Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Why Technology

Last class Alec made a comment about why are we using technology.  There is no legal obligation, it is not a part of our curriculum, they are causing stress for parents, and teachers.  We talk about how it is the way of the future, but if the technology is constantly changing whose responsibility is it really?

I appreciated the article by Stager that he shared with us and I have used it this week as a jumping off point.  I went through his page and found an article about 1:1 Computing which was actually about the effectiveness of teaching keyboarding skills in the late 1980's.  The summation of the article sounds very similar to our discussion we are having around using personal devices within the classroom in today world.

There is widespread agreement that elementary school students need keyboarding skills. Whether keyboard familiarization is sufficient or whether students need touch typing skills depends on the nature of the school’s language arts and computer education curricula.
If we replaced the word keyboard with device the statement still stands as in today's culture.

There is widespread agreement that elementary school students need their own device skills. Whether device familiarization is sufficient or whether students need touch typing skills depends on the nature of the school’s language arts and computer education curricula.

With statements like this I am starting to ask myself, why isn't there a technology component into curriculum?  With the ever evolving state of technology why are we not required to be teaching with it?  Society obviously demands the upgrades as we can never have one device for much more than 4-5 years before it becomes obsolete.  I would like to think that with a statement from Stager's article on keyboard typing is so connected to using our digital devices in school that it would have become a priority to the curriculum designers at this point.  On the other hand is it possible that technology really isn't that important and we don't have to teach with it to ensure the student's are learning the curriculum.  I know I was able to get through the curriculum just fine into the early 2000's.

With all the research I have done in the last number of classes and throughout this specific one almost every article shows that engagement increases with technology but the overall grades/marks/understanding the outcomes is not increasing at the same rate, but there is only ever a minimal improvement if there is one at all.

One of our catch phrases lately has been Collaboration and if you have followed me on my technology journey you will know that I try to incorporate and teach through this method as much as possible.  But my new found friendly neighbourhood blogger (Stager) has a great article on this topic.  I feel that collaboration is a method that helps me get through the curriculum at a faster rate while encouraging more participation from all the students.  Stager has a very different view of how we should be collaborating.  As I read his article I laughed for the most part, both at the article and also at myself because many of the things he was satirically writing about were the things I am doing to be an engaging teacher, and using collaboration to engage my students more... Maybe I need to rethink how I am encouraging and designing my collaborative groups....
Cooperation and collaboration are natural processes. Such skills are useful when the creative process benefits from interdependence. The best collaboration mirrors democracy when individual talents, knowledge, or experiences are contributed to produce something larger than the sum of its parts.  Work with your friends. Work with people you trust. Work with people who have different skills or expertise. If that doesn’t produce the result you desire, you will find others to collaborate with. That is how you learn to collaborate. You may teach it, but the students will not stay taught.

So what do I do from here.  I am certainly feeling juxtaposed in between my desires and what is actually important.  The important pieces are ensuring the curriculum is taught.  That is my job.  I have to get through the grade 8 Math, Science, and ELA curriculum's next year regardless of what mode of transportation I use, be that pen and paper, technology, or pencil crayons on cardboard.   I do not think the Ministry of Education will care as long as my students are "learning" the curriculum.  My desire is to go paperless.   To do so, I need to supplement my classroom with out of school devices.  Within our division we are allowed 1 Google Chromebook for every 5 students from grades 5-8 and 1 iPad for every 3 students from grades 1-4.

With the outcome based evaluating I feel that I am able to determine how a student is doing with the more written language, or produced materials they can show me.  Through using these Chromebooks I am able to monitor and track how much my students are doing as long as they are using their board approved username and password.  (The more I think of what I want the more I feel like I'm becoming Big Brother in Wells' distopian world). With using the technology I have at my disposal I am able to ensure those students who struggle with organization will at least have a searchable document when I am helping them, also those students who are functioning at a higher level will be capable of extending their learning and dive deeper into topics of their own inspiration.

When looking at the question of why use/teach with technology, I am thinking about Postman's article we read in an earlier class around technological change.  Reflecting on that article we need to be reminded (especially about his stance on the purpose behind the technology)

 there is embedded in every great technology an epistemological, political or social prejudice. Sometimes that bias is greatly to our advantage. Sometimes it is not.  
As long as we are focus on using technology to improve the quality education for our students, it is of benefit.  If we are choosing to use technology because it is easier for the educator, or it is only 'more engaging', but not providing evidence of improved understanding, then we need to re-evaluate how/why we are using this technology.

I am looking forward to the next couple of weeks of this class, as I am working on a document, and my final blog post as to how I plan on implementing the BYOD within my classroom, along with what specific apps and tools I plan on utilizing to provide a paperless classroom next school year.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Battling the Cons of Technology

My focus this week was on how to effectively find solutions for the Cons that I found last week.  My major frustration was around the disparity of access when it comes to technology within my room.  Many of the sources I read talked about the variety of students not having technology for mostly socioeconomic factors, but in my experience when dealing with 12-14 year olds there is often a set family values around technology.  Whether it is due to responsibility, protection, desire, or a litany of other reasons for a child to have or not have their own device.

What I have found this week revolves around the importance of utilizing technologies within the classroom and the benefits behind them.  I am hoping that with this type of knowledge the parents/caregivers of the students will be more open to sending a their children to school with a device.

When reading a paper on a 1 to 1 initiative that took place in Michigan the authors found that:
In looking at student benefits, the FTL students reported that the laptops helped them learn more and made them more interested in learning.  Most students were confident that use of the laptops would increase their future work opportunities. (Lowther, 2012, p. 27)
When looking at the engagement of students as an educator that is one of the most important pieces for me.  If a student is engaged and interested in what they are doing they will get more out of that particular assignment or reading.  What becomes difficult for the educator is how we assess the learning of each student.

Another reason for incorporating technology within the classroom is to help our students prepare for their future.  With the every changing landscape of education and the fast paced nature of our society now we need to give our students every opportunity to be working with the potential tools they will be required to master within their careers.
“Learning is complex work and like other forms of skilled and technical work it requires that the person performing the job understand and be comfortable with his or her tool set.” Alberta Teacher 2011
The document this quote is from is the BYOD Guide from Alberta.  They go on to share some constructive points as to why BYOD is valuable and important.

Alberta BYOD Guide pg. 4, 2012
Continuing with the idea that technology is the way of the future... (sorry it that was cliche). We need to be teaching differently.  I've talked about collaboration in some of my previous posts from prior classes, and I am trying to teach students how to work collaboratively, but it is a process.  Dre, one of my colleagues/peers, shared an article around how effectively students are utilizing the technology within their studies.  A majority of the evidence showed that students were not very proficient with the tools that they are supposed to be using.   Although the authors did share this sentiment:

Photo Credit: ImgFlip
“High levels of smartphone use by teens often have a detrimental effect on achievement, because teen phone use is dominated by entertainment, not learning, applications.” (Barnwell 2016). But perhaps this is a “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” dilemma. Teens were never asked or charged with using smart phones for learning so their lived experience and reality command a different use. Well-orchestrated and deliberate learning applications for smartphone use in classrooms could change this.

Photo Credit: Teachers With a Sense of Humor
Within my post last week I also focused on the idea that BYOD can cause unwanted distractions within the classroom.  Now if you are an educator in this day in age you can be certain that there is always something that will be the next big thing in you classroom.  I personally do not believe that technology is the only thing that is going to "distract" our students from getting their work done.

I believe Liz posted this article on dealing with digital distraction within the classroom.  This is a great way to teach moderation and when technology is appropriate or not.  Just because we plan on using technology to help our students learn does not mean that it will always be the most effective mode of transportation for the information we are attempting to share with the kids.  Take this article on the spinners as an example.  While the concept behind the spinners is meant to aid certain students, but when they are being used improperly they have become a major distraction for many if not the majority of classrooms in every building.  I have seen the same thing within my classroom when I use technology.  If I am not using the tech in a meaningful, productive, and engaging manner, the students are very quick to using the "tool" improperly.

Finally I leave you with this idea.
Today’s path–a breakneck pace through a required curriculum aimed at enabling students to pass cheap bubble tests—is antithetical to the effective use of technology. Instead, students in East Palo Alto, Greenwich, Mumbai, Shanghai and London should be connected, working together on projects to, for example, analyze acidity in rainfall or traffic patterns or election results.  (Technology in Schools: Problems and Possibilities)

If we are going to be using the technology, lets make it beneficial, for the students, while creating and developing the skills that we are attempting to develop for their futures.

Why NOT to Integrate Techonlogy

*Sorry this is a week late.... I thought I hit publish when I closed out my window and apparently I did not.*

So my premise for this week and mostly for this study is to take a pessimistic viewpoint of technology within the classroom.  I want to find as many reasons not to integrate technology as I can in hopes of finding the best methods for smooth integration beginning in the fall.

There were a variety of peer reviewed articles that I worked through this week.

1. Cell Phones in the Classroom: Teachers’ Perspectives
2. In-class multitasking and academic performance
3. Examining the impact of off-task multi-tasking with technology on real-time classroom learning

I also found some blogs that I found as useful in terms of integration into the actual classroom.  One of my favorites was The Pros and Cons of Technology.

Ultimately between most of the readings I found that the distraction factor is huge when we look at how the tools are being used during class time.

This is probably the number one worry of teachers who consider implementing classroom technology: the concern that students will be too busy tweeting and Snapchatting to pay attention to the lesson. Students’ innate curiosity, coupled with their tech savvy could lead to more online socializing in environments where devices are easily accessible.         Blog
When students were polled in a study it was found that
Photo Credit: MediaBistro
While texting was the most popular activity during class, students reported using other technologies as well. They reported using Facebook, email, and searching for content not related to class, with 28% stating that they use Facebook and email in class and 21% stating that they search for content not related to class at least some of the time they are in class.       (In-class multitasking and academic performance)

Now this study was focused mainly on senior students or 1st year post secondary students I feel the numbers could be extrapolated to represent very similar stats within a younger demographic.  Within the study around off-task multi-tasking they found that

the correlational and self-report studies above suggest that off-task multi-tasking in the classroom is most likely detrimental to learning.       (Examining the impact of off-task multi-tasking with technology on real-time classroom learning)
With these facts on the table I found it interesting that there are so many teachers that are blindly pushing forward to incoprorating technology within their classrooms.  I myself have seen a large portion of my students demonstrating all of these "off-task" behaviours within my classes every week.  The majority of my experience would be students using Snapchat or Youtubing songs.  

I believe that many of my students could benefit from using the technology but I am not teaching the students how to properly use the tools within the classroom.  

One of the next major barriers I found was the Disparity of Access among each of the students and teachers within a school.  
Many of the teachers reported that access and cost—traditional first order barriers—were the major barriers to integrating cell phones into the classroom not only for themselves but also for students.  (Cell Phones in the Classroom: Teachers’ Perspectives )
This is a huge factor that concerns me when looking into integrating technology to the point of going paperless within my classroom.  How can I effectively run a paperless classroom if all of my students can not access the digital content consistently.  Even though I am fortunate enough to work within a higher socio-economic area, there are still families that for either financial or family value situations (where the parents feel their 12/13 year olds do not need a personal device), that every student may not have access to a device.  Our board policy only allows a ratio of 1 laptop per 5 students in grades 5-8 and 1 iPad to every 3 students for the primary grades.  I am concerned with how to demonstrate the efficacy of technology within a classroom to convince the families that their students need to learn how to use these devices.

I feel that my journey is going to be surrounded by these what if scenarios and one of my biggest hurdles will be communicating to the families that technology can be a benefit if used properly. 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Final Hoorah! Directed Reading

The time has come for my last lap around the sun!

I am very excited to have the opportunity to finish off my Masters of Education program with a directed reading course.  My peers Jenn, Andres, Jorie, Elizabeth, and Jayme-Lee and I have taken a variety of classes together, mostly with Alec Couros as our technology guru/professor.  I am thankful to these awesome colleagues for inviting me to be a part of this directed reading course where we each get to research and study specific areas that we want to learn and improve upon within our own niche areas within this crazy profession.

Photo Credit: Dizain
I am looking forward to investigating the concept of integrating technology into a middle years setting through the method of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) plan.  Over the last few years I have been a technology proponent within my school and I have openly suggested to the students to BYOD without any real plan as to how to effectively deal with the possible issues that my arise.

Luckily I have not had that many issues, but I have had many frustrations along the way.  I have not come across a situation where the technology brought in has been damaged, lost, or stolen.... Yet.  This semester I plan on looking into the negatives around BYOD policies in an effort to develop a plan for effective use for the upcoming school year.  I have been told that my school division is going to be implementing a board BYOD policy to help aid in the technology gap that is occurring with more and more teachers within schools and the division wanting to incorporate technology into their teaching.

I also teach in a community that is very involved in their children education and typically have great questions around the purpose of new programs/incentives.  Personally I feel I am close to going to a paperless classroom.  I believe this is possible, but one of my main hurdles is going to be ensuring that every student in all my classes has an equal opportunity to utilize an effective device throughout the day.  With the community I work in, the board rolling out and new policy I believe I need to have as much knowledge around the topic before I am able to justify going paperless.  Therefore is the basis for my desire to research the concept of BYOD and mainly the negatives behind what may, or will occur with this concept.  Thankfully Jenn suggested a great article to get me started, and Alec shared Alberta's BYOD policy which are going to be some great starting points for me.

Through my groups conversation last night Alec talked about incentivising technology.  He was talking about it from the administration:teacher perspective but it made me think about it from the teacher:student perspective.  Mainly the questions of: why am I going to do this, who is this benefiting, and how will this affect my students learning.
Photo Credit: Wiki Commons 

I am looking forward to the journey this semester will take me on.  I am hoping that I will still be willing to attempt a paperless classroom in the fall, but I will let my learning take the lead and see where it takes me.