Summary of Learning

Over the course of the Spring semester, I have developed a new perspective and frame of mind when discussing and thinking about technology in society today. I have been exposed to a variety of topics and issues surrounding technology that have opened up new forums of conversation for me. I look forward to taking what I have learned and applying it to my daily life in my classroom and outside of my classroom.

Thanks to my prof Alec Couros for a great semester and to all of my classmates! Check out my summary of learning below. Special shout out to husband for being a movie star and to my beautiful high school students who volunteered their time to answer a few questions for me (yes, consent forms are signed) 🙂

 

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Technology: A Force for Equity in Society

It’s about equity, not equality

Equity

Heading into this week’s debate, I was hesitant to pre-vote because I was unsure of my position when discussing whether or not technology is a force for equity in society. Shortly into class, it became apparent to me that I was definitely on team agree with Jen, Dawn and Sapna even though Rakan and Amy. S posed a strong argument for team disagree. Team agree discussed how technology can be used as a tool to promote equity and positive opportunities. There are many initiatives to change education with technology and team agree’s ideas were similar to Richard Culatta’s from the US Department of Education (video below).

The three main points that resonated with me (because of personal experiences) were the following:

a. Technology has the ability to increase personalised learning which is of high value because many students have different needs, passions and interests. As a Learning Resource Teacher and former FIAP teacher, I have watched students struggle to communicate, work through Math problems with a learning disability in Math and write essays by hand with a diagnosis of Dyslexia. In the past few years, increases in technology have provided equitable opportunities to these students that never existed before. For example, students who are non-verbal have access to Proloquo2go (a program designed to enhance communication) and students with learning disabilities can use Google Read & Write on their PERSONALISED board issued lap tops in order to utilise text to speech and speech to text programs.

Prolo

 

b. Technology can improve accessibility of education. Growing up in rural Saskatchewan with dial up internet, I was never granted the same opportunities as others my age in neighbouring urban centres. Nowadays, with access to online education and distance learning, students could take classes not otherwise offered in their rural schools.

c. Open resources are essential and we must make access to information we need to teach and learn free. Richard Calutta discusses the high price of textbooks and how many individuals are in debt or unable to afford these resources needed to learn in learning environments. I agree that this sounds rather backwards when an individual can purchase a Google Chromebook for roughly the same price as two “required textbooks” for a course.

      $259.00 

Chromebook

$151.42

 

Textbook

 

In his Ted Talk, Raj Dhingra poses that yes, technology can change education despite there being obvious barriers to overcome. Obviously, students cannot thrive in a global community if they do not have access to technology and we know that many individuals living in poverty or lower income households do not have these devices at their disposal. Team disagree spoke to this when they raised the point that technology is spreading inequalities in society by creating a rich versus poor divide, while also encouraging racism and sexism through the use of particular tools such as facial recognition programs. Although I see where they are coming from, I think it is unfair to blame technology. Technology is not grooming racism and discrimination, it’s humankind programming it this way.

Raj Dhingra’s also stated that “if we change the thinking, we can change the solution.” Having all the resources in the world does not mean that they will be utilised in the most effective way. As teachers, often times we complain about limited resources and I think our perspective on this needs to change. In the class debate, much concern was raised when discussing how Regina Public Schools re-allocated technology this school year. I also hear many comments at the school I teach at regarding not having enough lap tops for each classroom yet, the computer lab across the hall from my classroom is often completely empty during some class periods.

Technology has done a good job at removing barriers in today’s society. If we continue with an optimistic mindset, I believe many more barriers will be eliminated as time goes on resulting in increased equity across the globe.

 

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Openness and Sharing in Schools: My Thoughts

I have a homeroom class of grade 9 students this year and we talk often about what ‘digital footprint’ means along with the pros and cons of social media. I really like this video to prompt further conversations.

I have my own personal opinion when it comes to the idea of sharing personal or student’s work/information on social media, and I acknowledge that my personal opinion is neither right nor wrong (this is a very controversial topic). The past three debate topics in EC&I 830 have all been intriguing, but this week’s topic (educators sharing information online) frustrated me! I found myself frustrated because I agree with both sides of the conversation. I agree with Shelly, Esther and Kari,  that sharing online increases connectivity with parents and the community and that it can help shape appropriate use of the internet creating smart digital citizens. However, I also agreed with Amy, Joe and Dani that ethically, posting and sharing things online can be dangerous, unsafe, and unfair to our students and families.

On one hand, we are encouraged as educators to incorporate, introduce, role model and guide the use of technology but on the other, fear is instilled in us regarding what is ethically appropriate and what is not. I am a rule follower (especially in professional environments) and without clear guidelines or policy indicating to me what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, I am not a risk taker. Although there are measures put in place to protect student’s privacy (such as parental consent forms for release of images), I have heard too many stories of teachers being reprimanded for posting something online that is deemed inappropriate by someone else. Also, there have been many active conversations surrounding privacy this year within school divisions. Collectively, myself and fellow colleagues have been told to delete any information that even hosts a child’s name off of our Google accounts and to have no paper or online documentation. How then can I convince myself to create an online presence that in return creates a digital footprint for my students? The debate topic this week definitely frustrated me because of this internal battle I am having.

 

I agree that fostering appropriate use of social media sites at school should definitely be discussed but also, what responsibility are we placing on parents? Right now, cell phones are being placed in the hands of children and adolescents who do not have the capacity, understanding or awareness of what is appropriate versus inappropriate. Social media sites and online games are open on almost every student’s phone, and many are continually searching for some sort of instant gratification whether it is a snap chat from a friend, a like on Instagram or a gold coin rewarded for winning a game.

 

To be honest, I try to stay current with advancements in technology but I struggle with it. Like Kristen mentioned in her blog, I am also hesitant and often times resistant to change. Because of my role within the high school I teach at, it is hard to implement and use technology in “cool and engaging ways” because I am not implementing curriculum and don’t have the flexibility to create new and exciting projects. Therefore, I found myself thinking “How does sharing students work promote growth for the student? To what extent are we exposing our students and creating a digital footprint for them in order to promote ourselves as teachers/professionals? Is this fair?”

When your intentions are good..               giphy.comgiphy1

I realise this could be another controversial topic but unfortunately, sometimes we may be exposing our students for our own personal gain – to showcase what we are doing in our classrooms, how we are implementing inquiry based practices and so forth.

After reading the Forbes article in this week’s suggested readings, things were clarified for me. Dianne Forbes discusses in her paper that “teacher educators must look to make professional use of social media, before turning their attention to social media for student learning.” She also touches on learning communities and the benefit of engaging in a community of professionals where one can trade information, share resources, ask and answer questions and discuss educational issues. That being said, these online communities can benefit and impact TEACHERS and STUDENTS. Specifically, students can learn to become independent learners. Students can also learn to create positive digital footprints by shadowing an educator’s positive behaviour online. There is no doubt that education must remain future forward, and preparing and modelling positive sharing to student’s is essential.

There were many great ideas presented in this week’s debate and it was nice to hear of different tools teachers are using the connect with families (i.e- Seesaw, Remind). These are tools I see myself using in my classroom because of the ability to connect with a specific audience. If I were a parent of a young child in school, I think I would love to be connected and to see photos and work of my child. Although this class is opening me up and creating a more comfortable relationship between technology and I, I will remain hesitant when using social media forums and when sharing photos or work of students until policy becomes clearer.

One last thing…

Although teachers are professionals and should know what is right and wrong, I think the Common Sense Education website does a good job outlining the do’s and dont’s of posting and sharing student information, work and photos online.

giphy2

 

Google in the 21st Century

My team argued in the class debate this week that schools should not teach things that can be googled… and we did not win the class vote!
giphy

Now, I can’t say I am surprised. Although I do agree that schools should not teach things that can be googled, I understand the flip side of the argument as well. Today’s ever-changing world is hard to navigate through for both students and teachers. To view my groups opening argument, click on the blue print! (We used WeVideo to create the video, a great tool for collaboration). While researching this topic, we highlighted three critical points:

  1. Knowledge is changing faster than ever before, how can we possibly keep up as teachers?
  2. Are we teaching our students essential skills needed for life in the 21st century, such as critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration?
  3. Technology provides us with tools to be efficient and also with the opportunity to create meaningful learning versus rote learning.

 

evolving_google_identity_share

Google is beginning to take over our classrooms and I see this in the high school that I teach at. The school is equipped with Google Chromebooks, teachers have Google Classroom’s set up for different classes, and students research anything they take interest in. The New York Times published an article written by Natasha Singer that explains how “Google is helping to drive a philosophical change in public education — prioritising training children in skills like teamwork and problem-solving while de-emphasising the teaching of traditional academic knowledge, like math formulas. It puts Google, and the tech economy, at the centre of one of the great debates that has raged in American education for more than a century: whether the purpose of public schools is to turn out knowledgeable citizens or skilled workers.” Quite frankly, I think there needs to be a healthy balance and that schools should be turning out knowledgeable citizens that are also skilled workers. It is crazy to think that many students we are teaching right now, will have jobs that do not currently exist.

We should be teaching students how to learn versus what to learn. Children are growing up in a generation where more information is readily available to them than any generation before. Because of this, technology has welcomed and linked members of society to a life of lifelong learning. The unfortunate thing is that we are trying to overcome and navigate through this 21st century information overload with learning behaviours that are thousands of years old. Although I believe that memorisation is not “learning” I do value its importance and understand its value in regards to learning skills such as reading, writing and multiplication.  However, more abstract ideas require more abstract learning and much of this can be taught through the use of technology and search engines such as Google.

I was speaking with my grandma last night who is 84 years old and she talked about how school was hard for her because she couldn’t remember things quickly and when asked to write a test, she forgot much of what she studied. To say that these traditional practices are proven effective seems wrong. Students in today’s 21st century struggle with these demands, as did students from previous generations. That being said, I think today’s generation has even more barriers to overcome because of the mass increase in the use of technology. My group member Channing Degelman asked in our team debate, when in our current careers are we ever placed in a room with a pen and paper, silenced and told to write down everything we know about particular topics….. never.

In my role as a high school learning resource teacher, I watch my students struggle immensely with particular assignments that require memorisation of information. Many of my students are challenged in areas of short term working memory and long term retrieval of information. As a result, they don’t grasp concepts because their focus is solely on trying to pack their brain full of information. Many times, this results in a feeling of defeat which instils hesitancy towards learning.

If I could change curriculum, I would place more emphasis on experiential learning throughout all subject areas. As educators, we know that the more we teach about a topic, the more we learn. If we flip this around, I believe that the more our students become their own teachers, the more they will learn.

So, ponder this: Does teaching mean we need to continually relay information to students or does teaching mean we can take on a role of a facilitator or a guide to learning relying on resources such as Google to assist us in this role?

 

giphyGiphy

I think there a lot of question marks when pondering what the future of learning in a digital age will look like and that right now there is no definitive right or wrong answer. Now and in years to come, I believe the following questions posed by Davidson & Goldberg will continue to be hot topics for debate:

  1. If we face a future where every person has (easy access to) a
    laptop or networked mobile device, what will it mean?
  2. What will it mean for institutionally advocated, mediated, and activated
    learning?
  3. How will educators use these tools and this moment? How will users—learners—adapt them to learning functionality, access, and productive learning possibilities?
  4. Will what is learned and the new methods of learning alter as a consequence,
    becoming quicker but shallower, more instrumental and less reflective?
  5. How can we use these tools to inspire our most traditional institutions of
    learning to change?

Technology in the Classroom: The Great Debate

In this week’s class debate I agreed that technology enhances learning although I can identify with those who disagree. Below I have highlighted three points that stood out to me that were argued by each side, with research to support their claims:

Pros of Technology

Cons of Technology

1.       Helps engage students

2.       Provides opportunities to all kinds of learners (can include everyone)

3.       Allows for collaboration

 

1.       Used inappropriately and therefore is distracting

2.       Eliminates face to face interaction (lacking social skills)

3.       Equitable opportunities are limited due to access

 

In my ideal perfect world, technology would be incorporated into every classroom to help engage learners, there would be an unlimited supply of devices readily available to students and all devices would be used properly. However, as technology continuously evolves, I believe society struggles to keep up and also to adjust to this new digital era we live in. We seem to have drawn a strong attachment to the techniques and teaching practices from the past. I really liked a point that my classmate Amy Snider made in last night’s discussion when she stated that “pencils and sharpeners were once new technology”. As educators in this digital era I think we must embrace the opportunities that technology present us with (pros), and problem solve in hopes of eliminating the less than ideal barriers that the use of technology pose (cons).

Reflecting on my role as a Learning Resource Teacher in a high school, I am a huge advocate for technology in the classroom as I see first-hand how it impacts and has changed the lives of many of my students with learning needs. Many of my students are provided with assistive technology devices from the school board and programs such as Google Read & Write, Audible, Kurzweil and Proloquo2go help students in a variety of ways (communication, writing, reading, etc). If we were to eliminate these tools from the classroom then we could start a whole new debate regarding equitable opportunities 🙂

I really like what my school has done in response to teacher’s concerns of inappropriate use of cell phones in the classroom. The photo posted below is a picture of the school cell phone policy and cell phone hotel that each classroom has. Teachers are able to use this to their discretion and some use it more than others and in varying ways. Rather than simply taking students phones away to eliminate distraction, my goal is to teach the students that there is a time and place that cell phone use is appropriate (as Katie mentioned last night in the debate). The school also integrated a course called Digital Citizenship into the grade 9 Practical and Applied Arts class. I feel this is beneficial but this is also something that we could be more proactive with in the early elementary school years.

Cell Phone HOtel

Overall, I am for the implementation and use of technology in the classroom to help engage learners today. I think that moving from teacher-centred instruction to student-centred learning needs to have more emphasis placed on it. By questioning, guiding and facilitating students in the learning process, students will draw on strengths and interests and will develop deeper understandings of content and material. I also believe that if we can create student centred learning opportunities, more time is freed up for teachers to connect with students and to build and strengthen relationships (which is also a leading topic in the world of education).

I have lots to learn when it comes to implementing technology into my classroom in a more efficient and effective manner but I am open to all ideas! As an educator, I believe it is my job to stay current with the upcoming trends and technological advancements. Let’s be honest, technology is not going anywhere.

Hey, It’s Me!

My name is Jodie Sonntag! Below I have included some information for you to get to know me a little better 🙂

  1. This is my personal blog that I am creating for my EC&I 830 class at the University of Regina where I am near completion of my Master’s degree in Educational Psychology.
  2. Over the years, I have developed basic skills that allow me to find success when using technology. However, the use of technology in my classroom is a weakness that I would like to improve upon (part of the reason I am taking EC&I 830).
  3. I live in Regina, Saskatchewan and I am a high school Learning Resource Teacher at Winston Knoll Collegiate.
  4. I grew up on a farm in Southern Saskatchewan and over the years have developed a passion for the outdoors.13103262_10156806540695290_5832820394040301955_n
  5. I am married to the most wonderful man, my best friend and number one fan. We are awaiting the arrival of our first child this August (and we are so excited to become parents)!

Vietnam

6.  I have two cats, Piper and Bear.

7. I am passionate about helping those around me and believe that every individual has the potential to be amazing.

8. Travel has been a huge part of my life and has provided me with experiences that continue to challenge and shape my personal worldview.

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9. I am a sports enthusiast. Living an active and healthy lifestyle helps me to maintain balance in my life.

10. Blogging makes me nervous because of the vulnerability around sharing my thoughts with others. I am excited to take on this new challenge.

 

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world- Nelson Mandela

 

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