Summary of Learning

As EC&I 833 comes to a close, I summarize my learning through the following two videos.  Thanks to Alec for providing a great course, my classmates for their collaboration and knowledge and especially Channing D for being my personal cheerleader when I learned how to hyperlink and create these videos.  This was a great semester!


Assistive Technology – No Tech, Low Tech, High Tech

Last week, along with my classmates Channing and Haiming, I researched the topic of assistive technology and presented our findings to the EC&I 833 class.  While gathering information, Channing came across great literature on the concept of assistive technology being no tech, low tech and high tech.  During our presentation, Channing presented the following information on the different levels of assistive technology:

No Tech

  • Walkers                                   
  • Cane
  • Braille
  • Pencil grips
  • Raised line paper
  • Magnifiers
  • Tactile letters
  • Post it notes
  • Slanted surfaces
  • Communication boards
  • Weighted pen
  • Number line
  • Graphic organizer
  • Scribe
  • Reading guide

Low Tech

  • Buzzers
  • Visual timers
  • Calculator
  • Electric organizers
  • Recorded lectures
  • FM systems
  • Spell checker
  • Audiobooks
  • Word processor
  • Alternative Keyboards
  • Closed caption TV

High Tech

  • E-reader
  • Touchscreen devices
  • Word prediction
  • Voice to text programs
  • Hearing aid
  • Alerting device
  • Electric wheelchairs
  • Scooters
  • Read and write programs
  • Augmentative communication devices
  • Voice-activated telephones
  • Digi drive technology

Based on these lists, I identify as having most personal and teaching experience using the “no tech” and “low tech” assistive technology tools.  As a learning resource teacher, it is part of my role to assist teachers in implementing tier 1 and 2 strategies.  These include but are not limited to those listed in the “no tech” category.  Using things like visual schedules in classrooms, post-it notes during literacy instruction, or a number line during numeracy instruction can all be categorized as “no tech.”  As a result, it appears that “no tech” assistive technology tools can fall into a category that many of us could describe as good teaching practices for all students, regardless of their needs.

As I review the “low tech” category, these assistive tools also fall into the tier 1 and 2 supports for students.  In addition to them being helpful for students, I can also attest to using such assistive technology tools such as calculators and spell check to perform daily tasks and schoolwork.  In fact, the EC&I 833 presentation on Web 1.0 & Web 2.0 by Jana, Katie, Brooke and Kyla introduced me to the app “Grammarly.”  As it’s website states, “(Grammarly) Will help you communicate more effectively.  As you type, Grammarly flags mistakes and helps you make sure your messages, documents, and social media posts are clear, mistake-free, and impactful.”  The night of this group’s presentation, I was assigned to explore this app and as such, downloaded it onto my computer and have been using it ever since.  It has been such a great tool when writing blogs or other documents as it ensures that my writing is effectively written and free of grammatical errors.

Image result for grammarly

As I review the tools in the “high tech” list, I associate those as being tier 3 supports for students in today’s schools.  Hearing and communication devices are often used for students who are diagnosed and as such, have an individualized program plan.  Tools like scooters or wheelchairs can be assumed as recommended and implemented by outside agencies (ie. health regions).  I have not had as much first-hand experience with tier 3 supports, however, I continue to learn about “high tech” assistive technology tools from teachers like Brittany Thies, who was interviewed for our presentation on assistive technology.  Brittany reviewed “high tech” assistive technology tools such as communication devices (Proloquo2Go) as a means to allow her students independence in her classroom.  This tool served as a powerful way to give each student a voice.

Image result for proloquo2go canada


As stated in our presentation last week, there are many challenges and limitations to assistive technology.  Based on research conducted for the purposes of our assignment and the interview with Brittany Thies, professionals who implement and work with assistive technology tools can be faced with the following challenges/limitations:

  • Cost – many assistive technology tools prove to be expensive and with little funding provided
  • It takes a certain expertise to find the tools that work best with certain students and even more time to teach parents, teachers and assistants on how to use them.
  • Working with team members who may be resistant to change. Individuals working with a student who requires assistive tech must be willing to learn the basics and support the on-going use of the device.
  • It is an investment of time, money and energy to make it work. Parents and families members might not be in a state to take on “one more thing”.
  • The potential for “tech issues” to arise.

Despite the challenges that we may face when using “no tech,” “low tech,” and “high tech” tools, teachers must continue to implement assistive technology in classrooms so that each student is supported, regardless of their needs.  

Joining the Seesaw Movement

Given the nature of sporadic substitute teaching, opportunities for me to use assessment technologies rarely present themselves, if ever.  Naturally, classroom teachers are choosing to assess students, rather than asking a guest teacher to do it for them.  Therefore, for the purpose of this blog post, I have chosen to study Seesaw, in hopes that when I return to teaching (full-time), I will be able to use this assessment technology.Image result for Seesaw

I first heard of Seesaw in this class, during discussions around educational technology and it’s benefits to teachers, students and parents.  Based on my impressions from class discussions, Seesaw seemed like a popular tool and thus, I assumed it was user-friendly.  Even some of my classmates, who claimed they were just in the experimental stages of using technology in classrooms, had tried Seesaw and liked it.  I related to this group of classmates as being in the early stages of using technology for instruction and assessment.  Therefore, if it were successful for others like myself, using Seesaw seemed like a great starting point in implementing technology in my future teaching practices.

When considering how I will use Seesaw, I reflect on my classmate Joe’s recent blog on his use of this assessment tool.  In past weeks, Joe has shared that he works as a learning resource teacher.  In past teaching experiences, I too have worked as a learning resource teacher.  Therefore, I have paid special attention to Joe’s use of Seesaw as it will relate closely to my future experiences in this role.  In Joe’s blog, he describes himself as using Seesaw in his Leveled Literacy Intervention groups in order to “inject an element of fun and pride into our efforts with literacy, as well as to establish an easy, meaningful line of communication with parents.”

After exploring the Seesaw website and watching the videos that Joe included in his blog, I can see how Seesaw would foster an active home-school connection when using interventions such as LLI.  In the following video, Seesaw models how students can send parents samples of the work that they complete in their classrooms.  It is evident that the children have a sense of pride, sharing their work with their parents and in return, positively respond from their praise and feedback.

As I continue to explore the Seesaw website, an obvious benefit of this assessment technology tool is that it allows both parents to access their child’s school work and academic development.  In a family situation where a child’s parents are living apart, separated or divorced, children would know that both of their parents can view their work and respond to them.  I assume that this would alleviate some of the stress or miscommunications that can often occur when not all family members are living together.

The most obvious challenge to an assessment tool like Seesaw would be that parents who do not have access to mobile devices, computers or tablets would be unable to receive their child’s updates and messages.  Families living in lower socioeconomic statuses would often be at a disadvantage due to a common lack of access to technology.

On a personal note, while I do not have a classroom of right now, I plan on exploring Seesaw further through the day-to-day teachings and activities of my children.  Tonight, I downloaded the Seesaw teacher app and asked my husband to download the Seesaw parent app.  I have created profiles for my kids and plan to start using Seesaw this week, by sending their dad updates on the pre-kindergarten readiness activities that we do at home, at our local library and preschool.  Although not as ideal as experimenting in a classroom setting with a large group of students and families, I’m hoping that a little homeschooling creativity can allow me to learn more about Seesaw in the next coming weeks!

Web 2.0 –> Web 3.0

The readings assigned for this week were useful to further my understandings of Web 2.0.  When considering how the shift to Web 3.0 has on education, I consider Nicole Krueger’s article, “3 things every teacher should be doing with web 2.0 tools.  Krueger states that teachers should be: 

1. Constantly evaluating what students know
2. Creating personalized learning experiences
3. Helping students explore complex problems

I think that these suggestions by Krueger can be applied to the shift to Web 3.0 and will advance the educational experiences provided to students.  Teachers using technology in Web 3.0 will continue to evaluate students and create personalized learning experiences through the use of more complex and advanced tools.  The basis of education may not change but the ways in which it is facilitated and the tools that are used, will.

In addition to Krueger’s explanation of Web 2.0, Virginia Society for Technology in Education (2014) assists in my understanding of the positive effect that Web 2.0 has on today’s education.  VSTE states that “Web 2.0 tools are powerful mediators between students and the world around them, and they may motivate students to continue learning outside the classroom. Such tools have the potential to initiate and enhance the love of life-long learning.  Some students are already tapping into the potential for exploration and learning.”  If used effectively, tools used in Web 3.0 will continue to have this positive effect on student engagement and learning.  The following video supports the idea that Web 3.0 will be an advanced continuation of existing techniques.

When considering what types of students and teachers are privileged and disadvantaged by the shift to Web 3.0, I think of those populations that are privileged and disadvantaged in Web 2.0.  As discussed throughout the semester in EC&I 833, teachers and students who appear to be at a disadvantage by Web 2.0 include those living in remote communities with a poorer quality of internet service, those living in a low socio-economic status, those with physical, mental or cognitive disabilities, just to name a few.  EC&I 833 students have also discussed that students and teachers who experience privilege in Web 2.0 may include those living in higher socio-economic status or those living without mental, physical or cognitive disabilities.  Like those teachers and students who are disadvantaged and privileged in Web 2.0, it would be assumed this would continue in Web 3.0, as well. 

On a personal note, I can relate to the statements made in my classmate Adam’s blog post.  He mentions how “The technological advancements have been so drastic in this lifetime that it has become a bit difficult to keep up with all of the tools that are at our disposal.”  Often, I feel behind or knowing far less then what I should when it comes to technology in general, but especially in classroom settings.  However, as Adam explains later in his blog, it is important for educators to take risks with technological tools and experiment with what types of tech tools work best with the students we teach.  The various tools that this week’s presenters introduced us to is a great place to start in exploring what tech tools could be useful to implement in today’s classrooms.

Online Learning

The topic of online learning is one that is fairly near and dear to my heart.  As a mother of two small kids, there is nothing I love more then organizing childcare for an hour and a half while I zip downstairs to my basement to attend class, rather then organizing childcare for 3 or more hours while I drive to the university to attend face-to-face class.

Although I am a huge online learning fan, it comes with little experience.  Before taking EC&I 833, I had never used Zoom nor had I ever created a blog.  Both of these online learning tools have proven extremely useful to me in my studies.  I have really enjoyed exploring Zoom to attend class each week and can see myself trying to use this online tool in the future with adult learners, high school students or meetings with colleagues.  The use of break out rooms in Zoom creates a great forum for small group discussions while the large group format is great for facilitating information.  I am anxious to use Zoom for my class presentation in just two short weeks.  Demonstrating my learning through the use of a blog has also been extremely useful to me.  After getting over the vulnerability factor of putting your thoughts and opinions “out there” for your entire class and professor to read, I began to enjoy linking my classmates information to my own.  Perhaps a little embarrassed to admit, I also figured out to “hyperlink” through the use of blog.  After a quick text message to my helpful classmate, Channing, she was able to help me figure out this technology skill.  Something as simple as learning how to hyperlink made me feel totally accomplished as an online learner (small gains, people, small gains).

The use of Twitter also seems like an effective and relevant online teaching tool.  However, it would be essential for all learners to be actively using their accounts in order to ensure that posts, readings or comments were all being viewed by students.  As such, Twitter seems like a great means to ask questions to a group of students but as an instructor, you can’t guarantee all students are going to participate.  Also, some learners may feel uncomfortable to answer posed questions on such a public forum.  For example, questions on Twitter that have been posed by EC&I students for presentation purposes seem appropriate.  These are questions such as inquiries into peoples experience with assessment or technology use.  However, an instructor would have to be very careful of incorporating questions regarding personal matters such as religion or politics.  These types of topics may be best suited for more private forums like Zoom rather then on a such a public forum like Twitter.

When asked the question, “How would you feel about teaching with these tools in an online or distance education class?” I consider my experiences in taking an online education class.  In my opinion, one won’t feel confident or have the chance to be successful, until you try.  A couple of weeks ago, my classmate, Collette, talked about always encouraging her students to take risks.  This applies to adult learners and teachers, as well.  One won’t feel comfortable teaching with online tools that promote distance learning, until you utilize and practice with them.  I can relate to the concept of taking risks when considering my 10th and final class in my masters program.  Like my classmate, Kyla, I am also motivated to take EC&I 834 to gain insight and education on the topic of designing online and blended learning environments.  Have I ever designed an online course?  No.  Will I be successful at it?  I will only know if I take a risk; if I try.

Considering the idea of learning how to create and facilitate an online course, I think of the types of students that would benefit so much from this type of structure.  As I tweeted this past week, “Online education can be far more effective then f2f when considering barriers such as distance, personal issues or family situations.  For example, a f2f classroom leaves little room for the nursing mother or those struggling with social anxieties.”  This week’s reading addresses these types of learners; those with disabilities, handicaps or sicknesses.  Subrahmanyam and Ravichandran (2013) state, “There are many students that are unable to go to a traditional school setting because they cannot get around easily or a low immune system and get sick from other students. Distance education can help in these cases because the students will not have to leave their home or be around other people. It makes it possible for these students to still learn and to be able to get a good education (p. 6).”  I think that when considering the benefits of online learning for students who face barriers in face to face learning settings, it is hard not to imagine yourself, as a teacher, doing one’s best to learn and facilitate an effective online learning opportunity

The Highs and Lows of Technology

The video assigned for this week’s blog prompt was a humorous way to describe the distractibility that children and adults face due to the accessibility of technology.  When posed with the question, “Is the Internet really a productivity tool or merely an endless series of distractions?,” I have to argue that it is dependent on the individual.  Like many of my classmates have stated, the use of technology requires self-discipline, time management and self awareness.  Sage provides suggestions for increased productivity in her blog like “putting your phone away, giving yourself deadlines, closing extra tabs on your browser, and preventing information overload by setting time limits for research.”  I can relate to these suggestions.  Each week, I often find myself writing blogs for EC&I 833 with focus on connecting my blogs to assigned readings in addition to my classmates responses.  This has often left me feeling overwhelmed with the amount of information I want to include and unfortunately, short on time.  Therefore, setting time limits for research is of use to me in my studies.  In addition to this suggestion, I have also noticed that putting my phone where it is out of reach and unable to distract me has increased my productivity and ability to be “present” in my daily tasks and relationships.  As stated, two suggestions from Sage’s blog are of use to me in my work and personal life.  For someone else, it may be different.  I feel like it depends on the individual, their learning style, ability to focus, ability to ignore distractions and the severity of the task at hand.

It is clear that the Internet has the ability to distract individuals from tasks at hand and conversations with others.  The multitasking associated with the use of technology can give it’s use a bad reputation.  However, it is important to understand the benefits that technology can provide it’s users.  Over the course of EC&I 833, we have witnessed the productivity that tools like Google docs, Twitter and Zoom can provide for students and teachers, alike.  Research methods for learners are literally, right at peoples fingertips with access to smart phones and the Internet.  I echo my classmate Scott when he states the following,

“Given everything that we know, both good and bad about the internet, one thing is for certain – digital citizenship is more important now than ever and needs to be taught (by parents and teachers) starting at an early age.”

I believe that it is up to parents and educators to teach our future generations how to responsibly use technology and ways in which they can prevent it from hindering productivity in both their work and personal lives.  This week, my classmate Katie posted an excellent article addressing this issue.  “Balance in the Digital Age” by Jim Steyer outlines the importance of families understanding how addictions to technology can promote multitasking and thus, negatively affect child development and human connections.  Steyer stresses the importance of developing strategies (similar to those outlined early in this post) to “maintain humanity and ensure that while we are all connected electronically, we do not lose our ability for human connection.”  In an age where productivity and human connection can be so easily lost to a world of social media posts and text messages, it is important to teach society how to be responsible and productive, digital citizens.

Distinguishing Reality: Sesame Street vs. School

One of the tasks of this week’s blog was to unpack Neil Postman’s quote, “… We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street.”  In a failed attempt to find this exact quote, I uncovered an interview Postman gave in 1989.  Postman expressed similar views to the one provided where he criticized Sesame Street as providing a false representation of what schooling is.  He specifically states, “It may be that watchers of Sesame Street are learning their letters and numbers, but they are also learning many other things about learning. They are learning that it must always be entertaining, that learning is largely a matter of images, and that learning has to involve immediate gratification.”  I suppose the first thing that I would like to point out is that Neil Postman made his opinions and statements regarding Sesame Street in the late 1980s… this is 30 years ago.  Although I discussed in last week’s blog how Seymour Papert critiqued education as evolving very little over the last 100 years, one could argue that today’s classrooms, educational strategies and teachings look different then the way they did in the late 1980s.  Audiovisual technologies have allowed students to learn in new ways through things like iPad apps, youtube, SMART boards, etc.  I would argue that including technology in a learning environment promotes a more engaging experience for learners; one that might align more closely to educational programs such as Sesame Street.

Secondly, I think it is important to acknowledge that Neil Postman’s criticisms fail to address the responsibility that parents have in teaching their children that schooling isn’t going to be like television.  As a parent, allowing your children to watch programs like “Super Why” or using educational apps must be accompanied by the real-life experiences and teachings of concepts.  Ultimately, I believe that it is a parents duty to ensure that their child enters school with the understanding that he/she isn’t stepping into an episode of the Magic School Bus with Ms. Frizzle.  Sorry, kids.

The idea of preparing your child for a realistic schooling experience links closely to the opinions expressed in my classmate Daniel’s blog.  Daniel states, “As a teacher in a publicly funded public education system, my obligation is to teach my courses based on curriculum established by the Ministry of Education of Saskatchewan…  (television programs) do not have the restriction of needing to teach specific outcomes and making SURE their audience has demonstrated a sufficiently good understanding of that outcome to be successful.”  I think Daniel makes great points here.  We can’t allow educational television and computer-based games to set the standard for public schooling when the two are in totally different playing fields.

With all this being said, it is important for parents and educators to understand that although schooling will not be a walk down Sesame Street, the use of audiovisual technologies can allow an educational experience to be elevated to new heights for learners.  As one of this week’s articles points out, “Children learn differently and audio visual equipment gives teachers the chance to stimulate each child’s learning process with a combination of pictures, sounds and attention grabbing media.”  My classmate Brooke echoes this statement in her blog, when she explains that today’s technology capabilities allow teachers to actually show students concepts rather then just having them read about it or listen to explanations from a teacher.  I agree with both authors on this topic and see audiovisual technologies as a means to enhance student learning.  When audiovisual technologies are used to assist in the delivery of curricular outcomes, students are provided with engaging opportunities in school settings.

Understanding Constructionism

Part of this week’s task was to familiarize ourselves with a Logo emulator by using tasks outlined in this Logo Workbook.  Like Brooke, this was also my first experience using computer codes to generate images.  Perhaps my first observation of this coding program was how useful it would be in a mathematics class for students learning concepts such as angles, rays, patterning, sequencing, measurement and computation.  After receiving necessary instructions from teachers, students could practice skills using this program.  As the constructionism approach to learning suggests, the best way to learn is through active creation of something tangle outside of your head and that learning happens as a consequence of experience.  Allowing students to experience the creation of images based on computerized instructions, would allow this type of learning to take place.  I strongly believe that coding would provide an engaging activity that students could apply their knowledge in meaningful ways.

When exploring the work of Seymour Papert, the following video contributed greatly to my understanding constructionism.

In this video, Gary Stager discusses many of Papert’s powerful ideas and the impact Papert had on progressing computer-based eduction for children.  I would like to point out two points that struck me in this video.

1. Stager highlights the comparison that Seymour Papert made of a modern-day surgeon visiting a hospital 100 years ago to a modern-day teacher visiting a school 100 years ago.  Papert suggested that a modern-day surgeon would enter a surgery suite and not recognize anything about the practice.  However, if a teacher had a similar time machine and travelled back 100 years, they would know exactly what to do.  For me, this comparison really exemplifies how little education models have progressed, despite evolution of the digital world.  This can serve as encouragement for educators to continue their work in incorporating computer-based education (such as the use of coding and other programs) into everyday teachings in schools.

2. Stager spoke of Papert’s belief that educators need to create a mathland where learning mathematics comes naturally.  Papert believed that we need to provide the youngest of learners with mathematical experiences that would not be possible without digital technologies.  He believed that if we were to provide these types of opportunities to students, then mathematics would be learned in a more engaging, natural way.  This idea of Papert reminded me of the Logo activities that we completed this week.  The Logo activities were engaging and would be a natural and meaningful way to teach and practice mathematical skills in today’s classrooms.

One example of how Canadian educators are practicing the ideas of Papert and constructionism is in Newfoundland and Labrador, where the provincial government has provided funding for students to learn science, technology, engineering and mathematics through activities such as computer coding.  Details of this project can be found in the following article:

As one teacher who is working to facilitate the technology-based education outlined in the article states, “Technology and certainly coding is a language that’s as important to learn as English in terms of our school system.”  This statement aligns with the beliefs of Papert and the importance he placed on technology as a tool for learning.

In closing, I am left to wonder if the Saskatchewan curriculum is progressing towards technology-based education and programs like those outlined in the news article about Newfoundland and Labrador school systems.  Any thoughts regarding this are welcomed!

Happy Thanksgiving to all.


My Teaching Philosophy & Observations

Throughout the course of my teaching career, I have only worked as a learning support teacher.  Therefore, it would seem natural that my first statement in a post about teaching theories and classroom practice would be to say that “a teacher’s philosophies and theories of knowledge must encompass a wide array of practices from the behaviourism, constructivism, cognitivism and connectivism approaches.”  This idea of differentiated instruction to suit the needs of learners can be echoed in my classmate Adam’s post where he states, “Student needs play a large part in deciding what theory is best utilized within our walls and with the incredibly diverse range of students that are in our classrooms, one theory is not always going to work for all of their needs.”  Therefore, when Ertmer and Newby ask, “Is there a single “best” approach and is one approach more efficient than the others?,” I would argue that there is not a single, “best” approach and that one can place effectiveness on a theory based on the type of learner that he/she is working with.  

Now, as a learning resource teacher who has stepped away from full-time work and returned as a casual substitute teacher, I have taken note of situations where different theories of learning are apparent.  Recently, I was subbing in a grade 1 classroom where the topic of discussion was around a student’s trip to Disney World.  As the children were discussing details of the child’s trip, one boy had a question about a Star Wars attraction at Disney.  Having never been to Disney World, I was little to no help and the child’s classmates also could not answer this boy’s question either.  He was quick to tell me that he was going to “go home and ask Siri.”  This situation reminds me a lot of the teachings in Siemens article about connectivism.  Siemen states, “When knowledge, however, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill. As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses.”  Therefore, providing learners with the tools that they need to access information is perhaps, more beneficial then the actual knowledge they already have.  In this example, I believe the boy’s ability to recognize that a digital tool like Siri could assist him in finding an unknown answer is a reflection of the connectivism theory and the way in which we should be moving our educational practices.

I also observe aspects of connectivism in EC&I 833.  Siemens states that “Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era.”  EC&I 833 has challenged me to create blogs for the use of educational learning, use networks like Twitter to share ideas and perspectives with colleagues and understand how technologies such as Zoom or FlipGrid can be used in educational settings.  These newfound skills and teachings that I have gained will undoubtedly, benefit me as a participant in a digital world.

Like Amy, I can also observe the behaviourism approach in my day-to-day routines and practices with my children.  In my mind, practices of behaviourism theory allows face-to-face perspective and interaction to occur.  Similarly to Amy, I observe aspects of behaviourism in teaching my four and two year old children social norms and expected behaviours.  Undesired actions or behaviours will often result in “time outs” while desired actions or behaviours will result in verbal praise or visual rewards like sticker charts.  I agree with Amy when she states that ultimately, it is consistency that must be paired with behaviourism practices.

The role of cognitivism theory is also quite prevalent in my day-to-day practices when teaching my four year old alphabet recognition and sounds.  As Ertmer and Newby explain, this theory sees individuals as being an active participants in their learning.  “Instructional explanations, demonstrations, illustrative examples and matched non-examples are all considered to be instrumental in guiding student learning.”  This statement reminds me of certain practices I use at home such as using things like play-doh, alphabet pretzels, Alpha-bit cereal, or sidewalk chalk as ways to teach letters and sounds in ways that are meaningful to my child.  The instructional strategies I have incorporated in our day-to-day activities have proven to be effective, however one must acknowledge that the child I am teaching to does not experience cognitive delays nor is she in a classroom setting where the list of distractions occurring can often be endless.  

I end with reflections on the constructivist theory.  In my opinion, this theory is very much based on one’s understanding of a learner and his/her own experiences.  As educators, we should strive to foster teaching that is meaningful to learners, based on the experiences that they have had.  In classrooms where learners are socio-economically, racially, culturally and sexually diverse, this creates challenges.  What are ways in which educators can best practice constructivist approaches when the experiences of their learners can be so diverse?


Educational Technology: My Impressions & Understandings

Being only two weeks into EC&I 833, I have come to the realization that any definition I attempt to give to the term educational technology will be ever-changing as this course progresses through the semester.  However, in the initial stages of this class, I would propose educational technology to be the learning, adaptations and assessment that occur when using technologies such as the internet, iPhones, online learning communities, apps, SMART boards, just to name a few.

As I reflect on my own learning through public education and university, I recognize the role that the internet played in shaping my understanding of educational technology.  The use of the internet provided means to research topics, support ideas and learn new information.  It was not until I was in the work force that I gained experience with things like SMART boards, iPads and apps.  The use of iPads allowed me to understand how technology could assist students who had learning challenges.  Apps like Dragon Dictation proved to show how students who struggled with writing could create a written document through spoken word.  In addition to using these types of apps, one example of using technology as an assistive means was with a young student who was diagnosed with selective mutism.  A basic Flip Video Camera was used by the young child’s parents to show what letter sounds and sight words that the child knew.  This assessment was performed at home, where the child spoke and communicated to her parents.  I will never forget watching the child speak on camera after months and months of communicating with her, nonverbally.  Based on my experiences as a learning resource teacher, I recognize that most of my understanding of educational technology can be directly related to assistive technology.

Moving forward as a professional learner in EC&I 833, it is incredible to learn just how far educational technologies have taken us.  As Tony Bates explains, “The first fully online courses (for credit) started to appear in 1995, some using Learning Management Systems, others just loading text as PDFs or slides. The materials were mainly text and graphics.”  23 years later, here we are creating online learning communities through blogs and Twitter.  We are using tools like Zoom to facilitate teaching and class discussions.  Although only two weeks into this course, I have formed connections with classmates (through the use of iPhone texting, Facebook, and Twitter) and it’s amazing to learn, first hand, how effective educational technologies can be.

In closing, Neil Postman highlights an important point to consider about technology.  Postman (1998) states, “Technology giveth and technology taketh away.  This means that for every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage. The disadvantage may exceed in importance the advantage, or the advantage may well be worth the cost” (p. 1).  Although the educational benefits of technology are limitless, I think it is important to be mindful of the responsibilities that come with it’s power.  Postman’s statement reminds me of the opinions made in Channing’s blog “Educational Technologies: My Views.”  Channing explained that “With technology, students generally have access to a wealth of knowledge at any time. We need to be teaching them the  skills that they will require to access and critique this information that is so readily available to them.”  I strongly agree with this idea.  Although we must encourage learners to access and use technology, we must be teaching them how to critically think and use technology in responsible ways.

Until next time,