Pump up the Volume! Pump up the Volume! Pump up the Volume! Learn! Learn!

Photo Credit: 2bmolar Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: 2bmolar Flickr via Compfight cc

Pedagogy.  Although it’s an integral part of my life, both as a learner and as a teacher, I sometimes have to take a step back to pinpoint its meaning.  According to dictionary.com, ‘pedagogy’ is defined as “the principles, practice, or profession of teaching the art or science of teaching; education; instructional methods”.

In his open textbook, “Teaching in a Digital Age”, author Tony Bates examines the pedagogical differences of media such as text, audio, video, etc.  Prior to reading his work, particularly chapter 7, I don’t really believe that I put a great deal of thought into what medium I was using during a particular lesson … or why.  I certainly wasn’t considering the “content, content structure, or skill” about which Bates writes.

In many cases, I used a resource simply because it was available or because it was something I’d used before.  At times, I would switch media simply to offer the students some variety – but not really with much consideration of other factors, such as how I might assess the student, based on the medium used.

So, given my limited pondering over the use of media in the classroom, I had to do some serious thinking about the blog prompts for this week:  “What are [my] learning preferences when it comes to digital resources?” and “How does Bates text line up with [my] own experiences?”

My Digital Learning Preferences

In reading Katherine’s recent post, I had to give full props to her teacher for his/her efforts to welcome various media into classroom assignments.  Katherine describes a particular assignment which she chose to complete by creating a video.  In her words, “the digital resource (in this case video), provided me with an opportunity to dig deeper and enjoy a text and medium I would not have otherwise.”

I could relate to this … but from a couple of decades earlier!  I had a similar experience in elementary school … about grade 6, to be more specific.  Our task was to prepare a mock news report.  Most students chose to write out articles in “newspaper format”; as the teacher gave us some freedom in this regard, two friends and I decided to create a radio show.  We planned our script (I remember laughing our heads off – we thought it was the funniest thing in the world), recorded it on a cassette tape, and played it for the class.  Take a trip back to a few decades to hear this for yourself!

(Oh my goodness.  It took me over an hour to try to insert this simple clip!  Apparently, WordPress doesn’t like mp4 files … and I didn’t know how to convert it.   I finally uploaded it to YouTube.  I hope this works!)

Not only was that project a lot of fun to complete… it was also a challenge, as we had never before worked with recording audio for an assignment.  To this day, I am drawn to audio as a learner … and in other areas of my life.  

Andrew once mentioned that he sometimes prefers to listen to a Jays game, as opposed to watching it.  I feel the same way about CFL games.  When I listen to the play-by-play commentary of a Saskatchewan Roughriders game, I am definitely more aware of what is happening.  Everything else seems to stop.  I turn inside my brain and just listen to the detailed accounts shared by the commentators.  I am somehow more focused – perhaps my ears are on high alert because I don’t have visuals to distract me.  Or, as Bates suggests, perhaps it is due to the sequential fashion in which information is presented when the medium is ‘audio’ (Ch 7.1).  I must be a rather linear thinker!

In spite of my fondness for audio as a learner, as a teacher, it really wasn’t in my repertoire.  In fact, I had never had my students listen to a podcast or other audio recording, nor had I given them the task of creating a podcast as part of their own learning.  I recently chose to step out on a small limb and try something new with one of my classes.

After reading chapter 7 of Bates’ text book, Teaching in a Digital Age, I decided to read a story aloud to my grade 10 English class.  Without copies of their own to look at, they sat silently and devoured every word.  Like me, they seemed to be more focused with only one sense ‘in use’!  

How does Bates’ Text Line up with My Experiences?

a)  Finding the Right Match

Photo Credit: gerrypopplestone Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: gerrypopplestone Flickr via Compfight cc

Now, although I feel like my ELA 10 “read aloud” lesson was successful, you couldn’t ever convince me to use audio as the sole medium through which to teach ‘the organization of a courtroom’ for Law 30, for example.  Or – even better – to teach sewing to a bunch of grade 9s, should I ever be given the challenge of a PAA class!

Bates puts it best when he says, “One of the arts of teaching is often finding the best match between media and desired learning outcomes.”  To successfully find these matches, Bates recommends considering content, content structure, and skills.  As I mentioned earlier, I’m afraid my inclusion of various media in my classroom has always been rather haphazard… or, at least, lacking in the kind of calculated method that Bates describes.

b)  Video is Best for Skills-Based Learning

Ashley, and many others, have stated that they use videos when certain skills need

Photo Credit: derekskey Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: derekskey Flickr via Compfight cc

to be taught.  Bates’ also suggests using video when “it would be too difficult, dangerous, expensive or impractical to bring students to such events”.  My only experience using video for teaching a skill would be in IP 10, showing the students how to create charts and graphs in Excel.  I suppose I’ve also used videos to show students what life is like inside a prison, as it would be difficult and possible dangerous to take them inside a real prison as a Law 30 outing.

c)  The Trouble with Text

Liz, Ashley and several other EC&I 834 classmates have “admitted” to loving good ‘ol fashioned text.  It is so true that this medium stands the test of time.  On that note, however, I had a major “Ah ha” moment when I read Bates’ statement, “Indeed, one of the limitations of text is that it requires a high level of prior literacy skills for it to be used effectively for teaching and learning”.  In other words, text is a great medium for students who are capable readers.  Students with weak literacy skills need (and deserve!) to have content presented in a different way.

d) The Power of Audio and Text Together

Bates’ conclusions about audio are that it is a powerful tool when combined with text.  Looking back, I suppose I have, on countless occasions, read aloud to students while they followed along in their books.  Come to think of it, in a recent action research project that my Psychology 20 students conducted, I noticed that, when given the opportunity, the grade 3 participants were reaching out to pick up and read the research questions to themselves while the researchers read them aloud.  They seemed to perform better when they were able to both read and hear the questions.  As an observer, this was very apparent to me, although I hadn’t ever considered it in my own classroom.

e)  The Limits of the Imaginations and Skills of Teachers

Photo Credit: USEmbassyPhnomPenh Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: USEmbassyPhnomPenh Flickr via Compfight cc

Bates states that, if teachers don’t have experience in video creation, they’re not likely to dive into that medium for a student project.  I have virtually no experience in creating videos, so I’ve never given my students the opportunity to use videos to submit projects.  In fact, besides allowing students to respond to a question using Flipgrid, I don’t really see how students could use videos to complete any of the content that they are required to complete for my classes.  This coincides with Bates’  suggestion that, “the imagination of the teacher” is an important consideration when determining the best choice of media.  

f)  Text May Still Rule – But Give New Media a Chance

I was surprised and intrigued by Bates’ comments about text.  My first reaction – surprise – came about when I realized the respect Bates still gave to text.  I was pleased that this ancient tool still could hold its ground. Later, I was intrigued when I read Bates’ comments about newer media:

“The value of graphics, video and animation for representing knowledge, the ability to interact asynchronously with other learners, and the value of social networks, are all under-exploited in academia.”

I feel as though I have just stepped into this world – beginning with EC&I 833 in the fall and continuing with EC&I 834 now.  I have, as Carla mentioned in her post, begun to recognize that “different media (text, video, picture) all contain a unique experience to the learner.”  I didn’t used to see the value in using a variety of media but, since last semester, I have started to regularly insert some interactive moments into my lessons (for example, creating a Menti word cloud or doing a quick Google Forms survey and projecting the results).  

I’d like to take this a step further, however.  When I compare my efforts to the SAMR model (see a video about this model), I don’t think I’m QUITE doing EdTech justice!  Rochelle, for example, talks about connecting with students from other schools using Twiducate.  I had NEVER heard of this before, but I definitely want to try it!!

Do you have experience moving “up” the SAMR model?  If so, I’d love to hear about it!

Thanks for reading!


I Think They’ll Think with ThingLink!

I made this boring, old document come alive with ThingLink! (Just click on it!)

Thanks to Benita Struik for introducing me to ThingLink last semester in EC&I 833.  According to its website, “ThingLink Education allows you to use interactive images and videos as a new visual learning platform.”  I was intrigued by the interesting way that ThingLink allows teachers (or students) to add tremendous depth to a simple image.  In particular, I wanted a way to make pictures or diagrams more informative for students …  turning them into something that students could refer back to long after the lesson was finished.  

Account Set Up

Setting up my account was quick and easy.  The hardest question that I was asked was my birthdate.  (I lied.)  I received a welcome email that provided a link for

me to verify my email address.  After I verified my account, I was given the option to choose my type of account.  I went with the “Basic” version because it was free.  I am hoping that it enables me to create something fantastic for my students.


The message that popped up after I selected the “Basic” account was something about “Explore Tagging”.  I hadn’t ever heard the term “tagging” before … except when it came to identifying who was in a picture (or where it was taken) – and I don’t have experience with either of those tasks.  I accidentally clicked away from that screen, though, and could not get it back.  I found a different “Explore Tagging” option and decided to give that tab a try.


I saw a map of a university campus and decided to learn about ThingLink through that example.  When I looked at the picture, I noticed some small “video” icons, as well as “360” degree symbols.  I tried each of these out and I was very impressed with what I found.  The video icons each contained a short clip providing information about various areas of the campus.  The 360 degree symbols, when clicked, let you take a full tour of a different buildings.

Creating My thinglink

I started the process by watching an informative video from the ThingLink folks!


I decided to create a ThingLink to better explain the passage of a bill in parliament (a concept that I teach in Law 30).  I began by selecting “Create” followed by “Choose or drop files”.  I added my JPEG, entitled “Passage of a Bill in Parliament” from the Law 30 create-in-thinglinkcurriculum for Saskatchewan.  As soon as my file loaded, I was prompted to “click to add a tag”.


SO FUN!  I started out just planning to add details to the document… but it was so easy that I ended up adding some tasks for the students to complete.

Adding my first tag!

Adding my first tag!

I included a link to a YouTube video about the House of Commons and the still image of the video appears when you hover over that tag.  (I used Tube Chop to crop a second YouTube video, but, as it doesn’t provide a URL – only a code to embed – I wasn’t able to include the shortened version on my ThingLink.)   I wasn’t sure if it would work, but I created a quick Google Forms quiz to include in my ThingLink.  I was able to link to the URL, so students can find the quiz with just one click!

All-in-all, it took me about an hour to add all of my content (pictures, videos, text and a quiz) to my original image.  I’m so excited to have my students try this out!  I am hoping to get to this point in the course by Friday, so I’ll send them all a link to my ThingLink through Edmodo or Remind.  I’ll be sure to tweet about my students’ experiences with this!  Thumbs up for ThingLink!  (I think I’ll have to save up and buy the upgraded version … it would be well worth it!)

I’d love to hear about your ThingLink experiences!  For what subjects and purposes have you used ThingLink?

Quick Recap

Favourite Features

  • It’s free!
  • ThingLink can be used on your mobile (iPad and Android – without wifi), tablet or desktop
  • There are 70 “rich media tags” that will work with ThingLink (upgraded versions required)
  • When I clicked on various tags on the demos, new tabs always opened up, so I didn’t have to use the “back” arrows to get back to the page I was on
  • It was really fun to make!

A Few Negatives

  • The free version doesn’t allow you to change text font, colour, etc.
  • The icon images that you can use are very limited unless you upgrade
  • I couldn’t embed a video (but the URL worked)

NOTE:  With ThinkLink EDU Pro ($35/year), you can embed, for example, a Google Forms survey to assess student understanding about certain aspects of the content presented in that ThingLink.  You can establish up to 5 classrooms with 500 students, compared to the free version, which only allows one class per teacher.

Hey! Can you just look UP for a second?

Photo Credit: zenobia_joy Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: zenobia_joy Flickr via Compfight cc

If you haven’t heard those words before, I guarantee they’ve been running through the thoughts of your child, co-worker, friend, partner or cashier at the local store as they wait for you to take your eyes off of your screen.

Personal devices have become, for many people, a 24/7 companion and something without which we cannot function.  As much as I love my smartphone, I believe that there are times and places where technology does not belong.  I hope that, through this project, my group members and I will be able to create a blended learning course that can help us all to be better digital citizens. Now… where do we begin?

Even though I gained tremendous knowledge in EC&I 833, I still feel as though I’m nowhere near skilled enough in educational technology to develop an online course.  There are so many things to consider… so many modes of delivery… so many tools and apps at my disposal – it’s overwhelming, to say the least.  

But then I read what the experts say …

Tony Bates states in his text book, Teaching in a Digital Age,

“these forms of education, once considered somewhat esoteric and out of the mainstream of conventional education, are increasingly taking on greater significance and in some cases becoming mainstream themselves.”  

By “these”, he is referring to blended, online, flipped and hybrid learning environments (to name a few).  As a teacher, but, especially, as a technology teacher, I feel that I am falling short if I don’t incorporate some of these “newer forms” of teaching into my pedagogy.  As Rochelle states in her post, however, I don’t want to end up just “doing blended learning” for the sake of doing it.  It has to be authentic.

In order to successfully include technology in my classroom, I need to improve my knowledge about online, blended and hybrid learning environments.  I feel as though I’m still relying far too much on traditional teaching methods.  By the way, I loved Katherine’s post in which she admitted to using few “(*cough zero*)” simulations and not enough student collaboration activities in her classroom…. I am not alone!

Source: Personal Photo

Source: Personal Photo

 That being said, my experiences incorporating educational technology into my classroom last semester were very positive – for both the students and for me!  

This project is another (very steep) learning curve that I will climb – with the help of my instructors and classmates!  (The degree of ‘steepness’ became apparent to me when I read in a blog post by Kirsten – an instructional designer – that “defining blended has been hard”!)

Starting our Ascent

As Ashley stated in her post, she, Andrew, and I have decided to embark on this climb together. (I hope they don’t have to carry me for too much of this journey …   they are both more technologically inclined than me!   … as Andrew explains in his recent post – and, as I’ve witnessed at school – he is already quite well-versed at using ed tech in his teachings.)  We plan to create three modules based on a Government of Saskatchewan publication entitled Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools.  The esteemed authors of this 2015 document are none other than Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt.

One section in the Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools publication is the description of Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship.  These nine critical parts of digital citizenship are grouped into three categories:  Respect, Educate, and Protect.  As you can guess from the theme song for this post, I have chosen to develop a module for a topic within the first category of digital citizenship elements:  respect.

Aretha Franklin said it best, when she spelled it out for all of us …. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Respect, the verb, is defined as to show regard or consideration for. (Source:  Dictionary.com).  It can also mean to hold in esteem or honor or to refrain from intruding upon or interfering with. (Source:  Dictionary.com)



Within the Regina Public School Division, “I respect” is one of the four shared values statements that helps to make up the Division’s mission statement.  In the Shared Values brochure, it is stated that ….

Respect is based upon acceptance and understanding of the similarities and differences among people. In an educational setting, respect is an essential component to ensure that all students reach their highest potential.

Although my own children are not yet cell phone users (besides when my three-year-old dumps my entire purse to find mine so she can do her ‘bwain work’  … ie. play Endless Alphabet), I have seen more than enough harm done by my high school students when they fail to show respect for themselves and for each other in this digital world.

Digital Etiquette is the specific topic that jumped out at me when I perused the “Respect” category of the Digital Citizenship Continuum that is included in the aforementioned Government of Saskatchewan publication.

The Continuum includes two overarching questions:

  1. Are students aware of others when they use technology?
  1. Do students realize how their use of technology affects others?

I believe that many, if not most, students nowadays will have trouble even comprehending these questions, as they’ve never lived a day of life when cell phones weren’t in existence.  Young people today might struggle with recognizing some of the perils of cell phone misuse because they do not know life without this (and other) technology.  There’s a Dean Brody song on country radio right now that sums it up perfectly:  [Source]

Teenage girl and her grandad

He takes her fishing but he feels bad

She can’t take her eyes off that Facebook page

But someday soon, who knows how long

She’ll look up from that phone and he’ll be gone

If effective, my module will reduce the number of times in our lives that we will feel less interesting, less important, and less valued than a sleek, handheld device.

Vague Details of our Preliminary Plans

Is that subtitle an oxymoron, or what?!?  I digress.  As high school teachers, Ashley, Andrew and I chose to focus on the “understandings” and “demonstrations of understanding” for grades ten through twelve.  To clarify, for each of Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship, Couros and Hildebrandt identify several things that students within each grade grouping should “understand” and should be able to “do”.

Given that I haven’t ever created an online course, I’m not yet able to envision my end product.  I know that I would like to include opportunities for student sharing, of not collaboration.  I’ll likely pass along some introductory content, either through a podcast or slide presentation.  In order to retain student interest, I would like to get them participating almost immediately – perhaps using padlet.com.   Formative assessment will occur using one of the fantastic apps that I learned about last year (Socrative or Quizziz) or the tool that I just heard about (Spiral).

A final project might involve having the students create a something using Powtoon or StoryboardThat about digital etiquette that could be shared with children younger grades.  (I’ve never used either of these tools, so this would be a good opportunity for me to learn about them!)

The next thing that Ashley, Andrew and I need to decide upon is whether or not our modules will include any face-to-face meetings.  This will certainly impact how I set up my module.  My preference would be to have asynchronous, online activities coupled with one or more synchronous sessions, perhaps using Zoom.  Collaboration and planning for the final project in my module might be a challenge, because, as I described above, I hoping to do more than simply have the students create something using Google Docs or Google Slides.  I may have to rethink this.  Thinking, thinking, and rethinking will be my motto as I delve into yet another unfamiliar galaxy within the ed tech universe!

…and the Journey Continues

Photo Credit: vandan desai Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: vandan desai Flickr via Compfight cc

My name is Nancy Armstrong and I teach high school at Regina Huda School.  My major is Business Education, so I typically teach at least one computer-related course each year.  I am an avid computer user – primarily Microsoft Word and Excel (I have a home-based business, so I find these are essential software programs!) – but I don’t feel as though I’m keeping up with technology as well as I could be.

Last semester, I completed EC&I 833 with Alec (my seventh Master’s class) and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was a very steep learning curve for me, as I’ve always made a point of avoiding social media and I simply didn’t ever have time to explore new apps, etc.  During the first week, I experienced my first Tweets, my first Zoom session and, like Jessica, my first blog post.   By week number two, I was both exhausted and exhilarated!

As time went on, I had several moments of enlightenment.  One was when Alec suggested that Google was better than Hotmail (whaaaaaaaaa?!?).  I still have my
Hotmail account for emails, but I have adopted Google into my everyday life.  I’ve used Google Forms to survey students and staff, I’ve started relying on Google Drive, rather than unreliable USBs, and I’ve enjoyed collaborating with colleagues and   students google-vs-microsoftusing Google Docs.  I now have all of my Google operations connected with one account, which creates saves me many precious minutes each day!

                Photo Source

Another wake up call was my dedication to teaching students the full Microsoft Office suite.  I still believe that they need to learn proper word processing skills and spreadsheet operations, but these can be taught using Google offerings – in more of a collaborative way.

One last “ah ha!” moment for me was during the first Zoom session.  I couldn’t believe how smoothly the other (more experienced) ed tech students transitioned from the chat room discussions to the speaker’s area … even adding links to relevant information at the same time.  I’m not there yet, but I hope to be able to contribute more to the class this time around.

This brings me to my learning goals for EC&I 834 …

  1.  As Natalie mentioned in her post, I want to learn to properly use pingbacks.  I attempted this last semester, but didn’t quite get it right!
  2. I hope to authentically incorporate technology into non-tech classes that I teach – as Andrew described in his post about students completing MOOCs as part of a science project.
  3. I want to wrap my head around the idea of a blended course.  I’ve completed a couple of synchronous online courses, but never a blended version.  Ashley shares this enthusiasm, as she describes in her post!

When I’m not busy with teaching and learning, I am enjoying a life of happy chaos with my husband and three daughters, ages 8, 6, and 3.  At least now, with two of them in school, they understand when I say, “Mommy has homework to do … and if I don’t get it done, my teacher will be very disappointed!”  I’ve alluded to the fact that I don’t want to get “sent to the office” for not having my assignments done… this usually buys me another 10 minutes of quiet time before the craziness resumes   😉

What’s YOUR aura?

Logan and Bill opened up a whole new world for me (and for many of you!) last Tuesday night.  With the exception of seeing a pilot training with a flight simulator at 15 Wing air base in Moose Jaw,  I had absolutely no experience with anything related to augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR).  I didn’t even know what Pokémon Go was until I started EC&I 833.  (Sacrilegious, I know!)  My thoughts were not unlike what Benita and Tyson shared in their posts …  AR/VR is just for ‘gamers’ – and there’s no place for THAT in my life or in my classroom.

My poor old brain was exhausted after watching/experiencing the demonstrations of SkyMap, Anatomy 4D, Aurasma, and Luke’s fascinating example of Splash.  Although it was totally fascinating, because I had such little understanding with AR/VR, I had trouble even seeing how it might fit into my teaching.

After watching how Bill used Aurasma in his Cree language instruction, I thought about setting up something similar for my daughters to use to practise their French at home in a fun way.  I might still do this, but, when a teacher-related idea popped into my head, I decided I was going to run with it!  (After reading Angus’s post in which he states, “[AR/VR] are loaded with potential and possibilities and they absolutely need to be part of the teachers toolkit in the future as they have the potential to take learning to entirely new levels”, I was glad that I chose to try this out with my students.

I recently tweeted about my Information Processing 10 students exploring some apps that I learned about in class, including Kahoot, Plickers, Quizizz, Mentimeter, Socrative, and QuickKey.  After each small group created and administered a twenty-five question quiz for their classmates using one of these apps, they collaborated in a


Google Doc to summarize their findings.  (I’ll share a link to the Google Doc, once it has been finalized.)  Exploring these apps was so much fun that I decided to extend the project.

I signed my class up to present at the next after school “Appy Hour” that’s

happening at my school (February 2017).  They were just absolutely thrilled that I did this.  Photo Source

Since discovering the world of AR/VR, I thought, “Why not use Aurasma to introduce the teachers to all of these great apps?”  My plan was to get my students up and running with Aurasma on Monday morning but, due to some nearby construction, my school had no water that day (holiday for the students!).  When I met with them this morning, we jumped right into this new technology.  Unfortunately, one hour was nowhere near enough time to really get using this program.

As my students had no experience with AR/VR, I started off slowly – sharing a couple of videos that I found on YouTube.  This video shows some great ways to use Aurasma with high school students, but it’s not a “how to” video:

This next, simple video was a huge help in understanding how to create a simple “aura”:

In watching both videos, my students and I realized that we would need to do a lot of prep work before we would be ready to create auras about our favourite assessment apps.  Here are the steps that we will follow when completing this task:

  1.  Print our Google Doc, split into five parts for the five apps. (Completed)
  2. Split each section of the Google Doc up so that each student has a small speaking role. (Completed)
  3. Print three different logos for each app that we studied so that each student can create her own aura for her app. (Completed)
  4. Re-do the quizzes that we created on the apps and take some screenshots along the way.
  5. Record some short screen casts using Screencast-o-matic.
  6. Capture the app logos in Aurasma.
  7. Add the screen casts as overlays.
  8. Set up our channel(s) and upload our auras.
  9. Test out each others’ creations!
  10. Hang up our assessment app logos at our February Appy Hour and assist teachers as they move about the room and (with an iPad), explore these apps using Aurasma.

Some details …

Videos used as overlays in Aurasma must be fewer than 100 MB.   From what I have read in our Google+ Community, this limits our screen cast length to about 1 minute for each student – for a total of 3 minutes of detail for each app.  This should be enough time to give the teachers who attend Appy Hour a quick introduction to what each app looks like, how it could be used, and in what format the results are available.  The other details about the apps will be provided through the Google Doc that is shared with teachers who sign up for the link at Appy Hour.

I’m excited to get back into Aurasma with my students tomorrow morning.  I thought I’d better post the blog tonight and provide updates (struggles and successes) via Google+ or my Twitter feed.

Wish me luck… and, thanks for reading!


p.s.  In searching for more information about Aurasma, I stumbled upon a competitor known as Kudan.  I watached a few demo videos from the company website, but I wasn’t overly impressed.  It might be worth checking out, though, as it may have some features that Aurasma doesn’t have.

p.p.s.  Luke – thanks for introducing me to Nearpod in your post.  I think I’ll take my Law 30 students to Greece, Italy, England, etc. next semster… to see where law began!


ATs for ALL, please!!


Body Sox – Photo Source

Having been blessed with three healthy children and, as a teacher of able-bodied high school students, I didn’t feel as though I would easily relate to the assistive technologies topic.  Thank you, Heidi, Holly, Allison, Launel, and Benita, for your very informative presentation; it helped me to realize that EVERYONE can benefit from assistive technologies!

As this topic was so unfamiliar to me, I decided to start with the definition.  Expert, Dave Edyburn did a great job of “dissecting” the definition of Assistive Technology in an article shared by the AT group:


Photo Source and Full Text PDF

While reading Edyburn’s article, I came across the term “universal design” a couple of times.  This seemed related to the concept that Alec introduced in the chat room last Tuesday night:  “universal design for learning” or UDL.  I had never heard of this, so I did a bit more digging.  I came across an article, Assistive Technology, Universal Design, Universal Design for Learning: Improved Learning Opportunities, that used a “windshield wiper analogy” to explain what UDL is and how it differs from what school divisions do.  (Note: you will need to log in on your University of Regina account to access the full PDF.)

Basically, the analogy takes  you on a journey through various kinds of weather without functioning windshield wipers.  Quick fixes are suggested, different routes and approaches are tried, but, in the end, the person is still driving without a clear windshield.  This is not unlike how many students (and teachers) are forced to navigate through their own educational journey.   The authors conclude their analogy with the following statement:

“Today, the general education curriculum is quite similar to an automobile without wipers. It requires special accommodations, modifications, supports, and add-on devices to overcome the barriers in the goals, methods, materials, and assessments.”

In this same article, the authors state the following:

“A universally designed curriculum is a curriculum that has been specifically designed, developed, and validated to meet the needs of the full range of students who are actually in our schools, students with a wide range of sensory, motor, cognitive, linguistic, and affective abilities and disabilities rather than a narrow range of students in the “middle” of the population.”

“Teaching to the middle” was a practice that I had heard of – and that I likely do on any given day; however, I hadn’t ever considered how assistive technologies might allow me to better reach (and challenge and motivate and enable!) a wider range of students and even my own young children.

With this in mind, I went online to browse some AT products; I was amazed at how many items there were.  One of the more unique items that I found were “Body Sox”; these were designed particularly for children with autism or ADHD.   (Product information was found on the Therapy Shoppe website.)

bodysox-purpleBody SoxPhoto Source

Body Sox are meant to help calm children down and improve their body awareness, among other things. They can create a safe space when the world is overstimulating for the child.

Here are a few of the more universal products that I believe would benefit most, if not all, children at times!   I would be more than willing to purchase some simple AT tools to help my own children to be more comfortable in their environment, to be able to focus better, or complete their work more efficiently.  I am certain that, if they were financially able, many parents would agree.  There are some who might resist the use of such AT tools for their children for fear that their children might be “labeled”, teased, or ostracized.  This is yet one more reason why assistive technology should become commonplace in every classroom, for every student who wants it.


Weighted Lap Pad Photo Source

The weighted lap pad provides a sense of security to children who might feel anxious.  It is also said to assist people with self-regulation (ie. knowing what they are doing with their bodies at any given time and self-correcting).


Chew Stick Photo Source

These durable, textured sticks offer great oral stimulation.  They were listed under products for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, but I have seen many nail biters, thumb suckers, and sleeve chewers who would benefit from something like this.


Visual Timer Photo Source

Time is a difficult thing to grasp for many children (and adults, too!).  This timer shows how much time has elapsed since a particular task was started and how much time is left.  There is an option to have “beep” notifications as well.  I will definitely be buying one (or two, or three) of these, as I have a few little ones at home who are always asking, “How much longer???”


Wiggle Seat Photo Source

The name says it all.  These seats are great for children who have trouble focusing and really need to keep moving.  The seats both notify children when they are moving in their seats and also allow for enough gentle movement that the children feel relatively comfortable in their rather rigid desks.

In addition to assistive technology products, I am sure that there are certain educational practices that teachers can adopt in order to help all students to succeed in their classrooms.  One such practice that I stumbled upon has to do with keeping kids moving and engaged … and with allowing the comfort of small groups help students who might be shy in large group settings.

Chat Stations

With “chat stations“, the teacher posts questions around the room and small groups of students move around, discussing the questions before returning to a large group format to share their thoughts.  This is likely something that elementary teachers do quite often, but not something that I’ve really done with the senior students whom I teach.  I found this idea on a website called Cult of Pedagogy; it focuses on good teaching practices, regardless of subject, level, or purpose.  Jennifer Gonzales, site author, says this about teaching:

“Teaching is an art, a craft, and a science, and perfecting it is an ongoing, endless process.”

When I read this statement, it resonated with me.  The “ongoing, endless process” made me ask – once again – what can I do differently in my classroom to help my students to learn more effectively or more easily?  One answer that pops into my head is “mindset”.  Teachers must always have an open mind – a willingness to try new teaching styles, new assessment strategies, and new educational technologies.  After a couple of years of teaching with very little spark, this class has certainly ignited that fire in me.

This is a quote from a Reading Rockets article, retweeted by Heidi earlier this week, that helped me to have a slight shift in my thinking when it comes to AT tools:

AT doesn’t cure or eliminate learning difficulties, but it can help your child reach her potential because it allows her to capitalize on her strengths and bypass areas of difficulty. For example, a student who struggles with reading but who has good listening skills might benefit from listening to audio books.

When I read this, I thought, “Why not??”  Why NOT give children as many successful, encouraging experiences as possible?  The TEDx video by Henry Evans that Luke posted is the perfect example of this.  Here is a brilliant man who, due to a stroke at the age of 40, is now challenged by even the simplest daily tasks.  With the help of his “quadrotor drone”, Evans is able to independently do the things that most able-bodied individuals take for granted (opening the refrigerator door, browsing the Internet, etc.).  He said it best with his statement, “All of us have disabilities in one form or another.”  Why not enable each and every one of us to use our abilities to overcome our disabilities?

Henry Evans’ connection with and use of technology developed gradually, over a long period of time, and required support from his family and technology experts.  How can we expect teachers to help students use more complex ATs without the strong foundation that Evans had?   The Student Achievement Division of the Government of Ontario had this to say in their publication entitled “What Works:  Research into Practice”:

“[T]he multitude of rapidly evolving assistive technology devices and programs can leave teachers feeling unprepared for supporting their use in the inclusive classroom. To address this issue, school systems need to put in place supports to enhance teachers’ ability to effectively use assistive technology tools.”

I decided to look at my school division’s staff directory to see who might be able to help teachers to prepare for the addition of AT tools in their classrooms.  I was disappointed to see only four occupational therapists on staff.  (Keep in mind that my division is responsible for educating 22,000 students each year.)  There were 19 speech-pathologists listed, but their primary focus would likely be working directly with students, as opposed to assisting teachers with speech-related AT tools.  I know of at least one specialist whose role is to assist students who are visually impaired.  I didn’t see any other people who had that type of title in the staff listing.  There were three or four staff members whose title was “Intensive Supports”.  I imagine their role would be to help teachers who had students with very particular needs, but I’m not certain about this.  With everything else that teachers have to do in a day, I am certain that many feel that they simply couldn’t add one more thing … even if that “one more thing” might enable them to help more of their students to learn more.

Next year, I will be teaching a boy whose vision has been deteriorating for his entire life.  The visual specialist visits our school on occasion but, from what I have been told, this boy is quite reluctant to make use of the AT tools that she offers.  I hope that, as he completes his grade nine year, he begins to accept the support that is being offered to him.  Regardless of his willingness to learn about these tools, I will be making a point of familiarizing myself with all of the “best practices” for teaching severely visually impaired children.    … just another part of the journey for an educator.

I am looking forward to going from zero to sixty tomorrow night when Logan and Bill blow our minds with their virtual and augmented reality presentation.


p.s.  Krista, Erin, Heidi, Luke and Andrew (and others!), thanks for sharing in our Google+ Community.  I feel as though I’ve been missing a massive piece of the “educator puzzle”.  The videos, etc. that you’ve found and passed along will really help me to fill in some gaps in my teaching.

You Don’t Have to Be Socrates-Smart to Use THIS App!


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With each semester that passes, I get to learn more and more about what type of educator I am.  Most recently, I’ve been inspired to think more about what kind of educator I want to / need to be.

I truly enjoy planning and delivering lessons.  I like watching students faces as “light bulbs” go on …I like hearing them share their newfound knowledge with a classmate … I like being surprised by a question that they ask that I hadn’t ever considered.   What I don’t enjoy is assessment.  I try to live each day from the standpoint ofcheer “why put off until tomorrow what can be done today?”   … but I don’t apply this when it comes to marking the work that my students submit.  Nope.  There, in that situation, I like to use the cheer:  

“Give me a P! R! O! C! A! S! T! I! N! A! T! E!” (Okay… that wasn’t quite as effective as I’d hoped it would be.  Better when I do it in person.)     Photo Source

I remind myself on a regular basis that, without assessment, how can I be certain that learning is taking place?  In her article, “Every Teacher’s Guide to Assessment”, Amanda Ronan states that

“not all assessment is high-stakes, and when done thoughtfully, the right assessment can provide extremely useful information for all stakeholders—students, teachers, parents, schools, and policy-makers”.  

This is what I need to keep in mind when staring at a stack of exams or essays.  The feedback that comes from the RIGHT assessment can be invaluable.

Moreover, when it comes to assessing student work, I understand the need for feedback to students to be as immediate as possible.  Michael Epstein and his colleagues conducted an experiment in 2004 that thoroughly supports this notion.  He shares his findings in the Psychology Report article entitled Provision of Feedback During Academic Testing:  Learning is Enhanced by Immediate but not Delayed Feedback.  In this experiment, researchers were able to use technology to

“permit the immediate delivery of corrective feedback on an item-by-item basis”.

 (Yaaaaay, technology!)  The students who received this immediate feedback performed better on the final exam than those who received feedback at the end of the test or after a delay of 24 hours.

I am currently trying immediate, item-by-item feedback with my eight-year-old daughter’s weekly spelling tests.  Rather than dictate all of the words and then go through the whole list with her right after, I’m looking at her work (or – better yet – having her tell me how she spelled the word) following each word.  Elementary teachers, if Epstein’s findings have been refuted or if you disagree with this approach, please let me know.  I don’t want to be responsible for Willow inakyouritly speling werds in the fewtshur ;).

Back to the blog prompt…  my original plan, after enjoying the fantastic presentation by Nicole Reeve, Tyson Lepage, Jennifer Huber, and Natalie Schapansky, was to try out QuickKey.  quickQuickKey allows the user to scan students’ answer sheets with his/her phone to quickly correct their work.  I have downloaded the app and will definitely give it a try later this month but, after doing that little bit of research into the timing of assessments, I’ve decided to try out something that provides immediate feedback.   I thought about looking at Plickers, but Andrew did a fantastic job of reviewing that one, as did Nicole, so I wanted to try something different. Photo Source

After reading Natalie’s blog post about Google Forms, I was extremely interested in trying that out for formative assessment purposes.  formsI love that she used it to see the general level of comprehension of the class… but I know that there would be times when she (and I) would want to see the responses matched up to the student.  Given that I was only Google-fied in the past five or six weeks, following the start of EC&I 833, I am still unsure as to whether or not I can use Google Forms the way that Natalie did without setting up a Google Classroom.  I’ll have to investigate that further!  Photo Source

socrativeAs such, I’m going to sign up for Socrative (so-CRA-tive) and try to create a little online test.  Stay tuned…

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(The next day…)

socrative-1I created my Socrative account … it was pretty simple!  I had to enter my email address, set a password, and type in my school name, as it wasn’t listed – and, as usual, “Agree to Terms” without reading the “Terms”!  Once I clicked “Finish”, this is the screen that I saw.  

I am going to try “Short Answer”, as my plan is to use this for my daughter’s spelling tests.  I’m hoping the novelty of “online testing and immediate feedback” will spark her interest and have her begging me to sign her up for the next Spelling Bee of Canada (words dripping with sarcasm, here!).  

(Ten minutes later ….  )

Okay – I just realized that using Socrative for spelling tests will only work if the questions are multiple choice, with the word being misspelled three times and spelled correctly once.  Not ideal, as this isn’t the format of my daughter’s tests.  (NOTE:  U of R psychology professor, Dr. Tom Phenix, recommends always studying for tests in an environment similar to that in which you will be writing the test.  For example, if you’re being tested on your skill as an underwater welder, you’d better darn-well be doing
some underwater welding in preparation!) What I
really need is to be able to audio-super-starrecord my voice dictating the French words and to have Willow type in the words and
receive immediate feedback.  Socrative isn’t the answer for this type of testing but,
upon further investigation, I discovered a little-known app called
Super Star Speller (by Fred Sauer) that, I hope, will dictate spelling words and provide immediate corrections.  Photo Source

my-spelling-testA similar app that I read about in the process of researching for this post is My Spelling Test (called Spelling Test by FunExam.com on Android devices).  The cost for this one is $0.99, so I thought I’d try the free one (half-time teacher’s salary here, folks! 🙂  Photo Source

Plan B … My IP 10 students have a unit test coming up, so this will be used as a formative assessment tool to see if they’re doing okay with the content thus far!  

I will create a quiz from scratch to test my students’ ability to identify the six different types of cyberbullying. Multiple choice format will be appropriate for this situation, but it certainly isn’t my favourite method of assessment.  Now here I go …

(Twenty minutes later…)

Creating the quiz was easy. I typed in the first definition (well, I actually used talk-to-text… love that feature!) then entered four Cyberbullying terms as answers – only one was correct. I could have entered more answers, but I felt that four would be sufficient. I then had the opportunity to identify which letter – A, B, C, or D – was correct.

Setting up each question did take a bit of time, but, keep in mind that I was riding shotgun on a Saskatchewan highway in a vehicle with four little girls in the backseat.  In case you didn’t know … four little girls = L-O-U-D !  In spite of the chaos, the little multiple choice quiz is all set … just waiting to have students to try it out tomorrow morning.  One more sleep! Just one more sleep!

(The next morning …)

Well, we did it!  Thanks to the amazing Ashley, these students had all used Socrative before.  I had a little bit of trouble launching the quiz, but I logged out and logged back in once my students had joined the room and it worked perfectly!  I could watch as each of them responded to the questions. I set the quiz up to give them immediate feedback on each question.  Here is the play-by-play!

What I saw when the students were answering …1

What I saw when the students had finished…  (It appears that I forgot to indicate which answer was correct for the last question!)


What I saw when I clicked “Finish”…


What I saw when I chose to “Get Reports”…


What I saw when I selected the option to export my entire class results to Excel (Whole Class Excel)…


What I saw when I selected “Question Specific PDF”…


What I saw when I selected “Individual Student(s) PDF”…



Students didn’t have to set up student accounts

Teacher account set up was quick and easy

I could watch as students responded to each question

I could download my quiz to PDF format

I logged out and, when I logged back in, I was still able to view my quiz results

I could export my results to PDFs for individual student details

I could export the full class results to Excel

I could analyze my results in a table format right in Socrative


Students couldn’t see the question once they’d submitted each answer

Isn’t really suitable for open-ended questions

Given the success of my first time using Socrative, I already have plans to use this program in my Psychology 20 course later this month.  I’m trying a totally different method of teaching the senses.  Rather than small groups presenting to the entire class, I’ll be having each small group move through stations in the classroom, where they’ll be learning from another small group.  Each “sense group” will present four times (allows the opportunity to perfect content knowledge, delivery of material, etc.) and, with only four or five students as the “audience”, it is hoped that the audience will remain more engaged than they might in a large group format.  In the Policy Brief document by UNESCO, “How Technology Can Change Assessment” , it’s stated that a very important outcome of assessment is that it can help us to

“make inferences about the quality of different specific learning experiences”.

 If I use Socrative to test what each student learned about the senses following these mini-presentations, I’ll have a better idea as to whether or not the “rounds” was an effective way to teach this content.

Thank you for the great post prompt and fantastic presentation about assessment!

p.s.  After finishing most of this post, I checked out +AllisonGritzfeld’s link to the assessment tool, Recap.  Very interesting!  It reminds me of how +AlecCouros used Flipgrid at the start of this course to hear a little bit from each of us and to allow us to hear one-another.  I doubt that Recap would enable students to watch each other’s videos, though… perhaps a disaster in the making for certain subject areas where one student might totally lead the rest astray!!   Still… Recap is something that I will have to try before the end of the semester.

Kickin’ it Old School



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As teachers, one of our most important roles (like it or not!) is to assess, evaluate and critique the work of our students.  As professionals, we are also asked on an annual basis, if not more frequently, to assess, evaluate and critique our own practice – but many of us complete these informal “self-assessments” after every lesson and, for some, after every interaction with a student or colleague.  Depending upon our position, we may even have administrators and other “higher ups” watch what we do and offer suggestions for improvement.  We are always learning – always improving.  (Or, at least we should be.)

In a recent conversation with my friend and colleague, Ashley Murray, she talked about a change that took place in her mind during one of Alec’s previous classes. She had long been opposed to allowing students the opportunity to rewrites tests or assignments.  After participating in a class discussion, perusing some blog posts, and reading one particularly convincing article, she began to look at rewrites in a totally different light.  Just like that – she opened her mind up to the possibility that there was great value in allowing students to redo poorly done work.  This is what being an educator and a lifelong learner looks like.

For about a decade now, I have described myself as a “traditional teacher”. I have remained “grass roots”.  I’ve been “kickin’ it old school”.  I’ve been wearing that label with some small sense of pride, thinking that it meant that I was an educator who got through the curriculum, kept students working hard, had high expectations for academics and behaviour, and didn’t allow myself to get caught up in all of the “fluff” that would cdodoome and go in the  educational world.  By “fluff”, I’m referring, of course, to the Internet and other fly-by-night technological notions that ruffle the feathers of traditional teachers.  I, like Logan’s mom, did not really anticipate technology becoming an inherent part of life.  I honestly thought that the tweeters of Twitter would become as extinct as the dodo bird.  I thought that Facebook would die like MySpace.  Boy, was I wrong.

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Thanks to this class and to the incredible classmates who share this journey with me, I am starting to think that my “Traditional Teacher” badge is getting a bit tarnished. It is time to get a new badge and to redefine myself as an educator for the modern ages. I want to be one of those teachers who knows and responds to her clientele – a teacher who can acknowledge that the world is a different place today from when I was a teen.  I need to prepare myself for the educational reform that is on the horizon so that I can help prepare children for their future, whatever it may hold.

Do I feel that my current method of teaching is harming the teens in my classes?  No.  They have learned what they were supposed to learn with respect to course objectives and – even more importantly – many very positive relationships have been established.  But, can I do better?  Yes.  I believe that I can change what I’m doing in order to better prepare my students for the world that is waiting for them after graduation – a world that will include Web 3.0.

Jackie Gerstein’s article, “Moving from Education 1.0 Through Education 2.0 Towards Education 3.0”, she describes Education 1.0 as being based in behaviourism; at the foundation of this type of education are the three Rs:  “receiving”, “responding”, and “regurgitating”.  I see myself as being this type of teacher during my first few years.  It allowed me complete control over the students and over the path that we would take to reach the required outcomes.

Gerstein goes on to define Education 2.0 as being more interactive, with the three Cs at its roots:  “communicating”, “contributing”, and “collaborating”.  Despite my description of myself as a traditional teacher, I believe that, more recently, my teaching approach might fit into the parameters of Education 2.0.  However, when Gerstein speaks of the “convergence of resources, tools, open and free information access” and the onset of Education 3.0, I cringe… and here’s why:

1)  Limitless Connections = Limited Control


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In her 2014 article, “No Silver Bullets: Hybrid High Learns a Tough Edtech Lesson”, Mary Jo Madda describes the drastic flaw in the design of a special school for at risk students.  Hybrid High was supposed to be “a space where students could move at their own pace and be engaged in self-discovery activities that would allow them to gain a higher level of understanding”.  Instead of this model allowing technology to empower and engage the students, it “de-emphasized the role of the teachers” … taking away any power or influence that the teacher had.  Hybrid High had to complete redesign its approach in order to ensure that technology would work for the teachers – and not the other way around.  The teachers needed to regain their control.

Reading Madda’s article brought up the same uneasiness in me that I felt in reading George Siemens 2009 article about connectivism.  There, Siemens talks about technology and its importance in Web 2.0.  He describes technology as “an enabler of new opportunities” and acknowledges the ability of the Internet to connect people from all over the world.  With Web 2.0 and, even more, with Web 3.0, there will truly be no end to the tangents that learning could take.

As a teacher who determines her success by the completion of specific learning outcomes and content, how could I possibly control where this incredibly connected learning would take students?  Gerstein anticipates that Education 3.0 will allow for great personalization – for students to explore their own areas of interest.  How would I prevent them from taking off on tangents that interest them and, thereby, not completing the required content in the course?  This leads to my second fear…

2)  Assessment Nightmare


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It is SO easy to assess in an Education 1.0 environment. Education 2.0 … with its collaborative element … makes assessment more of a challenge, but still manageable.  As we get closer to Education 3.0, assessment becomes an elusive thing of the past.

In a recent tweet, international school leader, Brad Latzke, used this cartoon and checklist to describe how many teachers feel about the changes that are on the horizon:

The Cartoon


The Checklist

21C School     √

Tech                 √      

4Cs                    √

PLCs                 √

PBL                   √

Makerspace    √

SBG                   Uh-Oh

I had to look up a few of the “must-have” items on the checklist … I’ll share my findings for those who need them!

21C School = 21st Century School

Tech = Technology

4Cs = Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Creativity

PLCs = Professional Learning Communities

PBL = Project-based Learning

Makerspace = A place to collaborate and create (here’s a link to a quick YouTube about this!)

SBG = Standards-based Grading  (here’s an article to describe this grading practice that, though introduced about a decade ago, has still not gained the favour of many educators.)

In other words, despite having all of the characteristics of a 21st century school, many teachers still use out-of-date grading systems.  I am afraid that, even if I were able to adopt more of the Education 2.0 philosophies and – eventually – Education 3.0 practices, I would be stuck assessing students based on Education 1.0’s “regurgitation” approach.  How does one objectively evaluate learning in the very open, undefined space that is Education 3.0?  My final fear of Education 3.0?  Motivation.

3)  Motivation


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In her article, Gerstein describes Education 3.0 as being “characterized by educational opportunities where the learners themselves play a key role as creators of knowledge artifacts…”.  In my decade of teaching, I have never once taught a class in which 100% of the students were self-motivated.  When many students are unwilling to come to class regularly, to participate in or even listen to class discussions, etc., how in the world can we expect them to be creators of their own knowledge?  Sure – they might be more engaged if they had more control in their learning … but I don’t think that this would apply to all of them.

The need for students to be “self-determined” is inherent in Education 3.0.  This might be the greatest challenge for students to overcome as the world of learning changes.  Helping students to become “self-determined” learners might be the greatest challenge faced by teachers.

Taking a step back from Education 3.0 to Web 3.0, in his TedTalk, Philippe Modard describes this new web as “semantic”.  It seems as though, in order to use it effectively and efficiently, users will have to have a deep understanding of the language of web.  Who will teach students this new language?  If students have difficulty grasping Web 3.0, will they be able to function using Web 2.0 in an Education 3.0 classroom?

So, how do I continue on this career path and to keep from being stalled by these fears?  I will defer to the experts … and take baby steps.


Gerstein suggests that many students already have the skills that it takes to be self-determined learners.  A 2009 survey showed that many students have already taken learning “into their own hands”.  Perhaps they are more prepared for Education 3.0 than I believe them to be!

Sir Ken Robinson, in his TedTalk entitled “Bring on the Learning Revolution”, posted by Benita Struik, states that “education, in a way, dislocates many people from their natural talents.”  Wow. Like a stab to the heart for a traditional teacher. So, perhaps my previous comment that my (almost) past teaching style was not hurting anyone was a little bit off-base.  Come to think of it, I did have a student for whom the traditional classroom was especially excruciating.  Expecting him to function in an Education 1.0 – or even Education 2.0 – environment was like forcing a square peg into a round hole.  Andrew and Ashley – you know who I’m talking about!  Trying to teach this young man in a traditional way was not easy.

Robinson quotes Abraham Lincoln’s 1862 speech, saying that, “the dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion.”  In hearing this TedTalk (I truly could have quoted every word, as Robinson is very entertaining and incredibly insightful!), I began to think that trying to be successful in a Web 3.0 / Ed 3.0 environment and failing is, perhaps, better than not trying at all.  I cannot let my fear of the unknown cause me to stagnate with the other traditional teachers of the world.  And, for that student who was a square peg, and for all the other square pegs who go unnoticed, perhaps your time to shine has come.

In this post, I’ve spoken primarily from the perspective of a teacher – in particular – a traditional teacher who will clearly struggle with the introduction of Web 3.0 / Ed 3.0… at least for the first few years.  The same sentiments of lost control, fear of assessment, etc. would be felt by technology-averse students – only to a greater degree.  Students who live in technologically illiterate environments and who don’t have adequate access to the Internet and devices will fall even further behind when their teachers and classmates dive even deeper into the Web – unless they have the right kind of leader to support them.  It is my job to become that leader.

ZOOMing into Online Learning

Here, you find Fat Larry and his band singing the praises of Zoom.  What foresight he had to predict the technological capabilities that we would have today, way back in 1994.  Amazing.  Please listen to the whole song, as I believe the lyrics truly describe how @courosa feels about Zoom.

Not to take Zoom off of its well-deserved place on the pedestal, but, I found the first evening of class way back in September – with everyone in the room, catching up with former colleagues and classmates – to be quite enjoyable.  Maybe it was just the fact that I was ducking out of putting three little girls to bed…  but, I’m pretty sure it had at least something to do with the academic energy that filled the Teacher Preparation Centre.  And so, each Tuesday night, I return to that fateful spot…  trying, all alone, and occasionally in the dark (the lights are on timers after 8:00 pm), to recreate that moment (and, yes, in large part, to duck out of putting three little girls to bed).  It hasn’t quite ever been the same.

I DO really enjoy Zoom … it is, by far, the best online meeting space of which I’ve been a part.  The breakout room option is a definite plus, as everyone seems to “reengage” in those smaller spaces.  The chat room is a source of entertainment and information.  Google+ is a fantastic complement, as it allows us to stay connected while we’re not “in class”.  I hadn’t ever used either of these ed tech tools before EC&I 833.

Prior to taking this class, my online learning experience was limited to one class in 2008.  Technology has certainly changed with respect to the delivery of “distance education”!  I don’t recall what tool I used to connect with the professor and classmates, but it was something much less user-friendly than Zoom.  I’ve also Skyped with traveling friends and family members over the years … but I’ve never seen such tools as valuable educational opportunities.

Adam Krammer’s video of children all over the world using Skype to connect with the Aquarius submarine (underwater lab) was amazing.  It was so much more than simply showing children a video of an underwater lab (one-way street)… it was very interactive.  The children were able to ask questions and hear answers on the spot.  I will have to explore opportunities to use this type of “online learning” in my own face-to-face classes.

In my IP 10 class, my students recently completed a unit on Microsoft Word (I can hear the groans now!).  It was actually quite fun (not biased at ALL, as the creator of all of the mini-assignments involved!) … but it required them to work independently, at their own pace, for about 2 weeks…similar to the old “box of lessons delivered to your door” approach to distance learning.  We were all in the same room, but the students had virtually no interaction with anyone during those ten hours of class time.

By the end of the unit, I was going a little crazy.  I had to change things up and have some large group activities with lots of discussion and movement.  I was craving interaction, as were my students.  This experience reminded me why I could never function in the asynchronous educational setting that Jade Ballek described during our last class.  Those quick visits, smiles, and nods of approval are what give many students the boost they need to carry on.

Similarly, as Liz mentioned in her blog, some of her students would struggle with an online course because they need things explained in a different way – or even in several ways – before they understand.  Many of my students are in the same boat.  The ones who would speak up in a face-to-face environment to ask questions are also the ones who would speak up in a chat room or in an online space.  It is the quiet students who can fly under the radar, whether in the classroom or online.

In the article “Shy Students Get a Voice Through Ed Tech”, and as we discussed earlier on in the course, it’s been found that “social media or online chat forums provide a medium for shy students to voice their questions, opinions or knowledge—all without the fear of speaking in front of other classmates”.  I’m certain that many students in EC&I 833 enjoy being heard through their blog posts or through the chat room, as opposed to having to speak up in front of others.

Another benefit that education technology can provide, either to online learners or even in face-to-face settings, is the opportunity for teachers to complete quick, online assessments to gauge student understanding.  This is, again, particularly useful for students who, following the introduction of a new concept, simply nod (with fingers crossed) when they are asked “Does this make sense?” I look forward to hearing from Nicole and her group mates when they talk about using education technology for assessment!

I realize that both of these tactics – using ed tech tools to give shy students and voice and to assess their understanding – could be done (and should be done!) in a face-to-face setting, but they are INHERENT in an online setting.  For this reason, I see online educational environments as being the perfect answer for some students.

Where the online environment may fall short is in that “personal connection” that many students (and teachers) need.  The article, “Identifying and Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Online Students in Higher Education” addresses this concern dead-on.  Author, Bonny Barr, explains that, without the “direct sensory contact with students”, many suggestions of poor mental health can go unnoticed.  Barr goes on to explain that online and distance educators be tuned in for other signs of depression, such as online learners missing from group sessions, not handing in homework, or not replying to emails, etc.  This becomes a critical part of the educator’s role in an online environment – but without the visual clues that a classroom teacher would have.

Many of my classmates mentioned the progress that has been made in the area of distance learning in the last few decades.  Audrey Watters describes receiving a box of videotaped lectures, a textbook, and worksheets when she first dove into the online educational world.  There was no opportunity for interaction, for diagnostic assessment or for formative assessment.  There was no collaboration with other students in the class … there really WAS no class… just concepts to be learned and worksheets to be completed.  The student was the vessel into which the professor’s knowledge would be poured…. a very archaic view of education that we discussed many weeks ago in class and that author, Vanessa Rodriguez, attempts to squash in her article, “The Teaching Brain and the End of the Empty Vessel”.

It is becoming increasingly accepted that we learn from other learners just as much as we learn from the teacher.  This new view of learning – a connectivist approach – is described by George Siemens in “Connectivist:  A Learning Theory for the Digital Age”.  There, Siemens talks about the importance of “nurturing and maintaining connections” and about relishing in “diversity of opinions”.  This, in my opinion – and, as the title of the article suggests – is most feasible in an online learning environment.

So – as I conclude this post – I am still not sure where I stand when it comes to online education!  As a learner, I enjoy it.  I’m starting to get a handle on the expectation for multi-tasking (chat room, Zoom, Google+, looking up relevant info, etc. all while information is being shared), and I definitely enjoy the convenience of being able to meet up with my prof and classmates from my chosen location.  On the other hand, I don’t think I could successfully TEACH an online course.  I wouldn’t feel as though I could adequately assess student understanding without “making rounds” in the classroom each day.  I also know that I would miss the smiles and laughter that sporadically (occasionally?) occur in my high school classroom.   Perhaps, as I become a better online learner, I will further explore the possibility of someday becoming an online teacher… if, by then, a robot hasn’t already taken my place.


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