Sally Song and Office 365

Sally Song came via video chat to discuss her use of Office 365 in her classroom. She highlighted a number of aspects of Office 365 that could make life a lot easier for us as classroom teachers. More importantly, she demonstrated how Office 365 can be used to build a platform for students to showcase their learning, share learning with each other, and make learning meaningful for children.

I really liked what Sally had to say, and I really agreed with her notion not to be completely married to the idea of only using tech in the classroom. While tech can often enhance the learning, and make the learning more accessible for students, it is not the tool that actually probes student thinking, or guides them on their learning journey. That role still falls to the teacher, and being too reliant on tech might not only blur the lines for the role of a teacher, but could have devastating effects on students learning.

If one were to adhere to old paradigms of purely practice, repetition, and memorization for all learning, then tech probably could take the place of the teacher. While admittedly I have a vested interest in not making a teacher’s role redundant, I do believe that the teacher’s role guiding a student through their learning is essential. Tech can greatly enhance and impact this journey, if used appropriately by the teacher. Office 365 offers a number of means to accomplish this.

Carrie Antoniazzi and Computational Thinking

Carrie’s presentation on Computational thinking broke down what computational thinking is, and then walked us through a number of activities and how they demonstrated aspects of computational thinking.

What resonated the most with me was the idea of the importance of computational thinking, and how it can apply to offline coding. Actually typing in lines of code has become obsolete. There are a number of programs that you simply click and drag lines of code into place, shifting them around to perform different functions. I have observed this in a Grade 8 Careers class. In about 30 minutes, the entire class, including myself, coded the game “Pong” from scratch. I remember my mom telling me she took an entire 13 week university course on how to code Pong.

While the act of actually typing in lines of code may no longer be a practical skill, understanding the rules and logic of coding is not. To run these programs, the skills that can be taught through computational thinking exercises, like offline coding, can be of great benefit to students.

The idea of teaching computational thinking through offline coding activities is very much in line with a competency based model.

This workshop presented ideas of how to imbed 21st century ideas, and pedagogy, into Math classrooms, as well as across the curriculum.

Cliff Waldie and FreshGrade in the Classroom

Going in to Cliff’s presentation I had a very loose understanding of what FreshGrade was. I knew it was a portfolio/gradebook.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that, while the info in FreshGrade is ordered like a portfolio, its main purpose is communication; communication in the form of teacher to parent, teacher to student, and student to teacher.

I really appreciated being walked through all of the aspects of FreshGrade, and having the opportunity to play around in it a little.

Taking into consideration everything that Cliff said, the way he responded to any questions directed his way, and being walked through how to use FreshGrade, the only reservations I have from using it is that it honestly sounds too good to be true. Having said that, I am not going to let my skepticism get in the way. I fully plan on using this application, if not in my ten week practicum, then in my future practice. Who knows, maybe a detrimental flaw in FreshGrade will present itself, but until something of that nature happens, I intend on moving forward with the use of this piece of EdTech.

Valerie Irvine and Technology as a Form of Social Justice

Valerie’s presentation on multi-access learning gave me a lot to think about. I think she did a great job breaking down face to face, online, blended, and multi-access classrooms. Through this thorough break down, one could see the benefits to a multi-access classroom. My biggest take-aways from Valerie were not necessarily the multi-learning paradigm itself, but instead the importance of promoting inclusive learning environments, personalizing options for students, and being a flexible educator not stuck in your ways, or in your modality bias.

The importance of inclusive classrooms should really speak for itself. Not only will inclusive environments benefit learners, but the more choice we are able to offer students, the more engaged they will be in what they are doing. Valerie presented a means to promote this inclusive, engaging learning environment.

I will definitely head Valerie’s words, but it does not mean that I am without my reservations. While this might have just been for myself, I could not help but feel a sense of irony about the presentation. I felt less engaged, and more disconnected during the presentation done via video chat than I do during a presentation with a live speaker. Some of it had to do with the technological restraints of UNBC, which kind of also highlights another reservation I have about the idea of a fully realized multi-access classroom – if UNBC doesn’t have the tech, will a public school? While I am not sure if a multi-access classroom can authentically adhere to UNBC’s School of Education’s themes of people, place, and land, I think there are still a lot of takeaways which can be derived from Valerie’s work. I would love to hear more from her.

Noelle Peppin and Ozobots

I had absolutely no idea what Ozobots were when we arrived at Nusdeh Yoh Elementary for our session with Noelle Peppin. The best way I can describe them are: there are small robots with a diameter of about a toonie. These robots follow black lines, and can read basic commands along the lines through colour codes.

I had a lot of fun working with my colleagues, making machine bend to our will.

Noelle touched briefly on the scaffolding for students that would transpire to allow them to go from barely sharing school supplies, to being able to work together to create paths with commands for their Ozobots. She showed us how the Ozobots could be connected to story, as opposed to the mathematical and logical thinking concepts one would assume adhere to this activity. In our short session I was exposed not only to this new technology, but also how to tie activities to them to Core Competencies and cross-curricular content and competencies.

I think the Ozobots are a great access point for younger children to promote teamwork, community building, problem solving skills, and much more. A critique of them may be that they are simply a carrot to get children engaged and working together. My response to that critique would simply be: who cares? If the children are actually engaged and working together collaboratively and respectfully, shouldn’t we encourage things that provide a means to an easy access point to this?

Sandra McAulay and iPads

The guest speaker for this week was Sandra McAualy, who discussed the integration of technology into classrooms. Her focus was on how to use technology (iPads) to help students both access and demonstrate their learning.

I really like the ideas she presented of using iPads in the classroom not only to keep classrooms up with the technological age we live in, but also as a means to promote inclusive education. It wasn’t so much that this was an “AHA!” moment for me, as I had used technology such as iPads over my first practicum for students with exceptionalities, but Sandra really probed my thinking as to other ways this inclusive practice can be accomplished.

I think Sandra’s presentation really compliment Ian Landy’s, on e-portfolios, from earlier in the week. Ian commented on the lack of iPads in schools, and then Sandra came in the following day to discuss iPads in the classroom. In conversion, as well as in her presentation, Sandra brought up the importance of e-portfolios. It was nice to have some natural continuity.

I hope I am fortunate enough to work in an environment that has embraced technology like Sandra’s.

Ian Lany and e-Portfolios

Having heard Ian Landy speak to our EDUC 431 class, I learned a new perspective on the importance of e-portfolios. This new perspective shed a lot of light not only on the impacts that can have as a professional communication tool for teachers, but also as a means for students to demonstrate their learning journeys. Perhaps it’s just my own narcissism that only had me thinking of e-portfolios as a means for myself to communicate my learning, but I honestly had not really given any thought as to the applications these tools could have for students communicating their learning as well.

I think this is important for a number of reasons. Any tool that will help a student communicate their learning better than their teaching slapping an arbitrary letter grade on their report card is a win in my books. I really like the idea of these e-portfolios being something that teachers can model for their students as well.

I think the idea of an e-portfolio for a student that extends beyond a single assignment, course, or grade level would be really cool. I think this could look like something that shows growth in all areas over a longer period of time, or even a single, long-term inquiry that would change and grow, as the student did the same. With the flexibility of BC’s curriculum, teachers could make sure that contributions to this long term inquiry adhered to Big Ideas, Curricular Competencies, and Curricular Content.

E-portfolios for future students, as a means to communicate their learning and growth, is something I will definitely keep in mind during my upcoming practicums, as well as my future practice.