Educational Technology in My Life

Last night we had our first online class for EC&I 833. The class had us looking back through the years at how education and technology have evolved. I couldn’t help but think back to my experiences with technology and education right from the first computer I had at home (an IBM) right through to my teaching experiences with technology. I decided to create a mini presentation/vlog to share some of my experiences. If you want to hear about my past experiences you can watch from the start until 6:40, after that I discuss how my past experiences have shaped my current philosophy on technology and education.

I took some time to look up some of the educational games I used in the past and it brought back some great memories. Number Munchers, Reader Rabbit and All The Right Type are the programs that stand out the most in my mind. I think we all remember the typing programs… fff jjj faff jjj ff jj fjf jfj …am I right?? As a side note, anyone who was also a big fan of Number Munchers should be happy to hear that they have an app! I was surprised to come across it but I’m not going to lie…I will be downloading it. Anyways…back to the matter at hand.

After thinking about my experiences I started to think about how they impacted my education and how technology continues to influence my teaching practice. Technology has evolved over a long period of time and we’ve seen many advancements from the printing press to the computer. I would like to argue that the computer has had the biggest impact on the way we do things, but I could also argue that newspapers, radio and tv have drastically changed the way we have progressed globally and within our society. It doesn’t matter what type of technology is being introduced there are going to be changes that come along with it. Neil Postman describes five ways things that we need to know about technological change and I believe they are all valid points. I think my favourite point he makes is that every change comes with a trade-off. Some might argue that texting is making our students bad writers while others will argue that it is helping our language evolve.  Either way you look at it, we are trading something off.

Neil also states that “technology is not additive: it’s ecological”. This implies that it changes the way we do things. It impacts everything we do and we need to adapt and change to work with technology. This idea really speaks to me when I think about technology and education. As I explain in my video, technology has the ability to drastically change the way we do education. It gives learners and opportunity to go beyond the classroom walls and make connections that may have never been possible before. I know we have a long way to go as not everyone is onboard with integrating technology and we don’t have the funds to get us to where we maybe should/could be. But we are working on it. It is something that will always evolve and seems to be evolving at a very fast pace. It is our job to do our best to keep up with the times so that students are prepared for the 21st century work force that is seeking critical thinkers, problem solvers and collaborators.

I’m not sure I’ve done the definition of educational technology but I hope you can make some connections to what I have said and that I’ve made you think about your own practices and views on educational technology.


The Future of Schooling

I have been thinking a lot about what the future of schooling looks like and how schooling has changed even in the short years since I attended. Here we are, in 2016. We are in the midst of a time where technology is rapidly changing and is changing the way we do things (including schooling). Things are changing at an exponential rate – if you need proof, just check out this video. It is from a few years ago so may be a little outdated now (or extremely based on how quickly things change) but I always think about this when I think about how quickly things are changing.

I think most of us are aware that things have changed over the years and will continue to change, but I don’t think a lot of us know how to deal with the change. How do we prepare our students to become active members in society when they graduate from school? How do we prepare them for jobs that might not even exist at this point in time? In his Ted talk, Michael Wesch, tells us that we should be teaching students to become knowledge-able as opposed to simply knowledgeable. What is the difference between knowledge-able and knowledgeable? Well it’s quite simple. Knowledgeable can be described as simply knowing random facts and knowledge-able is being able to think critically and analyze situations or information. He describes knowledge-ability as a practice and provides three ways we can encourage this in our students:

  1. Embrace real problems
  2. Bring students together
  3. Use relevant tools.

We have to convince students to create meaning rather than seek meaning.

With technology use on the rise we must ask ourselves how does this affect our classrooms and the way we do schooling? In the article Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Trail and Learning 2.o John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler take a look at the direction education is headed. Social learning, open education and learning to be are key factors in this shift. Technology has allowed us to communicate like never before. We are able to seek information that interests us which makes the opportunity to learn something new more accessible. By connecting with others online we are able to learn with them and from them. Distance learning allows individuals in remote locations to connect and learn from someone they may not have the opportunity to learn from in person.

We know that technology will continue to change the way that we do schooling, but what else do we need in order to prepare our students for the future? What skills do our students need to be prepared? The National Education Association describes Four C’s that we should be focusing on to prepare our students for the 21st century. In the publication “Preparing 21st Century Students for a Global Society” it describes each of the Four C’s in detail. I won’t go into detail about each of them but the Four C’s are:

  1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  2. Communication
  3. Collaboration
  4. Creativity and Innovation

If you are wondering whether or not you are doing a good job of promoting these skills in your daily lessons, take a look here to see how prepared your students are for the 21st century.  It provides some good questions and ideas for each of the Four C’s that you can use and reflect on. I think these are great skills to be developing in students. I know that a lot of my students like me to walk them through everything and want a simple answer or solution to every problem. They simply do not like to think. In some ways I think technology has taught them not to think. Students often reach for a calculator or a device to find an answer. A lot of answers for students today have always been accessible through their fingertips using a device. But finding the answers through a search engine requires no thought. It makes students knowledgeable not knowledge-ABLE. We need to move students away from basic web searches and calculators to problems that require critical thinking and analyzing.

Photo Credit: TomConger via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: TomConger via Compfight cc

Forbes published a list of the top 10 skills for the future.  The list includes skills that have been around for some time but are now adapting and changing into something bigger. Social intelligence might have been once called social skills. These new “social skills” go beyond simply being able to talk to another person. Social intelligence is the ability to connect with someone on a deeper level and ask the right questions. Computational thinking is the ability to take vast amounts of information and translate it into something meaningful that you and/or others can understand. With the amount of data and information being created daily this is a very important skill to have. In terms of technology use we will need to keep up to date with new media literacy and collaborate with others virtually. The top 10 skills are meaningful and relevant now, but how long will it be before they change and become outdated?

In terms of the future of learning…well Edutopia has gone ahead and described three key tenets in the future of it.

  1. Flexible Customized Learning – students play a large role in how they learn, what they learn and were they learn.
  2. Ubiquitous, Embedded, Invisible Technology – learning will be completely supported and infused with technology
  3. Ongoing Diagnostics and Feedback – implementing daily diagnostics to develop curriculums and learning plans that will be individualized for students.

I am not sure which of these key tenets I believe is most realistic. I can agree with the flexible learning and technology playing a larger role in student learning, but I struggle to think about the daily diagnostics being done to make individualized learning plans. I know that adaptations are a good thing and they are an expectation, but as Edutopia describes it, it seems more rigid and structured.

The future is definitely uncertain in terms of what exactly it will look like. We know that things are changing at an exponential rate and therefore we must do our best to prepare our students for participating in the future. Even though we don’t know the exact skills our students will need 20 years down the road it’s important to stay on top of the new skills that make students employable so that we can develop these skills within our classrooms.

Connectivism and the Future of Education.

Just like Ashley Dew I have been thinking a lot this past week about what the future of education looks like. I know that technology already plays a part in education, but we still have a long ways to go before we can reach our full potential. We know that technology has made it possible to do things more efficiently than we did in the past. All teachers use technology to do things like photocopying, projecting presentations and updating report cards. But for some teachers – including myself…yes I am guilty – our use of technology stops there. We might use the laptops in class from time to time and we feel good that we are integrating technology in our classroom, but are we really integrating technology into our classroom when we use laptops or iPads? We need to use technology with a purpose. Technology offers us so much more than what most of us are doing with it and the future of education will rely heavily on the use of technology.

One of the biggest advantages of technology is the ability to connect with one another. Connectivism is a fairly new learning theory that will become more important as we continue to move through the digital age. It is based on the idea that learning occurs through networks by making connections. George Siemens discusses connectivism and open social environments in this video. He asks you to think about how irrelevant structured learning is and goes on to discuss why. We don’t really know our students and we decide what they will learn without thinking about what is meaningful or helpful to them. In a typical course a teacher will pick and choose what they want to teach and how they want to teach it. He argues that students don’t understand concepts, they merely memorize them. In an open course as opposed to a structured course the students play a more active role and can learn by connecting with others in the course or even outside the course.

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) are designed to learn through making connections with others. Before this week I had never heard of a MOOC. If you’re like me and have never hear of MOOCs before check out this video.

I think that it would be interesting to participate in a MOOC, but I don’t know if we are ready for our students to be left to learning through MOOCs. Maybe it is because I primarily teach high school math I find it very difficult to imagine a course that is highly dependant on learning through connecting with others. I do believe it is crucial for students to make connections with the real world and see how the math they are learning is related and important in that world. There are some classes that seem to need a little more structure than other courses. A MOOC might be a way for students to go beyond the information they are getting in class and further explore a topic that they are interested in. As Henry Jenkins explains there are many students who are participating in online networks and making connections outside of school simply because they are really interested in something. The reason people make youtube videos for example is because they are very interested in whatever they are making videos about. MOOCs might be another way for students to network with others who have similar interests allowing them to learn more through connections.

I came across this video while exploring connectivism. It describes what a networked student looks like as well as the role a teacher plays in this networked students life.

With networked students, teachers work more as a facilitator. Teachers helps students find connections and information but it is the student who is directing their learning. I am torn by the role of a teacher as described in the video. I feel as though our role as teachers in the 21st century will change quite a bit and we will become more of a facilitator in some respects, but I also feel that there is a lot of information that students MUST learn such as reading, writing and math skills. Is it possible for students to learn these skills on their own? With all of the information on the internet today maybe it is? But with so much information on the internet how can we be sure that the information our students are accessing is accurate?

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds via Compfight cc

I have really been struggling to figure out if education will be able to keep up with technology. Can schools keep up with technology? Technology changes at such a rapid rate that it almost seems impossible to keep up. I feel extremely overwhelmed trying to keep up as it takes time to learn new skills. I struggle when sifting through my twitter feed after not reading it for a few days. I scroll through them quite quickly but feel panicked that maybe I am missing something really valuable. I watch youtube videos or read articles for class and wonder what else is out there that I might find beneficial for class. How can we possibly keep up when everything is changing so quickly? Do our curriculums need to focus more on technology and 21st century skills than traditional skills? Do we need support teachers in the classroom whose job it would be to focus on integrating technology into each classroom? I think that would be a great idea, but I know that financially school systems cannot support that. School systems struggle enough to provide technology devices in their school and have wireless internet that will support all of the devices. I like to think that schools will keep up but it already feels like we are so far behind and not everyone is on the same page. I know that my opinions have changed in regards to technology and I feel like I will be a big advocate for integrating technology into my classroom and school when I return to work. I feel the same way as Jeannine and I am glad that I was able to take this class near the start of my M.Ed program because I think it will serve me well in the future.

Preparing 21st Century Workers

What am I doing to help prepare my students for a future career? How am I creating 21st century learners? Will my students have a positive impact and play a key role in their future workplace? What can I be doing better in my classroom to answer all these questions? These are just some of the many questions I have has this week.

Photo Credit: Max Braun via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Max Braun via Compfight cc

I was really impacted by the Future Work Skills 2020 document. As I was reading I had a lot of different feelings. At some points I felt worried or uneasy because of the thought of things such as jobs becoming more automated. I completely understand that technology is going to have a much bigger role in our careers as we move forward, but it is somewhat unsettling to think that computers will be replacing jobs that people currently do. How will this impact our economy and the people who are currently in the workforce? There are a lot of people in the world and if technology continues to replace people, how will those who may be uneducated or untrained be able to find other jobs. I felt a little more at ease to read that the idea is that computers will be used to analyze data to better serve us and help us. It will allow us to determine what our competitive advantage is as humans. Technology will also help free up time for us to do the things we enjoy by perhaps allowing us to be more efficient at our jobs. Maybe this will create a shorter work day allowing us to have more time to ourselves and less time at work.

As helpful as computers are at analyzing data they cannot read emotions or express feelings in the same way humans do. They cannot determine the context of conversations or words. Even as we use technology more and more in the workforce we must make sure that we develop employees that have social intelligence. Students need to be able to read others emotions and be able to communicate with others. This is one of the many skills that will be important for future workers.

A lot of the other skills that future workers need focus on thinking critically, problem solving, understanding media content and accessing different media. I think that it is extremely important for students to develop skills that allow them to think critically and problem solve. Too often in Math class I hear students say “just tell me how to do it” or “what is the formula?”. A lot of students think that there is only one way to solve a problem and that each problem should be able to be solved that way. There is usually more than one way to go about a problem and in order for students to be comfortable with problem solving they have to be given the opportunity to think for themselves rather than just be told how to do something. I couldn’t agree with Ashley more when she says that before students can think critically about something they must truly understand the concept. I find that in my classroom students don’t often truly understand the material. They simply want to be told what to memorize. I always tell them I don’t want them to memorize anything, I want them to UNDERSTAND it. I find it hard for students to truly understand some math concepts because there is a constant pressure to get through the curriculum and make sure they learn everything. But if I rush through everything are they really learning anything??

I really enjoyed reading Cindy’s blog this week and I have a lot of the same feelings about technology as she did. I am starting to shift towards really wanting to bring technology into my class on a daily basis. Teaching high school where most students have handheld devices or laptops should make this an easy task for me but the school I am at has a very strict policy about using phones in the classroom. I am sure if I talked to my admin staff I would be able to use technology on a daily basis if it was for educational purposes (which it would be). I want to use technology more but I don’t want to simply use technology just for the sake of using it. I really want it to enhance the learning experience for my students. I want to provide them with learning experiences that will develop skills for the future work force. I have good intentions for when I return from maternity leave. The problem is I don’t return to work until September 2016 which right now seems like a lifetime away haha! I am hoping to really look at my courses and determine how I can make the most use of technology in the classroom to benefit students.

Looking at NCTE Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment there were a lot of questions that really made me critique my own teaching. There are a lot of things that I am not doing in my classroom that I think I could be doing. I know that I worry about using technology because it isn’t always reliable. That is one of the biggest deterrents for me. The technology and network at my school are not very reliable so I hesitate to use technology because I don’t want to ‘waste’ a lesson on technology that won’t cooperate making me feel more pressure to get through all the information in the curriculum. Maybe I should be less focused on the curriculum and more focused on the skills that will help them become good future workers? I feel like we have a lot of different pressures as teachers and we need to decide what is best for our students. The problem is that what we feel is best for our students might not be what their parents or admin or other teachers think is best. How do we get everyone on the same page and how do we decide what is the most important? Is it possible to address all of these new skills future workers should have at the same time as continue to develop the old skills? I can’t help but think of all of these things and wonder what my classroom will look like when I go back to work. It’s all really exciting but also scary to think about.