Educational software…Which programs are effective for learning?

On Tuesday evening, Luke Braun, Rochelle Rugg, Krista Gates, Elizabeth Therrien, and Amy Singh spoke about educational software and media. I found their presentation to be insightful and informational as they explained the learning theories and ideologies behind many of the software programs that are currently being used within schools and in the work place. So, I would like to start off this week’s blog by saying thank you and well done to Luke, Rochelle, Krista, Elizabeth, and Amy on their delightful presentation!

During the presentation, we learned not all software programs are designed specifically with education in mind. Although, we may choose to use these programs depending on whether or not it may be used according to the task at hand. Educational software programs are usually created through a process of scaffolding, investigation, interaction as well as learning by design. Therefore, before we begin using software or media tools, it is essential to take the time to educate ourselves about the program and truly understand its purpose. By doing this, we can be confident that the tool chosen is valuable. Moreover, we must consider our audience when using educational software and media tools. Although many children engage face-to-face confidently and are visual learners, there are many children who do not engage confidently and are not visual learners, therefore using online software may prove to be constructive. We must also consider the privileged and disadvantaged students when using educational software. Factors such as policy, funding, socio-economic status and geographical location determine the accessibility of educational software and media tools. Therefore, not every child may benefit from its use.

Within my professional practice, I have always made an attempt to stay up to date with the most recent software programs and apps. As a teacher who uses technology often within my daily life and teaching, I am always searching for programs that may be useful within my classroom and for my students. Kahoot is an online program I have grown accustomed to. Although it creates somewhat of a competitive environment, I’ve always found it to be fun, encouraging as well as engaging for my students. It is also a wonderful tool that may be used at the beginning of a new unit (to test the students previous knowledge about the topic) or for reviewing learned content. Kahoot can also help the teacher identify the students who have grasped concepts and the students who have not.

I have recently learned how to use Screencast-O-Matic. Although this recording software program appeared to be intimidating at first, I have to admit I rather enjoyed using it after I learned how to use it appropriately. In fact, after using this program I began to brainstorm many ways which it could be incorporated into my daily lessons. This program would also serve well to children who fear publicly speaking. Perhaps, it may provide them with the confidence they need so they may speak in a more comfortable and private setting while recording themselves.

PowerSchool is an educational software tool used often within my professional practice. PowerSchool provides an online environment where I can store my marking/final grades as well as record attendance. Parents and their children now have access to PowerSchool, they may view their grades as well as their attendance record. Furthermore, this program provides an opportunity for both teacher and parents to be informed about their child’s progress and learning experience.

Google Classroom is a program I am interested in learning how to use. Although I feel this program may be too advanced for my students, I can definitely see how it may be useful within older classrooms. During the presentation, Elizabeth spoke about her love for using Google Classroom. She appreciates how effective the program is for organizing assignments as well as keeping students on track with their assignments.

Overall, there are many educational software programs and media tools available for use within schools and in the workplace. However, we must select programs that work best for our students. Educational software programs can provide an exciting and enhancing learning experience when they are use appropriately and in moderation. So, take the time that is needed in order to determine whether it is valuable to the task at hand. Remember, not all software programs were designed with education in mind. Find the ones that are beneficial to you and your students.

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Educational technology vs. Teachers…Who is more entertaining?

On Tuesday, we discussed the history of audio/visual technology and its impact on education. From blackboards to overhead projectors, technology has advance greatly within schools. Currently, teachers have access to technological devices such as Smart Boards, IPads, and laptop computers to assist with their day to day lessons. However, before the advancement of technology within schools and in the work place, many children were learning through watching educational television programs. The purpose of watching educational programs was so children could learn while being entertained. In many cases, educational programs are still used today as a support to learning in the classroom but it is not intended to replace formal education in school. Therefore, the questions in my blog this week are: Have educational television programs encouraged students to obtain information only if they are motivated to do so? Have educational television programs created specific standards for learning?

As a child, I can remember watching educational television programs such a Bill Nye, Magic School Bus and Sesame Street. I can recall these programs as being quite entertaining but I realize now that they do not embody a realistic school setting. These programs demonstrate culturally diverse classrooms which is refreshing but portrays unrealistic events. For instance, it would be nice to go on a field trip every day in a magic school bus, but are we to ignore the fact that Ms. Frizzle is putting her students in dangerous situations? In regards to Sesame Street, Postman states “We now know that ‘Sesame Street’ encourages children to love school only if school is like Sesame Street”. Furthermore, “If you can hold the attention of children, you can educate them”. Although I agree with this quote, I feel it is becoming more and more difficult to inspire and motivate children to learn with all of the new technologies they are exposed to outside of school, such as cell phones, video games, social media and television. Teachers are constantly searching for new strategies and tools to capture the attention of their students but even these ideas expire before we find ourselves searching all over again. This process can be exhausting when we see ourselves in constant competition with new forms of technology. With this being said, I do not believe Postman would agree with the push towards BYOD and the integration of smartphones in the classroom. Sure smartphones can be productive tools if they are used appropriately and while under supervision. However, smartphones have also proven to be a distraction within schools and in the work place. If we are to integrate technology within the classroom, we need to be assured that its use will be successful according to the task it is being used for.

Although technology is a helpful tool for learning, it is important for teachers to adapt their teaching practices and to remember that we don’t have to use tech all the time, children learn in many ways and we need to provide many ways for them to learn. We need to be mindful of the ways in which technology may be useful but also how we can be productive in our teachings without relying on technology. As a child, I copied notes from a black board every day and although I was not completely entertained, I still obtained the information I needed to know. To this day, I do not believe I had a bad or boring school experience. Technology was minimal and I do not feel I lacked experiences. In fact, I had a great appreciation for technology because it was insignificant.

Theories of knowledge…Which one is best for learning?

During last week’s class, we discussed the term knowledge and reviewed different theories in regards to learning. These theories are Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism. According to theorists, researchers and educational practitioners, successful learning takes place through the practice of experimentation as learning can take place in numerous ways. Although theorists may not always agree with one another’s epistemology of learning, they all understand that specific instruction needs to be designed and facilitated in order for learning to take place.

As I reviewed these theories, I found it interesting because I could relate my teaching practices to each theory. When I first began teaching in 2007, I am convinced that my teaching practices followed the Behaviorism model. I began teaching straight out of university and my methods for teaching were very structured. Each lesson of each day encompassed a very specific process which included instructional time, a designated activity and a comprehension check. Basically, my day to day teaching followed a very traditional practice. This practice did not prove to be effective for all of my students. However, as I grew as a professional I adopted new and interesting teaching styles which allowed me to see that my teaching had transitioned from Behaviorism to Cognitivism. I was beginning to understand the many ways my students were comprehending information as well as being aware of the environment in which learning was taking place. I would purposely design my lessons to suit each topic and began to offer my students a variety of learning opportunities, rather than just one. Currently, I am in my ninth year of teaching and I often have to wonder, where did the time go? What have I accomplished? I now realize that my current teaching style follows the Constructivist theory and I am proud of this. I understand that for learning to take place, I need to design my instruction around ways in which students can experience specific things within their environment rather than simply be “told” about them. Moreover, “both learner and environmental factors are critical to the constructivist, as it is the specific interaction between these two variables that creates knowledge” (p. 55). The Constructivist theory implies that for meaning to take place, one must first experience it. I believe this theory to be true and most accurate as I’ve witness throughout my years of teaching that not every child obtains information the same.

Within my professional practice, I am privileged to say that I have worked with many students who are all very unique. Many of our students come from different backgrounds and have wonderful experiences to share which we can all learn from. We must not limit our teaching abilities as we must first take the time to determine each students learning needs and structure our teaching around this. The same goes for teachers as teachers are learners too. Every teacher has a specific style of teaching which they will discover to be effective or not. Although I’ve previously stated the Constructivist theory suits my teaching ability, who’s to say that my belief is most accurate. When we think about learning, we must be open to the idea that one specific theory may not be the answer and perhaps theories may be combined in order to effectively meet the needs of our students.

Educational Technology- Past and Present

On Tuesday evening, we reflected on our previous experiences with technology and also discussed how technology has evolved. Listening to my classmates share their earliest memories of technology was very amusing, as it was easy for me to relate to the many examples shared. My first memory of technology consisted of using an IBM computer, which did not have internet access but was mostly used for practicing proper typing techniques or used for playing Oregon Trail. At this time, this was the only exposure I ever experienced from using a computer within my school. I also remember owning a Super Nintendo game system at my house and would play entertainment games called Super Mario World, Donkey Kong and Duck Hunt. My first cell phone came in a tin can and was only capable of making in and out-going calls. Well, the times have certainly changed and technology (both in its hard and soft forms) continues to evolve, sometimes faster than we are prepared for.

For our first blog entry in EC&I 833, we were asked to define educational technology. At first, I felt overwhelmed because I really didn’t know how to define it. But then I realized, I was too concerned with thinking about the theory/pedagogy of educational technology rather than my own understanding about educational technology. Therefore, educational technology is a tool used to aid in instruction and for student understanding. Technology within education serves many purposes: Technology improves overall access to education, assistive technology is beneficial for students with disabilities and can improve their overall educational experience, and it provides independence and allows people to be given a voice within the world. It also provides personalized learning, data and analytics and competency-based education as described in video below. However, as discussed in last week’s class, there is a bias to technology. Often, technology is viewed more so as a distraction within schools rather than helpful. Technology often contributes to narrowing the achievement gap as some individuals are more privileged than others and do not have access to it nor is assistive technology available to all who may benefit from it. Moreover, technology is expensive and socio-economic status or geographical location may impact technology as it is not accessible for all individuals. Despite these differences, as a teacher and an individual who relies on technology within my everyday life, I believe that technology is a priority within our advancing society and truly has value if it is used appropriately. Technology has not only benefited me in my personal life, but it has allowed me to excel within my profession. Neil Postman states, “technology is not additive: It is ecological”. This implies that technology is always changing as do the way we do things.

Before the 2016-2017 school year began, I was a Specialist teacher for 6 years. My teaching assignment was Core French. As a specialist teacher, it was very difficult for me to include technology into my daily lessons as I was only in each classroom for 30-45 minutes. Therefore, timing was not in my favor and did not provide me with the opportunity to include technological learning. However, this school year I have transferred into a classroom position and I am excited to have the time as well as the resources to finally include technological learning into my daily lessons. I’m not saying it will be easy, it will take a great deal of planning in order to be used successfully and to be beneficial to my students learning needs. However, I am optimistic in my ability to teach my students about internet safety and how to be good digital citizens. As part of incorporating technological learning, teachers are required to educate students about Digital Fluency, focusing on privacy protection, rights and responsibilities and respective online behavior.