Thanks ECMP-ers!

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

Thanks to all who have contributed to my learning and growth as a teacher during this semester.  I’m sure I speak on behalf of all ECMP455 and ECMP355 – this course is so beneficial.  We have all learned something new, we’ve all expanded on previous knowledge, and we have all gathered more resources.  Even if you didn’t think you were overly “techy,”  I think this course helps us understand how we can utilize technology in the most effective ways possible.

Although some weeks have been a struggle this semester (we all know what it’s like balancing life with school work), I have continued to try my best in contributing to others’ learning.  My log of contributions is not an exhaustive list of what I have contributed, but it provides examples of the work I have done throughout the course.

Good luck in the future ECMP-ers!  Thank you to Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt. 

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Leading with Our Hearts

This past week, we listened to Carol Todd‘s story of her daughter Amanda – A story of loss that has led many of us to dig deep in personal and professional reflection.

As educators, we listen to Carol and think of the students we will meet in the future and how we can play a positive role in their lives.  We think of creating a classroom environment that fosters safety, acceptance, and support for all.  We think of helping to make sure future families do not have to endure the same loss and tragedy as with Amanda’s family.

As a means of honouring her, this post isn’t going to focus on Amanda Todd, but rather the significance of her story for teachers.  

The reality:  We aren’t superheroes.  We are logical and emotional – we will walk into our classrooms using our brains but lead with our hearts.

Sure, we can try our best to integrate lessons and units linked to digital citizenship, digital identity, cyber-bullying, and other issues facing adolescents and youth.

Below is an example of a video created by a 13-year old regarding cyber-bullying: 

However, the biggest impact we will have is when we are able to connect with our students in a way that allows them to be positively influenced in all areas of their life.  Teachers spend a great deal of time with students throughout the school year and have the opportunity of seeing student development in academic areas as well as social interactions.  Like I said, we are not superheroes.  Teachers are riddled with responsibilities, busy days and nights, and it can be easy to become overwhelmed with the daily requirements of the profession.  However, we can’t forget the foremost reasons for entering the field of education, despite the struggles and difficulties that come along with it.  We should aspire to be a major supports in our students’ lives.

I wanted to keep this post brief.  I am grateful to have listened to Carol Todd speak and would recommend listening to her Ted Talk on April 16th.  I also encourage anyone to read some of my classmates’ reflections: Brea’s post regarding Carol’s conversation with us includes some of Carol’s most inspirational sharings.  Whitney shares a personal story of a time in high school when some of her peers were making jokes.

My reflection is succinct, yet profound.  I don’t have much as a way of conclusion other than this question:  As a teacher, how do you plan to “lead with your heart?” 

 

Hour of Confusion?

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Majority of the time, I find myself in agreement with others that coding is pretty much over our heads.  Personally, I have had little experience in how programming and coding works, and therefore I have found it difficult to include it in my teaching.  However, during internship, I introduced my grade 6 and 7 students to Scratch,  a website designed to allow “young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively.”  Students can create their own games, animations, stories, and/or explore creations made by others.  I had previously explored Scratch and had attempted to code my own animation as part of ECMP 355, but I still felt pretty anxious regarding how to bring it into the classroom.  I approached a group of students that I felt would be interested and engaged in exploring what Scratch has to offer, and I am glad I did.  Until the end of my internship, they continuously wanted to be working on their coding creations during any spare minute they had.  I loved seeing the genuine enjoyment and love for the experience when they were coding.  I eventually decided to introduce the website to the whole class and was surprised to see that majority of the students were excited about it.

But still, why does the idea of teaching coding bring up such anxiety and/or lack of comfortability?  

  • Lydia found Hour of Code to be a great tool for learning the process of coding, but is still unsure of the benefit of bringing it into classrooms at the secondary level
  • Matthew states he was anxious just thinking about exploring the process on his own
  • Rheanne has a great post on the potential for integrating coding into teaching and recommended a great tool called Sphero, but she also states that she initially had little desire to learn about coding.
  • Brea offers some great points regarding the potential mistakes teachers can make – don’t just teach code for the sake of teaching code, there needs to be some focus on how it can benefit student learning and experience.  Although I agree with this, I think this perspective could make teachers avoid it completely due to a lack of knowledge and/or experience.

One option of helping to alleviate stress and anxiety related to understanding the basics of coding is to participate in the Hour of Code

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Screenshot – I decided to do the Hour of Code, Minecraft style

Hour of Code simplifies basic coding practices and anyone would be able to participate in the experience.  I found it beneficial in furthering my understanding of basic coding principles, and although I found that many times I actually coded more lines than were needed (i.e. 11/9 lines of code), I still completed each step.  Take a look at my screencast showing the final step of the hour.

Do you think Hour of Code has made you feel more comfortable with teaching coding?  Are you still unsure of the benefits?  Tell me what you think.

Paperless Options

There are several tools available that essentially allow teachers to create an online hub for their classroom.  By setting up a digital classroom space, teachers can move towards a paperless approach by introducing collaborative platforms that provide a space for feedback and allow for more accessible learning.  These tools differ in features and can offer different advantages.

Two popular tools that I want to focus on are Google Classroom and Edmodo.

Google Classroom

Google has developed the option of having a virtual classroom by recognizing the benefits of connecting students and teachers’ Google Drives and email.  By setting up a classroom on Google, teachers can automatically send out assignments to all students, easily track progress and completion of assignments, and can easily integrate assessment using Google Forms and Flubaroo.  Below is a video demonstrating how to use the Flubaroo tool for assessment purposes:

If your school has moved towards utilizing Google Apps for Education, Google Classroom would be a beneficial option.  Another add-on option with Google Classroom is called Doctopus and Goobric .  Kylie Harder provides a detailed overview of Google Classroom on her blog.

Edmodo

Edmodo is a similar tool to Google Classroom but has a few different features.  It can easily connect to Google Drive but doesn’t fully collaborate with Google Apps in the same way.  Edmodo is a virtual classroom space where teachers can create classroom groups, and smaller groups within those if they so choose, where students can access lesson materials, assignments, participate in polls and built-in quizzes, and chat with their peers.  Edmodo has been a popular tool and although it requires students to create an account, it does not need to be connected to a student’s Google Drive.  Edmodo also allows you to award students with badges, such as the Perfect Attendance or Hard Worker badge.  You can also customize and create your own, so you are not limited to the basic Edmodo creations.

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Screenshot taken March 23

Both of these tools offer great potential in creating a digital learning space for classroom students.  However, how do you we know if creating these spaces are truly beneficial for the students and/or the teachers?  A few other ECMP455 students have discussed the negative aspect of going paperless – some people just prefer hard-copy work in front of them.  I definitely feel that I need a balance between going completely digital versus traditional paper copies.  I still like having a paper copy of a calendar and an actually agenda.  I tried using Edmodo during my internship experience and for the most part, it was successful.  I would have tried using Google Classroom if I had been set up with an account with the school board.  In my opinion, I think it is best balanced.  Having a digital classroom can provide a space for students to share ideas with each other but it is still as equally important to have face-to-face interaction in the classroom for students to learn from each other.  Any thoughts?

edtech ≠ better teaching

My post this week was inspired by this tweet:

Do teachers really see the true value in authentic technology integration?  Or rather, are we just utilizing popular tech tools because they offer a sense of excitement, even when teaching in the traditional sense.  Alfie Kohn makes this statement, challenging teachers to consider how they are using particular tech tools and whether they are substituting rather than redefining: “These are shiny things that distract us from rethinking our approach to learning and reassure us that we’re already being innovative.”  This was intriguing to me – I agree that technology in education should be focused on modification and redefinition according to the SAMR model, but even with these best intentions, some teachers may only be using technology as a form of substitution or augmentation.

This video provides examples of the SAMR model used in classroom: 

As an educator, how do you plan to ensure you are utilizing tech in an effective and innovative manner, reflecting the higher-order of the SAMR model?

I also found this article, with arguments similar to that of Kohn’s.  Don’t get me wrong – I definitely don’t agree with everything said.  However, I think it provides some interesting perspective regarding the growing usage of technology in schools.  The article discusses the growth of MOOCs (massive open online courses) and online learning, critically looking at whether or not this is always beneficial for a student, regardless of convenience.  Do we really receive the same learning opportunities and potential for success by sitting behind the computer screen rather than in a classroom?  The article argues, “it might seem appealing to be able to learn at the time and place of one’s choosing, but there is something to be said for learning in the physical presence of others.”

I have to say, I agree with this statement, to an extent…

 I have taken online courses and feel like I did not learn a single thing – I have pretty much no recollection of what the course was about and I found the online quizzes to be fairly useless to me.  However, this was really based on the program used to deliver the course.  For example, ECMP455 is held on Zoom, which allows students to utilize webcam, audio, screen-sharing, chat, and more.  The live interaction with both the instructors and fellow students makes for a much more authentic learning experience.  In comparison, programs that are only set up in the way that students read content on their own, answer polls or surveys, respond to forum questioning, and take online quizzes seem to be less beneficial due to the lack of interaction (less able to learn from each other).

Am I the only one who thinks this?  Have you had any experience with online courses similar to what I have mentioned?

Furthermore, the article suggests, “there are clear benefits to having an expert teacher standing at the front of a class and delivering a lecture.”  I have always approached my teaching style in a way that minimizes the “expert” role and focuses more on student-led learning.  However, I was intrigued by this statement as it made me reflect on my own teaching philosophy.

What are the implications of this when considering your role as a teacher?

 

(act)ivism

These days it can sometimes seem like your social media feeds are filled with political statements, people arguing over controversial issues, one-sided perspectives, and what some call “slacktivism.”

This term essentially refers to activism of the digital world.  Examples of this include the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and #BlackLivesMatter.  These campaigns are tools to gain widespread awareness.  The goal can also be to raise money (i.e. donations for ALS) or to initiate political/social change.  In any case, many people have been skeptical of how activism can actually work by simply appealing to people behind their computer or phone screens.  In other words, how can it actually be considered activism, if the individuals don’t seem to actually act?

First, let’s consider this:  What does it actually mean to be an activist?

The following screenshot is taken from Activists Rights Organization website.

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The definition states perhaps one of the most significant aspects of what many people consider “slacktivism”- many people may not actually view themselves as activists in their daily lives, even if their actions are representative of activism.  In other words, people participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge may have known that the challenge was meant to raise awareness and donations towards ALS, but wouldn’t actually consider themselves someone interested in going further with it.  The problem with online activism is that because it is so “easy” or less commitment, people view it as not authentic.  However, this is not just limited to activism using technology – you are probably asked often to make a donation to a charity when purchasing your groceries.  You might donate a dollar or two every once in a while, but would you then consider yourself an activist?

Regardless, these small acts are better than nothing.  I think it is important to always be a critical thinker and not a passive consumer of every popular trend, however I don’t think this should impede an individual’s ability to remain optimistic.  Sure, these online campaigns can be controversial (read: problems with slacktivism) but if they have the ability to raise awareness, keep people educated and informed, or potentially raise donations for a good cause, that is a powerful thing.  For examples, this list is a brief overview of some successful online activism.  We should move away from negative thinking and associating people’s good intentions with a term such as “slacktivism” and begin to place more focus on the power of social media in regards to social change and the potential to make a difference from behind your own computer screen.

Teaching Towards Reconciliation

This past week, the University of Regina held the Woodrow Lloyd lecture with guest speaker Justice Murray Sinclair, head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.  The lecture was held as a way to bring further awareness to the intergenerational traumas associated with indigenous history in Canada, including the residential school system.  I would like to talk about my reaction and how I hope to move forward as an educator.

First, I have always been passionate about social justice issues and have always felt connected to the notion of reconciliation with indigenous peoples in Canada.  Many people describe me as someone who is deeply compassionate, driven, and willing to make others aware of injustices embedded in society.  Many people are uncomfortable when confronted with such issues, due to ignorance or an inability to recognize their own privilege in an inequitable world.  For example, I have made it clear to many that I do consider myself a “feminist.”  I can’t tell you how many times the responses has been “Oh, so you hate men?”  This type of reaction is a representation of what it means to be uncomfortable when privilege is questioned or challenged.  In addition, I’ve noticed a lack of understanding when I discuss issues related to First Nations or Metis people here in Saskatchewan.  After all, I am “white” so why should I be so concerned?!  (I’m hoping you can sense the sarcasm).  It is true – I sometimes have not really understood it myself.  I wasn’t taught much regarding indigenous history in Canada growing up, as this was not mandatory in SK until 2007.  I’m not sure I truly know this answer yet – all I know is I want to positively contribute to reconciliation in Canada.  The video below provides a brief explanation of why the journey towards reconciliation is so important:

What Is Reconciliation from TRC – CVR on Vimeo.

One of the main takeaways I learned from the lecture with Murray Sinclair was his statement: “Whatever it is that you do, make sure you never stop doing it.”  This resonated with me both as a future educator and in my personal life.  Many of us who are trying to create equitable, reconciled, decolonized classrooms will be faced with criticism, judgment, and a lack of understanding.  This should not hold us back from contributing to positive change in our communities.  I hope to foster an environment that is built on diverse ideas and backgrounds, recognizing different ways of knowing, and equitable opportunities for all learners.

My question for any readers out there: How do you plan to contribute towards reconciliation?