Eeny Meeny Miny Moe – and these tools are it!

Deciding which tools to use for interactive purposes in our blended prototype felt a bit like a game of eeny meeny miny moe. With so many tools to choose from how can one possibly decide which tools are the best for what you are trying to accomplish. Fortunately my team and I were able to decide which tools we want to use without much debate. We are going to be using Canvas as our LMS so we will be using some features of that site as well as twitter and blogs. I will go into more detail as to why we selected these methods but I want to start with the quote from Shaping the Metaphor of Community in Online Learning Environments: 

For a community to emerge, a learning environment must allow learners to engage each other intentionally and collectively in the transaction or transformation of knowledge.

This quote really stood out to me and validated the tools we have selected as our community building tools. Nancy, Andrew and I have had a lot of discussions around Twitter and how much we have grown to love it over the past few semesters. I have said this before and I’ll said it again for anyone who hasn’t heard me say it before – I used to think Twitter was pointless and really served little purpose. I didn’t fully understand the value in it. Looking back I now realize that I felt that way because I wasn’t using it to it’s full potential. I didn’t follow a lot of meaningful people, I didn’t understand how to use hashtags to my advantage and didn’t feel it was possible to share something meaningful in 140 characters. Twitter has become one of the most beneficial tool for me as a teacher. It has provided me with great resources, professional development and connections with other amazing teachers – all for free! I have really developed my PLN (personal learning network) and I can’t imagine my teaching career without twitter. I the teacher in this video has done an excellent job of discussing PLN’s and the role twitter plays in developing your PLN.

It is possible for students to build a PLN and we plan to encourage our students to build their PLN through using a course hashtag (which is yet to be decided) as well as hootsuite or tweetdeck. Students will be asked to interact on twitter by sharing articles, retweeting and quoting tweets from classmates within the class as well as people from outside of the class. By using hashtags students will be able to reach out and connect with others far beyond the four walls of our classrooms which will in turn help them improve the community within our classroom by sharing resources and information.

Another way we feel that an online learning community can be established is through blogs. George Couros shares 5 reasons why students should be blogging including developing a positive digital footprint, giving students a voice and allowing for student reflection. It is a great way for students to document their learning and share what they have been doing in class. Through comments on each others blogs the online community can further be established. Like Liz pointed out, it is important to consider digital citizenship and be sure that students are commenting respectfully and mindfully. Being that we are doing a digital citizenship course prototype we will be focusing on this early on in the semester. Students will be expected to follow classmates blogs through an RSS platform such as Feedly. Feedly is a user friendly way to follow blogs without having to go back to the individual blog and check to see if a new post has been written. We felt that this would be easier to use than creating a blog hub.

The last way that we thought we can try to establish a community is through the discussion feature on Canvas. An edutopia article lists many benefits to using a discussion board in an online course including critical thinking, improved reading & writing skills and reflection. The article also suggests having students come up with the guidelines for using the discussion board and just like Sarah I feel like this would be a really great idea. The chart discussing Bloom’s Taxonomy in relation to activities for discussion boards really opened my eyes to the endless possibilities for activities through a discussion board. Although I see the discussion board being used primary for students to connect with one another to ask questions or get help with information related to the course I can see it be useful to have an activity thrown in there every once in a while too.

I feel like there are so many other tools we could have selected but I feel like these are the tools that will help our students build a community online, much like I have experienced in all of my EC&I classes with Alec and Katia.

Are there any other great tools we have overlooked for our course prototype in terms of building community online?

Improving my flipped classroom through interactive videos

After reading Kara’s blog this past week I was inspired to look at my own flipped classroom and reflect on things I feel I am doing well and things that I could improve on. In her post Kara discussed 5 things that she wants to do to start running her own flip class and I am doing 3/5 things that she said she would like to do. I have students watch the video lessons I have created, I use bell work to review or assess student understanding and I allow for work time during class. Kara mentioned starting class with a quick Plickers activity so that she can easily assess how her students are feeling about the material, and allowing class time for “board work” in which students work through extension activities together. As mentioned in my comment on her blog, I feel as though I would use the board work from time to time just for the sake of time, but I would really like to integrate something like Plickers into the classroom so I can have ongoing assessment and reflection.

Kara got me thinking of some of the different hurdles that we come across as flipped classroom teachers. As I was looking into ways to better integrate technology and tools into the classroom for assessment purposes I came across an awesome review of a site called eduCanon – an interactive video creating site. After reading the review I decided that it was something that could add a lot to my flipped classroom. I decided to look into it some more and found out that the site has switched names and is now called PlayPosit. Basically what you can do is add questions to your videos so that students have to answer the questions as they watch the video, similar to EdPuzzle. It also has a feature in which students cannot fast forward the content to skip material. I think that this could be a really nice feature but it may also turn students off who might grasp the concept at an early stage or who may want to review the material at a later date. For an idea of how it works, check out this quick – but very informative – video.

Of course I had to sign up after watching the video. It was extremely easy to sign up and I got started right away to add a question to a video I have already created. The process was as simple as locating the YouTube video I had already created and adding the link to the dashboard on my PlayPosit account. From there I was able to locate the place in the video where I want a question placed. I add the question as well as the answers for students to select. It is my understanding that the free version only allows you to use multiple choice format for questions. One concern I had was how I would enter equations or formulas in the questions, but they have an option to insert equations and it took me a few tries to figure out how to use it but I was able to figure it out and add my question.

Screenshot of my question I added to the video

Screenshot of my question I added to the video

I see a lot of value in adding questions to the video that students watch for a few reasons. First off, I don’t assign a mark or a grade for watching the videos I assign. I give students a handout to work through as they are watching the video so it’s pretty easy for me to see who has or hasn’t watched the video based on who has the handout completed when they come to class. If students haven’t watched the video before class I don’t get too worried about it because they can use the class time to catch up on the video. I always remind them that the time in class that they are using to watch the videos is less time they have in class to work with me or classmates on the assigned work. Another reason I like the idea of integrating the questions is because I can see the results of the questions so it can help me see who may need more help. It is obviously important that the students are watching the videos too, so this keeps them a little more accountable. I plan to integrate more interactive videos but that won’t change the way students are assessed. The feedback I get from student responses in the video will be used for me to identify students who may need more help and to address student needs accordingly.

After spending some time using PlayPosit I had to compare it to EdPuzzle and I was quite surprised at the similarities. The platforms seem to be user friendly and both use the exact same equation editor. I think I will try to use a video from each website with my students to see how the feedback is gathered and documented and then I will decide which site I will stick with moving forward. In the screenshots below you can see just how similar the sites are.

I focused a lot on one aspect of my reflecting this week so I will try to quickly touch on the other areas I focused on. The first was setting up Seesaw and trying to get my students active on it. I challenged them via Edmodo to upload 7 videos before the end of the break – for the entire class, not per person. But sadly I only had one video that was shared by a student even after I tried to bribe them haha. However the video was FANTASTIC! The student did an excellent job walking through the question and explaining how she completed the problem. I am hoping it will encourage others to step out of their comfort zone and share their work too. screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-10-25-03-pm

Moving forward I would also like to try move my bell work to an app as opposed to paper as it will be easier for me to assess student understanding that way. As Kara suggested I like the idea of using something like Plickers to get a quick overview of how comfortable students are feeling about the content by asking a simple “How do you feel?” with responses such as “Don’t get it”, “Sort of Get it”, “Completely Understand”. The final thing I want to work on is my video lessons as the quality still isn’t where I want it to be, although it is getting better.

I don’t think I will ever have a completed flipped course because there will always be ways that I can improve even in small ways such as updating my bell work from using paper to using technology. It is important for me to stay up to date with new ways to improve my courses – flipped or not.

Have you tried a flipped classroom? What are some ways that you assess student understanding or address students not watching videos? If you have any tools to share I would love to hear from you!

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?

 

Throw away that curriculum…web 3.0 is coming!

If only the web and education were as easy as 1, 2, 3. I have read through a lot of blogs and articles this week trying to fully understand where we are headed with education and web 3.0. I’m glad that some of my classmates are still struggling to fully comprehend web 3.0 because I feel the same way. I don’t think you can blame us though, it seems that there really is no clear understanding of it and even Wikipedia struggles to understand it (thanks to Andrew for pointing this out). But we do know some things. Here’s what I know based on my readings, discussions and reflections from this past week.

Jackie Gerstein provides a thorough explanation of web 1.0 through 3.0 and also discusses the transformation of education from education 1.o – 3.0. Jackie summarizes each of these ideas with explanations and also considers the learning theories that are involved. I have summarized what I took away from her article in the table below.

Screenshot of a table I created in MS Word

Screenshot of a table I created in MS Word

Photo Credit: bethannigrams Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: bethannigrams Flickr via Compfight cc

Many of my classmates were able to summarize and explain the differences between web 1.0, web 2.0 and web 3.0. Erin did a great job summarizing the key points and discussing what a “good student” looks like for each of these. I feel as though we are all familiar with a web 1.0 student at this point in time. A web 1.0 student can “look up” anything and find information online in order to memorize or write down information. It is a one way learning situation. The student is a passive learning going with the flow of what they come across on the internet. I feel as though a lot of teachers use this method of teaching when they use the internet. Sadly, I feel as though many teachers don’t move beyond web 1.0 when using the web.

The web 2.0 student is just as easy to spot although there aren’t as many of these students as there are web 1.0 students. The web 2.0 students are able to collaborate, connect and create by using online spaces to their advantage. They have an online presence and personal learning networks established through blogs or social media. Students are no longer passive learners who simply receive information. They produce, discover and generate ideas by working with others to develop and learn. They work with others to build on information and construct understanding of the material.

Photo Credit: marktmcn Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: marktmcn Flickr via Compfight cc

Web 3.0 is a little harder to define as we haven’t really jumped into that part of the pool yet. We are just dipping our toes in at this point. Web 3.0 is going to take us away from traditional learning styles and more importantly teaching styles. When I think about web 3.0 I think of learning that has no boundaries, is extremely flexible and is completely personalized. As teachers, we would move away from actually teaching material to becoming facilitators who help our students along the way. We would work as collaborators and help students locate information they are seeking. Curriculums will no longer be necessary as each student is learning what they want and each student will be learning something entirely different from the student sitting next to them. Outcomes will be done away with and student success will be determined by themselves. Student success may end up being based on whether they have learned what they need to learn in order to land them a position in the career field they are interested in. Some students will find success earlier than others while others will struggle to be self-determined learners. It is the teachers role to encourage students to become self-determined and motivate them to discover what interests them. This is my somewhat EXTREME version of what web 3.0 will look like…am I too far off??

Regardless of where we are at, we must continue to move forward. We may feel as though web 3.0 is a long ways away but technology is changing at an incredible rate so we must start preparing now. As I mentioned earlier, many of us as well as our students are still stuck in web 1.0 when we have been living in a world of web 2.0 for a number of years now. It’s time for us to move forward from education 1.0 to education 3.0. As teachers we need to be advocates for our students and part of this is ensuring we are moving forward ourselves.

What do you see as your biggest barrier in moving away from web 1.0 teaching methods? Would you consider yourself a web 2.0 teacher or do you find yourself being caught in the web 1.0 trap? I’d also love to hear your comments on my web 3.0 thoughts in terms of how I think it could change education.

 

 

The new tools of our trade?

I want to start by saying hats off to my peers, Amy, Krista, Luke, Elizabeth and Rochelle who presented on the topic of educational software and media. I have to admit that although I am familiar with a lot of different great software and media tools I don’t often integrate them into my classes (insert red embarrassed face here). I can’t say for sure why I haven’t integrated the tools in my classes yet, but a big part of it is the fact that I was out the classroom on mat leave all of last year, so having just been back to work for a month and a half I still feel as thought I’m adjusting to the new routine. When I’m talking about not using the tools, I guess I’m talking about tools like Kahoot, Socrative, Quizlet or Explain Everything. I do use other media in the classroom so I will talk about the tools I do use as well as touch on some of the tools I have spent some time exploring in hopes to integrate the into my classes in the future.

One of the tools I use is Edmodo. I enjoy using Edmodo for a variety of reasons. The first is because the interface is similar to Facebook and students so it’s easy to navigate and students feel the same way. One of the biggest benefits is the increased level of communication between students, parents and the teacher. I’ve made a screen cast of my Edmodo page that takes you through some of the features as well as discusses some of the pros and cons of using Edmodo.

I have some EAL students in my class and they spend time working with a language app called Duolingo. I was introduced to this last year when I used it to try and learn some Italian. It has a gaming feel to it and makes learning fun, but the quality of the learning isn’t the best. I used it a lot, but I wasn’t able to actually remember or recall much of the language when I wasn’t using the app or website. To get a feel for how the program works check out my screencast from when I did my post-assessment. During the video you will hear the chime when I respond correctly and a green banner appears. Duolingo is very stimulus-response based lending itself nicely to the behaviourism theory. When I played it was really motivating and the game like features kept making you come back. You can earn badges, points and your progress is tracked making it rewarding to play and learn. The downside to the app is that although there is a lot of repetition it doesn’t allow for deeper connections and learning. To truly learn a language I believe you must converse with people using the language and Duolingo doesn’t provide these types of interactions. Users may chat with others on a forum, but there is no opportunity to speak with others and practice.

Duolingo is a great tool for EAL learners to get additional practice as it is engaging and fun. In order for students to practice outside of the classroom, students need to have access to the website or app. This makes it difficult for students who don’t have access to technology to practice when they are not at school. As a mentioned above, the app itself is not enough for students to master a language, but it is helpful. Language Surfer provides a great list of ways to get the most out of Duolingo and most of them go beyond just playing “the game”. Students who use this need to go beyond the app by writing down new word they learn on paper, writing sentences that they struggle with, reading the hints given by the program and working with others to practice speaking the language they are learning.

Other tools that I have explored for past classes with Alec are Socrative and Explain Everything. Socrative allows you to create quizzes and use exit slips to assess student understanding. I don’t think I would use this tool for summative assessment purposes but I see it as a great tool to get some feedback of learning throughout the unit. Students need to have access to computers, tablets or phones in order to participate so it is difficult to use in a classroom like mine where some students don’t have a phone. I feel like getting computers for everyone would be a lot of hassle to complete a short exit slip or a quiz that will give me some feedback. It is much easier to do a paper exit slip and have students complete it…however not as fun. Explain Everything is an interactive whiteboard app and I have thought about using it in my math classes. I see students using it to walk me through a question while they explain the steps they are using to solve the problem. I see it as an excellent tool to evaluate deeper understanding however it takes time for students to learn how to use the tool so that is something that would need to be considered before it is used in the classroom. You can check out my youtube channel to find the video tutorials I have created for both Socrative and Explain Everything. The videos will give you a better idea of how they work if you are wanting to learn more about them. A few classmates have included great reviews of Plickers and Seesaw; both tools seem beneficial in their own ways. Be sure to check out Plickers as reviewed by Liz and Seesaw as reviewed by Erin (great job guys!).

As I stated earlier, I tend to stay away from many of these question-response type tools because I don’t see a whole lot of value in them for the amount of time it takes to implement them. I do see it as a fun way to review and see the value in using these tools to differentiate the teaching methods. How often do you use these tools? Can you sell me on the value of these tools? I’m not saying I will never use them, but I don’t see myself using them on a regular basis…but maybe I should? Are these the new tools of our educational trade?

Entertaining Education

I’ve spent a lot of time this past week reflecting on Postman’s quote regarding Sesame Street and education. Like Andrew it was a little hard for me to think of because I didn’t have a whole lot of experience with educational tv growing up (at least not that I can remember). This is something that made me think more about my own children and their exposure to educational television. I decided to look into Neil Postman’s quote and found that he provides several reasons why parents embraced Sesame Street. He begins with a very important point and it’s something that I can relate to as a parent.

“Sesame Street” appeared to justify allowing a four- or five-year-old to sit transfixed in front of a television screen for unnatural periods of time. 

After reading Naomi’s post and some of the comments that follow, it is easy to see that I’m not the only parent who may be able to relate to this. I too have allowed my children to watch Baby Einstein and it started at a very young age. I remember putting my son into his exersaucer and turning on Baby Einstein so that I could blow-dry my hair, or change a load of laundry. It’s difficult when you are the only parent home and trying to run a household with a little one who doesn’t nap when you need them to. I’m sure we’ve all been there. I don’t think that it’s a terrible thing if we let our kids watch tv, or shall I say use the tv as babysitter as long as we aren’t going overboard.

How do we know how much is overboard though? I was surprised when I read some of the stats on how long children watch tv in a week as provided in the first chapter of “Children’s Learning From Educational Television: Sesame Street and Beyond.” It was interesting to read about some of the negatives such as behaviour issues that may arise due to increased tv time. In response to some of the negatives that may arise due to increased tv time, the American Academy of Paediatrics suggested that total tv time should be limited to 1-2 hours per day and eliminated completely for children under the age of 2. I sure hope no one from the American Academy of Paediatrics comes over to my house while I’m trying to get supper ready, or finish my work, or do anything that needs to be done while the kids are awake. That being said, is that ALL my kids do? Of course not! My kids are great at make believe play and entertaining themselves, but I do allow them to watch tv daily with limits.

A big hit in our house is the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on Disney Jr. When I first saw the show I was quite impressed with the educational value of it. Commonsense Media gave one episode that we have on DVD a 3/5 stars for educational value. I was a little surprised to see it didn’t rate higher. One thing I really like about each episode is the use of “Toodles” and the “Mousketools”. The mousketools are a set of tools that will be used to solve a problem throughout the show. The kids are asked to problem solve and think critically about the tool that will need to be used to solve the problem. Check out the clip below to see how Toodle works. In addition to Toodle it does teach counting, colours, shapes and social skills.

Postman also suggested that parents felt Sesame Street took care of the education side of things in the household. This is something that I can see in tv shows as well as apps and computer games. Although educational tv does teach some skills, it cannot be the only way that our children are learning at a young age. We need to work with our children to develop reading, writing, critical thinking and math skills.

“Sesame Street” relieved them of the responsibility of teaching their pre-school children how to read.

We cannot expect our children to learn everything they need to learn from an app or tv show. We need to read to our children, talk to them about money, count things, look for patterns, discuss rules of the road…I could go on and on about the little things that we can do that will make a big difference in our children’s educational lives.

Postman finishes by stating that

We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street”. Which is to say…[it] undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.

I can agree with this point to a certain extent. I believe that educational tv, apps and games contribute to the lack of attention that some children seem to have. From a very young age our children are stimulated by these tv shows and games. They find them fun, entertaining and enjoyable. I do think it may develop expectations in these young children about what learning looks like. As Benita mentions, it’s hard to compete with stimulating games and tv shows when students come into our classroom and it’s exhausting to think about Teaching Like a Pirate. I think we all struggle with making ALL learning fun and to be honest I don’t know if that is realistic. However, realistic or not I think it is something that we need to strive for. Do we need to tell jokes, dance, juggle and put on a show? Of course not! But we do need to engage our students and be excited about what we are teaching. If we are excited about what we are teaching, our students will be excited to learn the material.

Am I being too harsh? Is it realistic to think that everything we teach (or learn) can be fun? What happens as we move through our schooling into post-secondary education or onto meetings in our careers? Is there a point that is reached in which learning is no longer fun?