but getting students to write out and show their work on a screen would be difficult as many of them would rather just do it on paper and I agree with them.  Showing their work on a screen is tedious and unnecessary, and unless it is a quick question, students would not benefit from the technology (so multiple choice is my limit in most cases).  I also loved that I would be able to see my students’ responses in real time,

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Meme Generator

BUT what time?  When am I ever sitting at a computer or in from of a screen while my students are working?  Or working on phones?  It is a great asset to the tool, but not beneficial to me, as I would almost never be just sitting at my computer watching their progress on a screen.  It would be nice!  But it is unrealistic for me.  Does anyone think it would benefit them more?

The potential is great for short assessments where teachers are checking for understanding before, during or after a lesson.  In math, it is limited, and it all depends on the types of questions the teacher has in mind to ask.  Some things are better left for pen and paper, while others could definitely be used by Formative.  In class, we discussed Kahoot and I love it, but it makes everything and every question a competition.  This tool is the same, but takes away the competition and puts the focus on learning the content.  I like that!  Again, this is a tool used for formative assessment so it would make sense that full length exams should not be created in this format.  It’s possible, but then as a teacher, you need to be specific on expectations and guidelines for pulling up other resources while working.  There is a lot of monitoring that would be downloadnecessary for this to work properly, but I think with enough practice and patience, this tool could be a huge asset to a classroom.

What do you guys think?  Would you use this tool in your classrooms or have you?  What kind of questions would you ask?  Are the specific subjects you would use it with or have?