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    Interview questions – technology in learning

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    Our ETEC 533 class is preparing to do video interviews of teacher-practitioners regarding their use of technology, and as part of that preparation, we’re getting some question ready. Here are mine:

    Introductory questions to understand the teacher:

    1. What classes do you teach?
    2. How long have you been teaching?
    3. What is your degree in?
    4. Why do you teach?
    5. Do you enjoy teaching?

    Let’s talk about technology and teaching:

    1. What technology do you use in your classes?
    2. What challenges do you have with technology and education?
    3. Do you find that technology hinders learning in some cases?
    4. Do you find that technology accelerates learning in some cases?
    5. Does technology change your teaching style?

    Let’s talk about technology and its effect on learners:

    1. How do students feel about using technology in class?
    2. Do students ever complain about not using technology?
    3. Assess students’ levels of technology ability …
    4. Do you see gender differences in technology use?

    Let’s talk about the future of education:

    1. Envision the classroom of the future. What does it look like?
    2. What is your ideal classroom – no expense spared?
    3. If you could give each of your students a top-of-the-line laptop now, would you?
    4. How would that change your class?

    Video cases: reviewing teacher-practitioners’ practices (2)

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    This is a commentary on a video interview with a teacher who uses technology:

    Case 5 is a middle school science teacher who’s been teaching for 12 years. Seems fairly technically inclined.

    They have mostly been using podcasts, webquests, digital photos, and PowerPoint. They also made a song about science and drugs …

    Interesting; used a mix of school & personal equipment … had to go find the equipment all over the place. If this teacher was not resourceful, they would not have the technology.

    He involves parents and students electronically: emails marks, h-w, and reminders regularly.

    He’s noticed that publishing online encourages kids to increase the quality of their work.

    There is a big learning curve for teachers, but they need to be open to not knowing everything and exploring it with kids. “Makes the class interesting and I’m learning also.”

    Kids: they like it better than learning out of a textbook, which is “boring.” They say “we’re actually doing it – it’s more exciting.”

    Substitute teacher:
    “When students have to present something, they put a lot of energy into making sure it’s correct. Also, projects and group learning helps.

    * Underlying issues
    – group learning: more interactive, more social, more interesting
    – publishing (online and offline): kids put more effort into their work

    * Further questions
    – these are very simple technologies – is there more that can be done?
    – how willing are teachers to be somewhat ignorant … to learn with the kids?

    Video cases: reviewing teacher-practitioners’ practices (1)

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    This is a commentary on a video interview with a teacher who uses technology:

    This teacher and his class use graphing calculators as:
    – mini computers
    – graphing machines
    – programming platforms

    Computers are too expensive, and there are too many classes wanting to use them, according to this teacher. Graphing calculators are much cheaper and every student can have one.

    Students get used to the graphing calculators, so training sort of happens over the course of a number of years.

    Interesting note: I found the PA system intrusive and annoying! Obviously, the teacher was used to it and just waited patiently until it was finished.

    Also: he was using a very old-fashioned overhead projector. Hey … if it works …

    The technology helped students get passionate about learning … trying things … understanding … experimenting. He said: “the technology made them comfortable.”

    Teachers need to be comfortable with the technology to ask the right questions, and to ensure that kids use the technology for more than the simple answer … find the new questions that address math, not just calculator functions.

    The teacher builds table teams and sprinkles kids who know the technology throughout … so they can help themselves.

    Interesting: reverse gender equity via technology … girls are typically better students, but boys are learning better because they get more engaged with technology.

    * What are the underlying issues?
    – accessibility: all kids being able to have the technology
    – resourcefulness: getting the most value for every educational dollar
    – learning: the technology must be used to further the learning; it’s tempting to use it just to make things easier, but then learning may not actually occur

    * Further questions:
    – if laptops were as cheap as graphing calculators, would they be better?
    – is it possible that less functionality is sometimes better?

    Unpacking assumptions: using tech in science and math classes

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    Unpacking my assumptions:
    What technology use ought to look like in the science and math learning environments.

    Sometimes I think this type of question is not appropriate for me. I’m hampered by “the curse of knowledge,” the problem that experts have in explaining things that are simple to them and difficult to others.

    I’m not trying to say that I’m an expert educator – far from it. But I’m an expert user of technology … to the point where it is not “technology” to me. You understand … “technology” is often a word used for things that we don’t understand. Things that we use ordinarily … are just tools.

    With that in mind, using technology in science and math learning environments would be very ordinary, very normal to me. There would be very little to remark upon ….

    • all students would have laptops with integrated cameras, microphones, speakers
    • all students would work through configurable simulations of key concepts
    • all students would have full-time access to all the knowledge (and cruft) on the internet
    • students would track their own learning in a public learning log, possibly using blog or wiki software
    • anything that students say is within their core competency, they can be tested on
    • tests are given one person at a time, whenever the students are ready
    • teachers are there to teach concepts, lead labs, and ensure students are roughly on track with a learning schedule that will ensure they learn all needed concepts for state/provincial standards
    • frequently, students who have learned a concept would take a turn explaining it to the class. Who could do this and how often would be loosely coordinated schoolwide, so that as much as possible all students get opportunities to present in areas of their strengths
    • students would interact with others in learning communities all over the world via Skype. Sometimes a distance or foreign student might lead a discussion on a certain concept. (Note: I’m in conversation almost daily with members of my team in Italy, Norway, Ukraine, China, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates.) The school would seek out 5-6 learning institutions at similar levels and timetables so there’s a baseline of collaborators to start with, but students could talk to anyone if they’re on-topic.
    • teachers would frequently bring in social media output of practicing scientists/mathemeticians who are web2.0 producers when appropriate, helping to show relevance

    Note – off the top of my head, I’d think that science and math instruction could be very different.

    Mathematics, in particular, can benefit from a certain amount of repetition to drive home knowing how more than knowing what, whereas there can be a bigger dollop of knowing what in science. This practice can be on a computer, but it can also be on a blackboard, whiteboard, or good-old-fashioned dead tree.

    My e-ography

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    This is a crosspost from the ETEC 533 course site, in response to a question from the instructor:

    Our first writing activity for the course will focus on our prior experiences with digital technology in educational settings. This initial writing is meant to help us recall our earliest memories with digital technology, become aware of our our perspectives, the assumptions that underlie these perspectives expectations regarding human-computer interactions, and the extent to which our perspectives prior experiences with computers are similar or different.

    The first experience I can remember with educational technology beyond the level of a chalkboard and overhead projector was grade four.

    Our school – a fairly poor elementary school in Burnaby – had acquired 5 or 6 computers – Macs, I think – and plunked one of them down on a desk at the back of my class.

    I don’t remember using any actual educational software on the machine … have no recollection of a writing or reading program, or even a digital encylopedia or anything of the sort. The clearest memory I have was of writing short and embarrassingly simple programs in Basic – mostly consisting of telling the computer to print out something vaguely disestablishmentarian on the screen many hundreds of times, or telling the computer to draw a line from a certain X,Y coordinate to another.

    Simple, but I still remember the joy I had a creator … the pride in creating conditions under which a machine did certain things for me …

    Sadly, however, that machine never made it out of the back of the room, and in all reality was nothing more than a trinket, a curiousity, a sop to those who wanted desperately to begin embedding technology in the classroom (but had no clue how to begin).

    The fascination with technology begun that year continued later on in my career, even after taking a BA in English and landing a writing job. Eventually I would move towards technology, run a web development department, and today am employed by a software development company.

    And yet, the question remains: how to take that computer out of the back of the class, put it in the hands of each kid in a classroom, and design learning environments and tasks that make education something more than it was in 19th century England.

    That’s the challenge, and that’s why I’m taking this course.

    Hello world!

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    This is a blog that, in toto, will be a portfolio of my experiences in ETEC 533: Technology in the Mathematics and Science Classroom.

    As I and other students work through this course, I’ll post some of my thoughts and reflections here, as well as some parts of the projects and assignments that I’ll be working on.

    For anyone just happening upon this blog, my personal blog is right over here.

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