Category Archives: A. Video cases

Starting them young

I watched the videos for a few of the case studies specifically 2, 3,  and 5. They gave me a glimpse of how far education has come over the years.  I noted down a few similarities and differences that teachers pointed out in one way or another from their experiences though the settings were different.

  • Teachers pointed out that the technologies integrated into their lessons helped greatly, aiding students with understanding content, and allowed teachers to get through materials faster without having to slow down or explain repeatedly.

This point seems quite important in my perspective as the curriculum covers a lot of material that can’t possibly be all taught without the school year unless teachers teach integrated lessons. The integrated lessons with the help of technology can present more content in a simpler method saving more time.

  • The students were often pushed further as they worked with the technology, pushing them to make more connections and face challenges, take ownership of what they were learning

Pushing them further by making them challenge themselves more creates for more opportunities of exploration in the subjects.

  • Teachers’ often acted as coaches and not information hubs, facilitating and setting goals instead of just regurgitating information to the students.
  • A lot of time and effort is needed to create a successful program.

Another common factor in these learning environments is the noticeable great amounts of time that teachers have put into making the lessons work well with technology. Often times, the teachers in the videos started out being the first in their schools to use such integrated teaching methods and have to learn and “teach” as they go. The educators also notices the decreasing need for students to ask teachers for answers and coaches students in the lessons instead of give straight answers.

  • The STEM learning environment creates an equal platform for all students in the classroom regardless of what background they came from.

As students now all come with different prior knowledge and different backgrounds, these STEM learning environments  due the integration of technology that most students in the classroom may not be familiar with, creates an equal learning environment for all students.

The biggest point I noticed with the videos is the mentions of how schools and school districts gain more technologies for classrooms every year, and the grades that are exposed to them are lowering every year. I understand that it’s to prep the students for future successes, but  I can’t help but wonder if is it really a good thing that the age of exposure keeps dropping?  It’s like how students now know how to find the definition for a word on google, but can’t use a dictionary. Or how a students needs to use their phone to figure our how many days it is till end of the month and when asked why they didn’t just do the math themselves, their reply was simply “Why do I need to do the math when an app/calculator can tell me on my phone”.  To have all these technological skills is great, but I can’t help but wonder what happens when all technologies stop working and humans have to use traditional “old-school” skills again.

Technology balance and collaboration

I chose to focus on case 3 and case 6 this week as they were the two most relatable to my current situation.

Case 3

What stood out for me in this video is teacher B identifying the fact that assumptions were made before the teaching began that likely affected the learning. As a teacher, I have experienced and have also witnessed it as an administrator. You look through lesson plans that appear to be perfect but you quickly realize there is no link to prior knowledge acquired and even the greatest of plans can bomb badly when this is the case. In her case, it was the assumption that students had some basic computer skills but this was never tested beforehand and it slowed things down.

The teacher also identified a key question when using technology, which is what if? If your lesson is based completely on a specific technology, what do you do when it fails.

Teacher A’s experience and comfort were more evident in discussing his method’s. He had a plan that facilitated helping the weaker students in technology, without his direct teaching. The concept of activity based learning is certainly an excellent one when it is approached correctly. Having proper knowledge and perspective are important, however, and it’s important that teachers are still constantly assessing their students and providing help where it is needed.

I also found the argument about hands on vs. simulations interesting. I would be interested to hear for about studies done on the benefits and drawbacks of each but I can certainly see the benefit of having a more blended approach. Cost is an issue for schools and the fact is you cannot experience the amount of things you would be able to on a simulator. While I don’t agree that simulators can’t simulate problems (when I did flight simulations I had plenty of preprogrammed failures built in that forced me to think on my feet) I do agree that there is value is live experiments and this should never be done with completely.

Case 6

This case also caught my attention because the teacher had a certain passion for using technology that was focussed on benefitting the students. Parent and teacher communication can be difficult through old channels but this has changed greatly and for teachers that take the initiative they can stay very connected. Doing so encourages interaction at home, which only strengthens learning.

I was also struck by the inquiry-based approach of trying to find what the students are interested in and building off of that.

What was most impressive to me was the teacher understood the reality that you “go to war with the army you have, not the one you want.” This is to say he understood he was not going to get all of the technology elements, at least not through standard means. He added components by being crafty in pitching ideas and showing results to back up his requests for more funding.

Both cases were interesting in their own right. Certainly, the context and approach differ slightly but the basic principle of using technology in the most efficient way possible was a common thread. I believe sincerely that collaboration among teachers is the key to expanding learning opportunities to all and it appears these teachers are very willing to share their experiences and learn.

To learn content or learn how to learn

The cases from this week peaked my interest to the point where I ended up watching four and with this, I began to notice similar themes to the successful integration of technology in the Science and Mathematics classrooms. All of the classrooms I observed had teachers who were willing to commit a large amount of time, effort, and troubleshooting to allow their students to learn in a very different way than a classical lecture-style classroom.

As BC renovates its K-12 curriculum, the main complaint I hear from other teachers is the lack of staple skills and information being taught. Comparisons are continually being made about how Chinese schools teach core skills in Math and Science with less focus on problem solving, communication, critical thinking, and personal and social skills. In BC, the Core Competencies have become a main focus for educator professional development training while the curricular competencies receive little attention. I feel that these two schools of thought continue to be a battle ground as how to best prepare our students for their future lives, careers, and unforeseen challenges.

It is apparent in these case videos that these teachers who rely on technology are not, and for that matter do not pretend to be, the omnipotent knowledge-keepers ready to fill kids heads with new information. In the new information age that we are living in, knowledge has become easily accessible and therefore less valuable for students in their mindset. The teachers in the videos have begun to stop teaching content but rather to teach students how to learn, grow, adapt, and prosper in such a rapidly changing world. With this, comes the humility of these teachers to admit that they do not know how to solve every problem they encounter but instead can demonstrate how students can seek their own solutions.

I understand that these case videos taken out of the context of the entire course may not show some traditional skills which have been taught to these students. That is, before a student can use an Arduino to carefully control the temperature of growing crystals, they must have some basic skills. It is after these basic skills are gained that students can explore and develop the skills present in these core competencies using technology. I would be interested to see how these teachers progress through the semester with their students who may be used to traditional instructional techniques.

Negativity Gets You Nowhere

When implementing technology in our schools, it becomes essential that lessons continue to be based on achieving a maximum level of student activity, rather than focusing on the skill of using the technology itself. One thing that stood out for me in the videos was how different teachers approached technology integration in their classrooms in terms of how they perceived and utilized the support of their colleagues. I continue to wonder how current perspectives impact the ways in which students, teachers and administrators form their attitudes and approaches toward learning and educational technologies. Teachers can no longer realistically expect to “know more about technology” than their students, and if teachers are unwilling to provide opportunities to their students to lead with their own technological expertise, they will always be limited by a sense of frustration much like that expressed by the retiring teacher in Video Case 5.

One of the challenges in effectively implementing technology to enhance student learning and experiences in our schools is to help support and educate our teachers about practical applications in terms of planning, authentic practice, and assessment. The terminology and endless usage of acronyms often intimidates and alienates students and teachers who are already feeling “behind” in terms of their perceived technological skills and knowledge. As a result, the reality is that many educators approach technology with apprehension and mistrust, and they feel a lack of support in planning/designing tasks for their students that integrate technology in meaningful ways into their classroom practice. In addition, there is a sense of being ostrasized if they ask questions or seek out support. As MET graduate students, I feel that we have a tremendous opportunity to bring a level of knowledge and experience into our schools to promote professional development and collaborative support in moving our pedagogy forward with regards to learning technologies.

In order for technology to be integrated and utilized for greater impact on student learning, schools also must be committed to supporting teachers through professional development, collegial support, and technical assistance. Without any one of these supports in place, the technology can not be used to its potential. This requires a significant commitment in terms of cost (monetary and time) on the part of school administration to ensure that a positive environment can be established and maintained to benefit students and staff.

The most successful schools that I’ve been at have enjoyed positive support from administration and the ability to promote and build teacher capacity with integrating technology amongst staff. As a technology lead at one of my previous schools, I was fortunate to have had a tremendous opportunity to help plan the purchasing and implementation of technology for elementary students and staff, and provide support and professional development around developing best practice and building teacher capacity. The amount of time and money that went into this work was phenomenal, and was not always greeted with cheers and enthusiasm, but ultimately provided staff at the school with the opportunity to start at their technology comfort level and then, with continued support, to move forward and push beyond their boundaries to learn more. Truly, without the organizational support and commitment from school administrations, many teachers wouldn’t have the opportunity or the desire to integrate technology into their daily practice.


Technology in the Classroom

The first video that I watched was Learning Environment 4 (Space Learning). The teacher being interviewed identifies herself as “part of a team” to help support student learning. Many of the students, who were English Language Learners, used technology in different ways in order to express their understanding. The teacher identified that she used project-based learning as a form of instructional practice and technology was an integral part of the process. This was evident from the math book that the student shared which contained students pictures and real world math scenarios. In addition, I also gleaned from the interview that the learning and success that students have in one subject areas can carry over to other areas.

I wondered as I watched the video about the strategies the teacher uses to manage the classroom. What measures are in place to help students stay focused and on task. I noticed how loud it was and how some of the students were distracted. I also wondered about the strategies that are used to ensure that students working collaboratively share equal responsibility for the product of their work.

The second video that I watched was Learning Environment 5 (Middle School Science). The teacher in this segment listed a range of technology related tools that he uses with students. He also mentioned how he uses technology for assessment and communication purposes. What I found most interesting was his comments related to student accountability. He alluded the fact that worked published online creates a pressure that helps to hold students accountable for their efforts. The students who were interviewed in this segment were able to clearly articulate that using technology was engaging, provided a break from textbook reading, is useful because people learn differently.

It was interesting to note that in both videos teachers mentioned that time was an issue for them. It was noted that they cited needing time to become familiar with the technology and how to use it in the classroom. Other professional challenges mentioned were; comfort level with technology, and not enough information and professional development.

IBL & Keeping Students ‘On Track’

The first set of videos I watched was Case 5. It showed a teacher who has her students working on a project while also incorporating many different technologies into the classroom. She refers to herself as ‘the coach’ and ‘a learner’. This mentality certainly follows the more laidback teaching style of facilitator as opposed to authoritarian. Judging by the commentary in the background by her students, they seem to be engaged in the task and are committed to the project and to furthering their learning. This style of teaching, and using project-based learning, allows her to roam around the room and check for understanding. It also “equalizes the playing field for all the students” so that they, despite their cultural differences, can work at their own pace and use technology to their advantage.

The teacher does not go into the particular project much and so it raises some questions about what the expectations surrounding the project are. How are students held accountable for their learning? Does she conference with them on a daily basis? Weekly? What does she do to ensure that no student is left behind? The teacher says “It [the IBL approach] challenges them, not all of them” so what does she do to make sure that all students are, in fact, learning something and are challenged in certain way?

As a new teacher, I have not had the chance to really delve into a full Inquiry Based Learning project and the openness and potential to come out of it really peaks my interest. I would love to undertake a unit but definitely need to do more research on how to structure it. The idea of letting it come naturally frightens me as there is so little time in the school year that I would not want to spend time on a particular topic only to realize a few lessons in that there is nothing that could come out of it. That being said, if there were no curriculum or time restrictions, IBL is a beautiful way of learning. However, as a started, I think I would need to see how it is done, perhaps by witnessing a colleagues experience with it. The students in the second video obviously really enjoy the open aspect of their learning and you can tell that creativity and collaboration are main aspect of this type of learning. The incorporation of different types of technology allows students to be able to express their learning in many diverse ways. During my Graduate Diploma of Teaching, I too, was asked to create a Slowmation and have since seen it done with students as young as in Kindergarten. The learning curve is large but the excitement and engagement that occurs is so worth it!

Case 6 also demonstrates how technology is incorporated into the science and math classroom. The teacher interview was fantastic and I was very impressed by the teacher himself. He had multiple Grade 8 groups working on various tasks including cutting into an eye, listening to a CBC podcast, listening to a song, creating a podcast of the textbook, etc. The tasks really encourage differentiation and demonstrated that there was an activity that would peak every students interest.

The teacher at one point is asked how he has learned about all the various forms of technology he is incorporating into his classroom. He candidly answers that, for the most part, it is up to him. This seems to be a common occurrence across many school boards in Canada and it strikes me as odd. My school board, in particular, really focuses on the implementation of technology into the classroom yet, without teachers exploring the options on their own, little is discussed about how or what to bring into the classroom. Taking the MET was one of the ways that I would learn about different ways to integrate technology into my classroom.

All in all, the video cases detailed the overwhelming support for technology into math and science classrooms yet did ultimately leave me with some questions as mentioned above. The final question I have left is how can we, as educators in the MET, help our teams with implementing technology into the classrooms? How can we encourage technology to be used in a meaningful way and not just because it is there?

Video Cases 5 & 6

The two videos I have decided to examine are video cases 5 and 6. An underlying theme I have noticed between the two case studies is the lack of professional development opportunities and time to incorporate technology in the classroom for teachers. In video case 5, the retiring teacher expresses her frustration due to the fact she isn’t equipped with the knowledge or knowhow with using technology in her class. The student teacher echoes her same concerns. Even though she has been to a few technology workshops within her district, she either can’t seem to find the time or forgets to include technology in her classroom lessons. What I don’t understand with these two teachers is that they aren’t willing to make or find the time. I have come across this same attitude with other teachers I have met in the past, and that they make excuses to not change their current habits or attitude towards using technology in their classrooms. Would more professional development workshops help curb this way of thinking for teachers? If there was more funding and time dedicated in the classroom to teach and incorporate technology, would this help struggling teachers?

In our previous discussion in Lesson 2 Activity 1: Unpacking Assumptions, we were asked, “What is a good use of technology in math and science classrooms?” Teacher S in video case 5 and teacher C in video case 6 both had great examples of incorporating technology into the classroom. From using Garage Band, animated GIF’s, learning different concepts through rap songs to creating podcasts; the students were all engaged. One additional benefit to using technology that I didn’t consider before, is that students are more prone to producing exceptional quality of work if they post something on the internet. If their peers and others can and will view their work, they will want to have their best work posted.

If I were to explore a response to the underlying issue I have raised, I would want to conduct a questionnaire for teachers, students, administrators and parents. Similarly, to the interview we have conducted with a colleague for this MET course. I would want to gather input from the groups mentioned to see what their feelings are towards technology in the classroom. Are they comfortable using it? Do they need more training? Time? Funds? This would help teachers and school districts alike see what needs are not being met.

Case 7 – Post-Secondary Applied Science Environment

The case 7 (Post-Secondary Applied Science Environment) presented important classroom issues that exist when delivering content in front of a large audience where students come from a variety of cultural backgrounds. The main student issues were participation, engagement, and real-time comprehension feedback for the instructor. The case presented a single technology solution, the clickers, that addressed these issues but also posed questions. The most important ones are:

  • Why is it difficult to integrate new technologies in the classroom?
  • What should the technology integration process be like?
  • How would the technology reduce or avoid student misconceptions related to the scientific concepts presented in class?

In exploring a response to these questions, I looked at some of the challenges the instructor and the students faced along the way as they adopted the technology. Let’s first take a look at the difficulties related to integrating the new technology in the classroom. The instructor felt some apprehension and nervousness during the first lecture when the technology was introduced. He thought it might not work as expected or might not be well received by the audience.

   The fact that students came from different backgrounds contributed to this nervousness. That meant the new concepts presented in class would elicit different reactions when the students were exposed to them. Some possible reactions that would exacerbate a learning challenge in the classroom could occur if the students became distracted by the technology, or if a majority of the students used the clickers to indicate they understood the concepts but in reality, they acted based on misconceptions or conjectures that remained hidden from the instructor.

   On the opposite side, the technology could, and in fact did, ameliorate the learning process by producing many positive effects. The clickers made the students work harder and removed the cultural reactions to the learning process because the input was collected anonymously. That increased participation, engagement, the speed with which the concepts were covered, and the level of real-time feedback for the instructor. The result was fewer unanswered questions, and thus improved understanding of the material.

Now, let’s examine the process of integrating new technology in the STEM classrooms. Most importantly, the process needs to be simple and easy. That means:

  • No complicated setups in terms of installation or configuration
  • Technology platform independence – the devices should work with what most hardware vendors offer Out-of-the-Box

When the technology meets these two simple requirements, it will make it significantly easier for instructors to overcome their apprehension and nervousness when introducing new technology in the classroom. The clickers meet the first requirement and I hope they would do well in terms of the second one (the case does not offer sufficient information to make that determination). The clickers (new technology) bring an added benefit: they empower students to politely say “Please, stop, repeat, and clarify. I did not understand.”, and to do so anonymously without the fear of judgement or ridicule.

As to student misconceptions, they can be addressed via a different set of technologies that capture students’ understanding of the concepts taught in class. The most common tools are blogs and forums that support discussions threads. Instructors can act as moderators by reviewing the discussions that take place in different threads and guiding students to the correct interpretation of scientific concepts. More advanced tools like Slack offer features like discussion channels, threads within a channel, audio and video conferencing.


Supporting Teams are essential

What are the underlying issues and why are they issues?
– I watched a number of the videos but my discussion is primarily based on Case 5 and Case 1. To me the underlying issue was highlighted in listening to the teachers discuss their programs and the success or challenges that they were having. I noticed that in the discussion by the teachers in Case 1 that they were interviewed all together, they talked about what they all bring to the team and their different strengths and it was obvious that if they were struggling with one aspect that they could see and access another team member to help them. Comparing that to the teachers debrief from Case 5 where they all felt very individual and that support of a team was absent. As the teachers in Case 1 acknowledged that one of the biggest challenges is that technology doesn’t always work like you think it will and having to problem solve on the go. If you are in a team that fear of technology failing is much less intimidating and the staff from Case 1 seemed much more relaxed about it. I believe that the absence of support is often a limiting factor to exploring technology in a classroom.

What further questions does the video raise for you?
– I think I have two major questions from this. The first, is how do we support those teachers that are waiting on the sidelines that with the right encouragement would take the risk and bring technology into the classroom? The second, is how do we build teams, especially at the elementary level to support novice technology teachers?

How would you explore a response to this issue?
– This is something I have been working on all year and the comment that resonated with me the most was when I asked our teaching staff what they needed to support them with technology use in their classroom and one teacher said “I don’t know what there is to know what I need!” It was here that I realized I needed a much smaller step to support the staff.
– I believe asking those that have had success and how they got started gives lots of insight, allowing for many access points for staff to explore and try technology to boost their success and comfort is essential. Then seeking and exploring other districts and seeing what models they have set up and the success they are having are key to building a supporting model in my district.

How might the issue that is raised exacerbate or ameliorate a conceptual challenge held by students?
– If a teacher uses technology like it isn’t technology, what I mean is, reading an article online is the same as reading a textbook, then no additional growth in a student’s conceptual understanding is likely. Heather is a perfect example, she has an interpretation of what direct and indirect light were and looking at images online or in a book are unlikely to expand her understanding. However, if you look at the students who were producing the soundscapes in Case 5 they showed great understanding of the concept, in this case tornados. They had taken the time to research and the use of technology was allowing them a unique way to display their learning. The student talked about finding other information, with help from the teacher, to expand their understanding to enable them to have the knowledge to build their assignment. This shows how technology clearly improved a project that could have been a one dimensional poster board on the topic.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

While watching the following video cases, I couldn’t help but think about the quote by Albert Einstein, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” I explored video cases 5 and 8, and the common theme that good use of technology in the science and math classroom is when students effectively use technology to explain their thinking and understanding, clearly, creatively, and collaboratively.

Video Case 5
The first video began with the teacher who was very positive and optimistic about her use of technology in the classroom. She often spoke about how busy yet engaged the students in her class are with their project-based activities. From the background noise heard in the video, it is clear that the students enjoy her science class; the kids are talking, thinking, and learning. The teacher goes on to talk about how she is more of a coach in the classroom, often referring to the class as her team. She encourages risk-taking, while modelling this herself, by integrating technology into her lessons, often mentioning how she self-taught herself. This teacher clearly enjoys organized chaos and is not rigid in her classroom managment, by this I mean she is comfortable allowing the students to guide their own inquiry. Her growth mindset is obvious when compared and contrasted with the retired teacher video.

The retired teacher reiterates on more than one occasion that technology is frustrating for her, and time consuming. This made me question why is it okay for teachers to display this negative narrative in schools when teachers are often seen as role models, or at least in roles of influence. This can often be said for regarding math, when parents or teacher say in front of students, this subject is not their strong suit. One of the things I have noticed from my own students is that they will always be the collective experts because they are willing to take risks in their learning, displaying trial and error in its finest. I was equally surprised by the new teachers video confession that she worried about the lack of time available for her to implement technology into her lessons. However, I think she raised an important point in that her B.Ed did not tackle technology integration as an important subject area while preparing her to teach. Overall, the issue that stood out for me from this video is how do schools foster collaborative teams of teachers and students who are willing to take-risks in their learning to showcase their understandings?

Video Case 8
This video explore the perspective of the pre-service teacher students who are creating content based videos using slomation, or digital animation. This video made we compare how excited these adults were in creating these videos, relying on collaboration, communication, and creativity in their own groups, and how this would easily be adapted by their own students when given the chance. This use of technology in the science classroom can easily be adapted by students in elementary and middle school. Not only are student learning about the content of the subject matter but they are also learning the skills behind video editing, researching, time management, negotiating order of importance, etc. This integrated learning engagement far exceeds the retention of what would be remembered if students were only to read and observe information in a print based textbook, for example. Here, students are engaging the senses and learning is happening organically.

Overall, these two video cases reinforced my belief that when technology is integrated meaningfully into the design of a learning engagement, many learning objectives are being met collectively. Students are excited to explain what they know in a simple, yet intricate way with the support of technology as a tool.