technology

I want to ditch the textbook

Just an update on what I’ve been doing since my ECMP355 class ended, I am on a temporary contract in a small rural school in southern Saskatchewan. I am teaching world history, middle years social studies, and a few other courses. Needless to say, I am pretty busy.

21395471761_c9ee04d057_m Photo Credit: Catface27 Flickr via Compfight cc

Since I am so busy, I have been relying on the textbook for the world history course. I kind of hate it. The textbook is almost as old as I am, and rather outdated. I also really hate how one sided it presents “world” history. Right now, we are learning about imperialism in Africa (I really want to expand that to imperialism across the globe, because the way it is presented it seems like imperialism only affected Africa). In the few chapters of imperialism in Africa, the textbook gives us three (3!!!!) paragraphs about resistance to imperialism. Did I mention that those three paragraphs are short and stilted? There isn’t very much information contained within those sentences.

My plan is to shift my approach as this unit goes on. I plan on using online sources such as Ditch That Textbook, TED Talks, the Fordham University Internet History Sourcebook , Stanford’s Read Like a Historian, and quite possibly a few other sources that I find along the way! I want my students to be able to ask questions and explore other viewpoints rather than just the one that is presented in the textbook. I want them to realize that not every source is reliable. Most of all, I want them to learn more than what gets them a good grade on the next test.

I will (hopefully) keep this updated as I move away from the textbook and focusing more on critical thinking and inquiry in my classroom.

Adventures of ECMP 355 (Summary of Learning)

I’m not sure one post or one video can explain all that I’ve learned this semester, but I worked with Brooke Stewart on creating a video or two where we tried to fully summarize what we have learned on this journey that is ECMP 355! Rural internet limitations means that we had to break up our summary of learning into two parts: the first being a Powtoon video where we go on a journey about learning about technology and the second, we reflect on a few things we couldn’t include in our Powtoon including coding, cyberbullying and a topic that is special to us- technology and rural schools.

 

I sincerely hope you enjoy our videos as much as I enjoyed creating them with my friend and neighbor Brooke!

My Contributions 

“How have you contributed to the learning of others?”

That is a very good question. It has been a long semester filled with ups and downs, indecision and a rather hectic schedule for me.

I will say that this is my weakest link. When my life got busy, my responses and comments got pushed to the side. I also have a tendency to lurk, seeing how others have solved the problem rather than answering the question being asked. I also felt limited by my lack of knowledge in this topic of technology. It took me awhile to actually comment on Google+. Below are some screenshots from comments I made and posts I shared on our Google+ community.

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I began the semester hating Twitter. I had tried using it as a personal account and I just didn’t “get it” but thanks to this class, I now love twitter! I love learning new things (especially about teaching) and meeting new people.

I shared a few sources with my #ECMP355 classmates like Love, Joy, Feminism and Youtube extensions for teachers (see embedded Tweet above). I also helped a few classmates learn more about a particular ed tech tool- Flipgrid by Tweeting about the tool and created a topic using Flipgrid on which my fellow ECMP classmates could use Flipgrid as a student and respond to a prompt.

I also participated in a few Twitter chats such as #CVTechTalk and #imaginEDchat and I would love to keep participating in chats such as those in the future (when I can, Spring and Summer are hectic times for me due to our ranch. We start calving in mid-March through May and then there’s seeding in the Spring and haying in the Summer in addition to our branding and helping our neighbors with theirs).

I love the Twitter chats because you see so many different opinions from a variety of sources (which I could see easier thanks to Tweetdeck!). These chats are also a way to expand your network  based on your interests (Social Studies, anyone? Social Justice? Teach like a Pirate??) which I think is great, I can learn better methods that are catered to the issues that pop up in a Social Studies/History classroom.

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I could have commented on more posts, but as I’ve said before, my life got busy and I pushed the interaction part of this class to the side. It is a terrible excuse, but I am owning that this was my weakness and I could have done better.

My next post will be all about what I’ve learned! Stay tuned!

Playing with Scratch

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I decided to play around with Scratch today! I had fun making the unicorn jump around using the arrow keys. It took some getting used to, knowing what I wanted the unicorn to do but not knowing the exact terminology. It definitely took some tweaking!

I think coding is an important 21st Century skill that our students can benefit from learning. Coding and tweaking websites can be a great resume building skill and makes our students more attractive to future employers.

Coding can also engage students who might otherwise not be interested in classroom topics.

Technology Integration

Tech is everywhere. We engage with technology everyday as consumers, whether by using our an app on our phone or on the job. It is clear this is the 21st Century. Just how can technology benefit schools, students and educators?

Education technology is a wonderful thing, it can open up a whole new world to students who live in extremely rural areas (like I do) and it allows them to broaden their experiences when life is not limited by locale. 12158666264_61c44094fa This can be done via virtual tours such as this one of the Louvre or via linking classrooms via video conferencing. Students in smaller schools may also be able to access classes that otherwise might not be offered.

Photo Credit: Wayne Stadler Photography Flickr via Compfight cc

Another way that education technology is a wonderful thing is that teachers can utilize technology to encourage student voice and promote democracy in the classroom. Students who are introverts can be encouraged to use their voice via technologies such as Flipgrid or Mentimeter or through a platform such as blogging or Twitter where they might be more comfortable rather than speaking in front of classmates. Students can also give teachers feedback on lessons, topics and classroom activities. And for other students, technology can provide a real audience for them to share their ideas and practice their writing skills. Blog platforms such as Edublogs can provide a safe environment in which these students can blog about topics and hone their writing skills with real-life applications.

Technology can also streamline instruction. To quote Alec Couros, “if you can google it, why teach it?” Instead of focusing on information overload, teachers can focus on teaching skills such as writing, digital citizenship, branding and other 21st Century skills that may help them in college and career readiness. Our students should be becoming critical thinkers, engaged in asking questions and making their world a better place instead of focusing solely on the memorization of dates and names that they might forget after the next test (dates and names are important, but it shouldn’t be the only thing on our students’ minds).

We can all agree that technology is a good thing, however; there are a few things to consider before we jump in feet first. We must consider student access to devices if our classroom is “bring your own device,” some students cannot afford a smart phone or tablet or computer and making your classroom BYOD might create some issues.

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How much is too much? Can too much technology be a bad thing? According to Science Daily, writing notes by hand might make learning easier and the information might be absorbed better than if those notes were typed. We as educators need to find a balance between technology and regular classroom instruction.

Photo Credit: DawMatt Flickr via Compfight cc

We should seek to pick and choose types of technology that fit our classroom and school environments instead going overboard and adopting things wholesale. What works in one classroom may not work in another. This is especially true right now when many educators and administrators are concerned over budget cuts and what kind of impact those budget cuts might have upon our schools.

Overall, there are many advantages to integrating technology into our classrooms, but there are many things to consider before we jump in feet first. Technology integration should be smooth with students in mind.

Flipping for Flipgrid

I decided to explore Flipgrid as a classroom tool. Flipgrid is an edtech tool that allows students to respond to a teacher-posted topic or question. Student videos can get likes and responses and teachers can post their own responses to student videos.

I love the idea of Flipgrid! As a social studies teacher, I really believe in promoting democracy in the classroom. Encouraging student voice leads to student involvement and student involvement can evolve to community participation and active citizens. This tool allows students to develop their own voice via video and respond to their peers. This allows even students who may be quiet in “RL” an outlet for discussion. I might be able to hear a voice that might otherwise be drowned out in the usual hustle and bustle of a regular classroom.

I tried the free version, since I’m still subbing and don’t have a classroom of my own (yet!). The free version allows an educator one grid, unlimited topics, unlimited number of students, and unlimited responses in addition to a free app. The non-free subscription has more handy dandy tools and the ability to embed a grid or topic to a website or blog (like this one!) and I could see myself upgrading eventually.

Let me get down to the nitty-gritty:

Pros: 

  • allows for equal student voice with created video responses
  • helps create and supplement class discussion
  • Teachers can moderate and response to student videos
  • Has privacy controls that can be tweaked by the teacher

Cons: 

  • Student created video responses are short (in the free version, only about 1:30 long)
  • There’s a bit of a learning curve to set up, but now that I’ve played with it, its pretty easy to to set and moderate.
  • Requires app for student devices such as tablets and phones which might be difficult for some students (sometimes storage space is a hot commodity!).

Application ideas:

  • Great tool for a flipped classroom or a classroom oriented around discussion
  • Encouragement of student voice and classroom discussion of ideas
  • Tool that students can access at home or when traveling