4 articles Tag WK2

Tech Integration VS Tech Classes

Currently I teach at a school where we have dedicated technology lessons for all students from kindergarten through to Grade 7. Each class gets 40 minutes a week in a lab with a technology teacher, me!I know of other schools that address technology the same way. Some schools have this approach and I guess it’s down to the schools philosophy on education as well as it’s philosophy on technology as to how technology is used in and out of the classroom.

Another way to approach technology, that I see a lot of the leading institutions now doing, is to give every student a laptop. Running a 1:1 programs means students have their own computer that is used by students not only at school, but also at home. A lot of these schools see technology as a tool for learning and as a result, don’t have any specific technology lessons. The technology is embedded and integrated into the curriculum and used when appropriate. They employ technology coaches to help the teachers implement this across the curriculum. I see this is a much more meaningful way to use technology. But it is not without flaw.

I believe in using technology as a tool, but I think the stand alone classes are great at making sure that all students are receiving access to technology, no matter their homeroom/subject teachers ability with technology or what technology they have at home. With a 100% integration model, the students use is limited to their teachers willingness to use technology. You could argue that time should be mandated for each class to use technology, or say that each class must do at least one project incorporating technology per unit of work. And I’m sure that some schools do place expectations on how much technology should be used, but this would go against the ‘technology as a tool’ philosophy. It would be used for the sake of it, which I don’t think is how it should be approached.

I can see other positive aspects of standalone technology lessons too. One would be that the same (hopefully correct) message is being expressed to all students about technology or it’s use. Be it about Copyright or being a responsible online citizen or how to organize your email account. All students are actually taught these concepts explicitly so a student can’t simply ‘slip through the cracks’ and not get the important lessons on technology and it’s use.

On the other hand, the benefits I see of an integration approach is that with the use of a coach to guide the teachers learning, teachers are developing their own ability instead of ignoring technology and passing on that responsibility to the person teaching the stand alone class. With an integration approach, technology needs to be taught by all teachers and therefore needs to be used by all teachers. At least used enough to meet their professional responsibilities. Some teachers might take this freedom and run with it, developing outstanding, interactive, engaging lessons that incorporate technology. Some might do the bare minimum. But at the end of the day, the teacher is learning along with the students. And with the integration approach, the technology is being used as a tool, not a subject, which I think is the most important aspect.

In weighing up these pros and cons, I don’t think any one approach is ‘correct’, it is simply a different approach. There are upsides and downsides to both models. I think the model that needs to be chosen comes down to how the school sees technology and it’s educational vision.

Ideally, I see a combination of both models as the best approach. An integration model where students and teachers use technology as a tool and are guided by a tech coach. There is a shared responsibility with all teachers to embed technology into the curriculum. As well as some time with a specialty technology teacher touching on responsible online citizenship, organization, how to make their workflow more productive, etc.

Obviously this is my opinion at this point in my career, I’m very excited to see if it will change in the future and what experiences will make me change my mind. The future seems bright!

The Importance Of Taking Safe Risks

A few weekends ago (how time flies!) I attended a COETAIL and EARCOS weekend workshop entitled ‘Authentic Assessment and Digital Media in the Classroom‘. Our COETAIL instructor Kim Cofino and a guest from New Zealand, Andrew Churches presented the workshop to a full house of educators from all over Asia. I personally got a lot out of the workshop, most notably how important it is to be explicit with your students. I learned the importance of rubrics and developing them with your students. I also learned how important peer and self evaluation is and plan to implement all of these strategies in my class. I actually just developed a rubric with my Grade 6 class for a task they just started. It was surprising how quickly they picked it up and now it is very clear to the students how they can produce excellent (not perfect, Andrew taught us very few instances of anything are perfect)work, it couldn’t much clearer to the students.

While at the workshop, I got switched onto many other tools that will help me. One study that was mentioned about the benefits of project based learning particularly caught my attention and I can’t wait to read more about it. Another tool was a set of four posters that Andrew showed us on the 4 lenses of instructional design. I was particularly drawn to the ‘community centered’ poster because I always encourage my students to question and take safe risks. In fact, after just finishing my reports, I had actually written it in quite a few of them that the student must try to take safe risks. I when using technology and considering it’s ever changing landscape, you can’t be afraid to try things for yourself and see how they turn out. Press that button, click that link, go through the menus and see if you can work it out for yourself, you wont break it! So as a reminder to myself and my students, I hung this poster up in my classroom and remind them at every chance I get to take safe risks, to explore and to work things out for themselves as much as possible. Thank you Andrew and Kim for such a great workshop!

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Image from the National Academies Press free ebook How Students Learn (2005), Licensed under Creative Commons by davidz and AlaskaTeacher.

The Internet Boogyman – Putting Online Predators Into Perspective

Recently I read the book Protecting Your Children on the Internet: A Road Map for Parents and Teachers by Gregory S. Smith. My department head gave it to me to borrow so that those that are in my office would have a shared knowledge of a specific view of internet safety issues.

For those that are less technology savvy, the book provides an outline to most major technologies and how they work. It outlines strategies for ensuring students are safe online and it has a graphic section of examples of children that were not being safe online. Some parts of the book are interesting to read. I think the outline is great for parents and teachers to read so they can quickly get up to speed with current technologies students are using. I also think some of the procedures that Mr. Smith outline to stay safe, like setting up accounts for each one of your children on your computer, setting clear guidelines for internet use, keeping track of your child’s accounts, etc. are good points. I also like some of the statistics that he outlines in his book.

On the other hand, I find his view very conservative and scare mongering at times. I totally disagree with installing key logging software and steal spy software on home computers to keep track of what your children are doing on their computer as completely over the top and uncalled for. He also outlines many times how easy it predators as well as how dangerous it can be by making the smallest of mistakes.

Scare mongering tactics likes this insight media to focus on the negative aspects of the internet, social media and a range of other online services. I think this has a very negative effect because for those that are not educated in the area, it arouses a lot of fear and emotions. When in actual fact, it’s not like that at all. But my problem always was that, I could never find any facts or figures that were unbiased and not drenched in fear or hype. Until I read an article in The Daily Best named The Myth Of Online Predators by Lenore Skenazy. Now I finally have the fodder I needed when discussing these issues. The amazing article breaks down the stigma, emotion and fear of online stalkers and gives us some statistics and facts surrounding online predators (I love statistics!). My favourite is:


 “Millions of people under age 18 joined the
online world, and 107 more creeps were
arrested for soliciting them.”


Another fact was that internet usage amongst juveniles rose 20% in the five year period of one of the studies she mentioned, while the number of arrests of predators soliciting actual youth went up by 21%. That means there was roughly a 1% rise in arrested predators soliciting youth, when compared to the number of juveniles online.

Another mental picture bought up in the article was the idea of predators trolling through social media websites looking for children would have about as much luck as flicking through the phone book and asking children on a date. I think it’s interesting when you make a comparison like that because it puts it into context for someone that is not a digital native.

I think these notions help put some of the scare mongering tactics into perspective. Of course, I’m not saying that the internet should be open slather for children, obviously there are still many dangers associate with internet use by children and juveniles. It’s like the ocean, if you respect it, know your limits and don’t do anything silly, it can be an amazing experience.

It reminds me of a time a parent spoke to me about her daughter. She said her daughter is old enough to have a facebook account but they weren’t sure if they would allow it. Her question was, “is facebook safe?” We didn’t have time to chat, but I pondered the question personally. I came to the conclusion that facebook is like driving. Yes it’s could be dangerous if you are reckless and have no regard for yourself of others. But if you know how to drive and follow a few common sense rules, it can have a very large, positive outcomes on your life. Would you restrict your child from driving, simply because there could be a chance that they could become reckless and get hurt?

Connectivism and 21st Century Education

This week for my COETAIL course I was reading an article about an interesting learning theory coined ‘Connectivism‘. Basically it is theory that works much the same way the internet works, with knowledge not in one central location, but more of a network with information being shared by a collection of ‘nodes’. Nodes could be people, institutions, organizations, etc. Therefore to develop knowledge, you must develop your network. I found it interesting that this is the same basic theory of how the internet works. A collection of knowledge that no one entity owns, rather it is a range of nodes (servers) which store collective knowledge. As a user, one must develop the skills needed to find the information they are looking for. The is the same for learners, they must be able to find what they need as they have no way of knowing everything that is available in every node. This is very much the situation for the 21st century learner. Students can not possibly know it all and with information so readily available, the most important skill is working out how to access the information they need. The Wikipedia page on Connectivism explains it like this:

This network metaphor allows for a notion of “know-where” (the understanding of where to find the knowledge when it is needed) to supplement to the ones of “know-how” and “know-what” that make the cornerstones of many theories of learning.

This is something that we as teachers must come to terms with. We need to be motivating students, helping them develop their network of knowledge and resources and modelling to them how we access the information we desire. This also very much links to my week one COETAIL reflection “Experts At Your Fingertips” where I mentioned that we have a range of knowledge and expertise available to use, we just need to be able to find it and access it.*

The Connectivism theory should also make us consider the idea of quizzes and tests that assess knowledge rather than higher order thinking skills like application and analysis of knowledge. For example, instead of a test with simple recall questions, educators need to start designing test that have students access the information and synthesize it or use it to create their own products. In other words, assess how well a students can learn as opposed to how much students know. Not unlike Google’s amazing website www.agoogleaday.com which tests very specific skills and lateral thinking as opposed to recall of information. On this site the user must work out how they will find the information to answer a question and follow a range of steps and searches to find their answer. For me, I believe this is 21st century learning, not just assessing knowledge but assessing how we access knowledge.

*I find it rather ironic that I’ve made the connection between my week 1 work and my week 2 work! Was this meant to happen?