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  • EC&I 833 – Learning Summary

  • Is VR the next big thing, or just another thing?

    I am going to try and use this post to unpack how I am feeling about virtual/augmented reality in the classroom. Perhaps it’s simply due to my limited experience with either one, but I am left questioning whether it is a necessary tool in the classroom, or simply a piece of flash. What are the benefits of incorporating VR and for what purpose? Although I am writing this with an open mind, I have exclusively considered VR to be a tool for amusement.

    My limited experience with VR is using an Oculus Quest at a friend’s house. While entertaining, I wouldn’t consider it to be a particularly social activity. Sure, you can set it up to the TV so that you can watch what the person is experiencing, but it’s no more enjoyable than watching someone play a video game, which for some, may be more enjoyable than I find it to be. This brings up the first thought about using VR in the classroom – How accessible is it? How would that look in a classroom setting? You would have one student hooked up to a headset, but then is everyone else just watching? Or would they have to be doing another activity at the time? You would need as much time as you have kids available to experience the VR, is it worth it? How is the teacher supervising the student who is using the technology?

    Who is this kind of technology for? Let’s say we could get our hands on a class set of headsets. The cheapest “Quest” I could find runs at $469.99 on sale. A class set of 30 would cost over $14000. With the lack of funding available on the best of days, the thoughts of this even remotely being a possibility seem pretty slim. And schools that can afford this kind of expense probably have access to whatever they need in terms of technology. This further raises questions of equity in education, and how some schools that may not even have laptops, are being left further behind.

    Where does augmented reality fit into the picture? I had mentioned in my breakout room that my wife and I used to play Pokemon Go when it was first released. Our children were quite young, and I remember us going for a walk around the park one day while playing. When I realized that we were essentially living a quiet moment through our phones, I realized how ridiculous it was that we were even doing that. Just to clarify, I am not against any of these technologies, but it made me super aware that there is a social connection that is missing when we are plugged into immersive technology.

    Prior research demonstrates that student motivation is important
    for learning, as motivated students are more engaged in the learn-
    ing material, show greater persistence when trying to understand
    the material, and are more resilient when dealing with potential
    obstacles in understanding (Parong & Mayer, 2018).

    It’s clear that VR and AR can be used for amusement, but at what cost? Personally, I believe that these should be used sparingly and for fun, like social media. But what about in the classroom? Could these technologies be used to help enhance student learning? The above quote offers some insight into the perceptions on using new technology in the classroom. New is always exciting, and exciting typically means interesting, and interesting has a correlation to learning. The Maransky (2021) article shed light on VR as a tool in the classroom and concluded that it wasn’t necessarily better for student learning. The conclusion I draw from this is that immersive technology may not be better for learning, but it MAY be better for student engagement, which certainly has a place in the classroom. I also believe that there are limitations to the research because VR is fairly new, and incorporating it into the classroom is as well. It may be too early to see what the benefits are for having immersive technology in class.

    Proponents of immersive technologies point to the
    transformational power of the medium. The experience of
    being in a VR environment for the first time is like stepping
    into a new world, where the program and head mounted
    display (HMD) create a digital blank slate for experience.
    Simply put, it feels real (Heller, 2020).

    The above quote creates an idealistic view of what VR technology can look like in the classroom. It certainly has the potential to create immersive experiences that are enjoyable for students. But as discussed throughout the semester, the Heller (2020) article also highlights the importance of being cognizant of regulations to these new, uncharted spaces. We work so hard to help students navigate worlds of social media, internet content, and to create safe spaces for them to belong online, is VR going to be a headache for teachers, as they have yet another space to ensure safety and fairness for students?

    Ultimately, I’m not sold on immersive technology in the classroom. I think it will have it’s place in classroom learning, but I can’t quite say what that can potentially be. In the meantime, I continue to keep an open mind about new tech, and am always excited to see what comes about with it. If I ever felt that immersive tech could be an indispensable experience, I would certainly push to have it in my room.

  • I can code too!

    If one thing is clear from the hands-on presentation this past week, is that coding can be for anyone. My first experiences with any type of computer programming go back to around 1997 when my uncle gave us a TANDY 1000 – a lovely black and green machine that ran dos, on those monstrous floppy drives. We had a limited number of games we could play, but what we also had was this BIG book that we could get from the library. This book had tons of games in it, and all you had to do was write the games out yourself in BASIC. While this was a fun experience, it was incredibly time-consuming, and if you made one mistake, your game would usually not turn out. Perhaps it was PTSD, or just that memory etched into my mind, but I didn’t really look at computer programming ever again.

    So going back to this week’s presentation on coding and maker spaces. I am not a super science guy, in fact it’s the only subject I have never taught. I remember begrudgingly taking science in high school, and going through the motions, well aware that I wasn’t particularly science minded. So I had never really given much thought to coding, as I viewed it as a primarily science area that I would have no use for.

    This past week, as we were doing our coding activity, I was amazed at how quickly my brain started putting pieces together about how much more coding can be in the classroom. I love doing cross-curricular activities anyways, I had just never considered doing science with the art that I do in the classroom. As I sat, starting to code out a solar system, the next thing you know, the planet is spinning around a string and every time it plucks the string it makes a sound. Next, we’re adding kick drum sounds, and it seems like the planet is making music every time it spins around the sun.

    Well color me pink, I just did some music in my science activity. Now the gears are really going, and I’m slowly realizing that there is more to coding than science, and this guy who isn’t particularly science minded… is doing science… and music…

    The “Code Stars” video has a lot of coding experts explicitly say that anyone can code. More importantly, they suggest that everyone should code. I’m really sitting on this one. Coding was really a fun activity for me, and it opened my eyes to some real possibilities, but I guess I’m still kind of detached from this notion that everyone should know how to do it.

    As I continue on with supplemental readings for the week, it kind of hits me:

    First, it teaches students how to be digital creators — to create their own websites, apps, and programs. Coding allows students to wield the full power of the internet — and multimedia — to share their ideas, talents, and creativity with the world.

    commonsense.org

    We continually discuss the merits of digital literacy, and the importance of making digitally literate students. There is an endless world to explore online, and as teachers we have an obligation to ensure that students are making decisions that will ensure they are contributing to the digital world in a positive way that encourages social justice and equity. Is coding not just another tool to help? I can see how coding should be taught, as a way to help students understand the online spaces that they are a part of. Teaching kids how algorithms work, and the consumerism of being online, all links back to coding. Commonsense.org discusses how these platforms are all coded to bring people into them. If digital literacy is an important part of the students’ education, then coding should be included with that as well.

    While I still have much to learn in this realm, I have certainly changed my views on the merits of coding. Like most things that are new and strange, the disconnect for me is simply due to a lack of understanding fully what it is. I should dive a bit deeper though into the possibilities of coding and how it could complement what I am already doing in the classroom. While I don’t think everyone needs to be “techie” to access this, I certainly think that have a good foundation will help to make this relevant and meaningful for the kids.

    Finally, not everyone will benefit from coding, but that is just the reality of working with technology. This great divide of equity continues to widen, until we actively pursue how to close it. If we consider how students from lower SES households are simply working on their literacy skills, many students from affluence areas have access to tech and more possibilities in the realm of coding. These students will be more equipped in the future to enter a workplace that will likely be reliant on students’ abilities to navigate online spaces. So how are making things fair for everyone?

  • My privilege is showing… again.

    My privilege was shining through this past week. Not only had I not given much thought to assistive technology outside of school, but I also had never considered that there are aspects of my life that rely on it. I just took my glasses off to remind myself what an important tool they are to my day to day activities. I could get by, sure, but it would render my life much more challenging. I would get headaches all day, constantly be straining to squint my eyes, and legally… well, my license says I need the eye wear to hop behind the wheel. I’m grateful that I have never needed to consider the fact that glasses are such an importantly needed tool in people’s lives, but is also a humbling reminder of the lack of equity that is still so prevalent in our society.

    This past week’s presentation (which was excellent, by the way), helped me to expand my views on what is considered to be an “assistive technology”. Extending past the usage of computers and iPads, anything that is available to us to help us in our day to day lives, can be an AT. Now I should clarify that it’s not just ANYTHING, Botelho (2021) offers some clarification:

    “[Assistive Technologies are] products and services ranging from
    wheelchairs, prostheses, and eyeglasses, to speech and occupational therapy, that maintain or improve an individual’s functioning and independence, participation, or well-being.”

    Botelho, 2021

    Building on this, he further goes on to summarize that assistive technologies are a right for students to help them be full participants in life. He also mentions that a lack of awareness can certainly play into disadvantages for students and families. We don’t always know what is available for students to access which creates a barrier of accessibility.

    “Unfortunately, there is also extensive evidence that the vast
    majority of children with disabilities have neither access to
    assistive technologies nor physical or cultural environments,
    which are conducive to their inclusion.”

    Botelho, 2021

    The Ted Talk with Jane Velkovski highlighted the challenges that are evident in the statistics of accessibility (1 in 10 receiving what they need). People with disabilities are fighting for their freedom and independence.

    “We live in a society that is not giving enough support to fulfill the potential of young people with disabilities.”

    Jane Velvoski

    As an educator, my experiences with AT have been embedded into what I do throughout my career. My earliest memories were of students who struggled with writing, would be given a personal computer to use with a program like Kurzweil that could help them to type.

    This showed exciting benefits that AT have to help even the playing field for all students. Of course, it also showed some of the struggles that were prevalent. I received no training in Kurzweil, nor any extra support on how I could support the student. It’s sort of like being thrown to the wolves and being told to figure it out. The students who require AT often have other underlying learning adaptations, and some things like organization, and independence, were skills that were lacking in these students and so they would often misplace their computers, or still need me beside them to help coax them into completing tasks. So the technology that was supposed to create independence, essentially became MORE work for both the student and teacher.

    Currently, I am teaching at a school with two FIAP programs. Everyday, I am working with students who have exceptional needs throughout the day. I really love having iPads available for my non-verbal students. We play drama games in class, and the students are able to express themselves in a way they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. There are limitations in this avenue though, with again, the lack of supports available for teachers, I don’t believe these students are using their iPads to the best of their capabilities. They will often revert to their non-verbal communication tactics to get a message across, even if they know they should be using the iPad.

    It is clear that assistive technologies play a massive role in the development of students. Creating equity and accessibility among students is much easier with the availability of AT. Of course there are limitations though, whether it be through funding or lack of support for those accessing the tech, or the ones helping. But of course this speaks to a larger problem in society, and we need to continue advocating for the ones who are unable to do so for themselves.

  • Good job

    The framework and tools used for classroom assessment can have significant impacts on teacher practices and student achievement. 

    Neumann et al. (2019)

    As I start writing this post, I am somehow singing the tune, “Grandpa, tell me about the good old days”. In this case, I am Grandpa… Do you remember what school was like for you growing up? The farthest back I can look is a copy of my great uncle Paul’s report card, growing up in Lestock, Saskatchewan. He had a C- average, was ranked #1 in his class, and the only comment from the teacher was, “Paul needs to do better”.

    I think back to my own Elementary days. Report cards were handwritten, rubrics weren’t sent home, and the comment line at the end of the report card was barely enough for a Haiku. Assignments were graded with a letter grade, and then a simple word like “good”, “great”, or “excellent”. I have a vivid memory of being in Art class in Grade 9, and getting a 74% on a project, and being really hurt because I put a lot of work into it, but had no clear feedback as to what I could have done better.

    As I reach the halfway point of my career, I look to where assessment practices started, where they are, and the potential of where they are going.

    Classroom assessment refers to a practice wherein teachers use assessment data from a variety of tools or products to document and enhance student learning.

    Neumann et al. (2019)

    I love being able to integrate technology into my assessment practices. Edsby is a great tool for providing immediate feedback, comments, or even learning stories that parents can see what their students are doing at school. As Neumann et al. (2019) discuss, assessment has moved into a sophisticated practice that certainly could not be seen back in the day.

    One of my favourite uses of technology in the classroom is providing real-time feedback. As mentioned in tech.ed, this real-time feedback allows teachers to become more in tune with students abilities, and provide valid and instantaneous feedback to help them correct. This is an incredible tool to use, which helps students correct mistakes before it’s too late. This week, I didn’t use a different form of feedback, but I wanted to highlight the benefits of using comments in Google Docs to help facilitate the writing process with students. My Grade 7 class were working on a drama project, and writing their projects on Google Docs allows me to watch what they’re writing and provide feedback for them as they are writing.

    A fairly seamless tool, I believe it is useful for the students as it fine tunes their work and allows them to work to the best of their abilities. Potential issues that could be run into is the accessibility piece – I need to make sure that I have chrome books available for students every time I have that class. It also means I need to be cognizant of when I do these projects, and can’t do them with all of my classes at the same time, because the chrome books need to be available for other classes too. I also think to lower SES schools that may not have as much access to technology or the capabilities to use google docs. This of course continues that widening of the digital gap. Overall, I see technology for assessment practices as a very positive thing that will help to elevate student learning and feedback.

  • Remember the good old days of MSN?

    Is the evolution of the Web designed with its users in mind, or rather evolving with self-interest from larger corporations? Seemingly wholesome as Web 1.0 was, it was designed as an information source. Users were privy to logging on and accessing information as it was presented to them. Web 2.0 increased contact among users and allowed for interactive communication through social media sites like Facebook and MySpace. Does anybody remember MSN Messenger? It allowed us to come home, sit at the computer for hours and talk to an endless number of people.

    Web 3.0 has evolved to provide an experience that is based on convenience and speed. Users have access to a limitless configuration of sites, apps, and platforms, which allows them to cater an online experience that is uniquely theirs.

    “Web 3.0 is defined as the creation of high-quality content and
    services produced by gifted individuals using web 2.0 technologies as an enabling platform.”

    Singh et al., 2011, p. 150

    All of this sounds great, but going back to the first week of class, and the Postman reading – Technology giveth, and technology taketh away (I’m paraphrasing). So what has convenience cost us over the years?

    The sophistication of our technological experience has ultimately created a headache in certain avenues of our lives. Ken Yarmosh discusses the dangers that the evolution of the web have created – Namely, the movement from a decentralized experience, to a more centralized tech experience has created issues with both breaches of information and tracking of information. Even last night, I was talking to my wife, and as soon as I opened up my Facebook, there were two ads based on subjects of conversation. Unsettling to say the least. Furthermore, as a teacher in Regina Public Schools, who can forget the big tech hack of 2022? What an alarming experience to potentially have such sensitive information taken and held at ransom from us.

    The second takeaway of the evolution of the web involves us as consumers. Nothing comes for free, and new tech comes at a cost. As highlighted in “The Social Dilemma”, the web has become an experiment in consumerism. Websites, social media, and apps have become plagued with advertisements, and we have essentially become inadvertent customers of the web, from the higher ups looking to make a few dollars.

    Finally, with the speed at which information has become available, we have become accustomed to taking information at face value. This of course has created an avenue on the Web where we share information, regardless of the source, and has led us to living in a world of fake news. There is a divide online that is caused simply from the lack of legitimizing news. Anyone can post anything about anything, and people can take it at face value.

    So what does the evolution of the web mean for education? On one hand, students have access to a plethora of information, tools, apps, etc. to help in their education. There is not much that they can’t access these days, and there is seldom not a tool available to help in their learning. Learning has become incredibly interactive, collaborative, and fun.

    The downside (because there always is one) is that teachers are also left to pick up the pieces of their students’ online activity. Many lack guidance and emotional capacity to use technology safely and so we are now seeing the need to teach digital citizenship in class, but we are also helping students navigate mental health struggles that are caused by their online presence.

    Finally, as a French Immersion teacher, we are also battling the convenience of knowledge with an overall decline in quality. With AI programs like Google translate readily available, students sometimes will write in English, and then just automatically translate to French. This in turn, creates this experience where at the sake of convenience, they haven’t actually learned anything. Google translate can be a great tool, but it doesn’t have the capabilities to accurately translate contextually into French.

    The world is changing at an alarmingly quick rate, and we need to change with it. There is no denying that. We need to continue to be diligent to help students navigate these online spaces, but at the same time need to be able to navigate them ourselves!

  • I guitar like Slash, cook like Ramsay, but didn’t learn it in school!

    I have been duped into learning! I had never really given much thought to online or distance learning prior to the pandemic, until I actually sat and thought about all of the distance learning that I have inadvertently been doing for the better part of fifteen years!

    Exhibit A – I have a degree in Music Education from the University of Regina. I am obviously quite passionate about learning, and one of my hobbies is playing guitar in bands around the city. I make a modest income to play, but I guess that constitutes as me being a professional musician, right? I have had experiences playing for thousands of people at Riderville, opening for bands like Harlequin, Chilliwack, Econoline Crush, and have even had radio airplay on The Wolf with songs that have been professionally recorded.

    The funny thing about this though is that I NEVER STUDIED GUITAR AT UNIVERSITY! So where did I acquire my proficiency? I took about three years of music lessons, and then used websites with guitar music to learn for about eight years. I got good to a point, and then I essentially plateaued and thought that was my peak. Slowly however, more and more people were posting lessons and advice on YouTube, the software that I used for guitar notes had become more advanced, and I suddenly had an endless array of material at my disposal to learn from. So, what happened from there? I got better at the guitar! And not just a bit better, but I eclipsed what I was able to do. In the last decade, I have easily tripled what I used to be able to play on the guitar. And I had never given it a second thought until this week.

    The Ted Talk this past week highlighted the benefits that online learning has to offer – namely, I could pick who I wanted to learn from, how I wanted to learn, and study at a pace that worked for me. I was able to curate my own learning experience with the resources available online.

    The pandemic changed how we consider learning and pumped up our professional development on a dime. For some, tools that were optionally there became a lifeline for preserving the education of our children. I became proficient in Google Classrooms as I navigated teaching ten separate classrooms, and although I missed the face to face experience, all was not lost. We made use of virtual field trips to art museums, had wonderful discussions in our Meet rooms, and I even found that the invisible barrier of the screen allowed some students to become more confident with reading texts during ELA class.

    I learned how to do time lapse videos so I could create art projects, while also recording my screen to explain the lesson. These weren’t one off experiences, as the lessons were then available for students to access at their own leisure, complete, re-watch as needed, and turn back into me online. Everything became streamlined, and interestingly enough, students that I thought would finish their work never did, and the ones that I assumed wouldn’t, did.

    So what does that say about online learning in general? For me, it certainly speaks to how we learn, and how we consider the needs of all students.

    “Why can’t they get course credit in other ways? Why isn’t anyone recognizing what these people need?”

    Tyler Dewitt – https://www.ted.com/talks/tyler_dewitt_online_learning_could_change_academia_for_good

    Tyler Dewitt goes on to say that there is a niche for accessing different learning styles, but as long as we are in a traditional mindset of what school looks like, we will never reach the potential of what online and distance learning can look like. But what does that mean for education then? We can’t just overhaul the system can we? But what if students had the option to access materials outside of their class, and could complete course content on their own terms? The logistics sound wild, but it certainly sounds cool. After all, my University degree didn’t make me a professional musician, hours of self-study and YouTube videos did!

    What about equity though? What happens if we implement something like this, and the students who don’t have access to technology at home get left behind? How do we address that? If anything, the pandemic certainly opened the door for addressing the lack of equity with even internet usage. Our school had to lend out laptops because there were families who didn’t have any access at home. There is lots to be looked at here, but my brain is about to explode.

    I would like to finish this post with Exhibit B – Another passion of mine is cooking. I didn’t go to culinary school, but learned how to cook from… You guess it, YouTube and online recipes. And what did hours of watching videos, practicing, and repeating get me? An opportunity to be on National TV cooking on Food Network Canada!

    No formal training, but is it any less valuable? All of these life experiences that have truly made my life blessed, have come learning opportunities outside of a traditional academic setting. There has to be a place where we can blend traditional academia with all of the resources that we have available to us.

  • Am I TOO productive?

    I cannot access technology without being reminded of the fact that I have ADHD. I was diagnosed with ADHD about six years ago, and it answered a lot of questions about my overall focus level when I am working on tasks. Although I manage it most days, I have become super aware of the things that I spend my time doing, and how it affects my overall productivity throughout the day. At the time of writing this, I have six browser tabs open, three word documents open, and one power point presentation open.

    This is certainly not uncommon for me, but I had never really paused to question whether this is the most effective practice for me in terms of productivity. I see it as planning, but the reality is that I very rarely do just one of the things that I have open to completion. In fact, I have left this blog post about five times to do other things before coming back to it.

    Have we become TOO accustomed to productivity? Is this the new norm for us, or do we need to take a step back from all our productivity tools to really see the big picture? I remember a time when “checking your email” was something that you did as part of your day. Now, I have my phone eight inches from my hand, and the computer that I’m writing this on has my email open as one of my web browsers. So now, am I not only NOT actively checking my email, I have two separate devices at the ready, waiting for a notification, and we all know that as soon as that ding goes off, I will stop what I am currently doing to go and see what it is.  

    Heavy media multitaskers are more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli.

    – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    This quote from “Single-taking” really spoke to me, but had me wondering whether this is a symptom of my ADHD, or if this is a symptom of the overall notion of connectivity in the world? Are we more distracted now, simply because we have more things to distract us? Are our lives infinitely more streamlined, or are we in fact hindering our productivity by masking with productivity tools? I suspect that this answer is largely dependent on the individual and their own circumstances, but I know that for myself, it is certainly the latter.

    So how does all this fit into our classroom practices? Sietz and Sinkinson (2014) discuss the benefits of online productivity tools, and the overall enhancements that they present to students.

    Many of the new tools enable teachers to move beyond text and lecture as they engage students with course content. While Prezi can accommodate text, images, videos, and maps, tools like Projeqt can integrate social media, such as tweets or Facebook posts, as well as dynamic content from RSS feeds or search alerts. These enhanced features allow educators to deliver and reinforce course content in numerous engaging modes

    Sietz & Sinkinson, 2014, p. 2

    That all sounds amazing, but is it necessary? I am not advocating for or against it, but it just seems like it is A LOT of connectivity. And how is all of this enhancing student learning? Are we watering down the actual learning process by throwing too much at them? Are we taking away their ability to focus on a task at hand, in favour of providing them with “rich” technological experiences? We already know that kids’ attention spans have declined, but are we accommodating it by adding more productivity tools to them, or are we making it worse?

    I remember early in my career, before smartphones, when students would log onto computers for an assignment, about half the time was spent on YouTube looking for songs to listen to while they worked. In art class, I will often let students use tablets for reference images, but students again, can simply get lost in the search function and literally look at HUNDREDS of pictures of a “dog silhouette” before deciding on one they’d like for their art project. Finally, I have had students make completely irrelevant PowerPoint presentations, simply to avoid doing the task at hand.

    I would like to finish this ADHD riddled post (which has taken me about four times as long as it should have to write) by highlighting my digital detox. I have been off social media since August 12 (except for Twitter for this class), and guess what I have noticed? Unsurprisingly, my productivity has noticeably improved. I am not bogged down with checking for notifications or mindless scrolling. I think what this highlights for myself, is that less is more when it comes to technology and productivity tools. I think if I have too much choice, and too many things to work on, I will get overwhelmed and find ways to distract myself. As far as accessibility goes in class, consider how a student with ADHD may be affected by all of the stimuli that is being presented to them, and think about adaptations that could be made to help them be successful with technology.

  • Can you tell me how to get to a non-traditional classroom?

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

    https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/480258-parents-embraced-sesame-street-for-several-reasons-among-them-that

    When I consider the implications of what was meant by this, the only question I had to ask myself was, “and?” Considering this quote was from 1985 (the year I was born!) also helps me to gain perspective on what was being considered about education at the time.

    A colleague of mine and I spend much of our “teacher talk” discussing modern education and the potential trajectory that it could have. We spend much time talking about the “factory model” that is inherent in schools, which essentially pushes kids through as if they were in a factory, with ringing bells, age groupings etc.

    “Why is there this assumption that the most important thing kids have in common is how old they are?”

    Sir Ken Robinson

    As we become more progressive and learn more about how children learn, we understand that “traditional” school is an ineffective, bland, and impersonal experience. I was born in 1985, and so went through a traditional path which celebrated “sameness”. Even at the beginning of my career, diversity was a fairly limited concept. Even now, we still wrestle with creating exciting learning opportunities within a system that is inherently still rooted in sameness.

    So, going back to my initial question of “and?”, wasn’t that kind of the point of Sesame Street? It was a new experience for children to learn that wasn’t traditional, but that certainly doesn’t make it a bad thing. I came across this article that goes on to discuss how children who watched Sesame Street were more successful in school. What is wrong with making the learning experience fun, and how does that pertain to education in 2022?

    Sunder (2018) discusses how the technological age has provided teachers and students with so many different teaching models and techniques to make learning more engaging and fun for students. It’s Sesame Street 2.0, except there is just SO MUCH more available to us to access to create a completely unique learning environment for our students. As we saw from that INCREDIBLE presentation last week, there are a lot of benefits to including technology, smartphones and various applications into the classroom. The most important consideration for me is to consider the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning.

    We understand better now, how our brains process and retain information, and so considering the usage of technology as tools in class, has the potential to allow us to learn more, retain more, and quite frankly, enjoy the process at the same time.

    Of course, while I don’t ultimately agree with Postman’s initial quote, he also mentioned the give and take of adding new technologies into the classroom. With everything you add, something is taken away. So even though, on the whole, I really like the use of technology and think it is essential student learning, I am also wary of the commercialization of educational technology.

    Nobody works for free, and even with the best intentions, there is someone on the other end trying to make a buck or 350 million with whatever service they’re providing. I discussed last week about the dangers of jumping in head first to new tech, and I believe that even though we are moving away from the traditional, factory model of school, we also need to be responsible consumers of the tech we use in the classroom. This means vetting what we are using and asking the important questions of, “who and how is this serving our students?”

  • Leave the poor man alone!

    Poor Edgar Dale – It really wasn’t his fault that his theory on learning activities in the classroom was taken upside down, flipped around, and misconstrued to be something that it was not. I will say though, the use of the cone was certainly not aesthetically pleasing to the eye to convey the message on different types of learning. I think we can all agree that there is certainly a time and place for various forms of instruction that are dependent on too many factors to list. The shape of the pyramid though, unfortunately, denotes a hierarchy of learning where one concept seems more important than another. But I digress…

    Reading through the Ertmer and Newby text, I was mulling through the different learning theories as they are applicable to educational technology. I wish I remembered who had made a comment in class about the research being done with app sounds in conjunction with the casino. I was thinking of my wife who absolutely loves My Vegas slots, and how the behaviorism that is associated with the stimuli of playing a slots game is applicable to many technological apps in the classroom.

    The two that stuck out to me are Raz Kids and Math Prodigy, both which are quite popular in our school and even with my own son. My almost nine year old compromises a no tech rule during the week by asking to play Raz Kids. Far be it for me to say no, but I look at the formats of both Raz and Prodigy and how they serve the same function that My Vegas slots does for my wife – Dings, rewards, and leveling up are all part of the experience for them. I can’t say I know nearly enough about learning theories to say what the negatives are, but I wonder what the implications are to student learning when it is less about the skills learned, and more about the leveling up of their characters in a game.

    I came across this article which discusses the negatives to a games like prodigy. It states:

    “Children spend the most time in Lamplight Town, an outdoor mall. There, children can spin wheels to get more stuff and there are shops constantly available throughout the game—a known real-world sales tactic.”

    https://fairplayforkids.org/pf/prodigy/

    In a digital age of consumerism, what are the risks of allowing kids to play these games? In the world of social media, where nothing is free, who is the consumer, and what is being sold to us?

    Another danger of a game like prodigy is that it widens the path of inequity in the digital world.

    “Prodigy’s model is the equivalent of giving wealthy kids in a classroom a shiny new textbook with a surprise toy inside, while kids from low-income families get an old, beaten-up edition”.

    https://fairplayforkids.org/pf/prodigy/

    This was absolutely not what I had intended to write my blog post about, but the notion of operant conditioning and the technology we use in class was something that I needed to dive deeper into. I am thinking back to my own schooling and the early days of technology in schools. I used to be obsessed with number munchers and all the right type, but for any reason other than the fact that I liked the reward that came with leveling up, or completing a line with zero mistakes. I am well aware that I am a dopamine chaser when it comes to anything I do, something that has become even more apparent as I take a well-timed hiatus from my social media platforms (except for Twitter for the class).

    But I guess I am left wondering how we as teachers manage our responsibilities in the classroom for creating safe, engaging environments for students that provide them with rich, educational experiences, while at the same time being aware of the dangers that behaviorist, conditioning medias have on our students? Are games like Raz Kids and Math Prodigy doing more harm than good?