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Reflecting on My Mindset

Well, another course in the books – almost anyways!  To say that I have learned a lot this semester is an understatement.  I think the most important thing I can take away from this course though is my mindset towards blended learning in the classroom.  I have changed the way I view myself as an educator and I am constantly questioning and considering how I can make my courses more accessible for students as well as more manageable.  How can I help my students become better learners in this ever-changing world? And how can I help them “re-find” their creativity and allow them to challenge what education looks like?

As I stated in my previous blog, I did not consider myself a “blended” educator before starting this course, even though most of my material has been accessible to students through Google Classroom for the past year.  I didn’t think this made me a “blended” educator until other teachers in my school and even my admin mentioned to me what a great idea this was.

giphy (7)I also ran into the curious problem of students not attending class due to some health related issues, BUT completing all work and communicating with me via Google Classroom and Remind.  This happened for the first time last semester and I was immediately frustrated by it.  I discussed it with my admin who asked the simple question: “are they meeting the outcomes?”  I thought about it and while the student was missing out on what I thought as valuable instruction, conversation and socialization in my classroom, they were completing the required assignments, and therefore meeting the outcomes.  It wasn’t as enriched as I wanted it to be, and I was left with a feeling of disappointment for the student.  I wanted them to do better, because I knew they could have excelled in the course if they had only come to class, but this was their choice, and this was how they met the criteria to ultimately graduate.

I have the same issue occurring this semester with the exact same circumstances.  This student just doesn’t want to be here (at school) because they would rather do the work in their own space.  This semester, I had a conversation with the student right away because I understood where this was probably going to end up going.  There are some extenuating circumstances to the reasoning of this student not coming to class, and I giphy (9)cannot help but admire them for the tenacity to complete a core class (ELA B30) completely on their own.  I should also mention that their knowledge on the subject matter we discuss in class exceeds some of the other students without even being there for the conversations, as well as they have yet to miss a deadline and remain in contact if there are ever any questions.  This whole circumstance leaves me stumped and in a predicament about blended learning as well as how to control attendance.  Do I cut off their access to Google Classroom?  Stop posting all the material and subject matter so they have to attend? Do I introduce the idea of “flexible attendance” to all my students?  Any opinions are welcome!

This example touches on a lot of the questions from this week’s class and really has me pondering the future of education.  What is it going to look like?  The way I am viewing it, mostly due to this course and the ideologies we have learned, is that education should

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Via Flickr

be flexible and there are a variety of ways for students to meet the outcomes necessary to graduate into a world that is filled with other types of technology and opportunities.  My AP Calculus class is working their butts off to write an exam in May, but I cannot get some of them to invest their own time into the course.  I want this course to be blended and I want them to be able to learn on their own.  These students, after all, are the ones bound for university and need to learn these skills like time management and independent study.  I then look at my ELA courses, where I want to focus more on what we do in class, and the opposite is occurring.  I think it might be time to focus more on what my students need and directing it that way instead of where I want them to go.  We all know letting go of control as a teacher can be a scary idea!  This is one way this course has helped me.  It is helping me find where I need to direct my attention and knowledge when it comes to blended learning.  Helping me recognize opportunities to incorporate it more seamlessly instead of forcing it.

Another important concept from last week’s discussion is the idea of teaching empathy and citizenship.  I don’t think schools will ever be replaced completely by technology for these reasons.  Our world would not be a good place is everyone was stuck indoors, on their computers, learning by themselves.  Students need discussion, they need socialization, and they need to learn important concepts like citizenship to be successful in our world.  I think it is really important to teach digital citizenship, and 21st century competencies, but those things don’t mean much if we don’t teach people how to be good humans first.

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After reading Amy’s blog post this week, I reflected on why I became a teacher, and it was to build relationships and connections with students so that I can help them figure out their teenage years and beyond.  If students don’t come to class, don’t socialize with each other, learn how to have important and appropriate conversations with others besides their best friends and families, I think our world will look very different.  Students learn coping skills, how to interact with people they don’t get along with, how to deal with controversy and conflict, and figure out things about themselves they never would unless they were placed in an environment like a school from a young age.  These discussions and conversations with students are the reason I became a teacher!  I love watching the “ah-ha” moments, and the impromptu life lessons that appear in the middle of the lesson, and the laughter that comes with some of these discussions.  I would miss these so much if education became purely online, and those are the reasons I think it never will be.  Those moments are lessons are too important to miss out on.

To close, I have really learned a lot through this course.  I’ve picked up some tips and tricks to enhance my blended classrooms and figured out how to incorporate it more seamlessly into my everyday teaching using things like Flipgrid, goFormative and Socrative.  I have also learned to make adjustments to my classrooms to accommodate more types of learners that before a blended platform would have simply been written off.  I’m excited to see where these new ideas I have learned this semester take my future classes and where education will go in general.  The most important thing though, will always be making connections and figuring out how to reach more students, creating more opportunities to showcase how they learn and what they need to learn.

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The Final Prototype

This semester we were tasked with creating an online course prototype and I am pretty proud of what I accomplished.  When I began this course I didn’t necessarily think I taught in a “blended” classroom, but with my use of Google Classroom increasing every semester, I realized quickly that I actually do use forms of blended learning in my classrooms all the time, mostly for simple things like posting extra videos, notes, or assignments so students have the opportunity to access information when they are absent from class.  I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to take a course I am already teaching and make it even more blended.  This is why I decided to create a prototype for my AP Calculus course.  I also knew I wanted to use Google Classroom since my students are so familiar with it and our division encourages its use.  You can check out my course profile here for more details on how I laid it out for the semester.  I thought this course would be perfect because I see my students every day for a total of 60 classes before they write the big exam in May.  This gives me an opportunity to use the LMS of Google Classroom to enhance our time together and create more opportunities for learning online.  This will also help my students become more independent learners, which is incredibly important for their next years in university because they will all be headed in that direction.

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Screenshot of my course!

I began my course with the idea in mind of using a flipped model of instruction.  My students actually quite enjoy this model, but others do struggle to commit to the video lessons in their downtime.  It’s been a balancing act so far but I have used them as my guinea pigs for a couple of different assignments.  I wanted to use a flipped model because I knew it would open up more time for questions and for working through problems together in class which is really what my students need.  One of the suggestions on my peer review was to create a place for students to communicate with each other, so I introduced a question and answer Padlet in hopes that students would freely contribute to questions and supply answers to each other instead of relying only on me as their source of information.  If you want to see more about how my classmates’ reviews influenced my prototype, check out this blog post.

For the modules I created for this class, I wanted to focus more on simpler concepts (things my students would be able to learn from a video as well as hopefully not be too overwhelming for my peers in this course)!  I think I selected the right material and I have to say I learned a lot about myself as a teacher through this process as well.  Last year, I was made to focus solely on content.  Teach myself, teach the students, move on to giphy.gifthe next idea.  This year, I am much more relaxed and have been able to play around a lot more with my lessons and build new connections with the material as well as preparing my students even more for the exam.  I can look more into Khan Academy, create more formative assessments, and know better what my students need.  Both my modules run the same way with an intro video as the notes using Screencastify and SMART Notebook.  I knew I wanted to create short videos and have students follow along with notes where they could record the information.  This also allows them to go back, pause the instruction, and re-watch if they need to.  Then there is practice, which is a handout assignment with an answer key.  Finally there is the formative assessments which I varied from each module.  I think I gave ample practice and I even tried to implement some different formative assessments in Socrative and GoFormative.  If you feel like testing your math skills, try them out on my course!  The Google Classroom code is wnn06j and you need to log in using a Gmail account.  Feel free to check out the rest of my prototype as well including videos, assignments, and practice problems.  Also, feel free to check out my course walkthrough if you would rather a quick feel for my course prototype.

Overall, I’m really happy with how my prototype turned out.  For my second module, I focused on an entirely different unit and created an opportunity using Flipgrid for my students to actually show how they work through a problem.  I want them to explain their reasoning and their answer since that is such an important concept on the AP exam.  Another idea I had was to create a Padletstart where they could discuss ideas on how to solve a couple of problems we would look at in class anyways to act as a starting block on how to solve it.  Some of these problems can be really complicated so I want to create the easiest environment that I can to teach them in that it’s okay to be wrong and this is the best way we can learn.  One of the hardest things for my students to learn is that to get a “4 or 5” on the AP exam is to really achieve a pass.  Many of the practice problem average score is between 3 or 4 out of 9.  Teaching them the process and wording of these problems is crucial to their success on exam day and understanding that they only need to try every part of a question to succeed.  I included a section for practice exams as well as problems for them to work through on the prototype.  We also spend time in class working on these but the ability to access them outside of class time will be incredibly beneficial to my students.  The most important thing I am taking away from this assignment is that I am actually capable of creating a blended learning environment and it isn’t as intimidating as I thought it would be.  I would like to eventually blend all my courses in this manner because I think that is where education is heading.  Dean V. mentioned this quote on Twitter this week and I think it sums up exactly what we and this course are working towards:

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Past and Present Student Interaction

When I think of student-student interactions, I have flashbacks to my undergrad. Not necessarily a good flashback either.  I had a few courses with the “required discussion forum” where we needed to complete a reading or two or three, and then make comments or ask questions to our assigned groups.  We HAD to post at least three times a week, and it HAD to be connected to the reading and material we were learning in class.  Looking back, besides remembering that I HAD to do this type of assignment, I do not recall one single discussion topic we discussed.  giphy (5).gifIs it because it’s been a few years? Probably, but I bet if someone asked me two weeks after the course was over if I remembered any of the discussions, I bet I still wouldn’t be able to remember anything about them.  The Bates reading from this week made me realize, as well as aspects of this online course we are all taking, is that this form of discussion is completely inauthentic, and students do not care about things they don’t care about!  If you asked me what I wrote about on my EC&I 831 blog, I could tell you about most of the topics and I think that’s because I cared about the subject matter, it was connected to me, and I got to discover what I wanted to know more about!  The Bates article from this week’s reading stated that,

“Textbooks, readings and other resources are chosen to support the discussion, not the other way round. This is a key design principle, and explains why often instructors or tutors complain, in more ‘traditional’ online courses, that students don’t participate in discussions. Often this is because where online discussions are secondary to more didactic teaching, or are not deliberately designed and managed to lead to knowledge construction, students see the discussions as optional or extra work, because they have no direct impact on grades or assessment.”

I think the reason I don’t remember a single topic in those classes is because the discussion forum was always extra. It was additional work, instead of the discussion centering around ideas and questions, and FINDING the answers through readings and textbooks, we read first, and then added points about what we found.  I agree that it should be the other way around.  Fuel the discussion with ideas and supplement with resources!

This brings me to my point for the week.  My course is a blended course and I do see my students daily.  I’ll be honest; I didn’t think it was very important to include student-student interaction in my course, but after some feedback from my peers, and our class last week, my mind has been changed.  Harasim (2012) states that “[Online Collaborative Learning] theory provides a model of learning in which students are encouraged and supported to work together to create knowledge: to invent, to explore ways to innovate, and, by so doing, to seek the conceptual knowledge needed to solve problems rather than recite what they think is the right answer.”   The moment I read this statement, I thought “This is what my class is!”  I am teaching AP Calculus to a bunch of students who need to work together to solve problems and develop an understanding of the material so they can apply it to the exam, and NOT just recite the right answer! (Insert Happy Dance for making the class meaningful for my students!)giphy (6).gif

So I began thinking of ways I could encourage more student-student interaction online.  They collaborate daily on problems and assignments so it would be nice to extend it onto Google Classroom.  I think I will start with encouraging them to post their questions on the class stream and allow other students to reply with their ideas for answers.  To get this started, I might even post a couple of questions for them to work through online and to post their ideas on how to solve the problem, and not necessarily post the answer.

I also really like the idea of using Padlet for students to work through a problem together or even start a community where they can ask each other questions about the assignments and problems so that they do not have to ask me first.  The beauty of Padlet is that they can post descriptions, write something, take a picture or even insert a video or audio for an explanation or question.  What do you think?  Will it work?  I really think it would be a good example of the three phases: idea generating, idea organizing, and intellectual convergence that Alec discussed with us last week.  Hopefully I can get my students to go through all three phases with this idea!

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A screenshot of my new addition!

Another idea I might try since explanation and justification is a huge part of the AP exam is Flipgrid.  I might try getting students to answer a problem verbally and explain how they arrived at their answer, as well as justify how they know a certain answer is correct when-the-teacher-says-you-have-to-explain-your-answer-41186018as many questions give the answer, and the student needs to justify why it is correct.  I think this would be a great opportunity of students to discuss their reasoning and ideas of problem solving and for me to evaluate their reasoning skills for the exam!  This could also work as an assignment to show me how they walk through problems.  It might help me figure out their thinking and understanding more, as well as help them discover the important concepts in the problem at an individual level.

I know that student-student interaction is incredibly important, and I am hoping I can get my students to buy into the online discussion ideas.  If not this year, hopefully next year.  In the meantime, I will continue to try, and keep up with my ever-present student-teacher interactions via Remind 101, and the comment section on Google Classroom!  As the Bates article stated clearly, “with online collaborative learning, the aim is not to replace the teacher, but to use the technology primarily to increase and improve communication between teacher and learners, with a particular approach to the development of learning based on knowledge construction assisted and developed through social discourse.”  This is what I aim to do, and hopefully make more connections between my students, and help them become stronger advocates for themselves, and better learners.

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Peer Feedback Reflection

This week, we were tasked with reflecting on the feedback from our peers and I was looking forward to hearing some ideas and opinions on how to improve my course.  As I am actually teaching this course right now, I have a very specific set of students in mind which may have prompted some of the inefficiencies in my course profile and my course shell.  There is also the email login conundrum that has caused some frustration among us all while attempting to “become the student” and evaluate each other’s courses.  In order to really take the feedback from my peers: Dean, Sapna and Michael (thank you by the way for the awesome and positive feedback!), I feel like it is appropriate to address some their questions here, as well as provide more insight into how I am running this course.  We all do that thing where we think we include information or it is completely obvious to us, and think it, but do not disclose the information that others are wondering about, so without further ado, here is a little more information about my blended learning course, AP Calculus!

My Vision

I started teaching this course at the beginning of Semester 2 this year.  I taught the same students in the first semester, teaching them Calculus 30.  I have built relationships, trust, and communication with all of them and I currently have a class of 14 students.  We establish on the first day of semester two, the expectations for the course and what THEY giphy (3)will have to do in order to be successful.  We talk about the exam date (May 14th, 2019), and decide on practice exam dates as well, which this year will take place on April 17th and May 7th.  We also discuss that we have 61 hours of class time until the exam which of course, terrifies them and myself!

One of the comments I received for feedback was: The “timelines of the course (for all AP courses) would be a concern – there is a lot of topics to cover in a short period of time.”  You are not wrong!  And this is why I decided that a blended learning atmosphere would be the best idea for my students to be successful.  I see them every day, for one hour and it does lighten the load that half of the material has already been covered in Calculus.  I now, go back through concepts they have already learned and add more insight, clarification, and more complex theorems and ideas to the units we have already looked at.  It is a lot of material to cover, and a lot of the work, assessments, and practice needs to take place outside of my classroom hours.  welcome-to-calculus-1r7g1sFor example, both practice exams are written after school hours and much of the homework assigned needs to be done on their own.  This is why I thought the blended learning model would work so well; if I could flip it and give them lessons to watch and focus on the questions the need answered in class, they would be more successful than my first bunch!  I already see a difference!!  It’s working and my students are less overwhelmed by homework and material they need to study.

Another great question from my peers was: “Are there ways students can connect with each online to review content?”  I never thought of this! Students can post questions and ideas on the stream on google classroom, and I am thinking of including a Padlet on the stream where students would be able to post their questions, pictures of work, as well as communicate with one another about the topics.  Does anyone have any other suggestions for student communication for outside of the classroom?  Again, a reason I never considered this need was because I do see these students in class every day, and because it is so implicit for me, my students also communicate with me through Remind 101.  I have many that will ask me questions after hours, and I can send out reminders for quizzes and homework problems I want completed.  We also frequently break into groups in class to discuss problem areas with questions which allows them to solve each other’s problems and they have come to expect this, so they do not frequently ask questions outside of class because they understand this routine. Team-work

I think it is also important to note that this course is not asynchronous, and so the online platform is there to support student learning, and provide more insight, but it is not a substitution for being in class.  This is very different than other courses I evaluated last week, because many ran like an online course.  There were no gaps, and everything was accessible through the online shell.  This is not what I wanted for my course, and I think this is the difference between some of the feedback I received compared to other downloadcourses.  There will be gaps in my model and not everything will be available online because I see my students every day in class, and I want it to be blended in this manner.  I do not want my students to be able to complete everything online and have no need to come to class anymore.  Certain pieces need to be done face-to-face.  I am actually struggling with this concept in my ELA B30 courses, where I have an established blended learning environment with Google Classroom.  Everything can be done and handed in online, so sometimes, students don’t feel the need to attend class, which can be both a blessing for them and a frustration for me.  I see it as a double-edged sword, and I do not want this to happen in my AP course so the gaps will remain for now!

Another consideration from my peer-assessors was that “there doesn’t appear to be any consideration for student access and accessibility for this course.”  I also did not address “common concerns like low bandwidth, student access to devices, EAL learners, cultural considerations, socioeconomic status” in my course profile.  I did address these issues in my profile to some extent, but it is not explicit for those who do not know my students.  That is my fault and I plan on changing some of the wording in my course profile as a result.  I know my 14 students very well, and I created this course profile with these students in mind.  Of course, I will have to make adaptations from year to year but I am very lucky with the group of intelligent, talented, young adults I have this year.  This experience so far as been nothing short of incredible and I absolutely love teaching all of them.  My 14 students all have cellphones and internet access at home.  Of course, we have devices at school students could use if this was an issue, as well as support for low bandwidth.  My students have spares and can access these devices before/after school, in spares, during class, and at lunch.  Due to the rigor and level of the course, EAL learners will have a strong English language background in order to get to this point so this is not technically an issue I need to address in my classroom currently.  Again, if I needed to, I would adjust my material, offer extra support, and allow Google Read and Write to be used.  However, because all these students will write the same exam in May (in English), with the same expectations and little to no support during the exam, I try to mimic these expectations during classroom assessments.  I am not even allowed in the exam room or to talk to my students about it for 24 hours after they finish the exam!  Every student will write version 1 or 2 of the same exam, all over the world and my students need to be prepared for this assessment adequately.  I have a variety of cultural backgrounds in my class and I love the diversity of it which allows for some great conversations and different perspectives in my course, but at the end of the day, the only assessment that matters will be the same for everyone around the world and I try to prepare my students for that.

I really appreciate the feedback I received from my peers this week and it gave me some great ideas for continuing to develop my course!  I’m going to look at creating more time in my videos for pauses, create more effective assessments on Formative, and construct some way for students to communicate when they are not in the classroom.  Overall, I am happy with how my course is developing this semester and look forward to working hard to make it more polished in the coming weeks!giphy (4).gif

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Blended Learning and Me

When I think of blended learning, I think of a teacher that has successfully blended the ideas of online teaching with that of a face-to-face environment.  I wouldn’t say I am quite there yet, but since beginning my Master’s journey, I have definitely taken a couple of leaps in the department of blended classrooms.  As I learn more and more about the benefits of blended learning, as well as the idea of setting up students for success in the future, the more I want to create this type of learning environment.  Many of my students go on to university, and will likely be faced with some sort of online class, where they will be responsible for their own learning.  And, even if my students are not continuing their formal education, in this digital age, what person could not benefit from learning how to navigate the online world and learn on their own in their future?

Currently, like Amy, I rely on Google Classroom as a management tool to keep my classes organized and accountable.  As I teach for English and Math courses, I have found tremendous benefits for both groups of students.  In my ELA courses, I post links to videos we watch, and any notes or assignments are posted for them to access at any time.  They have to options of handing any work online, and it has made editing much easier as I can open their assignments on Google Docs and edit away, even leaving comments if I need.  It has also made my students more accountable.  They know where the work is, they know where the guidelines are, and they can hand anything in at anytime!!  No more “well, I wasn’t here” excuses!  It’s also freed up my time in my giphyclasses, as students are not needing me to get them missing handouts.  They have access and can print them at any time.

 

My math courses are equally accountable as I post their daily lessons and assignments online.  Along with that, I post the answer keys.  As homework does not count for anything in our school system, I have found giving students full answer keys has freed up my teaching time to go more in-depth with lessons or review what they really struggled with.  It puts the learning in their hands, and they become more responsible for asking questions and clarifying misunderstandings.  I have also linked my Google Classroom to Khan Academy for my AP Calculus students and it is amazing! For those of giphy (1).gifyou who don’t know what it is, it is basically a website that has modules and online formatted courses for all math and science curriculum!  I can assign problem sets, and videos through Google Classroom and it logs my students progress on Khan Academy so I can go back and see who completed what, as well as how they did on problem sets.

Although my use of technology is not what I would call full blended learning, it has enhanced my classroom.  As Tony Bates said, “blended learning can mean minimal rethinking or redesign of classroom teaching, such as the use of classroom aids, or complete redesign as in flexibly designed courses, which aim to identify the unique pedagogical characteristics of face-to-face teaching, with online learning providing flexible access for the rest of the learning.”  What Google Classroom has provided me, is simplicity, and aids for my classroom environment.

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This is of course, not without its challenges.  I really wish I could have parents access this information in its full format, instead of just by weekly emails.  The problem is that I set all my daily lessons as “assignments” which then show up as “incomplete” even though students have done the work on paper.  It can be frustrating for students as well, as they end up with notifications saying they are missing assignments they handed in, or completed simply as a class discussion.  Any ideas Google Classroom pros??

I also tried to get my classes to complete class discussions via Flipgrid, and they hated it!

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Flipgrid

They felt vulnerable to their peers, which I do understand, and hated the interaction, and having to comment and like each other’s videos. I really like the platform, especially for an English classroom, but it is difficult to have students buy into it.  I’m looking for suggestions for improvements on this!

Overall, I am working towards a more blended classroom environment and although I don’t think I am where I want to be, I am slowly progressing in the right direction where technology enhances my daily teaching and more importantly, my students’ learning.

 

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My Summary of Learning

This is it!  The end of EC&I 830!  I cannot believe how fast this course flew by, and I also cannot believe how much I learned over two short months.  It’s amazing the community we developed and how much we were able to challenge each other to grow and learn in such a short time span.  It’s been a pleasure to learn with all of you.

I loved the style of this course and how it enabled us to be in charge of our own learning.  We brought a lot of debate to the table, and I thank all of you for challenging my thinking and opinions.  There is no one right answer to any of the topics we discussed and I think that makes this course so great!

Without further ado, here is my summary of learning video!  Thanks again all for a fantastic class and I hope you all enjoy my video (I had a lot of fun making it)!

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Technology Is Equitable; People Are Not.

This week’s debate had me all over the place.  Thinking of the phrase: “technology is a force of equity in society” has many sides and angles to consider and there is not one straight answer: yes or no.  I found there was a lot of mixed reviews throughout our 1.gifdebate, and many elaborations for our reasons we think it is or isn’t.  For example, yes, technology can be a force of equity because it is creating opportunities where they were limited before or no, it is not a force of equity because there is not equal access around the globe.  These types of ideas were incredibly important to our debate this week, and I think through a lot of thinking post-debate, I have established that we may not be there yet, but we are working towards solutions for this inequity.

The agree side this week did a fantastic job opening the floor and I found myself agreeing with all the points that Jen, Dawn and Sapna shared.  Their major points included the removal of barriers in education and skills, the use of open education resources creating equality through education, and then focused on the idea that the corporate system is the reason that technology is inaccessible for people in a lower socio-economic status and not the tech itself, and not the tech’s fault itself, showing that the tech isn’t creating inequity, but people by making these devices which have now become a necessity, cost too much money to afford.people using smart phones sitting at a table

The disagree side of Amy S, and Rakan countered well including some important ideas I would have never thought about in my internal debate.  Their main ideas circled around tech creating bias, gender abuse, and racism online, as well as digital colonialism and economic inequality.

As a said before, I found myself agreeing with all the points the agree team shared.  I see technology remove barriers all the time in the classroom.  I actually once saw a two men sitting at Tim Horton’s using their cellphones and a translating app to communicate with their voices and have a real conversation.  It made me so happy that technology has been able to reach a point where we can communicate with one another and create friendships with people that do not necessarily share a common language.2.gif

As for the classroom, I know I would have been in a real bind if I did not have my technological resources for teaching.  I have taught A LOT of different subject matter and without open resources and the World Wide Web, my knowledge would have been much more limited as well as the material for my students would have been much simpler as I would be scrambling for activities and ideas on my own.  For example, my first year I original-846541-1taught Law 30.  Where did I turn but to the internet to find different ideas and resources to help supplement the material.  I even found an activity to look at the laws often broken in different fairy tales and create a trial for the characters.  Would I have been able to come up with this idea without technology?  No way!  It helped make my life less stressful and created equity in a situation where I was at a disadvantage.

There are also many assistive technologies out there to help students including Google Write&Read.  Many students struggle with getting their ideas on paper and these types of apps help create an equity in the classroom so they too, can reach the outcomes of other students.  However, access to these apps can be difficult if you do not have access to the technology which is what the disagree side countered.

3.gifCost is a major downside to education as well as creating equity in the classroom.  And like Amy R. said in her blog this week, Technology should be accessible to everyone because it has become essential to live.  It has become a basic human right to be able to access this information and these devices yet corporations will not lower the price on devices, making it difficult for people of a lower socio-economic status to get access.  People may argue that there is free access in libraries, and schools, but not everyone has direct access to a building like that.  Sunny Freeman’s article states that even in Canada, only 62% of low-income quartile has access to the internet and it is difficult to dispute.  Have you ever gone camping in a rural/northern part of Saskatchewan?  Little to no internet access or even service exists! 4 So like, the agree group said, we can fix this!  We just need to lower the costs on devices, and create more opportunities for access in order to lessen the digital divide felt everywhere in the world, not just Canada.

Daniel also made a great point in his blog this week: “Some affluent people thus think by simply dumping the highest tech in the poorest places in society, inequality will be solved.”  This will not solve our problem when there is no education to help those educators or students use the technology and unlock its potential for the classroom and for their future.  If we are going to increase technology use in the classroom, we need to also increase the professional development and resources for teachers to USE the technology as well.

UNRWA_Gaza5(2).jpgI think it is super important that if we are going to increase technology and use programs like One Laptop Per Child, they need to be used appropriately in order to avoid digital colonialism which is what Amy and Rakan hinted at in their opening video.  It’s a very thin line between introducing and advancing a third world country and pushing Western beliefs on an already established society.  For example, in this article, Facebook is offering free internet to places with low economic status but with a catch.

The following statement is from ‘It’s digital colonialism’: how Facebook’s free internet service has failed its users, and can definitely be considered a negative for what should be a positive movement towards digital inclusion:

“Free Basics is a Facebook-developed mobile app that gives users access to a small selection of data-light websites and services. The websites are stripped of photos and videos and can be browsed without paying for mobile data.

Facebook sees this as an “on-ramp” to using the open internet: by introducing people to a taster of the internet, they will see the value in paying for data, which in turn brings more people online and can help improve their lives.”

The catch is that they cannot access all the internet, only a few select sites and they need to pay more for more access.  This in my opinion does not create equity, but increases the divide showing “you can afford this” or “you can’t afford this.”  This idea is also restricting language, with the majority options being only in English, and if that’s not a Westernized view/Digital Colonialism, then I don’t know what is!

Dhanaraj “Thakur believes a better solution would be to give low-income groups a limited amount of free data to access the open web” and I agree.  Why not?  What is the harm?  Unless the corporations in charge have a hidden agenda behind enabling these communities with a more Western view.

Another solution to the idea of making education more accessible is Open Education Resources (OERs), Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and Virtual Classrooms.  Having these types of resources online have created a lot of opportunity for remote classrooms and cities.  They may not have the resources physically, but they can access the information online ending the digital divide.

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Via Flickr

The article, Analysis: How OER Is Boosting School Performance and Equity From the Suburbs to the Arctic shows how students and classrooms in Kotzebue, Alaska are able to still access high-quality materials within budget cuts and limited resources. Layla Bonnot says, “With OER, districts can adapt content to meet their local needs, maximize education budgets, and ensure access to resources and educational rigor. By being able to serve all students — whatever their race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, family background, or family income — OER supports the goal of educational equity.”

Of course, there are still other down-sides that are creating unequitable circumstances like the ideas of gender and racial bias online, and that AI could possibly be racist and learning its racist behaviours from humans, but I hope that we are moving in a positive direction away from these ideas.  Lizzie O’Shea stated in her article that technology’s biases are not bad necessarily, as long as we recognize them as such and move towards making these racial and gender roles more neutral.

0447f-thinkstockphotos-179079064O’Shea said,  “To make the most of this moment, we need to imagine a future without the oppressions of the past.  We need to allow women to reach their potential in workplaces where they feel safe and respected.  But we also need to look into the black mirror of technology and find the cracks of light shining through.”

And after listening to both sides of the debate, I couldn’t agree more.  We are imperfect, so our tech is imperfect too.  As long as we recognize our faults, and are trying to work towards solutions, then I think we are accomplishing something.  Is technology creating equity in society?  In some cases yes, and in some cases no.  Technology is not going anywhere, and it is becoming a more crucial part of life and should be demanded by all of society.  It has huge potential to create equity in all walks of life, but it is how we go about making sure it is accessible, fair, and neutral to everyone that is the most important part.

einstein