Great Ed Tech Debate: Technology is a force for equity in schools

This week’s topic was very close to my heart since I work in a community school and with the pandemic, sadly I had to experience that technology is not a force for equity but it makes the ‘opportunity gap’ even bigger. Having said that, I do agree with my peers, Kalyn and Nataly regarding the many benefits of technology.

Technology, especially Open Educational Resources (OERs) provide greater access to information with no cost to people who have access to devices, broadband as well as the ability to make the most of what technology has to offer. There is no doubt that technology can help when it comes to reaching all students with different abilities through personalized learning plans. Assistive technology tools, such as Google Read and Write, Microsoft’s Immersive Reader, as well as the wide variety of levelled readers (Newsela, Scholantis, etc.), help not only English language learners, but our students with both learning-, and physical disabilities. As my professor Dr. Alec Couros pointed out though, educators do have to be careful how to implement the assistive technology tools, since it “can create equity and also inequity”. My classmate, Curtis shared a wonderful way to avoid students feeling singled out by teaching how to use these tools to the whole class, since they can be beneficial for all students.

Another idea I agree with presented by Kalyn and Nataly is that technology can help with individualized content, instruction and assessment. Having said that, I would have to agree with Victoria and Jasmin who do not see technology as a force for digital equity due to the digital divide.

Limited access to technology can be a major set back. I have experienced teachers learning great ways to implement technology, such as having blended- or flipped lessons, or giving students projects to work on at home, but they end in failure due to lack of devices or broadband. Lack of technical skills or knowledge of Mike Ribble‘s nine elements of the digital citizenship can become obstacles as well. Not being aware of how to read laterally, the abundance of information can cause high level of anxiety and stress.

The more I think about technology being a force for equity in schools, the stronger I feel that unless we address the issues of affordability, accessibility and varying ability, our students will be limited in their mobility when it comes to navigating technology. Societal inequalities need to be addressed in order to close the ‘opportunity gap’ our most vulnerable people are experiencing.

Great EdTech Debate: Technology in the classroom enhances learning

First of all I would like to say THANK YOU to my peers for the great debate. Amanda, Nancy, Trevor and Matt certainly set the bar extremely high which makes me feel very nervous.

The more I think about technology in the classroom, the more I become uncertain about how positive the use of technology is in our classrooms. I grew up with absolutely zero technology and life seemed to be a lot safer. I feel that technology brought so much with itself, both good and bad.

I do see that the life of an educator who is not familiar with using technology became a lot more stressful. Even if teachers are tech savvy, incorporating technology in an effective way takes a lot of time and effort. I absolutely agree with Trevor and Matt that technology will not make a teacher into a good educator. As Lisa mentioned, we engage our students through building relationships and knowing our students. I certainly see all the negatives the existence of technology brings into our classrooms: such as feeling frustrated when struggling with technology, and I am thinking of our newcomer families, and refugee families who do not have experience using devices. Technology often causes distraction as well as adds to the already fairly high daily screen time. And we haven’t even touched on the negative effects technology can cause as a result of being used by our ‘digital natives’ who are lacking the knowledge of how to be responsible digital citizens. I do not believe that phones and technology in all should be banned from our schools, but we need to take the time and teach our students how to use them safely and appropriately.

I would say, in general, I am pro technology, that is why I applied for the Master’s Certificate Program in Educational Technology. Whenever I had to sit down in front of a laptop, I felt overwhelmed and stressed out. I had no idea how to do anything on a laptop beside searching on Google or Youtube. I certainly would not want my students to feel the same way. It is a horrible feeling. I feel it is my job to help my students become familiar with using technology. I also think technology can make learning fun and engaging. As Dean pointed out during the class discussion, Kahoot and Mentimeter are great tools for engaging the students who never put up their hands. Most of the EAL students are shy and they have fear of being judged. By the time they form their answers, the class has moved on to a different topic. Kahoot and Mentimeter are fun ways to practice all the tricky grammatical forms of the English language that take years to sink in. They also give an immediate picture of student understanding of certain concepts that the teacher can address right away.

Our current move to supplemental online learning is another proof that technology does help us reach our students. Especially during these hard times, technology serves as a great vehicle for learning. Although I would be a lot happier to have the opportunity to listen to my students read out loud in person, Seesaw made it possible the other day and it literally brought tears to my eyes. I have to say that I am loving Seesaw more and more every day. I can actually see this as a great tool to reach my students while travelling back to their home countries for very long periods of time, providing an opportunity to communicate, that Amanda and Nancy referred to as the 5th C. The record feature is a wonderful tool where students can practice reading aloud and hearing their own pronunciation with endless retakes if necessary. I feel excited, even though I am just at the beginning of becoming familiar with great tools and ways to use technology in a purposeful way.

My take away from the debate is to focus on a balanced approach when it comes to technology use and always have a purpose behind it. As George Couros says ” If I get into a plane and all it does is drive me from point A to point B, not only is this not a transformational use, we know there are better tools for doing that specific job. Only when we choose to fly in the plane does that technology become transformational.  It is on people to use technology to it’s fullest potential.”

Thanks for stopping by,

Melinda 🙂

Staying connected during Covid19

Having a conversation with my EC&I 830 classmates about how our next school year would look like made me quite worried. Seeing that the nearby universities are planning on moving higher education courses to online courses, makes it feel real that this situation might not end this June or July. But how Covid19 will affect our education system in the Fall, we do not know yet.

Just like my classmate, Jocelyn mentioned in her blog post, in my community school, even after a month into supplemental learning, we are still addressing the difficulties caused by the digital divide. Another major problem is the supplemental learning being optional. But how could we make it mandatory if our families are lacking the technology needed to participate in supplemental learning? Many parents do not have time or are not able to help the students with their assignments. And let’s not forget that many of our families have bigger problems to deal with than being engaged in supplemental learning. At the same time many educators do not know how to use technology to be able to deliver content in an effective and engaging way.

Being an English as an Additional Language Teacher, up till now I was providing support to the classroom teachers and helped with connecting with our families. A week ago, the EAL families had the opportunity to request my support and currently I have close to 20 students whom I am teaching. Thanks to my Prof. Dr. Alec Couros and my peers, I have gained an enormous amount of information during my last three courses and today, when I hear the terms remote learning, online learning, supplemental learning, at least I don’t panic.

Being in the process of finding the right way to connect with my students my main focus is to keep things simple. I am taking small steps and trying to learn one thing at a time. I am thankful that my school board is offering PD sessions. Right now I am focusing on the Microsoft Teams and Seesaw since the first one is crucial to be able to meet with my students and I think Seesaw will be an easy way to connect for both my students and myself. I feel comfortable using quite a few online resources, since I had a chance to work with them as part of my previous Edtech classes. Last semester, I looked at Kahoot as part of my educational app and I started using it in class before the school closure. Since I learnt how to assign students different activities online, it remained part of my classes during the supplemental learning as well. I highly recommend Kahoot since it is an easy and fun to use app, that offers a huge number of already prepared activities that can often save the life of a busy teacher.

Another favourite tool that I am using is the Reading A-Z program. This program not only offers levelled books, but in RazPlus it has vocabulary and grammar packages that I can assign to my students online. I can follow my students’ progress and I can also message them.

I also like Flip grid, Khan Academy, Wakelet as well as Screencastify. My main focus is to introduce these tools to my students one at a time, so they can take advantage of them later on. I did a review on Khan Academy for one of my previous assignments for my Edtech classes and it certainly has a lot to offer. Wakelet is an amazing tool for keeping things organized. I just prepared a Wakelet collection called Digital Citizenship for my 11-year-old daughter focusing on Mike Ribble’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship to teach her how to navigate the online world safely. I would certainly like to dive into Wakelet a little bit more, since I believe it offers a lot more than I am aware of. As part of my Summary of Learning for my previous classes, I used Screencastify, and it is a neat tool for explaining new concepts to students.

My goal is to focus more on incorporating the nine elements of digital citizenship into my lessons. I think teaching language skills while educating students about how to be good digital citizens is crucial especially at this time when our students are spending a significant amount of time online.

Thank you for stopping by! 🙂