Media, all the media

This week we were asked to respond to a reading from last week, chapter seven from Bates.  The chapter summarizes different medias such as text, audio, video, computing, and social media.

With each of these medias, Bates describes characteristics of learning and teaching. Positives and negatives are discussed for each.  A few quotes from each section of the chapter drew my eye. Here they are, one for each of the sections:

Text is that it can be carefully scrutinised, analysed and constantly checked

 

Added flexibility and learner control means that students will often learn better from preprepared audio recordings combined with accompanying textual material (such as a web site with slides) than they will from a live classroom lecture.

 

Video is particularly useful for recording events or situations where it would be too difficult, dangerous, expensive or impractical to bring students to such events

 

The issue around the value of computing as a medium for teaching is less about its pedagogical value and more about control.

 

The main feature of social media is that they empower the end user to access, create, disseminate and share information easily in a user-friendly, open environment.

All of these quotes show that each of these medias have value and are recognized by all, if not used by all.

Personally, I can’t choose a favourite style to learn from. I honestly like a blend of all of the different types. I enjoy reading text-based items, either in print format or online.

I appreciate audio more as a break in concentration. I find that I am able to do a lot of other things if I’m listening to a book on tape, or just listening to the audio of a video. Although multitasking is not real, I find that it’s a good way to listen and try to get something done at the same time.

I love videos. When I get ready in the morning I constantly have something on YouTube while I’m getting ready. Now that John Oliver is back (I have a serious crush on John Oliver, I’ve written about it before) I can now get ready on Monday mornings while listening and watching his show. I, of course, watch other things, but I really appreciate both the visual and the audio (and the humour) of most videos.

Heart <3
Heart ❤

Photo Credit: abovethelaw via Google

Same goes for computing and social media, which I am going to lump together. Some days I enjoy the ease of using a computer to take notes or to create a blog. I enjoy creating content to share with others as well.

So, in saying that I can’t pick a favourite type of media, I guess that I have to keep that in mind with my students.  They may not be able to pick either. Or, maybe they don’t want to.

I completely agree with Katherine, when she said that learning styles/preferences might be a myth. However, what I do believe is that students like to learn in different ways on different days. And these might not be connected to learning styles at all, but to mood.  If I am feeling very overwhelmed, and I have a bunch of new concepts to consider, as a learner I might appreciate a text.  I can take my time with a text, reread, pause and think. Nothing is loud or overwhelming.

However, the next day I might need a refresher on a concept that I already know about. Listening to a podcast about it, or watching a quick video might be all I need.  If I feel like I need to create something, I can use social media or computing to provide me with that outlet, if that’s what I need for my learning that day.

When considering the different types of medias and how to use them as teaching tools, I think that a lot of the time teachers rely on their own personal biases when choosing media for their classes. This bias sometimes comes from “well, this is how I was taught…” but can also come from “well, I like this the best.” Of course a very common bias is “I’m not really comfortable with anything else.”

But, as Graham stated in his post, it’s not about the teacher, it’s the question “what medium of technology is best for my student to learn this content or skill?” It’s important to realize that although we may all have our predispositions or biases, the students are the ones who need to feel comfortable and need to be able to learn in the manner that suits them best.

I fully believe that we can present the same information in a multitude of ways, especially if we take a little time to find the other ways. When I am teaching my French kindergarten students a new letter, I “lecture” first, then they play games with the letter on an iPad. They watch a video with the letter in it and I have an alphabet song as well.  We also do lots and lots of hands-on activities (which aren’t mentioned here, of course). With all of these different ways of learning, the kids usually get a really good sense of the letter of the week.

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Photo Credit: dklimke Flickr via Compfight cc

Of course, if I had older students I would have even more options, as five-year-olds are somewhat limited when it comes to some forms of media (either by reading or by privacy).

So, in summary – I believe that we all like different medias and appreciate the opportunity to learn from different medias when they are available.

Your thoughts?

I’m “Thread”-y

This week we were asked to check out some of the tools available to us online to help with our big project.

From the list, a bunch of cool tools that I’ve used before, either for school or for university.

(As an aside, I think my family/friends get super confused at the difference between school (kindergarten teacher) and school/university (Master’s classes).  I often have to clarify when I am talking about doing school work – is it planning for my kids or writing a blog – who knows!)

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Photo Credit: davidmulder61 Flickr via Compfight cc

From the list, I’ve used and/or liked a lot of them. For instance: Skitch, PowerPoint, Prezi, AdobeSpark, Screencastify, Explain Everything (when it was cheaper), iMovie, YouTube editor, Garageband, Powtoon, and Animoto. Writing these down, I realized that, while I have used a lot of the tools listed, there were still a greater number that I hadn’t used.

I tried a couple before deciding on what I would write about. I looked at both PuppetPals and Little Bird Tales. They both looked interesting, but my weird hang up on things that are animated and/or geared toward younger kids is that it inevitably looks creepy, or weird.  Like, remember when bitstrips were all the rage on Facebook? The avatars that came with the program were all vaguely similar and slightly creepy. Did anyone else think this, or was it just me?

Since I was weirded out by the two that I tried, I decided to look elsewhere.  The next one I tried was VoiceThread.  One of the first things that I liked about the website was that you can see and listen to VoiceThreads without having to create an account.

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Photo Credit: VoiceThread via VoiceThread

VoiceThread is a site where you can upload media and then record a voiceover to go along with the media. VoiceThreads can be used by teachers to explain concepts or by students to demonstrate their learning.

Another great thing about VoiceThread is that the website will host the VoiceThreads and you can embed them elsewhere, or share them to Facebook or Twitter. With this VoiceThread, the first slide is the teacher introducing the project and each subsequent slide is a picture or a video detailing the project.

One thing that would make the tool a little better would be more VoiceThreads that are publically shared. There are many categories listed on the main browse page that unfortunately do not have any videos shared to them.  This makes me wonder if the website isn’t as useful as it seems on the surface.

Also, another negative to the website is that in order to export videos, you have to pay for each export. Right now the offer is ten exports for twenty dollars. Although it is relatively cheap, there are other websites that will allow you to create videos for free (like YouTube…)

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Photo Credit: Korona Lacasse Flickr via Compfight cc

Did anyone else look into this website? I might use it for our project, but I feel like there are easier and cheaper options!

LMS Does Not Stand for “Losing My Sanity”

This week, we had the opportunity to explore and review one of the LMS platforms that Alec and Katia introduced us to on Tuesday night.

Before I started exploring I first read through our readings for the week. I figured that I would gain a little more knowledge before heading off to explore a couple of the platforms and then review one of them. So, I dutifully clicked on both the Wikipedia page on the VLE and Chapter 6, A History of Ed Tech.

And then I read Audrey Watters‘ Beyond the LMS post.  Everything I read completely spoke to me. I believe Katia has spoken before (in another class) about how big a fan of Audrey Watters she is and, while reading it, I was converted into a pretty big fan.

My three top “ah-ha” moments, or things that I completely agreed with were:

  1. LMS platforms are “old school.” While you can dress up the same old, same old (Lipstick on a pig is my favourite expression for this) it’s still an old method that hasn’t gotten better
  2. Something that Alec alluded to, as well:

    At the end of each class, students would lose access to the materials — could lose, I suppose. there are some administrative controls to extend it. Anything they’d written in the forums, for example, any interactions they’d had through the messaging system: gone.

  3. LMS platforms are traditional. Audrey talks about the course online being very similar to the course that one would teach in person. Not a lot of change, or innovation.

So, with these thoughts in my mind, I went off to explore an LMS. Like Ashley, I too, received a phone call from Canvas a few days after registering for my account.  This was really impressive to me, especially as they called during lunch and asked if I was busy with a class at the moment before asking me more questions.

(An aside – getting phone calls during the school day drives me crazy. I know what I should do is turn my phone to airplane mode – I use it to take photos of my students for my blog or for SeeSaw – but I inevitably forget)

My face when my phone rings at 9:03AM
My face when my phone rings at 9:03AM

Photo Credit: jeancliclac Flickr via Compfight cc

Since I received the phone call, I decided Canvas would be the one that I would explore a little bit more.

My top three things that I liked about Canvas are:

  1. The “what to do” checklist. Checklists warm my heart and it’s always nice to have the option of taking the website’s walkthrough. The checklist itself was very straightforward and easy to follow.
  2. I LOVED the calendar. I’m all about organization and I loved the possibility of adding assignments and seeing what each class I taught had to do, on which date. Colour coding the classes is also awesome. Seriously, this might be my favourite thing. I use Planboard in my daily teaching life simply because it’s so lovely, organized and colour coordinated.
  3. The course email feature is handy-dandy.  It would be nice to be able to respond to email about the course within the course platform itself, instead of bouncing around to different platforms and email sites.

However, after I spent a bit of time on Canvas, I came back to my top reason LMS platforms are not for me.

Kindergartens cannot use them.

I know that this is the third time that I’ve mentioned this, and maybe it’s starting to get annoying, but it’s frustrating to think of having to adapt something that is clearly not meant for children. (Maybe their parents? But French Immersion at home is that much more of a headache.)

When I mentioned the fact that I teach kindergarten to the lady on the phone from Canvas, she said “oh, well…” After thinking for a bit, she said, “If your school division bought Canvas, we can work to design something with buttons… maybe?”

This is a great (probably expensive) offer, but still a little unrealistic. I believe that I will have to turn my back on an LMS platform and instead, as Audrey Watters proposed use “the open web” and use some more kid-friendly software to make my kindergarten class a little more blended.

All the "blended" jokes
All the “blended” jokes

Photo Credit: yourbestdigs Flickr via Compfight cc

Thanks for reading my (super) late blog post!

To make a blended course, add one part…

After our class this week, I found myself a little relieved. When first signing up for the course, I thought to myself “well, I’m not 100% sure what blended learning is, but I guess I’ll find out.” After our first class, many questions popped up such as: how in the world will I design a blended course that I will be able to use as a primary teacher? And, not only as a primary teacher, but as a teacher of the extremely little guys – kindergarten students who aren’t as worried about reading as they are who took their favourite car during center time.

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Lucas took the black car, but I was using it!

Photo Credit: quinn.anya Flickr via Compfight cc

Honestly, one of my biggest fears about blended learning is that it is often very personal and personalized.  And therefore, as Downes wrote: if people are to become effective learners, they need to be able to learn on their own.  Learning on your own in younger grades is amazing to see. It’s what early years educators try to provoke with invitations to learn.

As Nicole wrote, learning is a process. Students, at all levels, kindergarten to university, need scaffolding in the learning process that takes time.  Therefore, blended learning, in any capacity, is something that can be done with all ages, although it might look very different! In my last blog post, I said that adapting for young learners was something that I worried about. Note the past tense. Worried.

However, once I read the article from Bates this week, I was not as worried. After reading, I thought:

Blended learning is an easy mixture: take one part teaching and combine it with as many parts necessary of technology, either through technology aids (such as smartboards or iPads), flipped classrooms or learning management systems.

Once I realized that blended learning was what was already happening in my kindergarten classroom, I was able to imagine designing a course to present to this class and possibly use to teach as well!

For this project, Angela and I decided to work together.  We are both primary teacher although I teach French Immersion kindergarten and she teaches grade three in English.  Although this is a large age gap, both groups of students have similar issues when thinking about designing a blended course.

For example, both kindergarteners and grade threes will need:

  • a lot of pre-teaching and scaffolding to accomplish their goals
  • safe spaces for sharing their knowledge
  • an easy to use learning management system
  • parent help with any aspects of a flipped model
All parents have this smile with homework
All parents have this smile when it comes to homework

Photo Credit: GSCSNJ Flickr via Compfight cc

 

With this in mind, what we have discussed so far is:

  1. Developing a course for grade three arts ed
  2. Working on a course for the visual strand of the Arts Ed curriculum
  3. Creating a few videos of techniques/background information for Arts Ed for parents and children to watch at home (flipped model)
  4. Using a form of learning management system for younger students.

While these are all very general, I feel like we have a good start.  I am used to using SeeSaw in my kindergarten classroom, and I feel like it might be a good option.  I saw from reading Amy’s post that she and Nicole have also considered using SeeSaw.  The ease of documenting their learning is what is drawing me to SeeSaw currently.

Not this seesaw
Not this seesaw

Photo Credit: a.rey Flickr via Compfight cc

One thing that I am still grappling with the distinction between blended learning in delivery and blended learning in final product.  Can you have one without the other?

I hope that Angela and I are able to quickly solidify our plans and develop an amazing course to share with all of you!

Back at it!

Hello everyone!

It is good to be back in a class with all of you – and some new faces! My name is Ellen Lague.

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Hello all!

I’m a French Immersion Kindergarten teacher at Connaught here in Regina.  This is my seventh masters class and my third with Alec and Katia.

One of my goals for this class is to reinforce my previous knowledge about using tech in the classroom and hopefully add to my skill set!

Another goal that I have is similar to Kelsie’s goal of exploring Google Classroom.  I too, would like to use Google Classroom, or a platform that is very similar.  Since I teach Kindergarten, I feel like a lot of the online platforms that we will see will be extremely interesting but might not be able to be used by my Kindergarten students. Unless I adapt it for them, or use it with their parents?

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Photo Credit: ryanvanetten Flickr via Compfight cc

My last goal is to expand my Twitter presence. I plan to participate in more Twitter chats and expand who I follow for education purposes.

All in all, I’m looking forward to this class and hopefully learning a lot!

Stop, Drop and Unplug?

This last debate of the class was arguing the fact that we have become too dependent on technology and the fact that we need to unplug.  This debate might have made me a little ‘ranty,’ my apologies in advance, if so.

It seems over the course of our semester, most of the debates have not gone in technology’s favour and this was, again, another “technology is everything that is wrong with today’s society” debate.

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Photo Credit: BarkingBacteria

Every time we are told that technology is making us unhealthy or that we need to unplug, I think that we are looking at technology with such a narrow viewpoint.  Technology is all sorts of things. Technology is books. Technology is the total knowledge and skills available to any human society, which is why I find it so frustrating that we are only focusing on the negative “we can’t put our cell phones down” arguments.

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Photo Credit: TheTruthAbout via Compfight cc

If anything, we need to define what technology we are going to unplug from. Are we unplugging from the “luxuries” of certain technologies? Is it still a luxury if my cell phone is my only phone? I no longer have a land line and the only way for my parents or grandparents to get a hold of me is with my cell phone. I rely on my cell phone. Is that a bad thing? Does “unplugging” mean relying on antiquated means of communication? Does anyone still know how to read a telegraph? Or Morse code?  Times change and technology changes.  To not try and keep up with the times is to be left (far) in the past.

I believe I wrote in an earlier blog post, and as Janelle says, it’s important to have everything in moderation. We have been through bans on things that society has deemed “not good” for us before, from bans on alcohol, to bans (or burnings) of books.

It’s really discouraging as someone who considers themselves to be a “tech geek” and a person that others can go to on staff for tech help, to see just how strong the argument is that we are too dependent on technology.

“Too dependent on technology” is crazy talk to me. This is how society works now. This is the era that we are living in. We are no longer part of the 1960’s. Or the 1900’s. Or even further back. We are members of this century. And our students are even more invested in today. We need to teach them the skills to get along and advance in today’s technology driven society.

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Photo Credit: Telegraph

So back to that question: are we too dependent on technology?

I agree with Angela, I think that technology has grown and our use of it is necessary and a sign of the times. I’m not advocating for children or adults to be glued to their phones at all times, but I think that we have to acknowledge that it’s a necessary part of our lives.

For better or for worse!

You sank my battleship!

Here is my summary of learning for EC&I 830.

I really enjoyed the debate format and therefore decided to “battle” myself in a somewhat friendly game of Battleship (or Navel Command, the cheaper, knockoff version of Battleship.)

Here’s what it’s like in my mind during the debates:

Thanks again to my husband, the video editing genius, who is very sick of my EC&I projects.

The script can be found here!

Thanks for a great semester, all!

Ellen

“Test 1 2 3, Anything but that”

This was another excellent debate, with good arguments on both sides.

I’ve found that one negative of the debates is that the sides are very black and white. This is probably due to the format (and I’m not complaining about the debate format – I’ve really been liking it) of having to choose sides and then argue vehemently on that side.

I’ve found, throughout the class, that this leads to the “all-encompassing statements” and sweeping generalizations.

Then we take to our blogs and we discuss the fact that the issue isn’t black and white, it’s a grey area.  So, here’s yet another blog post on those grey areas!

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Photo Credit: mmshomes

While the agree side did raise a couple of great points, like the money we spend on corporate products, the take away at the end of the debate was that this is happening whether or not we agree with it.

As a classroom teacher, I feel pretty powerless when it comes to what the government decides for me (in spite of me?) And, here in Saskatchewan it’s been a great week of wonderful news stories surrounding Education at the Ministry level. (end sarcasm).

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Photo Credit: someecards

When the government decides to enact big business testing, the school divisions rush to catch up and classroom teachers get handed another task.  For example, while teaching my very first Kindergarten classroom in 2012, the school board decided to make the EYE test, mandatory for all Kindergarten classrooms immediately, since the ministry was going to make it mandatory the next year in 2013.  We had a day of training on the test – where a bunch of French immersion Kindergarten teachers were quite upset to have a test that we have to give in English – and then told that “this is what we are using, deal with it.”

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Gif Credit: giphy

And then the work started.  For the EYE that first year, we sent results home  with children after the fact. Then we were told we had to meet with parents face to face to discuss the EYE results.  Even though we had just had parent teacher conferences.

At any rate, I could go on for a while on the EYE and that’s just the tip of the iceberg for standardized testing. (The EYE is actually run by KSI research, based out of New Brunswick.) We have so many others in Regina Public, and there are other (sometimes more) examples in other school divisions.

So, when it comes down to it, whether I agree or disagree with this topic, standardized testing or corporate interests are happening anyway.

I ended up siding with the disagree side in the debate, narrowly, simply because other provinces and countries have it worse off than us, at least from what I’ve been led to believe.

But, how long will that last?

All for one and one for all

This week’s debate was excellent.

The first debate topic was technology is a force for equity in society.  Both teams did a great job in presenting their arguments.

To echo the other blogs posts that I’ve read, I believe that, when every student has technology, the technology is more than a force for equity, it is a game changer, maybe even a life changer.

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Photo Credit: rwentechaney via Compfight cc

When technology is available, as the agree side mentioned, it had long lasting and far reaching benefits.

Google read and write, speech to text, assistive technology, even advancements in medicine! All amazing things.

But let’s go back to the beginning of this argument, “when technology is available.”

When technology is not available, it widens the gap between those who have and those who have not.

We can see this easily in classrooms when some students have technology and others do not. This gap can get bigger at home and bigger between social classes, cities, provinces, and countries.

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Photo Credit: filehippo
One of the biggest arguments against technology in the classroom is that it does not always work: the laptops aren’t charged, the internet isn’t working, the projector won’t display, etc. I find that the “technology isn’t always available” is another excuse for people who aren’t big on technology.

As I’ve said before, I think it is important to teach technology to everyone, to not be afraid of technology, because not only is it the future, it has power.  The fact that it has the capability of creating equity means that we as teachers need to teach our students how to use the technology in the proper way.

I feel like this entire argument is very cyclical. Technology might make things equitable. However, not having technology means that it’s not equitable. If only we had more technology?

Hop aboard the positivity train!

Social Media.

Get on board.

In case you hadn’t figured it out, I was on the disagree side for the debate “Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?” along with the amazing Elizabeth!

Our awesome introduction video is here:

To reinforce a few points, I really believe in the “childhood is subjective” argument that we used.

Everyone has rose coloured glasses on when it comes to their own childhood.

It’s why we have the stereotype of an older person telling children “back in my time…” That stereotype is such a supported one because, as a generation, we tend to dislike the generation that comes after us.  Or even before us.

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Photo Credit: Generational Differences in Technology

Just think back to your grandparents or parents talking about new forms of music, or different styles of dressing – older generations usually are not fond of the new generation’s ideas or ideals. It’s parodied now – “Look at those saggy pants!” “I can’t believe they listen to this garbage!” “All they do is take selfies!” These are all things that I’ve heard in some aspect by members of different generations, about others (and generally younger).

So to think that we are ruining childhood because of the advancements is a crazy notion. We get smarter and smarter as we go and this generation is no exception.

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Photo Credit: freepik.com

While I am not advocating for continuous screen time, I do think that creating a positive online digital presence with our kids is important. It’s an important skill for them to learn and it’s a useful teaching tool for parents. It’s important to be part of the conversation about social media with children and to guide them in appropriate use. That might mean learning a little bit more about the online world first, but generally, when parents are scared of something, that fear results in a lack of knowledge for children.  This contributes to the bullying issue that was raised in the debate. Unfortunately, bullying might happen with or without technology. Teaching kids how to respond to that negativity is better than ignoring it.

And, I feel like the more we tell students that “social media is ruining their childhood,” the more they want to use it and maybe even use it inappropriately. It’s also why teenagers are drawn to risk, as a way to stimulate their brains. Social media might be another way they are drawn to a “risk.” We need to do all we can to help them navigate that tool like we would with any other thing they were interested in.  If we don’t teach them these skills and, instead are fearful of ‘what could happen’ we can actually do more damage to our children.

“Paradoxically,” the psychologists write, “we posit that our fear of children being harmed by mostly harmless injuries may result in more fearful children and increased levels of psychopathology.”

Quote Source: New York Times

As we know, the connections that are created and the world that opens up with social media is incredible. If children and teenagers are taught to use these outlets correctly, they can be a part of true change, which is kind of amazing.