Introduction

Hello! My name is Trevor Kerr and I live on Treaty 4 land in Regina. I currently teach grade 6 at St. Kateri with Regina Catholic School Division. I am a proud member of what’s known as the Connected Educator Program. This program has given myself and over 100 other teachers the opportunity to teach with 1:1 in the classroom. The opportunity and ability to be part of such a great community of learners within my school division is something I really enjoy and cherish. One of the great leaders in this program, Jen Owens, is also one of our classmates this semester. We are very lucky to have her expertise and knowledge this semester.

This will be my fourth educational technology class with Alec and I am in my final semester of my master’s studies. It’s been an extremely rewarding experience but I am definitely looking forwarding to having a bit of a breather. I’m excited to take some of the amazing ideas and concepts back to my classroom that I’ve gathered over the past two years. I am extremely happy to finish my master’s degree with an educational technology class. The community and connections made in this course are so beneficial and my classmates often push me to do better. I look forward to seeing some of the amazing things that people will create over the next few months.

I’ve completed this great journey with my good friend Matt Bresciani. It’s been a very rewarding experience to work closely with someone that has great passion and desire for teaching. As you can see below, we had a great time learning about Plickers and few other assessment tools in our very first master’s class (EDL 820).

I look forward to working with all of you this semester. Give me a follow on Twitter!

Experience with Assistive Technology

It was truly a pleasure getting to learn more about assistive technology during that week’s presentation from Kalyn, Megan, Leigh, and Jenny. After listening to their presentation, it made me realize that some of the everyday tools we use in the classroom can be classified as assistive technology. I definitely agree with the presenters when they say that assistive technology can benefit all students, not just those with physical or learning disabilities.

Through their presentation, they did a great job of explaining the various levels of assistive technologies being used in the classroom. I spent some time reflecting and thinking about what tools I’ve used in my teaching practice. Here are a few examples of assistive technology from all three levels used frequently in my classroom:

Math Manipulatives (Low Tech):

  • Manipulatives are a great resources to use in the classroom as it allows our students to see math in an alternative way. I was recently teaching students about the volume of a cube and it was a great tool for students to visualize the concept. As it can be confusing for some students when calculating math concepts on paper, it helped my students to further their understanding of volume. Not only are their physical math manipulatives, there are also digital manipulatives available for students.

Adapted Seating (Mid Tech):

  • Generally classified as mid level type of technology, a wide variety of seating options are available in my classroom. In my personal experience, students naturally gravitate towards a seat that works best for them. A variety of seating options allows students to self regulate, which will inevitably lead to greater academic success in the classroom. If a different type of chair doesn’t work for a student, they can easily switch to something more traditional or something they find comfortable. If one had access to a large amount of money to purchase classroom chairs, there are so many different options you could incorporate into the classroom.
Seating Options In My Classroom

Computer (High Tech):

  • Lucky for my students, they are all equipped with their own device that has endless amounts of assistive technology built into them. Similar to choosing their own type of seat in the class, students have the flexibility to use assistive technology tools that will lead them to greater success. Whether it’s using the immersive reader in OneNote, students using a translator, or listening to audiobook on Sora, there are many assistive technology tools for all students.

Visual Timer (Low Tech):

  • One of the most used assistive technology tools in my classroom, the visual timer is part of my everyday teaching practice. A visual timer is great for time management for both the students and myself as a teacher. When the timer isn’t used, students will often ask how much longer they have to work on an assignment. With the timer, students are clearly aware of how much time they have and are able to set short term goals to complete their assignments. In addition, there are so many online versions of digital timers that can be projected on to your board in the classroom.
Visual Time

Challenges & Limitations of Assistive Technology

  • A major challenge I see with using technology is the lack of access to a good device at home. In my class for example, students have their own personal laptop that allows them to use assistive technology at school for the entire day. When students leave my classroom and go home, they don’t necessarily have the same access to quality technology. Therefore, privileged students that have access to good quality technology at home will not have the same challenges as those dealing with older technology or no technology whatsoever. This is problematic and we need to continue to work on addressing the digital divide.
  • In addition, as identified in class through our discussions, the cost of specific assistive technology can be very high and challenged for individuals to obtain. Whether it be an electrical wheelchair, laptop device, or an expensive app, the cost associated with high level technology is quite troubling. In addition, through our discussion about the Accessible Technology Program, one had to wonder the motive and end game for a variety of technology companies. Are profits put before the people they are trying to help?

Assessment Presentation and Formative Review

It was a rewarding experience collaborating with Dalton and Matt on our assessment technology presentation. As the three of us teach in a 1:1 environment with Regina Catholic, it was a positive experience to work with people that are very like-minded and use a variety of educational tools in their classroom. There are so many tools out there that can accomplish many of the same things and these two were highly skilled using a few of these tools. Even though I’ve been using a good amount of technology for over five years, it’s good to hear varying perspectives and beliefs about educational technology.

In addition, the paid versus premium versions of tools also create a variety of challenges and decisions for teachers to make. Throughout the entire process of preparing for our presentation, I only focused on using the free versions of all the tools I was diving into. In my opinion, teachers spend enough money out of their own pocket to ensure their classroom is properly prepared, decorated, and connected to the latest technologies. Although I pay for a few tools in my classroom, I try to stick to the tools and resources that are free or supported by my school division.

Lastly, we had a great time exploring some of then “traditional” methods of assessment that many of us still use in the classroom. Although these have been around for many years, many of them provide good data and assessment for teachers. Take a quick peak at Mr. Danaher’s classroom and his use of assessment methods.

Assessment Methods

When using any type of digital assessment tool, I think it’s important to identify the pros and cons when picking a tool. My group and I analyzed Go Formative and determined these to be some of the major pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Free features allows the teacher to create six different types of assessment questions (Multiple Choice, T/F, Multiple Selection, Essay, Short Answer, and Show your Work).  
  • Questions will mark themselves, giving students immediate feedback and teachers time to support students in need.  
  • Teachers have the ability to see student responses in real time. Data is shown in a way that it’s easy to recognize the students who are struggling and need extra support.  
  • The assessment does not have a time limit which alleviates pressure and anxiety in students.  
  • Sign up is very easy and student don’t need an email address to create an account.  

Cons:

  • Free version does not allow teachers to share and collaborate with other teachers on an assessment.  
  • Individualized assessment tool doesn’t allow students to collaborate or work with others.  
  • There are no options for audio or video responses to question on the free version. This limits student choice.  
  • When creating a question, the only media a teacher can attach is an image.  

Setup & Account Creation

When setting up a Formative account, the process is relatively smooth and straightforward. Some of the things I like about the setup and creation include:

  • Students can create an account via Google, Clever, or through a Microsoft account.
  • If students do not have an email, the teacher can still create them an account with a unique and simple username (Ex: Matt833). This process is very quick and I created an account for our entire ECI class in about 10 minutes.
  • The teacher can direct students to the join page and they can find the class with a join code.

User Experience

As I’ve been using Formative for a few years now, I have become pretty comfortable and confident while using this tool. It’s been a fairly positive experience overall and I continue to use this in my classroom. Some general thoughts include:

  • Creating questions in Formative is very easy to complete. Unfortunately, the free version limits the types of questions you can use in your assessment. As you can see below, there are many additional question options when using the premium version (See stars).
Types of Assessment Questions
  • Real time data provides teachers with a great visual on how their students are doing on any assessment. This allows teachers to provide support, feedback, and the ability to intervene when necessary.
ECI833 Assessment Report
  • Teachers have the ability to change some setting on terms of what feedback is given to students. You can control when the scored are returned, when the correct answers are returned, and also whether students can edit the Formative after it’s been completed.
ECI 833 Assessment Settings

Formative or Summative Assessment?

I think that this tool can be used for both formative and assessment data in the classroom. This tool can easily be used as a pre-assessment or to gauge the general knowledge of your students. Also, the real time data allows teachers to pivot or intervene when it is necessary. But on the flipside, this tool can be used to wrap up a unit in math or science. A teacher could easily duplicate an assessment traditionally completed on paper through this digital tools. I believe it really comes down to how and when you are going to use the assessment data. In my personal experience, I have definitely used this tool for both formative and summative assessment.

To conclude, I would definitely recommend this tool for teachers looking to gather assessment data through a digital source. This tool provides enough options through the free version to make it worth your time. In addition, it will also free up some of your time so you can focus on the other 100 things on your plate!

The Impact of Web 3.0 on Education

It’s quite amazing how much has changed in regards to education and technology over the course of my life. When reflecting on my personal experience in the K-12 school system in Regina, technology had a really minor effect on what my teachers did in the classroom. Outside of playing a few computer games or typing programs on one of the four desktop computers at the side of our classroom, I don’t remember technology as we know it having much of an impact on my education. Fast forward to today, we have Kindergarten students learning how to code, BYOD programs, 1:1 technology in classrooms, students blogging, classroom social media accounts, and many other great things happening in the area of educational technology. As a middle years teacher in a 1:1 classroom, I would have to drastically change my teaching practice if I lost the ability to integrate technology into my teaching practice. It’s had a very large influence on what I do in my own classroom.

As technology continues to evolve, as should education, there are definitely many positive aspects that come with the Web 3.0. In saying that, there are definitely some challenges and problems that come with an increased amount of technology being used in schools.

What is Web 3.0 Anyway?

As Jackie Gerstein writes, “Web 3.0 is affording us with relevant, interactive and networked content that is freely and readily available and personalized, based on individual interests.” Put simply, Web 3.0 has given those with access an incredible amount of content and knowledge never seen before in history. It wasn’t so long ago that most of the “Knowledge” came from the textbooks or the spoken word of the person standing at the front of the classroom. In Education 1.0, all of the teaching was done from the licensed professional to the student. With Web 3.0, the user has choice (debatable) as to what content and knowledge they want to learn about and consume.

The Positive and Negative Aspects of the Web 3.0

“For these students, the school house, the teacher and the textbook no longer have an exclusive monopoly on knowledge, content or even the education process” (Gertstein, 2014, p. 91-92).

With the Web 3.0, students are able to learn and understand the full story or history of a particular topic. As it’s pretty well known that textbooks can be biased and value the dominant ideologies or beliefs, students need to be taught how to leverage the openness of information and make determinations for themselves. If teachers fully embrace and teach students the proper critical thinking skills required for accessing this information, this can be one of the most positive impacts of Web 3.0 on education. Students have the ability to learn the stories about those marginalized against or the parts of history that have been left out of the textbooks.

With this skyrocketing growth in technology use, however, comes greater concerns around student privacy. Which technologies are collecting student data? How is that data being used? Who has access to it? And how long is it kept?(Tate, 2020).

With an increased amount of technology use in the classroom, one must consider the question of student data and privacy. As teachers are often utilizing free educational programs in the classroom, they must consider how much data is being collected from their students. Students and parents inevitably put their trust in teachers when they send their kids to school. As teachers, I think we have an obligation to both students and parents to ensure that we aren’t sharing extensive amounts of student data with corporations and companies. But, with a high level of expectations already placed on teachers, do we really have time to extensively read the terms and conditions for every single digital educational program that is being used in our schools? To make matters worse, they are usually written in a language that is very hard to understand. Although I love the Web 3.0 for many different reasons, this is one of the major concerns that comes with increased technology use in the classroom.

“Demonstrate their learning through methods and means that work best for them. It could include using their mobile devices to blog, create, photo essays, do screencasts, make videos or podcasts, draw, sing, dance, etc.” (Gertstein, 2010, p. 94)

Technology in general creates an endless amount of opportunities for students to create and show learning in ways that works best for them. No longer are they simply expected to demonstrate their learning through standardized assessments and written answers, they can show their learning in many different ways. The Web 3.0 has an abundant amount of tools and resources to meet the needs of many different students. Whether that’s creating videos through Adobe Spark, posters on Canva, presentations on Scratch, or a blog post on Kidblog, there are many options for students. These are all positive aspects of Education 3.0 and helps to address some of the diverse needs of our student population.

What still needs more attention, however, is more and earlier education. Teaching media literacy skills to teenagers and younger students can protect readers and listeners from misinformation, just as teaching good hygiene reduces disease.(Yee, 2020)

One of the challenges with increased technology use in the classroom is the amount of misinformation and fake news that students can be exposed to through the process of learning. Media literacy must become a core component of what is being taught in classrooms, starting at a very young age. If students are just given access to an entire web of information, with no education on combatting misinformation, what are the consequences of this action? How are students beliefs being shaped by their exposure to fake news on social media and other websites? As this continues to be a challenges for both students and adult, it would in our best interest to teach students these valuable skills from a very young age.

Conclusion

Overall, I had a very optimistic and positive outlook of the impact of that the Web 3.0 is having and will continue to have on education. I definitely believe that the positive benefits outweigh the negative impacts that technology has on education. In saying that, there are many challenges and changes that need to be made for teachers to have an equal opportunity to fully embrace Education 3.0. For one, there isn’t an equal distribution of technology resources and access among schools and school divisions. As I teach in a 1:1 environment, many of my teaching friends have to share 25 laptops among 75 students. That is definitely a major challenge and determent for teachers using technology, especially in the age of Covid-19 and cleaning practices. Secondly, we must ensure that an adequate amount of professional development dedicated to learning about the web and technology. As teachers are working extremely hard and definitely feeling the stress of Covid-19, you can’t expect them to learn and understand all of these technologies without assigned time to actually learn. Lastly, increasing the amount of technology also has an enormous impact on the digital divide. If a large amount of our work being done at school is on a school provided device, what happens when students go home and don’t have access to technology? Although there have been a lot of positive things have already happened in terms of educational technology, we must continue to work towards a system that gives equal technology opportunity to all teachers.

Tech Tools for the Classroom and Online Learning

As I have mentioned a few times in this course, I am very fortunate to be part of the connected educator program with Regina Catholic Schools. This great opportunity allows my students to have their own personalized laptop for the entire school year. So how does this relate to the blog prompt? Well, with the increased level of technology integration into my classroom, I have been able to experiment with many different tools over the past four years. As with any educational resource, paper or digital, some of them stuck around and others are tossed aside for newer or better tools. The best advice every given to me was to not overwhelm yourself with technology tools. Try a few out and find out what works for you. Here are a few tools that work really well in my digital and in-person classroom.

Seesaw:

I used to be the senior teacher who would say, “Ahh, Seesaw is too primary for me.” Well, thanks to a push from my school division and a few colleagues, I jumped in headfirst into the Seesaw pool last school year. When we had to shift to online learning in March, this tools was quite beneficial for many different reasons. This tool is quite valuable in both in-person and online learning. A few perks include:

  • Communication tool: I use this function multiple times per week to send updates and information to parents. I am able to see who has read my messages and parents can respond to me directly. You can also include attachments and pictures to your Seesaw messages. There is an application for parents to download on their device to make access much easier.
Teacher View of the Seesaw Features
  • Creation tools: Students have access to a variety of tools to create in the classroom. They have the ability to write, draw, embed links, upload documents, record videos, and a few other options for learning. I have not found a tool that provides as many different options as Seesaw.
  • Digital Portfolio: This serves as the students ongoing digital portfolio. Parents have the ability to see their child’s progress at any point in the school year. Both parents and teachers have the ability to provide written feedback for students. This is a perk because it strengthen the relationship between home and school.
Seesaw Feedback

Microsoft Teams:

When we shifted to online learning in March, Microsoft Teams was a great way for me to connect with my students. I was able to hold multiple meetings per week with my students. I found this to me the most meaningful way to connect with my students when working online. Some of the perks to this tool include:

  • Live Meetings: You can hold live classroom meetings and lessons with your students. The screen share function allows students to view your screen. Also, this feature has allowed me to do some fun activities with my students such as BINGO, Quizziz, and Kahoot.
  • Professional Development: As you can create and be a member of many different teams, this tool allows you to connect with your colleagues. This provides a great opportunity for professional development in many different areas.
Teams use for Professional Development
  • Communication Tool: This tool was the best way for me to communicate with students. Whether it was a question about an assignment or simply checking in, I could communicate with my students on a daily basis. In the classroom, my students have been using this tool when they are working together on projects. They can send each other links, information, pictures, and anything else they need to collaborate effectively.

Microsoft OneNote:

Microsoft OneNote is extremely beneficial to me in the classroom. As this tools serves as the digital binder for my students, the bulk of my student’s work is completed by using this tool. Some of the perks to OneNote include:

  • Creating Assignments: I am able to create assignments for students to complete in their personal OneNote. I am able to embed links, add images, add links, and so many other functions when creating an assignment. Combined with Seesaw, OneNote is the most beneficial tool in my teaching practice.
  • Assessment: As I can view student work at anytime, I am able to provide feedback on student’s work. Combine this ability with my touch screen laptop and stylus, I can give feedback to students directly on their assignment.
  • Organization: In my school, we use OneNote as the hub for all of our information. This includes, but not limited to: weekly memos, daily announcements, calendars, and so many other pages of information. This is really beneficial as it provides a general hub for all things at St. Kateri. Also, this limits how many emails you have to read on a daily basis.
St. Kateri Staff Notebook

In today’s age, there are SO many tools for education. Here are a few other digital tools that I think are beneficial in the classroom.

Flipgrid:

  • One of the first digital tools I ever used in the classroom. Flipgrid is always evolving and is a way for students to record videos. A great way for students to collaborate on assignments or projects.
Digital Book Clubs

Adobe Spark:

  • A wide variety of creation and presentation tools for students. Some options include collages, webpages, videos, slideshows, and social media style designs. As my school division pays for the premium version, I’m not sure what options come with the free version. Adobe Spark is a must try for students of all ages.
Adobe Spark Creation Options

I hope you have some time to explore some of these digital tools. Please reach out if you have any questions about these tools!

The Internet: Productive or Distractive

As I took some time this week to watch the video about the internet and multi-tasking, I couldn’t help but notice how many times I was distracted in just over four minutes. During this video, I popped open my school email to see if anything has come through, checked the blog prompt on the Google document, and looked at my phone as I received a text message. Therefore, in an effort to multi-task, I had to watch the video a second time to get a full understanding of what James had to say. I found the second time watching it much more rewarding as I connected and could relate to many of the things that he was talking about.

“To be full present on the internet at any given moment is a very rare thing”

I will fully admit that I struggle with this all of the time when I am writing blog posts for this class and many other tasks. As Sunday is often my day to work on my master’s classes, it usually goes something like this. I’ll wake up in the morning, pour open some coffee, and review the blog prompt for the week. I’ll start to write my post, open up a few articles, which then leads me to totally changing my topics and ideas. Stop for a break and read CBC News. Go to Twitter to see what’s happening on the ECI833 hashtag, quick political update (This can be quite entertaining), and finally make it back to the blog post. I’ll spend a few minutes writing my blog post and then realize I haven’t checked my NFL fantasy rosters for the day. Spend a considerable amount of time checking weekly rankings and updating my rosters before I head back to the blog post. At some point, I will likely pull up my Planbook (Great digital planner) to see what I am doing in school next week. I will then open up our school OneNote notebook to read the weekly memo. By now, I’m sure you know what I’m getting at. So with all of this “multi-taking”, my blog posts takes a considerably longer amount of time to complete. Although some aspects of multi-tasking make the blog posts much stronger (Embedding videos, linking to others, and including articles), I wonder how much of my time I lose by doing all of that other stuff. To sum it up. I think I could do a much better job of focusing on one task at a time. Or better yet, to block out those things that aren’t pressing or crucial to complete at a particular time.

Just started using the second screen… Helping or hurting my productivity…?

This week’s presentation on productivity and presentation tools was a great picture of the evolution of these tools. In my personal teaching practice, there are many tools that I use that I believe increase my productivity. A few tools I use include;

Planbook: I personally love using a digital planner. Although you have to pay for Planbook (Around $20/year), I definitely think it’s worth it. Planbook keeps a record and history of all of my day plans. I currently have five years worth of plans that I can go back and reference at any point. In addition, I can insert links, documents, and anything else that will be needed for teaching a lesson. In addition, there is an app you can download to your phone. This allows me to reference daily plans, supervision schedules, or anything else that I might need throughout the day. Similar to Planbook, you can use Planboard for free.

Planbook Sample

Seesaw: I have really enjoyed using Seesaw over the last few years. Prior to using Seesaw, I had a classroom blog, student blogs, and various other creation tools. I believe that Seesaw definitely increases my productivity for a few reasons. For one, it has so many tools built into one resource. Instead of using 10 different applications, you can do so many things on one tool. It works as a source of communication with parents, student portfolio, creation tool, and allows teachers to give feedback on student work. Students can also upload pictures, documents, or any other projects to this tool. Although there are some things that I wish were slightly better on Seesaw, it provides tremendous benefits for my students and I.

OneNote/Office 365: Classroom OneNote has been extremely beneficial to me as a teacher. This tool serves as the “digital binder” for my students. OneNote allows me to easily distribute assignment to students in there notebooks. When using OneNote, you can use a combination of text, videos, images, and pretty much anything else. I also have the ability to see student work at any given time. In addition, I can provide written feedback right on their assignments (The touch screen laptop is very helpful!)

Sample feedback on an assignment… (Well done Matt!)


Overall, I think that the internet provides incredible opportunities for productivity. The biggest challenge is finding ways to maintain focus and block out the distractions. The idea of single-tasking is quite intriguing and something I need to try and implement into my work habit.

Try it out!

AV Technology in the Classroom

Postman wrote: “…We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street.”

As we know now, Sesame Street definitely undermined the traditional schooling methods that dominated the educational landscape for many years. When reflecting on this idea, I can’t help but to think this was a good thing for many different reasons. When I think about the idea of traditional school, these things come to mind:

Direct Instruction, textbooks, worksheets, teacher led, standardized testing, right or wrong, classroom, rows, desks, conformity, notes, and quiet.

Pixabay

Although I was able to successfully make my way through a traditional school system, I truly believe that the changes and differences in the educational systems have been for the better. When I think about a more modern educational system, these things come to mind:

Collaboration, flexibility, inquiry, varied assessment, engaging, fun, creativity, critical thinking, fluid, student led, and technology.

As Alia Wong writes, “Sesame Street was, and in some ways remains, revolutionary in its pedagogy. The show was launched at a turning point in thinking among child psychologists and educators—a time when experts were abandoning the belief that cognitive ability was entirely inherited.” Even though Sesame Street was launched many years ago, you can see that it had a profound impact on the development of many young people.

BYOD

In my personal experience in the classroom, I have always had positive experience with my school’s bring your own device program. As I teach in a 1:1 classroom environment, I have a lot less use for personal devices in my classroom. Nonetheless, I see enormous benefits for teachers trying to use technology in their classroom. Some positive reasons for supporting and implementing a BYOD program include, but not limited to:

  • Research and gathering information. Although this is one of the most obvious reason for bringing a device into the classroom, this rarely occurs in the traditional classroom. In the traditional classroom model, the teacher is the one that keeps all of the knowledge. And when the teacher doesn’t have the answer in the traditional classroom, it’s generally found in textbooks, from one perspective, and not always the most current. Shifting towards a modern classroom, students have endless access to information, from varying perspectives, and modern or relevant to their lives. Not only does the information change and improve, it allows students to take ownership of their learning and critically analyze the information they find while researching.
  • Resources and tools allow student to create. Educational technology is continuing to evolve and develop at a rapid pace. When leveraged properly, students have the ability to download and use many apps and resources to help them create. Whether it be Flipgrid, Adobe Spark, or Seesaw, proper use of technology in the classroom gives students many opportunities that otherwise would not be available. In the traditional classroom, students are often severely limited in terms of the tools and resources they can use to create in the classroom. Bringing your own device to the classroom gives teachers and students so many opportunities when it come to creating in the classroom/
  • Assessment tools. In the traditional classroom, assessment methods and techniques were often very similar. In my experience, I remember writing so many tests when I was in school. Technology in the classroom allows teachers to use many different tools for formative and summative assessment. Formative, Quizziz, and Socrative are just a few examples of ways that teachers can use technology to improve and add to their assessment techniques. Not only do teachers have access to these assessment methods, they can also utilize some of the “traditional” assessment methods. Teachers can also use many formative assessment tools to better their teaching practice.

These are just a few of the reasons as to why I fully support BYOD programs in school. Not only does it provide students with many opportunities to learn in the classroom, it truly breaks down the classroom walls and allow students to expand their learning beyond their individual space. Connecting and collaborating with those outside of your classroom provides great opportunities for students to see other perspectives that exist in our world.

As this week’s presentation highlighted, there has been some major advancements and changes in AV technology throughout the years. Overall, I think that most of the changes have moved education in the right direction.

Final Thoughts

Even though I fully support the use of AV technology in the classroom to advance and extend learning opportunities, there are many challenges that come with this increased technology use in the classroom. Whether it be the increase in screen time, exposure to fake news, or technology addiction, I think it’s important that teachers find a balance in their classroom. Finding a balance between “traditional” and “modern” methods create an ideal learning experience for all students.

Chrome Extensions for the Classroom

I really enjoyed last Tuesday’s class when we got to throw it back and engage in some of the traditional educational technology tools and games that were used in the classroom. I have fond memories of playing the Hot Dog Stand game on the desktop computer in my grade 7 classroom. You knew you were having a good game when you got to go on one of the four desktop computers and try to maximize profits for your hot dog stand business. I don’t actually know if I learned anything from this game but I know for a fact that I had a great time every time I got to play it. Not only was this game extremely awesome, it had quite the catchy theme song as Dalton mentioned in our last class.

Theme Song

Not only was it fun to reminisce on my experience with technology as a student, it was enjoyable to explore and play with some of the games I did not experience as a student. To have some fun in the classroom, I’m going to have my students experiment with some of these games over the next few weeks. I am definitely going to incorporate some Number Munchers into my math class to work on those multiples! Maybe I can replace Mathletics with Number Munchers and save the school a few dollars…

Number Munchers Multiples

When looking at some of the Google Chrome extensions we discussed during class, there are a few of the extensions that I have been using in my current teaching and personal browsing practice. To begin, I’ve been using uBlock Origin for quite awhile now and I don’t remember how Chrome would function without using this extension. As it’s generally one of the top rated ad blockers for Chrome, it also blocks malware and trackers. Google Chrome is a major resource used in my teaching practice and it’s often projected on to the board in my classroom. It seems like a wise decision to eliminate as many ads as possible to limit how many my students are being exposed to daily. As I was writing this post, I realized that my students use Chrome on a daily basis and I have never had them install any type of ad blocker on Google Chrome. They are clearly going to be exposed to many more ads than I am while using the exact same browser. As we use Microsoft tools in Regina Catholic, I wonder if you are able to download extensions on Chrome without having a Google account.

In addition to using uBlock Origin, I am going to start using Distraction Free for YouTube when watching videos in the classroom. I like the idea of using this tool as it provides a cleaner experience for students and doesn’t suggest videos totally unrelated to the concept that we are studying in the classroom.

A tool that I recently started using in my personal practice is Grammarly. I cannot believe it’s taken me this long to start using this tool for both my graduate classes and work in the classroom. My good friend and classmate Matt Bresciani recommended this tool to me quite awhile ago and I definitely should’ve taken his advice on it (His writing is top notch… Check it out here). As Grammarly advertisements are everywhere, it’s no surprise that many of my students discover Grammarly at some point in the school year. Common Sense Media writes, “Whether students need assistance with how to cite sources, enhance their vocabulary, or improve clarity, Grammarly offers feedback explaining why a writer might make a change.” Teaching students how to utilize this tool in a meaningful way is one of the most important tasks if you are to use this in the classroom. Common sense media states, “However, in all cases, teachers will want to help students see Grammarly as a guide and not a dictator, and to encourage students to be thoughtful about when to make suggested changes.” If used properly and effectively, I think there is a lot of potential for students to use this to improve their writing. If students are mindlessly making the changes without any actual thought given to the changes, I’m not quite sure how that would help them as a student.

A tool that I’ve found very valuable over the last few years has been Bit.ly. Although I use this tool less because I teach in a 1:1 environment, it’s been really beneficial for a few reasons. If you are unfamiliar with Bit.ly, it essentially takes really long URL’s and creates much smaller and manageable URL’s. When sending any communication or links to parents, I think it’s good practice to send a short and simple link versus a 36 character jumble of letters and numbers. For example, both of the following links will re-direct you to my classroom page on the school website:

As you can see, it’s much more user friendly and easier for parents to manage these links. I’ve also used Bit.ly to create shorter links when students are completing assignments on paper where they need a certain link or website. This would be very beneficial for teachers that aren’t using Google Classroom or OneNote with their students. For example, I’ve used this link to send students to certain page when completing a science experiment. http://bit.ly/science67. This tool definitely benefits students and causes much less frustration if students need to access a certain website.

There have been some major changes in educational technology since the days of All The Right Type and Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. The browser and cloud have replaced many of these educational software programs that were instrumental at some point in education. In my opinion, the change has been for the better as we’ve gone away from the one-size-fits-all approach to many different topics and concepts. As most of these educational software programs were quite limited, the browser offers endless opportunities for students to learn, research, create, and make a difference. If we think about the concept of understanding multiples, which can be improved using Number Munchers, students have multiple opportunities to learn the same concept. They can use programs such as IXL, Knowledgehook, Prodigy, or Mathletics. They could watch a YouTube or visit Khan Academy. They could also visit a website or play a game. When utilized properly, students can really leverage the power of the browser and choose a way to learn multiples that works best for them. There is a much greater chance that they will find something that will work for them opposed to one piece of educational software that might not match their learning needs or style.

When it comes to privacy, I think that it’s essential that we educate our students about privacy and safety when using the internet. In the winter of 2020, I took ECI 832 which was very helpful in my understanding of privacy and ethical concerns when using the internet. Whether it be privacy policies, terms of conditions, or understanding how cookies work, there is a lot of work that needs to be done so that students understand what they are consenting to or who they are sharing their information. I think it’s important for students to understand that if they are not paying for a website or tool, how is that company going to use their personal data or information? As an educational system as a whole, I think we could all do a better job of understanding and protecting the privacy and data of our students.

Learning Theories in the Classroom

What is learning anyway? As Schuell explains (Interpreted by Schunk, 1991), “Learning is an enduring change in behaviour, or in the capacity to behave in a given fashion, which results from practice or other forms of experience.” To define learning in a sentence or two is a very tricky task that people much smarter than me can’t even agree on. What we can agree on is that learning can look vastly different based on the environment, opportunities, access to resources, and many other internal and external factors. Not only do our personal beliefs and choices control how we teach, things such as standardized testing and division initiatives will also have an impact on what we do in the classroom. Lastly, our personal education, whether that be in K-12 or university will play a major role in what we do in our own classroom. Last week’s class was a great opportunity to think about our current/past practices and critically analyze some of the things we are doing. To be perfectly honest, I don’t give much thought to learning theories in my own practice. What I can say though is that I’ve experimented with many different theories and practices in my career. Nonetheless, this topic gave me the perfect opportunity to think and reflect on some of the things I am currently doing in my 5th year of teaching. To achieve a better understanding of how these learning theories influence my teaching practice, I looked at a few theories, reflected on my career, and made some connections to educational technology.

Behaviorism

As Ertmer and Newby (2013) explain, “Behaviorism equates learning with changes in either the form or frequency of observable learning.” In terms of my experience in school as a student, I think much of what I did was rooted in the behaviorism theory. As there is an emphasis on producing observable and measurable outcomes, this was often achieved by testing or completing questions that had a right or wrong answer.

In my experience as a teacher, I can definitely see some times where behaviorism is utilized to achieve a desirable result. As Matt Bresciani mentioned in his blog post, we utilize a school-wide SWPBIS (School-Wide Positive Behaviour Interventions and Supports) framework to identify and reward certain types of positive behaviour in our school. As Matt says, “While it could be argued that we are just bribing the students, I far prefer this method as you don’t need to hand out tickets every time, as the goal of this strategy to use behaviour specific praise when we see these positive behaviours.” In my personal experience using the SWPBIS system, it’s been extremely beneficial in the language and interactions that I have with students daily. As teachers can get caught up on focusing on the negative aspects of student behaviour or work habits, this program encourages teachers to find the positive things that are happening around your building. Also, I have witnessed this program contribute to the positive culture that exists at my school of St. Kateri. Instead of only focusing on those students that are causing problems, students are rewarded and recognized for doing good things.

In my first year of teaching, I used an iPhone for a classroom reward system. The premise was pretty straight forward and not all that developed (Give me a chance…. It was my first year). I would reward an app, at random, if I felt the students were doing something great. This could be excellent behaviour in mass, showing leadership around the school, or any other desired behaviour. Once the students earned 9 apps, they were given a classroom reward. Did it work? I think for some students. Was it fair no all students? I don’t think so.

I have totally went away from overall classroom reward systems. Would I fault a teacher for using them? Not a chance. I think there are some classrooms that can really benefit from these reward systems. In my classroom, I prefer to reward and correct individual student behaviour.

Cognitivism

Ertmer and Newby (2013) explain that, “Cognitive theories stress the acquisition of knowledge and internal mental structures… they focus on the conceptualization of students’ learning processes and address the issues of how information is received, organized, stored, and retrieved by the mind.” I can connect with some of the common themes throughout the cognitivism theory. As there is an emphasis on making knowledgeable meaningful and helping learnings organize and relate new information to existing knowledge, I think this is very beneficial for students. In many different subject areas, I try to relate the content and topics as to what’s currently happening in our world or society. Whether it be using “real life” examples of numbers in math class or utilizing current events for a variety of subjects, these meaningful connections create good opportunities to make connections to what they already know.

Educational Technology and Learning Theories

Audrey Watters writes, “These behavior management apps are, in many ways, a culmination of Skinner’s vision for “teaching machines”—“continuous automatic reinforcement.” But it’s reinforcement that’s combined now with a level surveillance and control of students’ activities, in and out of the classroom, that Skinner could hardly have imagined.

When thinking about some educational technology tools utilized to encourage certain types of behaviour or answers, it’s hard not to see many connections to what Skinner was doing in the 1950’s. The teaching machine offers many of the same features that are readily available in many different ed tech tools.

ClassDojo, Kahoot, and Knowledgehook are a few examples of tools designed to reward students for a certain type of response or behaviour. As I’m not expert of learning theories, I really can’t say whether these are good or bad for student learning. As with anything in education, most, if not all educational technology tools can be used for good or bad. In my experience, I think it’s about finding a combination of learning theories that works well with your personal beliefs and goals.

A Few Thoughts on Educational Technology

As I reflect on my understanding of educational technology, I can’t help to think about how much my knowledge and teaching practices have changed over the past five years. Over the course of the past five years, I have been blessed to teach with Regina Catholic School Division. Not only have I worked with some very strong teachers in technological areas (See Matt Bresciani & Jennifer Owens), I have been a part of the connected educator program. Through experimenting in the classroom, professional development, and collaborating with a strong network of teachers using technology, I have been able to develop a deeper understanding of how to use technology in a positive and meaningful way in the classroom. Although I’ve had mostly positive experiences while using technology, I also realize that there are some challenges and problems with overuse and unnecessary use of technology in the classroom. The reality of technology is that it’s always evolving and changing, leading teachers to stay informed and educated on a wide variety of topics. My previous two classes, ECI 830 and ECI 832 have also had an impact of how I view and understand things such as the ethics of using technology in my classroom.

When thinking about EdTech in my own classroom, I utilize the SAMR Model to help me understand how I am doing at a particular time with technology usage.

When new to technology, I still remember that much of what I was doing was focused on the substitution level of SAMR. In basic terms, this was simply replacing traditional activities with digital versions. An example of this would be students using OneNote in the classroom to write notes instead of pen and paper. They are really learning the exact same thing, just using a laptop to do it. Although there is nothing wrong with substitution in the classroom, as this is generally where teachers become comfortable, you eventually want to take it further as you become more experienced and comfortable. In addition, if we are only ever using technology to substitute in the classroom, I’m not sure that the increased screen time is worth it for our students.

In my classroom, I would say that I’m probably the most comfortable with the augmentation level of SAMR. “This level involves incorporating interactive digital enhancements and elements like comments, hyperlinks, or multimedia. The content remains unchanged, but students can now take advantage of digital features to enhance the lesson” (Youki Terada, 2020). When looking at digital portfolios, parents are able to view their child’s digital portfolio via Seesaw, 24/7. In terms of formative assessment, students can receive instant feedback via Go Formative on a quiz they have taken. I think there are so many ways we can improve our lessons when working on the augmentation level of SAMR.

The last two sections, modification and redefinition, are extremely beneficial for students, as they provide many opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be available wihtout technology. Whether it’s connecting with a class across the world through Flipgrid or creating their own blog on an environmental issue, students have a much larger and expanded audience. Students can solve and address real world problems when working on this level of the SAMR model.

Through my work in the connected educator program over the past four years, I’ve always focused on using the SAMR swimming pool analogy. To put it very simply, one can swim laps across the swimming pool to ensure we are hitting the various levels of the SAMR model. One might also be more comfortable in one area of the pool versus another. Regardless of where we are on the SAMR model, there is plenty of opportunity to swim across the pool, even if it requires some support.

Beyond the fancy tools and resources used by teachers in the classrooms, I think it’s vital to develop some key skills and competencies in students. The 21st Century Learning Skills provide a good framework and understanding of some of the skills we should be developing in our students. In a world full of technology, I believe it’s crucial that we teach our students the critical thinking skills to be successful. As they are exposed to fake news quite often, we much teach them the skills and abilities to identify and understand what they are consuming. There are many ways in which was can ensure we are leveraging technology to promote 21st century learning in our classrooms.

Overall, I think that educational technology is about using technology in the classroom to develop the skills and competencies needed to live in the everchanging world. Whether that’s learning how to collaborate, critically analyzing messages in the media, or addressing social issues, I think we can leverage this technology to develop strong skills in our students.