Monday, 30 May 2016

Technology is not the problem... It is how society is misusing the tools

I am a strong believer in the concept that you create your own opportunities and you are in control of what you do at all times.  Blaming technology for making you unhealthy is like blaming McDonalds that you've gained 10 pounds over the winter.  I have never met a McDonalds employee that has held a gun to my head and forced me to eat my Big Mac Meal with medium fries.  I make that choice.

The Huffington post article that Aubrey, Jayme and Jennifer posted almost had me laughing.  I understood what the article was saying but in my mind it is way to much of a common sense versus reality for me.  Staring at my phone creates 60 lbs of pressure on my spine... What about staring at 32 essays for 5 hours a night for 5 nights in a row?  That's my job and I know I look even further down so does that mean the pressure on my neck increases to 70... 80...

To much screen time can put a strain on your eyes... really.  See above.

There was a section I did agree with in that HP article where it talked about shutting off your devices before you sleep.  Of course, it is like keeping the TV on and then trying to sleep all night.  It just doesn't work.

Finally the article links to how the tech we are using is slowing changing our brain function.  This links to their youtube video:
This piece of the article linked with the video very well, but again it goes back to how each individual needs to control their own actions.  I understand that within our society it is becoming to be more difficult to make that conscious choice, but I also feel like I have to make a similar choice when I go out with friends for drinks on a Friday evening.  If I have had a couple beers and I even think I have become impaired I need to make that choice to call a cab or Zero8 (not so shameless plug... these guys are my favorite people after a night out on the town).  Very similar to I need to make the decision not to post my entire life online, or become succumbed with needing social media to substantiate who I am.

Finally I come to the obesity argument.  I have a hard time placing blame on a device when it is the parent/child's responsibility to make the healthy choices.  I feel our society needs a little bit of a kick in the back side when it comes to being active.  We need to make the choice, and stop blaming technology.  Steve made a comment about how certain apps are misused and people are cheating while using them.  I am sure many people are, but again, this is a personal choice.  If a person truly wants to improve themselves they will learn the self discipline needed to improve.  The only person to blame is the one entering the information into the tool.   Steve later went on to discuss how kids are wearing fitness monitors from boxes of cereal because our society is too sedentary.  I agree with that, but is a fitness monitor not a better "prize" then the crappy little plastic maze game that we used to receive?  At least the companies are attempting to give the kids purpose to exercise.

The Livestrong article about Obesity in Children makes a good point that technology increases snacking.  I've done it.... a lot.  But choosing what you are snacking on is a huge part of a lifestyle.  My wife loves her chips, and I am the lactose intolerant ice cream fiend, but the way we get around the habitual snacking is simple.  DON'T BUY THE CRAP!  Self control.

The disagree side came at this from a strong stand point that I feel I am with strongly.  They used the article Determining the Effects of Technology on Children and within that article Sherry Turkle is quoted “I’ve tried to get across that computers are not good or bad – they’re powerful… I think we’re getting ourselves in a lot of trouble thinking there’s an Internet or a web that has an impact on children”.  Technology is not the problem it is how we are choosing to use the tech that is creating a poor lifestyle.  The article continues to talk about the benefits of tech in a classroom (which I wish I found for our debate), and talks about how tech is supposed to be a supplement to good teaching.  So how can a teaching tool be detrimental to ones health?  Is a textbook going to make me sick if I read it?

The article on Researcher: Forget Internet Abstinence; Teens Need some Online Risk was eye opening and to me I feel like it is a very teachable moment.  We have talked about digital citizenship and how we need to be teaching our students not only to be good citizens but also to carry themselves in a positive manner in their digital worlds as well.  The interconnected world is becoming closer and closer every day and I feel it is everyone's responsibility to help keep kids safe.  So maybe a little bit of work on how to stay safe online is a  good thing.

This article pairs amazing with the disagree sides last post with the list of videos.   Each one demonstrates how we as teachers can be helping our students become better digital citizens.  I have students working on an inquiry project right now around the future of social media and it's security features to help aid in the reduction of cyber bullying and decrease the amount of self harm done due to online bullies.

All in all I have to disagree with the argument that technology is making our kids unhealthy.  I am sorry if I was a little blunt but we need to teach students (and sometimes parents) that each person is responsible for their actions.

Schools Should Not Be Teaching Googlable Material

Going into this debate I felt like saying what's wrong with using google?  I think their is nothing wrong with using the search engine as a daily tool.  Some students need to learn how to use that tool, similar to how a student needs to learn how to work a calculator properly.

Right now within my class we are working on an inquiry based project around what technology will look like in the future.  I have groups working on projects based around futuristic furniture, to the advancement and security protocols of social media, to the ever illusive hover crafts.  With this in mind I appreciated the debate around whether or not we should be teaching material that can be googled.

The article on How Google Impacts The Way Students Think was thought provoking.  The main topics hit home some of the struggles I have with my students throughout the inquiry process

  • Google creates the illusion of accessibility
    • The article puts it as bluntly as I told my students... If your question you typed into the google task bar is answered on our open search it was probably a low level question
  • Google naturally suggests "answers"as stopping points
    • This is a part of every inquiry project that I have to ask my students how do they know the information is true, accurate, appropriate and truly answers their questions.  
  • Being linear, Google obscures the interdependence of information
    • This is where we truly get into the learning phase of our inquiry projects in that they students begin to decide whether they want to dig deeper and find the meaning or if they want to simply share information without understanding it.  
I typically run into the problem of reading wikipedia multiple times as my students "sources"

As I continued on my venture with the agree side I checked out their link to How the Internet is Changing Your Brain, which I found to be a very profound video and demonstrated some very good reasons why retaining information is becoming increasingly difficult for learners.  I understand that retaining is difficult for everyone and it is not always the specific information but more so the process and how to do things that is the difficult task.

This brought me to the disagree side I began to feel very confident in the concept that with proper google skills why not let the students learn through the tool.  Their main focus seemed to be around rote memory/memorization.  Now personally I am a proponent of students coming into grade 8 with their basic math facts down, their multiplication tables known at an automatic level.  These I feel are "basic facts" that should be known.  If these aren't known I am willing to make the appropriate adaptations for those specific individuals who need them, such as a multiplication chart, or a calculator for these basic facts.  Again I feel it is more about the process than the outcome.

I have to agree with the disagree side in that memorization is not a bad thing.  We need it in most of our daily lives, most of us probably don't even notice when we are using many of the skills we "memorized" when we were kids.  Now in terms of a chemistry 20 class having to memorize the periodic table, or an English class having to know exactly how to cite a journal article in proper APA version 6 format... Why?  Why do we need to have theses things memorized?  This is something that is easily googlable and when I need that information I can use my conceptual knowledge of how to find and source good information to learn/relearn/recall the proper processes for these tasks.

So in terms of what side of the fence do I sit on... Well I am starting to realize that Alec and Katia have purposely worded the debate positions in such a way that we are always going to juxtaposed.  I agree that rote memorization is good for many daily skills, but I also side with the fact that some people's brains do not function like the majority and they need extra tools.  I don't agree with teaching material that can be simply put into google and the answer found by one simple google search.  We need to be teaching students the processes of how to find information and how to break down, synthesize, analyze then come to their own conclusions.

So my fence is realigned with the following statement.  We need to teach students how to properly use the tools they have at their fingertips, whether that be a calculator for math facts or a search engine for an inquiry project.

Monday, 23 May 2016

The First Great Debate!

Wow! What an intense night.  It was a blast! I loved starting the class of with a good ol' round of collegial debates.  I am very happy with the team work atmosphere from Erin and Jeremy, they were amazing to work with and made the process smooth.  Each of us brought our strengths and confidences to the collaboration and we pulled out the W for the night!  

I loved that we stared off our debate supporting how technology enhances learning within the classroom with our own slice of blended learning from the video that we... (Jeremy, that type of thing takes some serious time) put together.  

Through this process I found what worked best was using technology to help aid each other in finding ways to enhance our arguments through utilizing a shared document that each of us added to on an ongoing basis throughout the week.  We did have a chance to sit down and meet about how we wanted to create our opening statement and attack the rebuttal/conclusion, but this easily could have been done via Skype/Zoom and we could have been on the opposite sides of the planet which is amazing.  

In any good debate we felt it necessary to not only focus on what our side wanted to argue but also to figure out what the opposite side was going to come at us with.  

Our arguments were supposed to be simple in the fact that the tools that are now available give an opportunity to: 
1- Increasing student engagement through appropriate media/tools
2- Increased collaboration (between teacher and students, between peers, and connect globally with others)
3 - Aid students with learning difficulties such as LD and EAL learners
4 - Breaks down geographical barriers (distance learning for individuals from remote communities)
5 - Aid in individualized learning programs
6 - Provides opportunities for individuals who are uncomfortable sharing face-to-face
7 - Supporting the students to be creators of knowledge not only lecture style learners, which is a paradigm shift from read-only structure to read-write style of learning
8 - Utilizing up to date knowledge coming from open source resources implying students are able to learn from the most recent and up to date information 
9 - Teaching students to create a positive/beneficial digital presence 

We knew that Steve, Kayla and Chalyn were going to give it their all and come after us with some very strong points.  I feel they did an amazing job in a very difficult situation given that all of us taking this course obviously have a bias towards digital literacy and are openly looking for ways to increase our digital footprint within our respective classrooms.   

We knew that they would be coming after us on a few points.
1 - Financial side of technology 
2 - Distraction within the classroom
3 - Multitasking
4 - Replacing teachers with technology
5 - Infrastructure 

What shocked me were their numbers and efficiency of how they were able to manipulate and demonstrate their knowledge of our own city and what the boards are spending their money on.  Before I had a chance I had a text from Jeremy stating that they way Kayla ran the numbers and proving that the amount Regina Public Schools spends on tech they could be employing between 70-100 more teachers was a HUGE point!  Along with Steve's comments about training and how teachers are expected to utilize technology with very little training.  I see this every day within my own collaboration team.  I am the constant go to for some people and I feel that most of the time it is a learning curve that many people simply do not want to work to overcome, due to whatever reason.  

When breaking down each argument and looking at others posts I really enjoyed Ian Temples comment on comparing himself and the SAMR model.  He effectively demonstrates the struggle that I have gone through trying to introduce technology into my classroom, through citing Doris Wells-Papanek's article The Purposeful Integration of 'Technology' into Teaching and Learning Best Practiceswhether it be in an impoverished community or an affluent one you need to be utilizing strong teaching practices if you want the learning to be meaningful.  

Which in my mind only reinforces the concept, that good teachers will do what it takes to captivate their students and find ways to develop the learning for each one.  

 Credit Einstien Knowledge

When we were preparing arguments for how we would refute the financial cost of technology I wanted to discuss capitalism and what is wrong with utilizing outside funding/partnership with private companies to enhance the learning environments.  I think about schools in Germany that are funded by BMW or Mercedes and these students there are working on the most up to date technology and learning how to run the machines, design the different parts, or develop software for these different companies.  What is wrong with that avenue of funding to help give every student the opportunity to learn with the best technology.  

This also leads me to think of Regina Public Schools Campus Regina and how they are partnered with different Crowns such as SaskPower/SaskTel or private business' such as Fries Tallman Lumber or Capital Auto Mall.  Why are we not using more of these opportunities within our school systems to help cover the costs? 

What is wrong with capitalism and partnering with private companies and education?  If there is a lack of funding from the government why not look for outside sources of revenue?  

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Wrestling With Technology Always A Gripping Topic

I thought I would start out this class with introducing myself.  My name is Kyle DuMont.  I am a husband and a new(ish) dad.  Tenille and I now have a 1 year old.  A passion of mine is coaching wrestling, as the sport brought me to university, and helped me travel across North America.

  Unfortunately I have had to give up that while we are in the early stages of family and me taking my masters, working a part time job as a server and just being involved with our friends on the occasional dinner party.
 I have been an educator for almost 7 years now.  I have spent 5 of those years at Thomson Community School and these last 2 years I have been working at Jack MacKenzie School.  I have always taught grade 7/8 over the course of my career so far.

I am not the most creative person in the world and probably the best creative thing I have done was this anti-smoking video with some colleagues for fun.  I have taken EC&I 831 from Alec and Katia way back in 2013 as my very first masters class at the U of R.   I feel through their class I have gained a lot of confidence and am utilizing the tools learned within that class and am now one of the tech people within my building.

I have ventured through using tech tools such as kahoot and quizizz, to edmodo as a platform to help create a blended classroom and now I am utilizing google classrooms which is supported by the Regina Public School Division.  I am very excited to be taking EC&I 830 and broadening my technological horizon more.  The first assignment has got me very jacked up and ready to roll into debate battle with Erin Benjamin and Jeremy Black going toe-to-toe against Chalyn SmithKayla Bodner and Steve "Boots" Boutilier conversing about Technology in the classroom enhances learning.

All I can say is Chalyn, Kayla and Boots better bring their "A" game when taking on Brilliant Benjamin, Better-than-you Black and Defying-the-odds DuMont in the first Great Edtech Debate!

Stay tuned for the 411 on how the debate went down next Tuesday.