Monday, 31 October 2016

Utilizing Tech tools Within My Classroom

Throughout the semester we have heard of a variety of tools that have been used to what are currently being used in the classroom.  I am currently in my 6th and 7th classes in my Masters program at the University of Regina.  Within these classes I have taken 3 that have been web based - distance learning opportunities like this one with Alec.  I have taken 2 other ones that have been MOODLE/UR Courses based and then the other 2 have been face to face.

The tools that are used constantly in all of my classes are slide shows, whether it be PowerPoint, Google Slides or other ones such as: Prezi, Powtoon, KeyNote, or many others.  Each class has some sort of information sharing tool that resembles this concept.


PowerPoint Icon via Microsoft Office

My favorite for my own usage is a PowerPoint.  I am most comfortable with it, and if it is a presentation that I am doing for a professional or in depth project I like all the extras that are available.  I find with PPT, there are more options for transitions, slide timing, animations and much more.

For my students I encourage Google Slides.  Mostly for the collaborative nature of the Google program.  Every student is able to log in and add/edit/collaborate with their own device on their own time.  It also allows me as the teacher to keep an eye on who is accomplishing what and when.  It is very easy to hold the students accountable with their work when you check in on their edits/changes and you only ever see one or two students doing all the work.

Other tools that I use in my classroom are YouTube and Khan Academy.  I love using these sites because of the opportunities that it gives me to share ideas/images/science experiments (that we don't have to proper tools for) and so many other great learning opportunistic.  I also include these sites as a method to develop a blended learning environment for our students who are heavily involved in sport/culture/dance and art programs outside of school.  With the students missing a large portion of teaching, it gives them the opportunity to watch and learn on their own time and stay caught up with the rest of the class.

Kahoot and Google Forms

Wiki Commons: Kahoot Logo
I have used Kahoot for the last year and a half and the kids love it!  It makes for an interactive and fun class where the students are able to each share in the excitement.  The only issue with this is ensuring we always have a one-to-one device day.  Most of the time I have not run into this problem but it has held us back a couple of times.

Wiki Commons: Google Forms
What I have started this semester with my class is utilizing Google Forms to get a quick summative evaluation so I can see if there is any area that is weak across a class that I may need to reteach before a unit test, end of unit project or other big idea assessments.  I am finding this is a great tool to ensure that all my students needs are being met, and that I can isolate those that are missing or have gaps in their information quickly.

Google Docs

Wiki Commons: Google Docs

Like Amy and Erin Google Docs has provided me with a lot of valuable lessons, not only this semester in class, but also in my own classroom.  See my blog post from a couple weeks ago in how I broke down how I am using it in reference to the SAMR model of using tech in your classroom.

What I would like to do

I would like to see my class begin a unit study with another class in a different city.  I would love to share or ideas, have the discussions and share knowledge with a different community.  Somewhere up north, or on one of the coasts would be great to start with.  My thought would be to do a literature circle book study and have a variety of books so the students can be placed in a number of different groups and then have to share their learning, understanding of the books and topics with others from the different class.  I think this would be a fantastic interactive tool and a great opportunity to learn with another class.  If you know any one that teaches middle years in one of these areas of Canada, and has a similar interest please let me know!

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Productivity vs Procrastination

The Internet, My Mysterious Web

I love the internet.  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Blogs, NFL, CFL, MLB, NHL, TSN, UWW, just to name my top 10 sources utilized in the last month.  I think that like anything else your level of focus is dependent upon your interest/commitment/procrastination level.  James Hamblin shares his thoughts on "Single-tasking" in the video from this week:

While I see my young students (grade 7/8) having this problem, I can say with confidence that when it comes down to working seriously I do not have this issue.  When it is time to get to work on a paper, blog, readings, or simply marking, I find I have the capacity to get the work done.  Typically I need to be in an environment conducive to this as well, so I usually hid in my basement, and make sure the TV is off and I get to work.  On the other hand, on a Sunday afternoon, when I am watching football, I open my phone, look through countless threads, feeds, news stories, games, etc., but when it is work time, I am pretty good at shutting off the "other" things and getting the work done.

My Classroom, A Constant Buzz

In my classroom that is not always the story.  Keeping an eye on 26 students who are supposed to be working on their projects via technology can be difficult.  Setting the standard for what is acceptable behavior online, during class takes time, and reinforcing it without extrinsic rewards is even more challenging.  This is where the concept of "single-tasking" and teaching is non-existent.  I can not think of a time where I can do this within a classroom setting.  Weather it is in a digital world, or the physical (most of the time it is blended).  I will typically have one to two students at my desk asking for clarification, while others have their hands up for other reasons, all while I am opening a variety of linked documents through Google Classroom to see if the Chatty Cathy's in the back are being productive or not.  All of this transpires every minute or so for an entire class.

Every once and a while to help us (the students and myself) de-stress from our connectedness we will read a story that has been photocopied, or utilize a resource straight from a textbook when available.   My students find this practice relaxing and I typically find them very engaged, especially when I am reading aloud to them, with my terrible accents and all.  This would be one of the only times I am almost single-tasking within my room as a teacher.

Now in terms of whether or not the internet has created a world of multi-taskers or not.  Aside from the opinions that multi-tasking is a myth, I am going to say not... I think most teachers are skillful at this task.  In terms of multi-tasking online, I am not sure we can't be skillful at this as well.  I think of our weekly ECI 833 class.  At the end of most nights my browser has more tabs than you can use your fingers and toes for, or in many of my teaching environments, I will have open multiple tabs to jump from one to the other to ensure that the lesson flows smoothly, so I am not waiting for pages, to load (or not).

Monday, 17 October 2016

How Effectively Am I Utilizing My Tech Tools?

When thinking of all the tech tools I use it gets to be a long list: GAFE, YouTube, Khan Academy, Blogger, Projectors, Laptops, Ipads, BYOD, just to list the most common ones. I will take a critical look at one of them to help me decide if I am utilizing it to its full potential or not. With so many options I feel I should focus on Google Docs, used through Google Classroom specifically. Google Docs is a software that is used frequently within my classes. The goal with using Google Docs is to ensure that every student is able to have access to the assignment. When this is occurring there are a variety of levels that I use the software.

Many times it is used simply at a substitution level. What I mean by that is, instead of taking notes, vocabulary, or answering basic comprehension questions in a notebook it is done through Google Docs. In terms of pros vs cons for this level of usage:

- Documents are saved automatically
- Students work is neat and typically more organized
- Easier to have the student share their document with me for a quick edit

- Work can be copied
- Wifi connection
- Not enough physical tech for every student

When I utilize the software through the platform Google Classroom and I have given the students direct questions where they need to research or complete the assignment with the tools this is where the Augmentation level is

- I am able to check on each student from my own classroom space as all their documents are linked to my account
- Students can access this on almost any popular device (tablet, phone, computer)
- If a student is absent they are able to stay on top of their classwork and not fall behind (blended classroom)
- I am able to see every edit and change for each student, so if one tried to copy and paste answers it would be evident.

- Lack of parental connection with work
- Wifi connection
- Not enough physical tech for every student (BYOD rules and standards have to be set)

When taking my assignments to the next level and forcing my students to work in groups around a topic with other students not within their class this is where Google Docs potential starts to augment/redesign our way of thinking about the typical classroom and assignment. I have my students do a group project with their partners outside of their individual class. They have to use their class time appropriately and do their part in helping out the group and accomplishing the task needed to.

- Students are learning about responsibility
- Working together as a team in an unfamiliar setting
- Ownership to their work and group as a whole
- Seeing the ingenuity of the students working and utilizing the tool to its full potential by leaving notes, comments, and idea maps within the document for everyone to see and build upon.

- Some students do not do as much as others.
- Lack of technology for each student when needed
- Wifi connection

When looking within my pod of grade alike teachers I feel that I have very little opponents with using the software.  I am supported through the families to the point that many families send their children with devices specifically for school.   I am very lucky to be in the school I am in.  When looking at the other negative pressures around using Google Docs, comes from the devices that they are being used on.  Whether it is a phone, tablet, or laptop, each of these devices comes with other software, that can be distracting to students.  
Google Docs for Teachers and Students

If I am not mobile within my classroom and physically seeing what my students are working on the amount and quality of work is lower.  I feel this is present in any form of teaching and the technology is not the root cause of poor behavior.  If the students are allowed to be off task, then that is how they will learn to function.  It is not the technology that becomes distracting, but the lack of awareness for the teacher that causes poor behavior and mismanagement of the tool. 

In terms of how this tool affects my pedagogical stance.  I feel that it mainly advances the learning opportunities for my students.  With support from the school, families and community I feel there is an urge for the students to become more proficient, more independent and more capable of doing tasks by themselves.  Through a big push of behaviorism theory along with collectivism in combination technology tools the way I am I feel that my students are gaining those qualities.  Obviously some are better at it than others, but that is what teaching is, learning how to adapt for everyone involved in your classroom.  The adaptations you can make through the use of technology is so much faster, and easier than it was 10 years ago.  Using technology gives the teacher the opportunity to teach to the individual more frequently than ever before.  

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Where Can I Find Educational TV?

What is educational TV and why as a teacher am I not utilizing it within my classroom?

Through reading a few blogs this week, I have come across the concept of what a "traditional" classroom model is suggested to be like. When I think of the "traditional" classroom, I envision the late 1800's through the early 1900's one room school house where the children (pupils) used their slate boards and leather bound books to do their rote memorization skills to learn the scientific curriculum.

Sask Encyclopedia One Room School House

While thinking about my classroom over the course of my young 8 year career so far, I see similarities and differences every year. Mostly it is based on the demographics and physical make up of my group of students. How I have taught has changed based on my willingness to try new things and incorporate more and more technology within my classes.

After last weeks class and the reading Postman's concept of how "Sesame Street undermines traditional schooling". My knee jerk reaction to this is.... OF COURSE IT DOES! The traditional classroom of sit, read, write, and learn arithmetic, is boring, unengaging, and only benefits and small percentage of specific learners. What is wrong with learning through various songs, games, and engaging repetitions?

I know from my expereince that I do not learn in the "traditional" environment. As Logan points out in his post:

Unless your students are part of a generation with higher cases of ADDneeding various forms of engagement to aid in learning (In this writer’s opinion, higher cases of ADD are strictly due to larger and more accurate amounts of testing).

These are our students. This is the current state of our classrooms. The traditional schooling that Postman is talking about is an outdated system that we as the next generation of teachers are battling to evolve out of. I am not saying that society is drastically different but, due to the awareness we have about how children learn and what the individual needs of students with certain diagnosis are that we have tools to aid in every child's learning so why aren't we using those tools, such as educational television.

Looking into the beginnings of educational TV and how Audrey Watters gave a synopsis of what TLC's history is, there is a broader understanding of what educational televisions purpose was for. In the 1960's when the idea of sharing information to a wider audience through the use of technology was in its infancy, the concept of teaching was still very regimented in the three R's I mentioned earlier. Curriculum had hardly changed from the 20's until then and thus the expectations had not changed that much. Now when we look at today's classroom the understanding of educational TV is drastically different.

So what does educational TV look like today? Programs such as Dora the Explorer,

or even one of my favorites Bill Nye the Science Guy

What is the purpose of these shows?  I find that through entertainment you receive engagement, within that you have repetition which lends it self to memory, and finally with engagement, and memory you are symbiotically learning.  

Now I am not saying that your standard classroom should utilize educational TV on a daily basis, but in conjunction with positive teaching techniques, utilizing an interesting, and engaging educational TV show can be very beneficial in today's classroom.  

Monday, 3 October 2016

How My Teaching Philosophy Has Changed and Why?

Learning Theories 

Learning Theories are one of the main reasons I decided to take classes around educational technology... I was hoping not to have to discuss them. Mostly because I don't like discussing them because they can be long, boring and sometimes hard to synthesize for me. That being said looking at them in how they are used in connection with teaching through an ed-tech lens is a neat approach. Each theory has its purpose within a school setting. I do not think one is more important than the other. When used effectively specific instructional approaches based upon a designated theory can have a greater affect on a child's learning. Here is how I see myself utilizing the theories within my classroom.


Behaviorism is defined in Peggy A. Ertmer and Timothy J. Newby article on Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features From an Instructional Design Perspective as "Behaviorism focuses on the importance of the consequences of those performances and contends that responses that are followed by reinforcement are more likely to recur in the future" (p. 48).  Essentially we are looking at the infamous works of Pavlov, Watson and Skinner.

When I reflect on how this theory relates to my teaching career, I see an acceptance of the usefulness of this philosophy; along with a connection in how my hidden curriculum is largely based on the concepts of which consequences occur based on specific actions I want from my students throughout the school day.  When I started teaching I wanted to be the teacher who was child centered, I wanted to let the students decide what the rules should be, let the students choice carry the flow of the class.  Now I have shifted to a more realistic approach to behaviorism in that it is useful mostly in the structure of the day.  The more that my students react in the way I have conditioned them too (in respect to social protocol within the classroom), the more praise, I seem to give them.  Now I see this as a mostly positive aspect within my classroom because the more the students follow the daily routine, the more curriculum content we are able to sift through as a class.


This is where I see cognitivism taking over the bulk of my teaching. Ertmer and Newby describe how "cognitive theories focus on the conceptualization of students’ learning processes and address the issues of how information is received, organized, stored, and retrieved by the mind" (p. 49).  This is where I find myself attempting to increase my students awareness, not only within specific curricular areas, but also in how they are learning.  I feel I do this through attempting to teach process over content.  I want my students to become life long learners, therefore I need to teach how to learn to my students, not specific content.  There also needs to be a balance in learning.  Students are kids and kids need time to explore, experiment, and fail to learn.


Learning through experience is essential the basis of constructivism.  Ertmer and Newby use Bednar et al. when delving deeper into what constructivism is where they describe it as how, "knowledge emerges in contexts within which it is relevant. Therefore, in order to understand the learning which has taken place within an individual, the actual experience must be examined" (Bednar et al.). This is the type of learning that I am most cognizant of from my schooling experience.  I remember the field trips, the experiments, the baking, the opportunities to create within the classroom, even the dreaded science fairs are some of my most memorable moments from my elementary and high school years.  This is why within my own classroom I try to do a variety of experiments and be as interactive as I can.  Now with technology the  way it is, I feel that it is giving us the opportunity to help children create in another unique way.  Kids can now begin to create and develop their own experiences through a variety of technology tools.


When the students are using their own tools to capture their memories, develop their own stories and demonstrate their learning in their own way, is extending of constructivism which takes it again to a different level of connectivism.  George Seimens describes connectivism as "Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual" in his post Connectivism: A Learning Theory for a Digital Age I see this as the modification to redefinition stages of the SAMR model I spoke about in my earlier post.  I have not achieved this level yet, but I can see it happening within my classroom soon.  I have a variety of ideas that i would like to attempt and ultimately connect with other classrooms in joint learning adventures.