EC& I 830 – Summary of Learning

Dear colleagues, it has been an absolute pleasure working with you during our time together in EC&I 830! Thank you for all of your work during our respective debate topics. Well done!

Please enjoy my Summary of Learning for EC&I 830. I used WeVideo to create this artifact. Believe it or not, but this was the first time working through WeVideo, and I was pretty happy with the results! All the best to everyone!

Blog #5 (Debate #2) – Enter, Online Learning

     Well, here we are! My final blog post for EC&I 830. The final topic I will be covering is whether online education is detrimental to the social and academic development of children. I had the opportunity to defend the disagree side of the argument. I found this as a great opportunity to explore online education from a different lens. For me, and I’m sure many, associate online education with COVID-19 and the time spent working with our students. Being in the business and field of education, I prioritize and value relationships and rapport with my students. This is essential for student success. Furthermore, engaging families and other stakeholders in what we do is equally important. Emergency learning was frustrating! Not only did I teach from an empty classroom, but it was also as if I were teaching to a wall that would not respond. Even though I know that online education is not my jam, I know that there are educators who are passionate and serve students well through this mode of learning! Take COVID-19 out of the equation, and view online education as an alternate opportunity, and new possibilities arise.

Our colleagues Britney, Kayla, and Colton did a wonderful job of defending their claim that agreed with this contemporary issue. In my opinion, one of the bigger issues that the team brought up was student well-being. According to the Ozge Misirli and Funda Ergulec (2021) study, “shifting from the concept of online learning to emergency remote teaching has brought new challenges and opportunities at a social and technological level, which influenced the physical and mental health of children.” Were students being served properly during remote learning? In my heart, I know that we did the best we could with the situation we were in. We tried to stick to routine and predictability. We even visited homes to ensure students were fine. Another challenge the group brought up was the added responsibility given to families who worked, especially those with young children. Yes, this was definitely and undoubtedly a challenge! Think about our EAL families. It was tricky troubleshooting to ensure the family was connected and prepared for online learning. It appeared nothing was appealing regarding online education, especially during a pandemic when there was no choice.

As my group countered, there were definite opportunities for success through online education. As stated, take away the mandatory remote learning due to a global pandemic and enter into a program available to students to meet their needs. Our team mentioned that online education is flexible, accessible, develops essential skills, allows for a customizable experience, and can be affordable. The key point that we wanted to make clear is that it is a choice and an additional option for students. Personally, I saw a young student thrive on the digital side of things. A young lady who never talked in school found her voice. Now, I understand that this isn’t the case for everyone, but this mode of learning worked for her! So happy for you kid!! I had also mentioned that I’m a huge relationship person. I believe they are the foundation of student success. Not only with the student, but their families. Transparency is key! The article found on Clanbeat explains, “having a strong parent/teacher team around will massively improve children’s social development and academic achievement. As a fun supportive team, parents and teachers can help reduce the stress of learning online.” Furthermore, we discussed that online education was found to decrease bullying, escape pressures, and provide a safe and productive workspace.

No, online learning isn’t for everyone, and yet again, we see a digital divide and inequities in services. As a collective, we experienced the not-so-great side of online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are benefits to online learning. I appreciated being able to see things from the other side since I painted a negative picture of online education based on my own experiences. I see online education as an opportunity for students to learn and grow based on individual needs.

Thank you to all of our teams and their great debate presentations! I’ve taken something from all of them. All the best in the rest of your studies!!

Blog #5 (Debate #1) – Digital Footprint – Walk This Way!

Welcome to the final week of blog posts for EC&I 830, spring semester, 2022! Today we break down our final two debate topics. In this blog, we will look at the topic of: Educators and schools have a responsibility to help their students develop a digital footprint. My initial take on the topic was a resounding, YES! Considering how technology has evolved and is woven into society, I believe that education has a responsibility and duty to educate students on their digital footprint. Both positive and negative consequences in relation to their choices made online. As some of our colleagues brought up, as teachers do we have a responsibility to develop their digital footprint? That, I’m not sure about and am conflicted with. As educators, are we developing our student’s digital footprint by posting their photos on Twitter? Or, having them sign up for a program that they will be using for a project? To me, this is so conflicting, and like every debate, I am left second-guessing my initial reactions!!

Our school division is very proud of our brand and encourages the use of Twitter to ‘promote the brand’. If you had the chance to check out my Twitter (shameless plug: @AKauf), you will see many photos of students engaging in different tasks, assignments, and activities. Primarily, I am doing this to share with my students’ families and our school community. Don’t worry, all students featured on my Twitter have parental consent (I’ve verified this many times over the school year). That’s another great point that was brought up. Do parents know what they are signing? Do teachers fully understand the consent form and the language used in the document? #conflicted.

Rae and Funmilola shared many great points that aligned with how I initially felt. As students are currently growing up in the digital age, educators are called to adapt and integrate 21st Century skill development into their practice. In the classroom, we are able to teach digital skills in a controlled environment and in a safe manner. From basics such as password protection to diving into digital literacy, we begin to engage our students in conversations and experiences of positive and negative consequences related to our actions in the digital world. Tammi Sisk and Richard Stegman (2015) share “schools should explore ways to help students intentionally build a positive digital identity. Student portfolios, blogs, and other online tools provide avenues to assess learning while simultaneously allowing students to develop a positive online presence.” In our school division, we use SeeSaw as a digital portfolio to reflect on learning. Furthermore, I have mentioned that I’ve introduced blogging through Kidblog as a means of connecting with other students in our school division in an English Language Arts unit. What guides this safety? Our Connected Educator program also invests in professional development that explores the ISTE Standards. As Sisk and Stegman explain, “ISTE Standards for Teachers can be used to help guide educators and other stakeholders as they consider their approach to appropriate online behavior within their personal and professional lives”. However, what is a digital footprint and how is it related to digital citizenship?

Gertrude and Kim shared their position on why educators and schools should not hold the responsibility to help their students develop a digital footprint. In our breakout room, many great points were brought up, including not wanting their 10-year-old self to define their digital footprint. As educators, are we unintentionally developing our students’ digital footprint? Is it not the parent’s responsibility to educate on their child’s digital footprint? The Webwise article explains the issues of posting student pictures and offers eight suggestions to include in an Acceptable Use Policy:

  • Staff will educate students about the risks associated with the taking, using, sharing, publication and distribution of images. In particular, teachers will recognise the risks attached to publishing their own images on the internet
  • Staff are permitted to take digital/video images to support educational aims, but must follow school policies concerning the distribution of those images, which should only be taken on school equipment
  • When taking digital/video images ensure that students are appropriately dressed and are not participating in activities that might bring the individuals or the school into disrepute
  • Students must not take, use, share, or publish images of others without consent
  • Pictures to be published on the school’s website, or elsewhere, which include pupils will be selected carefully and will comply with good practice guidance on image use
  • Pupils’ full names will not be used anywhere on a website or blog, particularly in association with photographs
  • Written permission from parents or carers will be obtained before photographs of students are published on the school website
  • Student work can only be published with the permission of the student and parents or carers

We must also consider ‘user-friendly’ language when crafting our policies and permission forms. For those educators in schools with a high EAL population, how are we engaging and furthering an explanation so that our families understand what they are signing? I feel this is most important!

As I considered both sides, I am reflective on how we teach digital citizenship and our role in developing our students’ digital footprint. I believe we should educate on what a digital footprint is and the potential positive and negative consequences of our actions in the digital world. Like all of us, students must be accountable for their actions. We all make mistakes and we all learn from them. I appreciate that schools can offer a safe way of learning and making those mistakes without magnifying issues into larger situations. We are in the business of education, which includes educating ourselves and ALL of our stakeholders.

Blog #4 (Debate #2) – A Handheld Distraction (?), Small yet Powerful!

Hello, and welcome to my second blog posting for our June 6th class! In this post, I will be unpacking the contemporary issue of if cell phones should be banned in the classroom. Another topic that I am on the fence on, go figure! I don’t think I was always on the fence though! I can recall that in my early teaching years I was definitely against the use of cell phones in the classroom. I would be THAT teacher who would be reminding students to put their cell phones away or, in the extreme case, take them away for their families to collect at an appropriate time. Admittedly, I only saw cell phones as a toy and a distraction. That was until our fabulous EdTech team from the Regina Catholic School Division provided their teachers with great professional development, discussion and debriefing with colleagues and friends, and the establishment of our Connected Educator program that I saw “the light”! Don’t get me wrong, cell phones can still be a distraction and can be used inappropriately in a school and classroom setting, but there are definitely advantages to incorporating the use of cell phones in the classroom.

Listening to our first group share their statements that aligned with agreeing with the debate topic, I reflected on my early years of teaching and the emerging use of cell phones in our school. I was nodding my head in agreeance when they shared that cell phones cause stress, attention issues, threaten classroom learning and privacy, and are a hot item that can be stolen. Cell phones have a time and a place, and like anything, there needs to be a balance. When reading Gary Mason’s (2018) Globe and Mail article The time has come to ban cellphones in the classroom, the statements made by long-time math teacher, Stephen Burns, stuck out to me. He talks about banning cell phones at the dinner table and on family outings. As a parent, I see how addicting cell phones and tablets can be. Sometimes it is hard to see my kid’s face when they come in through our front door because their face is almost attached to their cellphone screen. They become distracted and have a hard time responding to simple questions like, “how was your day!?” because they are so consumed with what is going on, on the screen. Kids are linked to their phones at all times. The fear of cyberbullying is also present. As a parent and an educator, cyberbullying is a topic that breaks my heart. There are definitely ways to combat cyberbullying, but individuals still use cell phones as a platform for power over others and gain the confidence to say things they normally wouldn’t in person. Cell phones bring that extra element of classroom management. When is it an appropriate time to use a cell phone? When should they be put away? Should parents text and call their child’s cell phone during the school day or use the school phone to reach their child? When is a cell phone an educational tool? Here is a real interesting and Canadian take on if cell phones being allowed in classrooms. Enjoy!

The disagree crew did a great job of sharing points to back their claim. I found myself aligning with the 51.5% who disagreed with the initial claim. From accessibility, increased student engagement, and an overview of routines and procedures for etiquette and digital citizenship, I also found myself nodding my head in agreeance! Michelle McQuigge (2017), shares the reversed decision of banning cell phones in some of Canada’s largest school districts. I agree with this, as long as appropriate (and manageable!) expectations, routines, and procedures are in place AND followed through with. There are definitely many benefits to incorporating cell phones in the classroom. Think of the many applications that are developed to enhance student engagement and the learning experience. Things that we could never have dreamed of in the past are possible now! Ted VanDuzer shares 11 reasons why cell phones should be allowed. Ted’s first point is that cell phones are inevitable. I cannot agree more. It is a daily battle, but am I going to ‘die on that hill’? No! Instead, how can I adapt and utilize this gift of technology to engage students? Leona shared the wish for one-to-one devices in the classroom and how fabulous it would be! I am happy to say that many of our RCSD classrooms are equipped with one-to-one devices and are used daily. Leona, it IS fabulous!

As I’ve mentioned in this blog post and in others, balance is key! Technology is a powerful tool when used correctly and for educational purposes. We have to teach students what is appropriate and how to use this tool to enhance their learning experience. Yes, cell phones can be distracting and can create and contribute to issues such as anxiety and cyberbullying and no, not all students have cell phones. However, when properly teaching digital citizenship and responsibility, appropriate and manageable routines and procedures, cell phones can be a small and mighty educational tool!

Blog #4 (Debate #1) – Is it Time to Wake Up and Educate?

Hello and welcome back EC&I 830 colleagues! Thanks for stopping by and checking out my blog! Another great week with two well-prepared debates by all four groups. Well done!! Is social media ruining childhood? My initial thoughts fell with the 64.1% who voted yes or agreed with this statement. I would often compare my own upbringing with that of the students I teach. My students enjoy it when I share my comparisons and reflections with the class. The classic, “back in my day” or “when I was your age” are phrases commonly spoken when I make these comparisons and reflections. I definitely recognize that my students and children living in the 21st Century are experiencing life much differently than I, or we, did. It’s not a bad thing, but both sides are to come to a mutual understanding. The debate groups brought up solid points for their arguments that had me taking a step back to think and reflect. We often hear that technology is the future, so why are we limiting our students because we didn’t have the same afforded opportunities? Is it time to wake up and educate ourselves and our students to prepare them for this future living with technology?

In Rebecca Sweat’s (2004) article Whatever Happened to Childhood?, the following quote by William Doherty stuck out to me (literally!), “it used to be that kids would have to go out of their way to find these sorts of materials, but now they just need to turn on their television or go to the Internet.” Technology opens the gates to the world and risky behaviour is just one click away. The agree group shared that a child’s curiosity may also take them down the ‘rabbit hole’ which may lead to taking away from a child’s innocence. The competition or need for instant gratification through ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ may be true for some. Addiction, self-esteem, loss of reality, and anxiety can be associated with social media access. Not to mention, that children can be accessible to bullying 24/7. In Carly Bizieff’s (2021) article, she shares, “the negative effects almost outweighed these positive effects because you can learn these skills not being on social media.” In the closing statements, we hear that we should let ‘kids be kids’ and promote creativity… but doesn’t technology allow for that as well?

Our disagree group brought up a lot of great points to think about! As educators and parents, we need to recognize the generational gap, not as a bad thing, but as an opportunity to learn and grow. Technology and social media allow for our marginalized youth to connect with alike peers. Jennifer brought up a great point regarding 2SLGBTQ+ individuals and the need for community. Despite the stigma, technology allows for connection. Personally, if it weren’t for technology and social media, I would not be so close with my family from Colombia. It allows me to stay in touch and connect with all of my family from South America. As Mike suggests, technology and social media are far more than just something we ‘consume’. Social media allows for critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. Additionally, social media can be used for good. Take the examples of sixteen-year-old Gabby Frost’s Buddy Project and Canadian blogger, Hannah Alper as advocates for change and to inspire youth to take a stand for what they believe in.

          We can’t shelter our children, but we can protect them with proper education and discuss the positive and negative consequences brought forth by technology and social media. Social media has afforded new opportunities. When I think of how it has been included in my classroom practices, it has brought my students closer with other peers from our school division and has allowed them to see and understand a greater perspective, and vice-versa. After listening to both arguments and reflecting, I saw myself disagreeing with the statement. Perhaps there are more positives than negatives, we just need to educate our children and ourselves.

Blog #3 (Debate #2) – Be the Change! In Search of Social Justice

          Hello EC&I 830 colleagues! Today I will unpack debate number four on the topic: educators having a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice. Another topic that had me reflecting on my beliefs and how I encourage social justice in my grade 7/8 classroom. Based on how the debate topic was presented, I felt conflicted about which side I supported more. On the one hand, I believe the educators hold a responsibility to educate students on social justice issues and avenues to act on change. On the other hand, I believe that technology is only one avenue for educators to access when delivering on their social justice responsibility to students. Technology is evolving, and educating students on their digital footprint is essential to appropriate and proper digital citizenship. I was also conflicted about the topic of censorship that was brought up through the discussion by both groups. Questions like, who has our ‘back’ when we speak freely? How do we encourage students to speak up and speak out when we, as educators, feel we can’t truly speak freely? How is this modeled? brought up valid points for further reflection.

Student access to technology is increasing, and the need for 21st Century Learning opportunities is that much more important to be included in our practice as educators. Torrey Trust’s (2015) blog explains, “social media is an incredibly powerful tool that can transform learning in many ways. Students use it on a daily basis to share resources and engage in conversations with their peers.” We cannot deny that technology is evolving and the need to be educated is becoming a fundamental necessity in today’s classrooms. For many social justice activists, social media is a platform to reach a larger community for support and change. Educating our students about the positive and negative consequences is crucial. I demonstrate positive digital citizenship and social media usage through our classroom Twitter account. I feel this is a powerful tool for students to network and to learn from others outside the walls of our school. Although I use social media with and for my students, I ensure my personal social media is private and separate. I always keep in mind that, whether I agree or not, I reflect that I must be aware of the teacher hat that I wear first and foremost. Belle Liang, Meghan Commins, and Nicole Duffy, share the following finds when engaging students in social media: involve youth directly in the design, implementation, and evaluation of the prevention message, seek ongoing feedback from the digital natives to maintain relevance, and plan ahead for future accessibility and sustainability. Furthermore, Torrey Trust shares, “Educators should act as role models, guides, and leaders. If we don’t teach our students about the benefits and consequences of using social media, who will?”

Our team who represented the disagree side of things had some great points to counter. Lawrence E. Metcalf (1952), explains the role and responsibility of educators when thinking about expressing themselves and sharing their personal thoughts. Metcalf shares, “teacher neutrality has been defined in such a way as to place upon the teacher the responsibility of being restrained in his expression of personal opinion. Political activity, on the other hand, calls for some degree of public expression. Consequently, it is argued that teachers ought not to engage in political activity, since their students would soon learn where they stand.” This is such a slippery slope! How do we model and promote speaking up and out, when we are censored or feel censored ourselves. I guess it comes down to common sense and how we want to present ourselves. The point of not molding or shaping students’ opinions is an important point to consider. Leading and teaching with an open mind and inviting students to form their own opinions and thoughts is key! Judgment free!! Technology is definitely one avenue to promote change, but it is certainly not the only one. Providing students with multiple avenues is another way we can serve our students.

Both topics were presented with passion and provided great opportunities to reflect! Well done!! Whichever side you may align with, we need to lead with grace and with our student’s best interests in mind.

Blog #3 (Debate #3) – Fundamental Skills… What Should We Teach?

Welcome to another week that featured two outstanding and passionate debates! I was definitely on the fence with these topics and had to unpack the presented information. Well done, teams! Our first debate presentation was on schools having to teach skills that can be easily carried out by technology. The ‘agree’ team had a brilliant opening argument video that featured clever use of technology to present their side. This video alone had me wavering on my initial feelings on the topic.

As an educator, I believe in balance, but I also believe in meeting the needs of each individual student. Technology allows for access and opportunity. Although we can agree that there are a digital divide and money ‘talks’ regarding advanced platform features, there are still several accessible technologies that assist and enhance student learning experiences. If you teach middle-year Mathematics, you may recall teaching percentages and how to find them mentally. You may have even challenged students to say that they would never carry a calculator to the store or mall and emphasized the importance of the lesson! With one flash of their cellphones, those words become meaningless. Jokes on us… they carry a calculator….every…where…they…go! The group also expressed the ease and speed technology presents. Take SeeSaw for example. Students can reflect and share their learning with their teachers and families instantly! Assistive technologies allow students with intensive needs to overcome challenges. Undoubtedly, technology is a great tool!

We have a duty to educate our students through 21st Century Learning Skills. In Forbes, Erica Swallow’s (2012) article challenges the education system to evolve and become innovative to meet these new skills. In the article, Tony Wagner explains, “as a country [we] need the capacity to solve more different kinds of problems in more ways. It requires us to have a very different vision of education, of teaching and learning for the 21st century.” Technology allows society to reach new horizons and opens opportunities.

However, as I mentioned, balance is key! Our opposing team emphasized the importance of fundamental skills being taught in schools. Is technology reliable? It can be but take spell check for example. When a student types the ‘wrong’ word correctly, spell check doesn’t pick up on the grammatical mistake. Furthermore, I am a firm believer that reading creates better writers and that writing improves comprehension and retention. We can agree that many of our society is too reliant on technology. Technology is great when it works, but what happens when it doesn’t? How are we still providing students opportunities to think outside the use of technology critically?

Personally, I am a HUGE fan of Dr. Peter Liljedahl’s Building Thinking Classrooms and engage students in the framework in Math and other subject areas, tasks, and assignments to get the students to think. I often found that students wait for the answer or feel hopeless if they can’t use the mighty Google to rely on a solution. John Merrow’s blog on the Back to Basics model explains that “the earlier ‘back to basics’ movements failed because schools obsessed about The Three R’s to exclude creativity, fun, art, music and physical education.” How do we engage students creatively while promoting fundamental skills transferable to new 21st Century Learning?

Finally, I want to share how technology can present itself. I work with many English as Additional Language (EAL) learners in my current role. They share their secret when asked how they learned or refined the English language. The secret is being exposed to the English language through movies. To me, this is a form of technology. Technology has also gifted me the opportunity to teach EAL learners through oral and written translation, so students don’t miss a beat. Again, technology is great when it works, but we must also be aware of balance!

Blog #2 (Part 2) – Technology! It is Equal? Is it Fair? (Debate #2)

Welcome back, colleagues! Rounding off Week 2, we listened to our second debate on the topic of technology leading to a more equitable society. Admittedly, I recall having the stance of agreeing and discussing how technology had created equity within society. This was before listening to Dr. Katia Hildebrandt and my first EC&I class. Katia had posed and presented some questions that allowed me to reflect on this stance. I definitely didn’t consider the bigger picture and looked at a narrow view of this statement. The two groups did a masterful job representing their sides and gifted us some great resources to reflect further. Although technology presents opportunities, access to technology is not equal.

When I think of technology and equity, I reflect on my own experiences as an educator. The first portion of my career saw me in inclusive education settings within my school division. During this assignment, I used technology to narrow the gap and provide opportunities for inclusion. Educational technology can be defined as tools to enhance learning. Technologies like the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) were a standard at my school site to allow students to communicate with staff and peers. However, a more costly option that SOME students utilized was Proloquo2go. This assistive technology is closely relatable to the Picture Exchange Communication System. The most significant difference is that this application provides a digital platform for its users. According to the Benetech blog published in 2015, “there are unprecedented opportunities to deliver more content to students, on a wide range of devices, and to discover new paths of learning that would benefit them.” Additionally, I appreciated Benetech’s comments on including those with disabilities in technology development and delivering education on these technologies.

Furthermore, technology allows working on assignments collaboratively through Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps platforms. Technology is evolving and advancing at an incredible speed. In theory, it looks and sounds great, but is it equal? Is it inclusive of all? Matt Jenner (2021) explains that “the biggest journeys in this fast-paced world don’t equate to an overnight arrival. We recognize that there are many challenges along the way. But as digital education opens more doors, we must be sure it’s for an increasingly inclusive audience.”

As we reflect on the equity, the gap is more like a canyon. We don’t have to look far to see the inequities in access to technology. Ashleigh Weeden and Wayne Kelly (2021) describe Canada’s rural and urban divide in technology access and equity. Weeden and Kelly deliver a message that applies to what we are experiencing here in Canada regarding unbalanced technology access. “When building digital infrastructure is treated as one-off project work and addressed through private sector stimulus investment to serve SINGLE municipalities, hospitals, schools, or networks, the result is a programmatic cycle that does not address or solve systemic and structural challenges to connecting ALL Canadians to critical internet services.” Reflecting on the global pandemic and the role and importance of technology access emphasize the consequences of leaving communities disconnected. How do we ensure all peoples have equal access to quality internet, platforms, and devices?

As educators, we need to recognize and address inequities. In fact, educating our students about the lack of standards and challenging these inequities is a powerful tool for change. For me, recognizing my privilege as a Connected Educator and the tools accessible to both my students and I is crucial. Beyond the classroom walls is an entirely different set of circumstances and expectations must be altered in fairness to our students. Meet students where they are not where we think or assume. When we apply this mindset to other communities locally and globally, we can begin to address inequities on a larger scale. We have the power to enact change!  

Blog # 2 – Hi! It’s Technology, and I’m here to help! (Debate #1)

Hello EC&I 830! Welcome to my second blog and recap of our class’s first debate sessions. We were fortunate to witness and listen in on two highly debatable topics. I want to begin by sharing my many thanks and gratitude for the work that went into both presentations. They set the bar for our class and allowed us to engage in meaningful dialogue, regardless of which side we may feel closely aligned with. Our first debate was on technology’s role in the classroom in enhancing our students’ learning. While many educators would agree with this statement, many others would disagree and share their ‘horror’ stories with technology and the management nightmare that it may pose.

I see the benefit of integrating technology with intent and purpose in the classroom. As a Connected Educator with the Regina Catholic School Division, we refer to and reflect on our practice through the SAMR model when integrating technology with enhancing the student’s educational experience. Don’t get me wrong, and it took me a few years to develop competency and confidence to move from the substitution and augmentation levels to the modification and redefinition levels of the model. When working within the modification and redefinition levels of the model, we begin to open doors of possibilities for our students. In my first EC&I 830 blog, I have demonstrated redefinition through our inter-school digital book clubs. Students are connected and becoming collaborators. The assignments are designed to be differentiated to meet the needs of all my students, and the sky is the limit for creativity. Furthermore, I have participated in the Global Read-aloud, which has allowed my students to connect on a larger scale. There are undoubtedly quantifiable benefits that prove technology enhances student learning. Linda Darling-Hammond (2014) explains that “when given access to appropriate technology used in thoughtful ways, all students-regardless of their respective backgrounds-can make substantial gains in learning and technological readiness.”

For many of us, we don’t even want to hear the word pandemic or any of the words associated! However, as educators, we need to recognize the gaps that the COVID-19 has presented challenges and has widened the achievement gap in our students. How do we collaborate with technology to narrow the gap and meet students where they are? Emma Cullen (2022) explains the importance of technology in our classrooms and goes on to say that Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) “is the standard of education that is expected today, but it can also improve education.” Students have a better understanding of technology now than ever before. Technology allows students to learn at their own pace, provides more resources, and keeps students engaged. Ultimately, technology is necessary to succeed in the real world.

On the other hand, technology can be a distraction and pose a classroom management nightmare!! In my classroom, I have to be strategic in where I seat some students who tend to veer off into the abyss of the internet. The focus becomes lost, and students engage in non-curricular items that ultimately leave the technology labeled a mere toy. James Doubek (2016) explains that “research shows that laptops and tablets have a tendency to be distracting-it’s so easy to click over to Facebook in that dull lecture.” Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer (2014) also explain how the pen is mightier than the keyboard by explaining the advantages of handwritten notes over notes typed digitally. Their study shows that “laptops with access to the internet can distract students, the present studies are the first to show detriments.” There are also the detriments of using technology when educators stay within the substitution or augmentation levels of the SAMR model. We need to be intentional and there needs to be a BALANCE!

There is no doubt that technology can be used as an educational tool to enhance the learning experience of our students. It must be done correctly. If technology is the expectation, then educators must be invested in by means of proper training and equipment. As educators, we need to remember less is more! Give yourself grace and patience! Technology is not an exception to the rule of moderation.

Blog #1 – Welcome to Another Day With… Technology!

Hello everyone! Welcome to my first blog entry for EC&I 830; enjoy!

What does a typical day accompanied by technology look like? I certainly have not taken the time to consider this question, nor have I taken the time to document my interactions with technology daily. When I sat to ponder this question, it was clear that technology largely present in my home and work life.

From the moment I wake up, the first thing I do is put on my Apple Watch to record my walk with our dog, Bayley. Furthermore, I rely on my phone to listen to the news during the walk. I then look to Twitter as I enjoy breakfast and a cup of coffee to catch up on anything that I’ve missed on the news. I even complete the daily Wordle and Canuckle (Canadian-themed Wordle) to connect with a colleague to keep our daily challenge going (I haven’t kept score… but I hope I’m leading!). The morning is also dedicated to answering any e-mails I’ve missed over the evening hours. All of this and more all before I leave the house for work!

Upon arriving at work, the laptop is fired up, and I’m back to reading, responding, and crafting e-mails. Students are greeted with a morning message and instructions created through PowerPoint projected onto the classroom whiteboard. Additionally, I prepare Microsoft Translator (Shout-out to Jennifer Owens!) to interact with some of my EAL learners. Bell rings, and I’m out to meet the class at the door for another day of learning in grade 7/8!!

This is my fifth year as a Connected Educator with the Regina Catholic School Division. Our classroom has been granted access to a classroom set of laptops, which will be used to assist in our educational journey. There is a heavy focus on technology integration and positive digital citizenship. Students engage with technology through Microsoft 365 (Teams, OneNote, etc.) to complete tasks and assignments. Students use these platforms to collaborate and connect with one another and me. Creativity is at their fingertips (literally)! Students also use technology to access textbooks and other web-based platforms (i.e., Flipgrid, SeeSaw, Sora, etc.) to further their educational experience.

One of the many ways we use technology to connect with others is through our digital inter-school book clubs. Traditionally, we’ve used kidblog.org as a platform for students to create and comment on their partner’s blogs. The digital book clubs reinforce and promote creativity and positive digital citizenship. Students interact with other students and teachers from grade 7/8 classrooms in our school division, discussing their assigned novels. At the end of the unit, we would do a face-to-face meet-up. The gathering makes things real for the students. The individuals they’ve been talking to through the computer for a five-week unit are now in front of them. The reactions and reflections that followed are invaluable.

          Technology is engrained in our everyday lives. How much is too much? What is the perfect balance? I recall proposing a break from technology last year and getting “back to basics”. There was a noticeable decline in the quality of my students’ work. Students depended on technology to answer questions. It seemed that the novelty of technology wore off and it was just “another thing” we had to use in our daily practice. There were frustrating moments that we had to overcome as a group. There is no doubt that technology is important and educating students to use it as a tool in a positive and productive way is crucial today.

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