I’m not an artist, but I could sure use this Canvas

After spending some time exploring different LMS this week, our group has decided to go with Canvas. Both Nancy and I have extensive use with Edmodo and after exploring Google Classroom last week we realized that it’s very similar so we didn’t want to go with that option. Andrew suggested we explore Canvas a little further and after some exploration, we decided to go that route. If you have never used Canvas, Andrew created a video demonstrating how to navigate the dashboard in order to set up you class. I’ve included that video below and you can read more about his thoughts on Canvas on his latest post.

When I started exploring Canvas I found that it was pretty user-friendly. I appreciated the classroom set-up checklist that was included when you start a class.  This takes you through setting up a class step by step. I found it to be really helpful and easy to follow. However, there were a lot of features that weren’t discussed in the guide that I missed out on the first time I explored Canvas. After reading Kyle’s blog it was brought to my attention that outcomes can be attached to the assignments or lessons you are adding to the class. I didn’t know that it was an option prior to reading his blog. After reading that I decided to look into the outcomes option to see how it works. Unfortunately, the outcomes that are already uploaded are American based so I would have to enter my outcomes on my own (which isn’t a big surprise, but would be nice to have the outcomes already loaded to select from).

This brief product video also taught me a few things, one of which is the ability to connect apps with the classroom you have created. I use Khan Academy to teach coding to my students in some of my technology courses so being able to connect that content to this platform is great. It eliminates the need for students to go to multiple sites in order to take part in the class which makes things a little more user-friendly for the students (and myself).

Canvas has a Commons area in which you can share courses as well as use courses that have been developed by other people. It is basically a digital library create by the users on Canvas. The courses seem to be built around standards and themes from the United States, but that is probably because those are the majority of the people sharing their work. It would be nice to see some more courses being added from people in Canada, more specifically Saskatchewan. Hopefully after this class we have a few courses that can be shared on Canvas. Another thing I noticed about the Commons area is that a lot of the courses are partially finished having only a few assignments or modules. The Commons area provides access to courses, modules, assignments, documents, quizzes and a variety of other resources.

Screenshot of the Commons Area

Screenshot of the Commons Area

I should also mention that I was shocked (in a good way) to receive a phone call on Friday at work from Matt at Canvas. He was simply calling to check in and see how my initial experience was and wanted to help answer any questions I may have had. He was able to answer the one question I did have at that time which was whether or not the student and teacher dashboards looked the same. He told me they look almost identical minus some menus that the teacher has to edit the course that the students don’t have. The reason they have it set up this way is so that there is little confusion going from one to the other. It makes it easier for teachers to help students if they need help navigating their course. I really like that it looks the same for teachers as it does for students. I was impressed that they took the time out of their day to call me and make sure everything was going well so far. I feel confident that if I have any questions help is only a call or a click away.

After reading Kyle, Logan and Liz’s blogs this week it is clear that I still have a lot to learn with Canvas. I’m looking forward to using this with my group to develop our course. I think it will be a great LMS for our project.

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Developing an Online Digital Citizenship Course – The Beginning

Photo Credit: drpretty Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: drpretty Flickr via Compfight cc

I have to start by saying that I am pretty excited about the major project for this semester. We have been asked to create an online course consisting of different lessons, activities and assessments. This is something that has appealed to me since the start of my master’s program and I am hoping that I have some opportunities in the future to be a part of developing online content for our schools.

I am fortunate enough to work with two amazing teachers (Andrew and Nancy) who are going to join me in creating our first online course. We have decided to work with the Digital Citizenship Continuum  from within the Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools document developed by our very own “Courobrandt” duo of Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt. The continuum focuses on digital citizenship and involves competencies for Kindergarten right through to Grade 12. The guide was developed to help K-12 teachers integrate digital citizenship instruction in the classroom. I highly recommend reading through the document, if you don’t want to read all of it, at least check out the competencies starting on page 56. If you are not familiar with digital citizenship, check out this brief video.

The competencies have used the concepts of Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship and include three broad categories:

  1. Respect – digital etiquette, digital access and digital law
  2. Educate – digital communication, digital literacy, digital commerce
  3. Protect – digital rights and responsibilities, digital safety and security, digital health and wellness

There are nine competencies and we will be fully developing lessons, activities and assessments for three of them for Grade 9-12. Each group member will choose one competency to develop based on personal interest.

Photo Credit: hitchinssamson Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: hitchinssamson Flickr via Compfight cc

The competency that caught my attention right away was Digital Health and Wellness: The physical and psychological well-being related to digital technology use. This focuses on developing an understanding that using technology inappropriately can hurt us both physically and emotionally. Physically through something like texting and driving, emotionally through overuse and addiction to technology.

The course that we will develop is cross-curricular and can fit into many other courses such as ELA, Information Processing, Psych, Social Studies and Health. Given the nature of the content it will be very relevant for all students because technology plays such a large role in their daily lives.

We haven’t thought a lot about the way we will assess and the tools we will use, but we have discussed using blogs, a wikispace (or other website), assessments using Socrative or Google Forms, Google Docs and presentation tools such as Powtoon and screencasts.

I know I haven’t given you that much information, but what are your initial thoughts about this course? Any suggestions that you have for myself or my group? At this point we don’t have a super clear vision of what it will look like but I feel like we have a pretty good start. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds via Compfight cc

 

The end is in sight…

Well the time has finally come…I’m taking my last class this semester and I’m looking forward to completing my degree. I’m happy to be taking another class with Alec & Katia and the class members who make the learning experience so valuable. It’s such an awesome community and I can’t wait to get this semester going.

I am a high school teacher at Regina Huda School specializing in business, technology and math. I have been teaching there since 2010 and I don’t have any plans to move anytime soon. I am a wife and a mom to two crazy, but amazing kids. I have a 3.5 year old boy and an 18 month old girl. They keep me busy but I know that they will be grown up and moved out before I know it so I try to soak up all the time I can with them and just enjoy the moment.

My family June 2016

My family June 2016

In my spare time (as if I have any right now)…but when I do have spare time, I enjoy keeping active by playing soccer, hockey and golf. I also like to run, but don’t enjoy running indoors so it seems to be a seasonal thing for me. I also love all things Disney and it is one of our favourite places to travel to.

My learning goals for this semester are to get a feel for developing an online course as this is something that I would be interested in doing in the future for the ministry. I am also hoping to do a better job connecting with my peers through twitter and blogging by checking in a little more often than I have in past semesters (it’s much easier said than done with a hectic schedule). I am hoping to learn about some new tools that I can use to create online courses so I can make use of them this semester and moving forward.

12 Weeks of EdTech – A Summary of Learning

Given that it’s the holiday season I thought I would have some fun and attempt to do a cover of a Christmas song for my summary of learning. I have done three summary of learnings before so I wanted to do something different and haven’t yet attempted a song so I thought why not this semester? I have to apologize as singing is not something that comes natural to me, nor is it something I do well. The background music didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to either. The music is quiet low and sounds a little echoey, but I honestly tried to record three different ways MULTIPLE times and this is the best quality I could come up with. If it’s too painful to watch feel free to skip through to the last 15 seconds where the 12 weeks counts down. Please also keep in mind that what EdTech taught me each week is not done in chronological order for obvious reasons. It was too difficult to make it all go in order and make sense, but regardless of the order I hope you enjoy my little song (singing aside).

In case you missed all the lyrics for each week, here it is:

Twelve weeks with you guys
Eleven ways to connect
Ten awesome blog posts
Nine classroom tools
Eight tools to assess
Seven grand presentations
Six assistive tech tools
Five classes with Alec
Four learning theories
Three types of web
Two different realities
And a collaborative experience online

Obviously I learned a lot more than just the list of items that I gave you in my song. I want to discuss some more of what I learned this semester since the song just doesn’t do it justice. We covered a lot of topics and had some awesome presentations this semester. There was some overlap in the topics which made it seem a little less overwhelming and easy to see how a lot of Ed Tech topics relate to one another. Here is a summary of a few main ideas from this semester.

Learning Theories
Technology allows us to use four different learning theories: behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism and connectivism. Although each theory can be used, most technology lends itself to constructivism and connectivism the most. Using different websites and apps such as web quests or genius hours lend itself nicely to the constructivist approach in which students are building on knowledge and making connections between what they are learning and the real world.

Blogging, and Skype are excellent ways to connect your students to others outside of the classroom and learn through the connectivism approach. Whatever learning theory is being applied we must always think of our students. Behaviourism and cognitivism are more teacher directed, one-way learning and connectivism and constructivism allow the students to build knowledge and direct their own learning. When choosing which technology you want to use, be sure to think about the learning theory involved and how that will impact the learning of the student.

Tool Selection
The tools that we use greatly impact how students learn, how we teach, what we teach and how we assess. Before we decide which tool to use we must always think about the message that is being sent through the medium we are using. What type of learnings are benefiting from the tools we are using? Which type of learners are falling behind? We also need to consider what the purpose of the tool is. Are we using each tool for it’s intended purpose? Are we going beyond the simple cognitive or behaviouristic learning methods?

Technology also allows us many opportunities to assess our students learning but how can we ensure that our assessments are valid? Many assessment tools offer multiple choice or true/false questions. The issue with these types of questions is that they are usually surface level questions and don’t question deeper understanding. Students are also able to guess with some of these questions. Does guessing really show us what the students have learned? It is crucial that we are evaluating the tools and consider the message that is being sent using the tools that we are selecting. We must always be questioning and evaluating the purpose of the tool. This is a great article to read if you need guidance for integrating technology effectively.

Both teachers and students (but especially teachers) have to know how to seamlessly integrate technology into teaching and learning

Advantaged Vs Disadvantaged Students
In all of our presentations we discussed who is advantaged and disadvantaged when we use technology. This is an interesting concept to think about because it boils down to the perspective you are looking at it from. If we start by looking at socio-economic status (SES) it is clear that a divide exists between those who can afford technology and those who cannot. We need to work at bridging this gap and allow those who are disadvantaged to have the same opportunities within our classrooms. Perhaps if students do not have devices to work on at home they get priority over those who do when using technology in the classroom. Whatever the scenario it is important to attempt to level the playing field in regards to access to technology.

Another perspective we need to think about is those who are at a disadvantage because of a disability whether it be physical, emotional or mental. For some of these students assistive technology can greatly impact their learning and make things more equitable for them. We must ensure that other students and parents do not think that the student using assistive technology is being given the upper hand. The reality is that if they didn’t need the tool, they wouldn’t use it. There are stereotypes and labels that are associated with students who use assistive technology. Often times students who use these devices feel as though they are singled out and “different” because they need additional support from the tool. We need to work towards eliminating these stereotypes and labels.

 

 

 

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Actually, it’s Virtual Reality.

The first few lyrics to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is all I can think of when I think about virtual reality (VR). If you aren’t already familiar with virtual reality, to put it simply it’s a type of technology that allows you to experience another environment through sight. This happens by using a headset that tracks your head and eye movements to change the image you are seeing within the headset changing the environment you are experience. Our brains are triggered through the image and movement to make the experience more lifelike. Why might someone use virtual reality? There are a variety of reasons for using VR that go beyond simply entertaining ourselves. There are 9 different industries that use VR for training, education or experiences. Sharon discusses some VR tools that Sask Polytechnic use here in Regina to train their nurses. VR is being used to help treat patients with dementia and for teaching someone how to walk again. For an overview of virtual reality and how it works check out this video.

Amy found a really great Ted Talk discussing how virtual reality should be used to develop empathy through experiencing the lives of others around the world. I cannot even fathom what it would be like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes in a war torn country or a country where children must walk miles to get to school. Yes I have seen videos or documentaries, but those videos do not give me the same experience that VR could. I had never thought of using VR in this way before and I think that this would is an incredible way to use the technology.

Photo Credit: bmward_2000 Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: bmward_2000 Flickr via Compfight cc

Augmented Reality (AR) is another type of reality that can be experienced using technology. This is when we experience reality by combining the real world with overlaying information. Some forms of AR I am familiar with are found while watching TSN or other sports on TV. The first down line on an football field is an augmented reality, it can be argued that slow motion is a form of augmented reality as well because it helps us examine a clip more closely to see what happened. Charles Arthur provides a thorough description of AR by discussing the development, AR apps and the future of advertising using AR. Bill and Logan introduced us to Aurasma which is an AR app that has so many uses within the classroom. Rochelle described how she uses Aurasma at her school by having students create book reviews for the books in the library. A book review is just one example of the many ways AR can be used in education and within our classrooms.

Of course we can’t forget about the digital divide when we think about integrating these experiences in our classrooms. We must always remember that all students come from different socio-economic backgrounds and that the access to technology among them might vary. The cost to implement VR technology in our classes can also be very expensive (unless we use Google Cardboard which is reasonably priced).

I can definitely see myself using a word wall for my math courses and integrating some of the virtual experiences into my technology class. I am really interested in Google Expeditions and want to find a way to integrate that into my technology class. This might be something that I could collaborate with another teacher to make it a cross-curricular activity mixing technology with social or science class. I was happy to hear so many of you already have experience with these different realities and I love hearing how you integrate them into your classes. If there is anything you are doing that uses these technologies I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Assistive Technology Doesn’t Just Involve Technology

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks Flickr via Compfight cc

I was a little apprehensive about having to write this post discussing the topic of assistive technology. I wasn’t sure that I would have a lot to say because I didn’t think I had a lot of experience with using assistive technology but after reading a few of my classmates blogs this week I was able to think about assistive technology from a new perspective. I teach at the same school as Andrew so my experience is much the same in the fact that I don’t have the variety of students that many other teachers have. I have had very few students with disabilities that need adaptations however there have been instances in which I have had to make adaptations. In my internship I had a student who was unable to read from anything printed on white paper so I had to print everything for them on yellow or green paper.  Another way that I have accommodated a student with a disability is by chunking their work. This involves breaking a big assignment down into manageable pieces for them so they don’t get overwhelmed and fail to finish the assignment.

I didn’t think that any of these adaptations could fall under assistive technology until I read Amy and Heidi’s blogs this week. Each blog discusses ways that we adapt that might not involve technology. If you check out the Understood website there is a large list of assistive technologies that don’t actually involve technology. After reading through some of the items in the list I realize that I do a lot more adapting than I had originally thought. In my math classes, students use calculators, graph paper, rulers, protractors and manipulatives. These are all assistive technologies. Other examples include chair cushions, fidgets, spell-check, timers and graphic organizers.

Dave Eayburn describes assistive technology as: “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability”. I feel like it’s a pretty good definition of assistive technology but I do think it assistive technology can help everyone, not just those with disabilities.

Assistive technologies (or ATs) are specialized technology (software and/or hardware) that are used by people with and without disabilities to adapt how specific tasks can be performed.

Photo Credit: DiegoMolano Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: DiegoMolano Flickr via Compfight cc

I think that assistive technologies go beyond hardware and software and include any object or device that allows us to be more efficient or productive. We all use assistive technology everyday; computers, phones, word processors, Siri, microwaves and cars are just some examples of the daily items we use that assist us. Obviously there are some devices (hearing aids, braile, sensory objects to name a few) that are more helpful to those who have disabilities and which impact these individuals more in their daily life than my everyday life. For example, could I get by without a computer? Sure I could, but my work life would be a lot less productive. I appreciate having the technology to use but if the computer was never invented I wouldn’t know any different and I would be able to carry out my job no problem. However, someone who is blind and never learns to read braile will have significant issues reading and learning.

Google Read and Write was discussed a lot this past week and it was interesting to read teachers discuss their experience using it in their classrooms. Roxanne is able to integrate it into her daily language lessons and I think that it is a great tool to adapt for those who struggle, but is also a great tool for students who may not necessarily need the tool. There are a variety of features and two of them that I thought were really great were the vocabulary list and the word predictor. The word predictor is great for students who may be learning English or who struggle with reading.

I haven’t had any experience with the add on, but after watching this video there are a few suggestions that I have. The first is that when the picture dictionary is used it would be nice to have real, lifelike pictures to choose from as opposed to simple cartoons/clip art. My second suggestion isn’t just for Google Read and Write, but for all Text-To-Speech (TTS) software. It would be nice if the audio didn’t sound so robotic. Is it too much to ask to have it sound more like an audiobook that is read by a real person? Now I know that it isn’t as easy to develop software that can do that but my hope is that sometime in the future we get there. I can’t imagine having to use TTS often and having to listen to Mr. Roboto talk to me. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here is a sample from the article we were asked to read this week. It had a listen option so I decided to click it to see how it sounds. Let’s just say I didn’t listen to the whole file and can’t imagine having no option but to listen to it.

One final thought is based on a recommendation from the article Rethinking Assistive TechnologyThe article has seven recommendations for rethinking assistive technology and the one that stood out to me the most was that we should consider using “technology enhanced performance” as a replacement for the term “assistive technology”. The reason I like this so much is because it breaks down the barriers and stigmas that might be associated with students who use the assistive technology. The adaptations shouldn’t be something that makes users feel singled out or different and changing the name of it might help break down those barriers a bit.

What are your thoughts? How do you adapt for your students? Do your adaptations always involve technology or are some of the adaptations less sophisticated? Have you had any experience with TTS software and did it involve a Mr.Roboto? Do you think TTS software will ever sound ‘human’?

Space Racing through assessments using Socrative

I was challenged to integrate a digital assessment tool into my classroom this week and talk about my experience in a variety of ways. Unfortunately I am without students for the rest of this week (conferences tomorrow, PD Thursday and Remembrance Day Friday) so I am going to discuss an experience I had just last week using Socrative. I have discussed Socrative in previous posts as I spent some time exploring it last year in another course. However, at the time I was off on maternity leave so I wasn’t able to integrate it into my classroom until this year.

Last week I had the perfect opportunity to use it as a method to review for an accounting midterm that was heavily based on concepts and terms involved in the class. I used Socrative to create two quizzes; one was a multiple choice quiz covering 30 terms and the other was a true/false quiz covering accounting concepts learned through the first half of the semester. I decided to use the quiz in 3 different ways.

Students engaged in the space race

Students engaged in the space race

I first used the true/false quiz as an independent assessment that was teacher paced. A teacher paced quiz is one in which I control when the next question appears. One benefit of the teacher paced method is you can display the answer and discuss it before moving on. It was a great way to see the areas where students may be misunderstanding concepts and address these misunderstandings. Being that it was a true/false quiz it displayed the percentage of students that selected true and those who selected false. It was a really good way to see immediate results and discuss concepts.

I then used the Space Race feature to divide the class into 4 teams that competed to win the race by answering the multiple choice questions discussing the terms. This feature was very interesting and has advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages:
– can select up to 20 teams; you can assign students to teams or have site create teams for you
– creates friendly competition
– students were very engaged
– students can see correct/incorrect responses

Disadvantages:
– students seemed to think it was based on the team to finish first which made them rush
– when teams were losing some students got upset and were discouraging their classmates
After noticing that many of my students were rushing through the answers and hearing some of their end results (12/30, 17/30 etc etc) I decided that I wanted students to redo the test independently as a student paced quiz.

The student paced quiz allows students to go about the questions at their own pace. You can select whether the correct answer is displayed after they submit the answer for each question so students get immediate feedback. They are able to go back and change their answers if they get them wrong, but the question will remain marked as incorrect on the teacher report so it doesn’t help the student earn a higher percent. From the teacher perspective I think this is a big plus for the tool.

Students generally thought the tool was a great way to review. Some students took it more seriously than others and it was quite obvious that that was the case for some students. This was really apparent for students who were giving fake names as opposed to their real names (ie. RIPHarambe, Harambe, Mickey Smith). Maybe these students were worried their results would be made public or that their classmates would see their responses, but that is another great feature of the tool, you can select whether names appear or not. If you want to be able to use the results with a purpose students must put their real name, otherwise there is no way you will be able to tell who answered what. After each quiz you can chose to show the results with or without names to the class. Regardless of whether you share the results with the class, reports are created for you to access at anytime.

Screenshot of report created by Socrative

Screenshot of report created by Socrative

As you can see from the results table, this is a great way to see which questions students are really struggling with. For example question 15 & 20 had very poor scores while #13 and #22 had great results. This is an easy way for me to see common mistakes within the class as a whole as well as individual students who are struggling. You can also see the buttons that allow me to see student names (which is off so names are represented as stars), as well as answers. If I turn the answers off all the data will be hidden until I turn the show answers button back on.

Overall I thought the experience with Socrative was beneficial to both myself and the students. I was using it as a tool to review information in a “fun” interactive way so I hadn’t planned on using the results for actual assessment purposes. Having used the site I can see the value in it and will be using it for more formative assessments in the future. I prefer this site to Kahoot because it seems a little more ‘professional’ or academic as compared to Kahoot. To me, Kahoot seems very game based and elementary so I didn’t find it suitable for my high school students and what I wanted this activity to be. I found it to be very easy to set up and user friendly for both the teacher and the students. For myself I don’t know that I would ever use this for a summative assessment only because students need phones or computers to complete the quizzes which opens up the doors for texting/chatting or searching for answers while the assessment is being completed. The biggest disadvantage is the access to technology. I have 22 students in my class and 10 students needed to use a school laptop to participate in class. Depending on the socio-economic status and age of your students this may be the same case for your classes.

I highly recommend giving Socrative a try especially if you teach middle years or high school. If you want to check out my youtube channel I have a few tutorials that demonstrate how to set up a quiz, view reports and run the quizzes that you might find useful. There are a lot of tools out there that provide different forms of assessment, especially formative assessment. Whatever tool you choose remember to choose it wisely after giving the assessment purpose some thought.  Technology can change the way we assess making it more efficient and help us improve the learning environment.

What is your “go to” tool for online assessment? When and how do you use it? Do you think that we will eventually move away from pen & paper type assessments to more online forms of assessment?