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 classes, 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 you 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.
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!
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.
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)!
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 debate, 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.
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.
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 taught 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.
Cost 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! 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.
I 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.
“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!
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.
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.
O’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.
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.
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 never 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 overseeing 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 couple 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?
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 instead 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.
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.
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.
Then 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.
Once 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.
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
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!
In today’s day and age, you can’t go a day without hearing some new rumour or supposed news story. Even real news stories can have a twist of fake-ness to them. So how does one educate the citizens of tomorrow how to distinguish between real and fake? Students are bombarded with advertisements, viral videos and countless media outlets on a daily basis. It is then vitally important to challenge them to be critical about what they read.
One way of doing this, is teaching them the proper way to research. I often do this in my ELA B30 classes where my students are in charge of researching a global issue via TED.com. They need to discuss their issue and present relevant information for the class and also come up with viable solutions for this global catastrophe. I encourage students
to find something they are passionate about and in most cases they do. I’ve had topics such as Blackfish, global warming, overpopulation,refugees and war, and poverty. These are REAL issues and my students gladly teach the class about why we need to act now! Of course, with these issues comes two very different sides. So, we discuss how to find credible sources, what types of things to look for in a valid website or post. We discuss finding said information in more than one place and making sure as Alec Couros said in class, “take the emotions out of the equation.” When people are revved up about an issue, it is human nature to find information that justifies our way of thinking and not information that challenges it. Coralee discusses in her blog this week a lot about the Trump government and his accusations that anyone who doesn’t agree with him is soliciting fake news. She also makes an excellent point that someone is obviously believing this fake news. To avoid this myself, I encourage my students to look at both sides. What are the arguments for? What are the arguments against? How can they challenge these points appropriately and rebuttal? The biggest challenge in teaching my students to think critically is getting them to remove their emotions from the situation.
The same works for day to day teachings. It’s not something I intrinsically do but it’s something that when the opportunity comes up that I take advantage of. It could be as simple as a rumour they heard at school. If a student confides in me, I ask them “how do you know it’s true?” It often gets them to pause and think about the source of
information, even if it’s for just a second. These little teachable moments are what matters the most because it teaches students to not only think for themselves, but it asks them to question the status quo and think about everything that they learn and hear. In class if a student brings up a question and one I do not know for sure, I ask students to google the answer; but not just one student, a few. This creates discussion around the answers they find as they criticize each other’s responses. Whose answer is right? Are they all right? Is there a combination that is correct? What sources did they use? These lessons are the most important and they aren’t something that can be structured, only molded into a lesson given the right circumstances.
As for myself, I try to read many different sources on a certain topics before deciding on a correct answer. It is more time consuming but then I can feel confident in the knowledge I am acquiring. I recently watched “What the Health?” a documentary on Netflix about the meat and dairy industry in the United States. What I learned on the documentary was enough to make me give up meat forever. However, I realized that the story was completely focused on veganism the entire time. Never bringing up the flaws in its own diet. After thinking about the documentary a little more, I started analyzing it and discussing it with a few of my friends. And then my search took me online to a plethora of resources both crediting and discrediting the documentary. My head was spinning with information. In the end, I did not give up meat or dairy because for one, I enjoy both of these things and come on, like I’m going to give up pizza! This is just one example of debates online and my approach to critically analyzing what I read and see in this world full of information. It is enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed, but it just takes practice to cut through the fluff and hopefully find at least a version of the truth you can feel satisfied with!
I think my biggest concern about teaching in the digital age is teaching students properly about social media etiquette and making it actually authentic to their learning. So many teachers feel like it is necessary to teach using technology and social media and end up doing it just for the sake of it. I want to make sure when I am using it that it is actually authentic to the learning outcomes as well as engaging for them. Students know when you are doing something just for the sake of doing something so it is important that the learning outcomes match the media you are using.
Another concern I have with teaching in the digital age is the monitoring of the World Wide Web. If I were to implement blogging or social media in my class, I would be most concerned about what I am exposing my students to. What happens if their work gets torn apart on the web? What if it becomes viral? What if an already emotional student gets more criticism than they can handle? Social media is linked to mental health, so now am I responsible to ensure their mental health remains high because I required them to be exposed? How do I do that? Do I need parental permission in order to expose students to a world they already have unfettered access to?
Along I have my concerns, it is imperative that we teach students about this digital world because they need to be successful. Pavan Arora stated in his Ted Talk “Knowledge is Obsolete” that “65% of grade school children will have jobs that don’t exist today” (2014). This means that as educators we have a responsibility to teach students not knowledge, because as Arora pointed out, it is obsolete. At the touch of a button, you can access any information you need, so why continue to teach route memorization, when the more important skills are critical thinking, creativity, and innovation?
Michael Wesch also made a good point in his Ted Talk, “From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able” when he said that students aren’t learning anything in the classroom, they are learning to listen to authority. What is that teaching the generation that will one day be in charge of our world? Everyone has a voice and it is incredibly easy to state your opinion online for the world to see. But what is more important is teaching students to use this voice in a positive manner and learn how to educate themselves with the internet and its abundance of resources. Educators need to teach students how to cite information, how to interpret a good source from a bad source, and how to establish their own networks of learning online. I’m not saying it will be easy, but it is the direction we are headed and as educators, it will be a lot easier to embrace this change, stop trying to teach information and be the “experts” and also students to find their own passion and creativity so they can become their own type of expert in a field that may not even exist yet.