Dec 02 2010

Parting comments from MET

Published by under Etec 511,Etec 512

As I come to the end of my MET journey, I thought I’d leave with an excerpt from my essay. The title is: Are computers making us stupid? The deskilling of Canadian students.

The concluding paragraph: In Technological Literacy and the Curriculum Apple states that technological changes are really changes in relationships. Is this not the crux of the question that I posed in the title of this article? Is the reason we perceive today’s students as being less intelligent since the introduction of technology in the classroom not as simple as acknowledging that there has been a change in our relationship to technology? Micheal Wesch explained it so eloquently in his video The Machine is us/ing us. Once we accept that this shift has occurred, we can start to understand its implications in education today. Teachers must evolve their methods to include digital literacy, critical thinking skills and a return to distributed learning and constructivism. Traditional methods of assessment must evolve to consider the many literacies and new skill set needed to function in a technologically charged environment. Without these shifts, students are no further ahead than if they were to sit in a room with every bit of information known to man and be expected to come out years later fully equipped to take their place as functional and productive citizens, only to find the world has changed immeasurably while they were in their learning incubator. This is the stuff of experiments, not real life.

I know many of you have watched some of Wesch’s videos in your MET courses and you may have been impacted by them as I have. As I drew up my bibliography last night, I was sitting beside my 20 yr old daughter so I decided to ask her to watch another Wesch video “A vision of students today”. Her response was to upload the link to FB and share it with her (377) “friends”. These are the comments that were posted on her page:

T – This video never even mentioned drinking… what’s school without drinking?
A – it’s not about drinking. it’s about how technology has taken over class rooms and using chalkboards is obsolete
K – what it should be about is how everything we learn from a proff we can learn from a book … all you need is a library…
AB – Maybe professors should be allowed to set off EMPs before class.
P – our sad reality –
A – is it sad for reality and society to evolve? why stay in the past with chalk and books when literally every resource we need is now online. we write more e-mails than we do essays. c’mon. it would be sad for us to not utilize our tools from our generation

I’ll let you guess which comments were made by my daughter (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree). Why do I bring this up at this point in my journey? Because we must never lose sight that we are studying, implementing, integrating, using technology in our teaching for the benefit of the students. We have a duty to understand their needs as well as the tools that are available to fill those needs. The difficult issue with technology is that we are no longer sure if it has not artificially created those needs or whether we are witnessing the natural evolution that occurs whenever a new tool is introduced and becomes widely accepted,  no more radical than the shift from orality to writing (said tongue in cheek). I can only assert that technology is not neutral.

Lastly, thank you to all of my colleagues for their valuable contribution to my education.  These discussions have been my classroom and library, my soapbox and almost constant companion since September 2009.  I wish you all the best in your learning journey.

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Nov 30 2010

Reflecting on the journey

Published by under Etec 511

As a culminating activity for etec 511, we asked the class to write a reflection about Spirituality and ET or just about their experiences with this course.  It seems fitting that I should be writing this as I am at the end of my MET journey.

Many students know that I am leaving for Australia to teach for a year starting in the new year.  That is the main reason I have chosen not to continue beyond my Grad certificate at this time.  My husband is encouraging me to continue when we return.  I am undecided.  Being an online student is very distracting, if nothing else.  Since Sept 2009, I’ve spent most of my free time at the computer, reading countless discussion posts and learning a lot about my approach to teaching using technology.  In the process, I discovered I am a social learner, preferring to read others’ understanding of our assigned readings and enjoying the opportunity to discuss, even if asynchronously, my ideas, reflections and experiences.

Educational technology has changed tremendously since I started teaching in the late 80s.  Back then, the prof at the faculty of Ed was thrilled to show us the Olivetti wordprocessor she had purchased for us to use and learn to teach.  Computers in the classroom consisted of networked Icons or Mac Classics, nothing that resembled the corporate world I had just come out of.  Later on, when I took my first online university course (a Godsend for a single mother), the course consisted mostly of questions to answer and research to post.  Very little discussion was possible as we spent more time researching than reading each other’s posts.  Not really discussion, even though they called it that.

Eventually, I was part of some interesting projects such as creating a webquest for the school board and writing their first online courses.  I also got to review online courses from around the province – a very enlightening experience.  The Ministry of Education wanted to create a resource repository and a series of online courses to allow students from even the most remote areas to access quality (and diverse) education.  I thought I was very well equipped to participate in this initiative and felt it would be a perfect evolution of my career.  Which is the path that lead me to MET.

In these months I have come to realize I had a lot of rich experience to offer but I had little theoretical background to ensure my course design was pedagogically sound.  What I had done by intuition has been validated by much of the learning theory I have acquired in this program, and hopefully, my skills have grown and deepened as a result of this experience.

As I end this journey, I continue to believe that we have so much to offer each other, either as a community of practice or just to validate each other’s ideas.  And again, I am reminded that it’s the process that teaches us, not the product of our work.  It’s a lesson that I have to internalize and ensure it colours my own teaching activities.

I wish you all a wonderful and fruitful journey.

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Oct 14 2010

Is technology neutral?

Published by under Etec 511

Having read some of the comments in the previous discussions, especially on the role of TV in changing the way we live and learn, I cannot see technology as neutral.  Clearly our society has changed (not sure it’s evolved) in the years most of us can remember.  I might be tempted to say we have changed more especially in recent years with web 2.0, but then I think of watching the first lunar landing, or seeing a videophone prototype at Expo 67.  I could not have imagined my life would be so interconnected to the tools I use.  Did my mother define her daily life by the stainless steel oven my dad installed in the 1960s?  Was her free time improved by the latest Electrolux vacuum cleaner?  It seems silly when I put it in those terms, yet I cannot deny that my lifestyle, my learning practices, my entertainment choices and of course, my teaching practices are all affected by the technological advances that have occurred in my time.

What disturbs me is whether we are questioning the effects of technology on our society or whether we are living at the pace that technology seems to now be dictating for us.  Shades of Heidegger??

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Oct 14 2010

How has TV changed our society and our learning practices?

Published by under Etec 511

I read about Plato’s concerns regarding the use of technology (writing) in Etec 540 and thought they seemed a little ridiculous.  Of course, it is difficult to us to imagine a fully oral society as existed then.  I am now ready to reconsider, having looked at Moody’s perspective.  What I think is affected is not the role of books but how we approach education and entertainment in general.  TV, when first introduced, was used as a gathering point for families to watch a show in the evening.  Later on, parents started to use this technology to entertain their children while they attended to other tasks.  This whole evolution seems to have isolated us more and more.  So although we might continue to find ways to communicate more easily, rapidly and globally through our new technologies, we seem to be doing this in an isolated fashion where each person pursues their own interests at their own pace.

These are considerations we must look into when designing curriculum, whether it be f2f or distance.  Technology has truly changed our society in terms of roles, communication and even values.  Therefore we must respond to this shift in our educational practices.

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Oct 11 2010

Tooning ET

Published by under Etec 511

Here is the link to my toon for Etec 511.  The inspiration is my son’s visit this weekend.  He’s just started college and seems to have all the trappings of a typical student including all the electronic gadgets the digital generation is known for.  However, he can’t seem to log in to his online course without the help of his tech savvy mother.  Unfortunately, I live in a different province now, so he’ll actually have to find the tech guys in the school to get him some answers.  Nice to know these youngsters don’t know everything. (Of course, my husband and I couldn’t figure out how to get the tv back onto cable after my son used the dvd player.  Turns out we just had to change the channel back to 3.  Sheesh!)

Here’s the link:  http://www.pixton.com/ca/comic/syqqnlas

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Sep 16 2010

Defining Educational Technology

Published by under Etec 511

Question from the course:

Firstly, define educational technology. Secondly, identify nature and characteristics of a good ET program based on your own field observations and readings. Thirdly, give some examples such as philosophical, psychological, social and cultural foundations of ET.

My answer:

I’d like to take a stab at defining Educational Technology as a step towards answering your 2nd and 3rd questions.

ET is any tool used to enhance learning. We could contrast it to Adaptive Technology, which would be all the tools used in improving accessibility for the disadvantaged, for instance, speech recognition software. Then we have the study of technology or Technology Education – programming, hardware, various applications, web design, etc. (The reading suggest that it is no longer popular to study programming in school, a shift that I have observed personally as our programming/computer science teacher barely gets to teach his specialty anymore.)

I have no trouble defining ET, what seems more elusive is trying to limit the technologies (tools) that we can include as part of that category. It seems that all sorts of tools are now being used in education, whether they be social networking tools, design tools, visual literacy tools, LMS, along with many of the adaptive tools we have begun to adopt more regularly such as touch screens and voice recognition software.

So the lines are now blurred. We cannot simply study ET as technology is pervasive in all aspects of our lives. In order to improve our teaching practices, it is wiser to study and understand how technology has effected change in society, whether it be the way in which we communicate or the way we define the world around us.

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Feb 06 2010

Catching my breath

Published by under Uncategorized

I wrote a comment on Clare Roche’s blog this morning.  It’s more self-reflective than a reply.

Hi Clare. I am reading other blogs this morning, trying to get my ideas together for the proposal assignment we have due this Sunday.

I know what you mean about wishing you could spend more time experimenting but work is always waiting to be completed in the meantime.

I suppose we will have a little reprieve during the 2 week reading break. It’s funny but I have found that the 4th week of classes in MET have been the most difficult to get through. I get disoriented and start to search all over Vista because I feel like I’ve forgotten something. Once this big assignment is out of the way, I think I will find a flow and be able to enjoy myself more. Reading discussion posts is also my favourite way to learn in this environment. As adult learners, we need a place to discuss and get feedback, a place where we can bring our own experiences into the discussion and try them on within the framework of the new information we are trying to understand.

It’s been a difficult week as I started a new semester on Monday and hoped my new classes would be so much smoother. Unfortunately, I am left scratching my head, trying to figure out how to improve the class dynamic by using technology for differentiated learning. In other words, I am trying to engage the students so I spend less time disciplining and more time enjoying teaching and watching them learn.

I am preparing to leave Ottawa this coming Wed for a short trip to Key West, Florida.  I am eloping!  Unfortunately, I don’t have much time away with my new husband.  But I want to provide some interesting activities for my students while I am gone.  So not only am I trying to work on this proposal, read and respond to discussion posts, but now I am trying to see how to use all that I have learned so far to engage some very disinterested students.  I know some of them are in their last semester of high school and have little interest in being in class.  Some have formed negative opinions about using technology based on past experiences.  Some have found a way to avoid technology all together in the school setting and they are feeling cornered as they will have to use the class wiki to get their notes, respond to discussion questions and create work using all types of text and visual technologies.  And of course, there are the students who are thrilled to be in my class because they figure they won’t have to work and will basically be able to watch Youtube and play video games for the next 15 weeks!  And finally, the last small group, the ones who are taking this course because they genuinely want to learn more about Marketing and Business and they know the course content will allow them to reach their own academic goals.  This is the challenge, melding all these diverse groups together and taking them to the culmination with, hopefully, more than a moderate amount of success.

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Jan 15 2010

Response to Sections

Published by under Uncategorized

I’d like to discuss two items in this article that are particularly pertinent to my classroom situation. For some background information you might read the post (actually a rant) on my blog http://blogs.ubc.ca/cteachr565b/2010/01/13/section-2-readings/

The first item under Student is Access. At one time I was the site admin for my school. One to the main goals we had was to ensure equity in terms of access to the equipment. Historically, the Computer and Business courses were taught in a lab. That left little availability for other classes such as English, History or even Science. The Enrichement students had a special program that allowed them full access to the lab for 1 or 2 periods per day but they were a small, select few. I don’t even want to mention how under-served the 7/8 classes were.

A lot of money is spent developing curriculum and activities and updating textbooks to reflect the use of technology, yet little consideration is given to the limited access afforded to the majority of students. By now most students in our community have personal computers and unlimited (often unsupervised) internet access. However, that does not help the teacher who is teaching all classes in a portable and can only access the computer lab by booking it weeks in advance. This lack of accessibility severely limits and certainly greatly affects the chosen method of curriculum delivery, evaluation and assessment.

The second item is ease of use and reliability. Referring back to my blog post, it is frustrating to students to be working with older, slower technology. Their frustration is so great that they tend to destroy equipment, call out inappropriate comments to the tech guy (who’s office is adjacent to my classroom) or do everything with the computer except the assigned task.

The problem does not lie uniquely with the equipment. The software is frequently the problem. Our board does not provide MSOffice products. We are using WordPerfect (it’s free) and OpenOffice for our Business applications. A software that won’t load, freezes or shuts you down in the middle of an assignment is never appreciated.

The decisions as to what software is being used are made at the board level, so the teacher has little input. A further frustration lies with the network constraints that keep innocent software such as dumpr.net locked because it is interpreted as a game.

And finally, there is the issue of the slow connection that makes certain uploads impossible (like Toondoo) or watching video streaming a painful experience.

It seems to me that the teachers need a bigger say in what technology is chosen for the board. I understand that we are in a great period of upheaval with web 2.0 tools being the light at the end of the tunnel.

In the meantime, I can only hope that many of the tools I will explore in this course will be compatible with my environment. Although they show great promise, any technology that doesn’t have the basic qualities of being accessible and reliable is better qualified as an experiment than an aid to learning.

I know some of you have a lot of experience getting teachers to integrate technology in the curriculum. I’d like to hear your views on access and reliability?

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Jan 13 2010

Section 2 readings

Published by under Uncategorized

I’ve just finished reading the seven principles of good practice as assigned in this section.  I haven’t got to the Bates and Poole reading yet.  Maybe it’s just that my day started of with finding my car had been vandalized or maybe it’s just that we are at the end of the semester and the rush is on to get as many students to catch up and get the credit, maybe it’s finding students continually disregard school property as they destroy school computers, bit by bit (because they are old and slow and kids today have little respect for what they don’t own or what is not the latest technology) but… I am not very excited about what I am reading so far.

On a day like this, it all seems irrelevant that I make every effort to ensure that students try new ways to express their work, that differentiated learning and experiential learning are the norm in my class, that feedback comes from me not just in the form of a mark on a test but also in questions on discussion boards and comments about their answers.  Never mind that I use the computer to show the latest episode of Dragon’s Den so the class can discuss relevant examples or that I use episodes of The Apprentice to model good (and bad) group dynamics.  And I won’t even mention the many, many little chats I have, outside the classroom (sometimes via email) with students about what they are trying to accomplish (either with their good or bad behaviour) and what I am trying to teach them in my own style (respecting curriculum expectations, of course).

On a day like today, when I find myself hurriedly printing off copied notes for them to memorize so they can pass the final (because they didn’t settle down enough to let me teach all the material or the blasted flu caused so many absences), I shake my head and think:  “Who cares about technology?  They don’t see it as educational, they see it as a way to pass the time until the bell rings and they can get out of there (with the credit, I might add).  Gaddddddd!!!!!!!

What I am trying to say is that I think I am missing something here.  I feel like I am reaching my students less and less every year.  Are the students changing?  Am I getting too old?  Is the technology in our school outgrown?  We all know that a child’s mind is like a sponge.  I am delivering the content using as many approaches as I know how, adapting as quickly as I can.  Yet I feel as if I don’t know the magic password for them to open their minds to this information.  Is it that their minds are too cluttered with the many stimuli they are receiving at any given moment? (Not to mention the effects of teenage hormones.)

Where and what is the key then?  I guess I’d better continue my reading.

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Jan 09 2010

Self-Assessment with regards to NETS standards

Published by under Uncategorized

The NETS standards read much like my school board’s professional development policies, combined with the Ontario Ministry of Education’s graduate expectations.  I feel somehow familiar with the text as if I have measured myself against these standards recently, both while applying to the MET program and more recently when applying for a teaching job in a NATO school.  It’s difficult to sell yourself for a job unless you are very familiar with your strengths and have a good idea of what direction to take to fill in the blanks in your resume.

Professional Development has been a priority of mine since I started teaching in the 1990s.  I was constantly told that I had an affinity for technology so I seemed to naturally position myself in that field.  At the time, the field was wide open, with very little curriculum being available.  The career path was simple enough – do what few others can and do it well.  And so, through mostly intuition, I started accumulating as many skills and experiences as I could to achieve my career goals.

Many years later, I can now articulate, with the use of educational terminology, the strengths and weaknesses I can identify in my education and experience.

I am very comfortable with the flow of technology.  That is to say, I welcome innovation and don’t feel intimidated when my students know more than me.  It’s more a case of wondering how I can use new tools and knowledge in my classroom to keep students engaged.  Student success is a very big motivator for me.

Since I am asked to state what I hope to improve upon or accomplish in this course, I’ve made the following list:

1. I’d like to increase my knowledge of web 2.0 applications so as to synchronize my resources with my students’ ever evolving learning needs and styles.

2.  I’d like to increase my repertoire of assessment tools to align them better with today’s reality.  I often feel that students have so much to contribute, that they are more than willing to explore their creativity but the assessments don’t reflect their talent or don’t properly test their learning.  In particular, I’d like to find assessments that work with blogs and wikis.

3.  I’d like to pursue my interest in Global Citizenship through the development of a certificate program for my students.  This would include their inquiry into the cultural differences they will encounter when travelling and working abroad, their exploration of ethical issues such as environmental sustainability and hopefully will result in an increased tolerance of cultural differences both in their own community and abroad.  The use of inquiry tools, discussion boards and any other multi-media platform that allows them to articulate their findings would be promoted.  For this purpose, I need to find out as much as I can about the latest tools available to us.

4. I want to continue to position myself as a leader in educational technology within my school board and be a valuable contributor to the learning communities I have joined.  Our board has created a Ning where some of our brightest tech savvy teachers contribute.  Not only do I have to keep up, I want to continue the leadership role I have already established.

5.  Last goal, and certainly not the least, I want to participate in this process because it is so intellectually stimulating.  And if I am happy, then it is reflected in my professional activities as well. The joy of teaching is enhanced by the joy of learning!

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