EdTech 541 Final Entry

Part One: Reflection

I have learned a great deal about how to integrate technology into the Grade 4 science unit, Waste and Our World. This was really insightful for me because this was a new course for me to teach this year. It was great to do some planning simultaneously with my coursework and made for a much better learning environment for my students. One of the most beneficial modules was on game-based learning. This was an area of deficiency for me. I often focus on how students can create using technology. This leads me down the path of doing a lot of work with video and presentations. Gaming is something unique for me and I look forward to implementing this in my planning and teaching going forward.

This coursework helped me to develop my overall awareness of the AECT standards through the lens of science. I often start with the program of studies, which is what teachers should do. But putting an extra filter for technology is excellent practice. I felt like in this course I spent a great deal of time on the Assessing standard. I was constantly questioning if the tools were the best and most appropriate for the task at hand and if they actually improved learning. I think this is especially true for teachers that are excited about technology. We sometimes get caught up in using technology because it is fun, but we should be constantly examining if the tools chosen are the best for the job. Technology should be consistently used but only when it adds value. If the technology chosen does not accomplish this, then another should be looked at or possibly something other than technology.

I have recently become a school administrator and one of my main objectives is to move technology forward in the school. The theory presented by Roblyer, as well as the practice element in the assignments, has caused me to look at technology more critically. Designing learning experiences that are based on curricular objectives is key. The coursework forced me to do this. As a result, I have a new wealth of resources to share with my staff, but I also have a process to share with them. That is the most important part. Sharing my coursework with them would be a great exemplar, but going through the process of designing meaningful learning activities will be where the “gold” is for me professionally.

The curating of resources has been one of the biggest impacts on my teaching practice. Not only did I obtain great resources for Grade Four Science, but it was also very beneficial to read the work of my classmates. There was some amazing work that was done throughout the semester and I look forward to tapping into it. Not all of it was grade specific to my grade level, but like all good ideas, it can be modified to meet my needs. Since I started my journey in EdTech, I often tell people that I have not had an original thought. I just borrow and remix others and try to make them better for me and my students. This course provided me with ample opportunities to do both.

A great deal of the projects and assignments that I created have their foundations in a constructivist approach. They require students to apply knowledge that they have obtained and applied it in different ways. Examples include identifying ways to manage waste and how to limit it. The learning experiences were not necessarily teacher driven, but teacher selected and technology allowed students to deepen their own learning. In a Behaviorist environment, the teacher would have transmitted the knowledge to the students. In the activities created during this course, the role of the teacher was to provide the best resources possible so that students could explore the outcomes on their own and make meaning of them.

Part Two: Blog Assessment

I found blogging to be one of the most challenging items in this course. Not because it was hard, but because I am not the greatest reflector. I am more task-oriented and I sometimes felt like, “oh yeah, I have to do the blog now”, when I was finished the “real work”. However, I have felt that blogging has developed a part of my brain that I do not normally focus on. Being self-reflective is a very important part of teaching and this was a good reminder of that. It also forced me to think about the “why” I chose to do certain things in my course and professional work. This makes me question if I am indeed getting the best bang for my buck when choosing learning activities for my students and staff. Here is my assessment of my work on the rubric scale:

Content 70/70:

I think my bogs show a good level of self-reflection. This was true from my successes and areas of growth. I tried to consistently make connections to my coursework and my professional work.

Readings & Resources 18/20

I consistently used readings from the coursework, as well as other online articles in my blogs. My citations were in APA, but if I am honest, I am always a little unsure of my formatting, particularly with in-text citations. I can see this being an area that I could lose a mark or two.

Timeliness (19/20)

I always tried to have my blogs submitted by Sunday night and I was usually successful with that endeavor. It should have perhaps been a place that I started, instead of finished because it was sometimes the place where I struggled the most with motivation,

Responses to Other Student (25/30)

I am going to admit, I missed a couple of weeks throughout the semester. However, I did find that reading blogs was one of the more enlightening parts of the coursework. I learn a lot by reading others work and this was something that I looked forward to. I also enjoyed reading how others responded to my entries. The feedback was always insightful and pushed my thoughts forward as well.

Advertisements

Chromebook Accessibility Features

“With accessibility features, as well as free or low-cost applications and extensions, text-to-speech is not only a useful tool, it is a practical tool.” (Bone & Bouck, 2016) This is a simple yet profound statement about how low-cost technology can impact a classroom. I have been a Chromebook junkie for quite some time. I began using Google Apps regularly in my classroom 5 years ago. The following year, I partook in a pilot project that enabled my grade three class to become a one: one class.  I remember not being totally accustomed to the ins and outs of these new devices. One day, as the students were quietly working, a Chromebook started to “speak” to the class. This, of course, caused a commotion, what I didn’t realize was that the Chromebook was indirectly leading us to one of the most important functions. A student had inadvertently turned on the accessibility feature “Chromevox”. Little did I know, that would become an important tool for a blind student who was working in a high needs classroom in our school.

Chromebooks have revolutionized learning at our school since. Not only because they are cost-effective, but they offer quick and easy accessibility features for students with high to low needs, which allows them to independently complete work perhaps not possible before. The Chromebooks work on the Chrome operating system. The Chromevox feature mentioned earlier is designed for students with visual impairments. Whenever an option or function is scrolled over on the screen by the mouse, the students is given verbal notifications. The Chromebook also offers other features for the visually impaired. There is high contrast mode, which provides a darker background screen and lighter for front colors to allow better visibility for students that have difficulties viewing the content on the screen. There is also a screen magnifier which allows the user to scroll their mouse over certain objects and make them appear larger on the screen. There is also the large Mouse option which magnifies the size of the mouse and makes it easier to maneuver on screen.

For students with physical disabilities, there are accessibility features that allow the Chromebooks to be more accessible. This includes automatic clicks and highlight mouse cursor which allows students with fine motor skills to perform mouse actions without using the mouse. The onscreen keyboard allows those that have limited typing ability with their fingers to communicated through typed word. There are also many extensions that allow for speech to text. This includes Read and Write for Google.

Ultimately, technology can become the great equalizer in education. Tasks that used to require readers, scribes, or direct assistance from another adult, can now be completed independently. This allows students to gain confidence and frees up teachers and educational assistance to help more students. The accessibility features within the Chrome operating system, as well as extra extensions and apps that are available for download, make Chromebooks a purchase that makes for a high return on investment.  

Works Cited

Bone, E. K., & Bouck, E. C. (2016, 06). Accessible text-to-speech options for students who struggle with reading. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 61(1), 48-55. doi:10.1080/1045988x.2016.1188366

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching.

Obstacles to Using Technology in Science

Obstacles to using technology are something that is near and dear to my heart. As a former Edtech turned school administrator, much of my time is spent trying to limit the obstacles and make it as easy as possible for students and teachers to unlock the potential of technology in their classroom.

Science is an area that technology offers a great deal of potential. From accessing experts, utilizing simulations, or having students demonstrate their learning in new ways like creating movies and podcasts, science can come to life through technology. Unfortunately, there can be several obstacles that keep this from happening. This includes teacher professional development, access to science-specific tools, or cost of devices and tools related to science.

Low levels of science content or computer knowledge and training have been perceived as a barrier to providing technology-rich learning environments in science class. (Songer, Lee, Kam, 2002) This is something that has become very true with the teachers in my district. For several years, teachers had access to science Gizmos that were funded at a provincial level. These gizmos allowed students to experience simulations in science from circuits to chemical reactions. Suddenly, the funding for this at the provincial level was pulled and teachers could no longer access it. Many of the proposed replacements were either inadequate or too expensive to use. As a result, teachers were frustrated to have adopted a technology, only to have it taken away. The fact that there were limited resources to replace these tools speaks to the fact that there are a limited number of quality resources for teachers to adopt.

Professional development is an important obstacle to overcome. Established teachers that I have spoken to, particularly in high school, have a hard time being convinced to adopt new techniques because they often feel that they lack the time to learn and adopt new methods involving technology. However, when given the time to practice and become comfortable with new tools, they experience greater success. Having a mentor on staff or within the district that has expertise in technology and science helps to increase adoption rates. Having mentors and example classes that can demonstrate the power of using gizmos and interactive whiteboards to bring topics alive, can be motivating and encouraging. It also eliminates the “I don’t know what I don’t know” ignorance around technology tools. Another possible option is online PD opportunities. There are many resources available for teachers in the form of distance education that have science specific training modules. (Roblyer, 2015) Interactive tools and movie creation apps can allow students to demonstrate their learning in new and engaging ways other than notes and tests. Also, helping teachers identify experts in their field will allow them to grow professionally as well as opening their students to different perspectives as well as provide information about potential future career options.

The last common obstacle is around cost. Many devices that are utilized in “new sciences” like robotics are expensive. At a time when cutbacks are the new norm, investing in expensive gadgets can seem like a luxury. Convincing stakeholders that investing money in new ways may mean that older things may have to be let go. There can be a resistance to doing this when the old way seems to work just fine, but educators and stakeholders must ask themselves what will be the best investment in students’ futures if we want to develop and train a new generation of scientists.

Resources

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching.

Songer, N. B., Lee, H., & Kam, R. (2002, 01). Technology-rich inquiry science in urban classrooms: What are the barriers to inquiry pedagogy? Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39(2), 128-150. doi:10.1002/tea.10013

Integrating Technology into Math and Science

Science is not meant to be taught from a textbook. In order for it to truly come alive in the classroom, science needs to be experienced. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to allow students to leave the four walls of their school to experience science first hand. Fortunately, through the use of technology, it is possible to bring authentic learning experiences to students.

When used effectively, science teachers have the immense ability to transform learning. I remember as a student in the pre-internet days “surviving” science class. Studying revolved around memorizing theory and facts from an old worn out textbook. My only memories of science coming alive were doing dissections during high school Biology classes. My level of engagement continually decreased, reaching its low point in high school. I look at the possibilities of how science can look today with envy and awe. Envy as a former student about how I could have experienced it and awe as a teacher of the potential to unlock the possibilities.

The old textbook from years gone past can give way to new inquiry-based approaches to learning. Simulations and gizmos can provide students with close to real-world learning experiences. Static pictures in a textbook can now be replaced with interactive simulators that actually demonstrate important concepts like Newton’s Laws of Physics or the chemical reaction that occurs when an airbag goes off. Not only are these important concepts to learn, they do not have to be learned in isolation. Students can view them in real life scenarios where they may actually use them in their future careers.

This not only applies to practicing skills through the use of technology. 21st Century tools can also be leveraged to provide access to experts in different fields of science. It is such a large area of expertise that it is impossible for one teacher to have complete knowledge of every facet of science. However, many classrooms are now utilizing Skype or Google Hangouts to connect to experts. Geologists, Biologists, and Nuclear Physicists are all a click of a mouse from being interviewed by a classroom of curious students. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield became famous for his openness to share with students and bring the solar system into their classrooms through technology tools.

The trick becomes how do we make this common practice in our schools. Many teachers that I encounter have the will to adopt STEM-based inquiry learning into their classroom. They struggle with the skill aspect. As a result science classes have not changed a great deal from the ones that I grew up in. Elementary students often learn about scientific theory and the nature of science rather than doing scientific investigations for themselves. (DeJarnette, 2012) The key is to support teachers in their quest to become comfortable adopting change into their practice. One of the challenges with adopting STEM-based inquiry learning is the scaling back of control and structure that the teacher must adopt. This is especially tricky in elementary classes where many teachers are more comfortable with classrooms that have rows of desks and students working quietly. Research has shown that in order for teachers to overcome their reluctance to use technology is through leadership. This includes having a mentor within their district or building that can act as a coach and sounding board. This could take the form of a technology coordinator, a school administrator or fellow teacher. This person has to make it comfortable for others to try new things, embrace failure and celebrate successes. Without this kind of support, technology use in all classes, especially math and science, have difficulties moving beyond surface level transformation.

Children have a natural curiosity about the world which should be enhanced by the combination of science and technology. It will not only help them understand the world that they live in, but also prepare them for the one that they will grow up in.

Sources Cited

DeJarnette, N. (2012). America’s children: Providing early exposure to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiatives. Education, 133(1), 77-84.

Green, A. M., & Kent, A. M. (2016). Developing Science and Mathematics Teacher Leaders Through a Math, Science & Technology Initiative. The Professional Educator, 40(1), 1.

Relative Advantage of Using Digital Games for Content Area Learning

Parents and teachers alike are often concerned with the amount of game time that students expose themselves to. In my previous role as an EdTech coordinator, it was often confessed to me by other teachers that they had difficulty keeping students’ attention “these days”. This was because they felt as though they had to compete with common devices like Playstation, X-Box or other online gaming options. The response that I often communicated was, “if you cannot beat them, join them”. The rationale behind this response was because I am aware that there are many options for teachers to explore when it comes to utilizing games in the Classroom. Unfortunately, teachers either distrust the use of games in the classroom, or they do not know where to get started. However, once they are opened up to the potential of gaming, many teachers become sold on the idea.

The first benefit of games in the classroom is around engagement.  Students that are exposed to games are more likely to experience an emotional connection to the work. Student engagement is defined as, “select(ing) tasks at the border of their competencies, initiate action when given the opportunity, and exert intense effort and concentration in the implementation of learning tasks; they show generally positive emotions during ongoing action, including enthusiasm, optimism, curiosity, and interest”. (Lester & Spires  et.al, 2014) Students are far more likely to invest themselves in activities they enjoy. There is no better way to ensure this than by tapping into what they do in their free time. One of the points of interest is that it appears that both boys and girls benefit from the use of games. In Lester & Spires et. al., investigation of Crystal Island: Uncharted Discovery, a science game aimed towards upper elementary students, both boys and girls experienced learning benefits from gaming to learn science. On the surface, it seems obvious that if we want to engage students we need to tap into their interests. This can be tricky when we feel like we need to tap into the individual interests of a classroom full of students. However, it appears that gaming maybe a common interest area amongst most students. 

Games based learning also provides possibilities as an online tutoring tool. Students can reinforce their skills at home in an interactive manner. The best gaming experiences are not just reward oriented, informing students when they have been successful (ie. earning points etc.) or when they are not successful (game is over or loss of points). Games should instruct students where their mistakes were made and how to correct them. When these elements are present, the game becomes a much more effective and independent tool for the student. Students will play games after school on their own free will. If gaming can be combined with homework and studying, this is a win-win for everyone involved.

It is also being proven that games based learning can help students learn in a more authentic and real-life environment, particularly in science classes. According to Li, games based learning helps students collaborate in authentic learning environments that cannot be reproduced through textbooks and note taking. (Li, 2013). Students often enter school with a natural curiosity about the world and their environment but this often does not sustain itself. Science is a very difficult subject to teach in a classroom. The more teachers can find ways to connect learning to real life, the more engaged students are in the process and the more likely the learning will be transferable beyond the classroom walls.

Games based education cannot replace good teachers and teaching. However, it is an excellent supplement to engage and assist students in their learning. There are still limitations that need to be worked out. For example, connecting games to specific learner outcomes or ensuring that students are learning authentically through real-life situations and not simply rote repetition and memorization. However, I do not think that it is necessarily a bad thing that there are shortcomings to games in the classroom. I have witnessed scenarios where teachers become overly reliant sites like IXL Math. Tools like this can become the main form of instruction which is not ideal for learning. I do not feel games can ever replace teachers, they can only help them and their students by enhancing the learning experiences in a fun and engaging manner.

Works Cited

Lester, J. C., Spires, H. A., Nietfeld, J. L., Minogue, J., Mott, B. W., & Lobene, E. V. (2014). Designing game-based learning environments for elementary science education: A narrative-centered learning perspective. Information Sciences264, 4-18.

Li, M. C., & Tsai, C. C. (2013). Game-based learning in science education: A review of relevant research. Journal of Science Education and Technology22(6), 877-898.

 

 

Acceptable Use Policies

The purpose of an Acceptable Use Policy is to provide guidelines for appropriate use of technology on school-based networks and devices. For this assignment, I examined several Acceptable Use Policies from local school districts, including my own, Edmonton and Calgary public schools. I also referenced one from California.  Their main purpose is to guard students, staff and school districts from the ethical and legal ramifications of the unacceptable use of technology.
Effective AUPs generally outline why they are necessary. This AUP from Edmonton Public School board in Canada clearly states who should have access to networks and how they should be using it. Some AUPs explicitly state that all Internet traffic should be used with the intent of furthering the educational goals of the district. However, there is increasing demands on public agencies like educational institutions to provide Internet access to anyone who sets foot on or near their premises. This often becomes parcelled with the debate as to whether wifi is an essential service or not. That being said, if it is an essential service, school divisions still need a say in the types of activities occurring on their network. This protects them from being liable for activities that could detrimental to student learning, or worse case, illegal.
Another reason for providing a Framework for proper use is to ensure the overall health of the network. Activities that are outside of educational purposes like streaming or downloading movies from services like Netflix are a heavy burden on bandwidth. This has a negative impact on students who are trying to access information quickly and effectively. Also, as we are all aware, there is a danger of inflicting viruses by downloading certain content from services like peer to peer sharing that can not only affect the network, but also the devices that are on that network.
Acceptable use policies also need to take into account student-owned devices. This is where ownership of the network is critical. We want to promote students bringing their own devices to school, in order to increase the overall access to technology within a building. That being said, it is important for students to understand that they have the right to use their device, but it is still a public network and with that comes the expectation that they will follow the guidelines set out by the provider. This is a good life lesson because this is the case in any setting which provides public internet access, from coffee shops to hotels. It is important for students to understand that it is not only schools that are expecting them to follow a particular set of standards, but any public wifi that they access as well.
Effective AUPs tend to follow a structure. A good one is outlined on the Education World website. The structure they recommend includes such things as a definition and policy statement, as well as sections dedicated to acceptable and unacceptable uses. For all students, I think it is important to frame the AUP in positive language. In younger grades, it would be easy for students to begin questioning if the online world is something to be scared of. As students get older and using online tools more frequently, it becomes easier for them to tune this “thou shalt not” message out because the social benefits appear to outweigh the risks. Also, for many, the risks do not cultivate into meaningful dangers immediately so they continue to experiment until something does go wrong. Using the AUP to frame positive behaviors at the younger age, combined with effective modeling helps students see themselves as digital citizens from an early age and make positive decisions.

Lastly, AUPs need to be the backbone of digital citizenship training within schools. If students are expected to sign this agreement, it needs to be referred to regularly. In our school, students are asked to sign the document, but in many cases, they do so without actually reading what is expected of them. Students are then reminded of it when something goes wrong. Making the AUP a living and breathing document will increase its validity to students and leverage it as a learning tool for net etiquette and digital citizenship.

References
(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml

(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/librarians/tech/techpolicy.htm

1-to-1 Essentials – Acceptable Use Policies | Common Sense Media. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/1to1/aups

Vlog

Please view my Vlog on using multimedia in the classroom. I focused on the different uses of video in the classroom. The most significant being a flipped classroom model and student creation.

 

Relative Advantages of Using the Basic Suite of Applications in the Classroom

In my early years as a learner, technology consisted of the MacIntosh 128 computers. Aside from playing classic games like “Oregon Trail”, technology tasks in my classroom involved typing and printing out poems. This was my first introduction to word processing. The Macintosh actually got me through my first year of university until I purchased my first Windows-based computer which led me to the Microsoft Suite of Office tools. For years Office was a staple tool, especially during the first ten years of my teaching career. Then Google came around and transformed the Suite for me. Not only because it changed my own planning, productivity, and organization, but more importantly because it influenced how my students interacted with information and demonstrated their learning. This is where I am at now, as a teacher and learner. Although I typically introduce many forms of technology into my elementary classes, none are as powerful or as often used as Suite applications.

Google Docs is the word processor of choice in my teaching practice. Aside from all of my planning being completed on it, I often share Google Doc assignments with my students through Google Classroom. It allows me to create assignments of varying types and have students complete different tasks through a variety of functions. For instance, students are able to use the define feature to find the meaning of new vocabulary words like producer, consumer, and decomposer. They can then use the Explore function to locate pictures of these vocabulary words. Students can also use the Explore function to research environmental problems like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The ability to cite their works opens up teaching moments about providing credit when using information online. Math can even be included in the advantages of Google Docs. Students regularly complete math assignments using the word processor. For instance, they may have an assignment that requires them to calculate the amount of recyclable materials collected by the class in the school for a given week. Google Docs can be combined with Equatio, an extension that lets the students speak equations. The numbers with the appropriate math symbols appear on the screen. Google Read and Write is another major advantage along the same lines. It provides speech to text and text to speech support for students who experience difficulties with literacy or language barriers. The last advantage that I want to mention is that students can share work with each other to collaborate and group edit. This means that group docs can be worked on at the same time by multiple students.

Some educators feel that word processing will free students from the physical constraints of handwriting, allowing them to develop written expression skills. Others worry that it will make students unwilling to spend time developing handwriting abilities and other activities requiring fine-motor skills. (Roblyer, 2016) This is one of the struggles that I have with using a word processor in an elementary classroom. Balancing students’ need for fine motor growth with the advantages listed above is a tricky line to walk. I often have to ask myself if I am choosing the best tool for the particular task and not simply using technology for the sake of using it.

Spreadsheets are a tool that has been utilized in a couple of different ways. Firstly, it makes for an excellent tool during our Data Analysis unit in math. Being able to input data on recycling in our community and output it as a graph is a significant advantage to using Google Sheets. The class can alter and manipulate different aspects of the graph as well as create different ones. The class has created bar and line graphs, as well as pie charts. The other way that students have used Spreadsheets is to express creativity. Entering certain formulas allows the students to type numbers to fill cells with colors. This is a web-based color by numbers. This could be used as a method to create recycling posters for the school. Students could also share their Spreadsheet with a partner and work on it together.

Spreadsheets is not a commonly used tool in elementary. However, it is a valuable skill to use in basic ways during the early years and increase complexity as students progress grades. “Even when teaching these advanced concepts, teachers may choose to introduce more complex functions and features on an as-needed basis, depending on the requirements of the lesson.” (Roblyer, 2016)

Slides is a very robust tool that can be used in powerful ways to affect learning. Students creating slides to demonstrate their creativity can be a very engaging process. Within Slides, students can research topics using the Explore feature, just like Google Docs. They can also embed pictures and videos into the slides. Another possible advantage to Slides is that teachers can create templates for students to complete. For example, in math teachers can create certain tasks to be completed on a slide, like illustrating multiplication equations or creating fractions. When the students are finished, they have a slideshow that is an artifact of their learning for the particular learning objectives. Google Slides can also be used to create illustrated books or comic books. My students have created a children’s story detailing the cycle of plant and animal waste decomposing and adding nutrients to the soil. Students can use the Google Draw features that are built into Slides.

One of the challenges to Google Slides is teaching students how to create effective slides. Often times the multimedia principle is not studied until students are much older. However, slowly building those skills would be beneficial to students if done on an incremental basis. Without these skills, students tend to lack balance in their use of text and pictures. Instructing students on the multimedia principle as well as others can then lead to more meaningful learning experiences and better time spent.

The basic Suite is a great way to introduce students to technology from a very young age. It allows students to access and share information in new and unique ways. They can then, in turn, create new information on their own and share it with their classmates and beyond. In my experience, Google Suite has led to significant access to these tools via Chromebooks in most classrooms in our school. When examining lessons through the lense of the SAMR model, this has led to transformative learning. Much of this is attributed to starting students with the Suite of apps.

Future Trends in EdTech

The Horizon Report provides a great snapshot into the world of EdTech and the direction that innovation is taking in classrooms. Several of the trends outlined either echo what I am doing in my class, or would like to do. The trends that I most closely connected with are coding as a literacy, the growing focus on measuring learning and digital literacies. Moving classrooms from the comfortable industrial type model that is largely based on an Instructivist approach to learning is a tall task. It requires “a true spirit of innovation (which) is exactly what our educational system needs to crush complacency, stomp the status quo, and forge a path into a future that is perpetually in flux.” (Couros, 2015)

“Computer science drives innovation in the U.S. economy and society. Despite growing demand for jobs in the field, it remains marginalized throughout the U.S. K-12 education system. Opening students to the world of coding will not only help them view computers as more than simple toys, but have an overall appreciation and understanding of how our world relies on coding and the potential it presents for their future. ”. Coding is a tool that remains largely untapped. Even for myself, as a previous ed-tech coordinator, it was not something that I was very comfortable with. As I attended sessions on it, I began to realize that coding is not only important, but it will be a vital tool for students’ future. In fact, the eye opener for myself was being trained on the MIT developed program, “Scratch Jr.” by a fourth-grade student at a PD session that I recently attended. She sat with me for over an hour and described her thought processes as she created different scenes with the many different Sprites in the program. I was fascinated at the resiliency that she described and the level of self-efficacy that she displayed. As an ed-tech coordinator, I began to incorporate this into my lessons. I saw these same attributes in the students that I teach. As a new Vice Principal in a school, I am intrigued with the prospects that coding can bring to my entire school. There is the potential to incorporate it into math lessons with my own grade 4 students that I teach, as well as with my entire student population through coding clubs and staff professional development. Yet, in spite of the clear benefits to coding, many teachers are unaware of the both the need for students to understand coding, and their engagement when they do so. As the Horizon Report mentions, it is not being lost in other parts of the world. Countries like Australia and Ireland are already adopting coding into their curriculum and North American governments are starting to legislate the same thing. In Alberta, Canada, the curriculum is being overhauled and one of the main additions is coding.  The Horizon Report really reaffirmed the focus that I need to place on coding, not only in my own classroom but in my school building.

The way that we collect and analyze data has changed because of technology. Data is becoming one of the most sought after resources by companies and organizations around the world. Nearly everything that we do as Internet users is valuable data depending on who is using it. Everything from our Social Media use, to online surveys and our personal shopping habits are being analyzed to provide you with better service. However, the Horizon Report made me question if we are collecting the right data in our school and whether we are properly using the data that we do have. In my experience, we have been placing too much data that is general or derived from a small sample size. This includes district or government standardized testing that is often times completed in one sitting in a pen and paper form. This means that by the time the data is processed, it is old and rarely has a direct impact on student learning. However, with the increased reliance and access to technology in my school building, we could be collecting data more regularly and processing it faster so that we can tailor learning experiences to individual student needs. “Learning analytics has driven a fast-growing trend toward personalized learning systems (PLS), or computer- based management programs that

  1. assess individual student learning needs using complex algorithms and collections of data across students
  2. provide a customized instructional experience matched to each student”

(Roblyer, 2016)

Being able to identify data provided to us through Google Apps, as well as a variety of other web based resources would help up to better understand our students’ interests and learning needs more efficiently. The best part of leveraging Learning Analytics is that it does not necessarily mean that we are introducing new tests that are time-consuming and require teacher training to administer and analyze. Our school is looking to use math diagnostic tests at the beginning of our school year that is completed in Google Forms. The tests are organized into different topics within the math curriculum and can be marked electronically. Within a day, the teacher can administer, mark and analyze the data. That data can then be used to identify the strengths of that student and areas of development. This data can then be shared with students and parents and will lead to goal setting for that student’s areas of growth for the upcoming year. The Horizon Report clearly outlines that this is a direction that schools need to be looking in order to enhance student learning and performance.

Digital Literacies has now become one of the most difficult, yet most vital skills that we can impart to students. One of the difficulties is that unlike, other types of literacies, this is the first generation of students that have required this. And unlike other literacies, there is not widespread support from home because parents are either unaware of the need for digital literacies or they are struggling with understanding digital literacies themselves. Many of the concerns are related to anxieties related to their online lives as well as the distractibility of the students who are trying to manage their online activities with their student responsibilities. In a Canadian survey of teachers, 76% of teachers report having witnessed students multitasking with technology. The teachers overwhelmingly felt that student anxiety levels have increased over the past three to five years. Along with social media, critical analysis is becoming increasingly crucial. With the rise of the fake news problem and the overabundance of information at our disposal, deciphering fact from fiction is challenging. The Horizon Report cites a study from Stanford that found most students in K-20 are not prepared to judge the credibility of news and information that they see each day. To complicate matters, many students are unaware of the implications of their online habits and that their activities are often public by default. This would suggest that as I reflect on my role as a teacher and administrator, I need to be paying attention to these trends and take proactive steps to increase digital literacies and citizenship at my school. This will help students make positive choices about how the access, use and share information. In my role as an ed-tech, one of my duties was to collect information from administrators about how they were dealing with digital citizenship. Many of them responded that they were not doing enough especially in light of the fact that many of the discipline issues they were dealing with stemmed from students’ online activities. In my role, I see the opportunity to start early. Waiting until students are in middle school or later is too long and mistakes have already been made and habits formed. At the elementary level, I can begin to instill good habits as young as first grade. Students at this age can be taught about Internet safety skills. As students progress to fourth and fifth grade, students will benefit from repeated lessons on understanding digital footprints and critical thinking. Classes could incorporate tools like Twitter into their classroom routine to model effective digital citizenship and ensure they are sharing and using information appropriately and respectfully.

The Horizon Report provides many good insights into how we should be utilizing technology in our classrooms currently and thinking towards the future. I am excited about the possibilities that I will have this school year to impact growth in my school building as a school administrator. It helps me filter out what the priorities should be, so that staff is not simply implementing technology without making a true impact on student learning. All of the topics covered in the report provided me with some insight, but these three will certainly be the target areas for me in my classroom and school.

 

References

Anybody can Learn. (n.d.). Retrieved September 09, 2017, from http://code.org/

Couros, G. (2015). The innovator’s mindset empower learning, unleash talent, and lead a culture of creativity. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting.

Early Childhood. (n.d.). Retrieved September 09, 2017, from https://education.alberta.ca/

Growing Up Digital (GUD) Alberta. (n.d.). Retrieved September 09, 2017, from http://philmcrae.com/blog/growing-up-digital-gud-alberta

NMC/CoSN Horizon Report 2017 K-12 Edition. (n.d.). Retrieved September 09, 2017, from https://www.nmc.org/publication/nmccosn-horizon-report-2017-k-12-edition/

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching.