Open education…authentic sharing?

For this week’s blog post, we were asked to reflect upon the idea of openness in education. So far, my experience involving open education has been extremely positive. Due to the flexibility that somewhat comes hand in hand with open education, I now realize that as a teacher and an adult learner, knowledge literally has no limits! Moreover, open education offers a unique, authentic learning experience and helps us grow into the future.

With open education, what we are learning and how we wish to learn appears to be flexible in the sense that it offers somewhat of an unstructured format, allowing learners to explore other people’s perspectives while considering our own. Open education provides a variety of forums which allows for people to expand their knowledge through a collective experience. For instance, being a member of EC&I 834 has allowed me to share my thoughts and opinions as well as learn about my fellow classmates perspectives in regards to similar topics, through class discussions, blogging and using Twitter. Not only is this refreshing, but it continually helps to better my understanding. As adult learners, we may not always have similar perspectives about particular subjects but this does not necessarily mean the information we share is inaccurate or demands its authenticity to be questioned. Open education presents us with the opportunity to study others and to consider numerous perspectives in order to enhance our learning experience.

This week, my classmate Amy Singh wrote a fantastic blog post about open education. She explains how she enjoys the concept of open education tremendously and how its flexibility offers an exciting yet challenging learning experience. She also shares her experience with using Learning Management Systems and how they offer a “one size fits all” mentality, leaving little or no room for collaborative or cooperative involvement. She also notes how closed forums are limited and offer less opportunities for discussion, which contributes to deepening a person’s understanding of information. With that being said, I’d like to thank you, Amy. Thank you for sharing your experience with both open and closed forums. Your perspective regarding open education has contributed to my learning and is a perfect example of the effectiveness of open education!

As a Grade 3/4 teacher, it has been difficult to provide my students with the experience to work with open forums. Within this specific age group, working with closed forums may appear to be somewhat simpler and more effective. My reasoning for this is based on the limited experience my students have with technology and digital resources. As noted in Benita’s blog this week, she states,

“I think that open learning is more challenging in a school setting. Kids are not trained to be self- educators yet. They thrive on structure and guidance. I do think that there is opportunities for open learning within the closed format”.

I agree with Benita’s statement as teaching students how to navigate through closed forums can prove to be a challenging experience. However, it is important for educators to not rule out openness in education because of these challenges but rather find ways to incorporate open education by offering their students choices and the opportunity to gain deeper understanding of concepts.

What are your thoughts regarding openness in education? How do you determine whether the information being shared with you is authentic? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for stopping by!

Project prototype is well underway!

For this week’s blog post, we were asked to provide an updated description regarding our course prototype project as well as elaborate on any progress we have made. Within the past few weeks, my group and I have made a great deal of progress, establishing many important details/elements that will be included within our prototype project. Therefore, allow me to share the details about what my group and I have accomplished thus far, starting with the details listed within our course profile.

Jayme-Lee, Andres and I decided the course format for our prototype project will be based on the blended-learning concept, simply because all three of us appreciate the combination of face-to-face instruction and the use of online digital tools. As for the course subject and grade level, we chose to focus on English Language Arts at the Grade 6 level. But most importantly, the purpose of our course prototype project is to provide students with the opportunity to create digital content. Within Andres blog post for this week, he thoroughly describes the goals outlined for our project as well as provides a detailed portrayal of what our project will resemble, from start to finish.

“Students will learn how to use various online and digital tools to help them find new ways of representing their written work. The final project: the summary of learning, will be an amalgamation of everything the students learned throughout the unit. The unit will focus on scaffolding and providing students with the skills necessary to create a final product. The unit has been designed with student collaboration in mind, meaning students will work, interact and collaborate with other students in various ways. The final project will require students to pair up with their reading buddies to create a narrated digital story”.

Due to the stresses technology can sometimes bring, Jayme-Lee explains the purpose for the Grade 6 students actively working alongside with a reading buddy in Grade 1. She states,

“We have all been in situations where technology has been a challenge, especially those teachers in the younger grades. Students are unable to log on; internet access is low etc. So what better way to get our students using technology then to buddy them up with an older student who perhaps more experience using these tools, apps, resources etc. We have decided that our buddies will be a big part of our project, involved, commenting, providing feedback, learning etc”.

Therefore, our group decided that working with technology and online tools is possible for the younger grades and may work to the students’ advantage, if they are presented with the opportunity to work with a student in an older grade. By doing this, student interaction and collaboration will occur and may also promote digital citizenship, along with respect for the various online tools the younger grades have not yet been exposed to.

We have decided to use Google Classroom as our LMS platform and for a collaborative space where we may upload various Google documents, our course profile, modules and our artifact videos. Furthermore, Google Classroom provides an environment where our students have access to the information they will need for our prototype project but also have access to numerous resources and tools if they require additional support. Within our project, we designed Google Classroom to be the primary source for teacher and student interaction as the Grade 6 students already have access to and have experience working with Google Classroom and creating Google documents. Google Classroom also allows the students to work at their own pace and is beneficial for all types of learners.

As outlined in Andres blog post, our course prototype project will be set up in the form of “how-to tutorials”, paired up with assignments as well as assessments for each module. The modules of our project are listed as follows:

– How to use Read&Write for Google Chrome (for assisted learning and when students are brainstorming ideas for their narrative stories with their reading buddies).
– How to use Google Docs, Google Drive and other cloud-based software.
– How to use animation tools such as Videoscribe, Powtoon, Telegami and Puppet Pals.
– How to film using your device. Students will learn the basics to simple screenwriting and script writing; they will be given tips on what makes for good and captivating cinematography; and how to capture good footage for your project.
– How to edit videos and raw footage using Windows Movie Maker, iMovie or other video editors.
– How to create podcasts (learning how to use audio recording software such as GarageBand and Audacity for podcasts and narratives for our stories).
– How to narrate and add life to your videos and digital artifacts.
– How to create a time-lapse video.
– Final project. Summary of learning: a narrated digital storybook that combines everything we learned in the unit.

Overall, our prototype project is progressing smoothly and my group and I are enjoying working together! We are determined to provide our students with a variety of digital tools to work with so they may experiment and find new ways to represent their work as well as actively collaborate with other students. I am eager to see how our final product turns out and I am excited to share it with all of you!

Thanks again for stopping by!

Cell phones…useful technological tool or a distraction?

For our blog post this week, we were given the opportunity to write about an article or articles we read and discuss our reactions to them. Luckily for me, I came across a short article which proved to be very interesting. If you have not yet read, I recently tweeted an article posted from CTV News about a Toronto middle school banning the use of cell phones within classrooms and in the hallways. When I first came across this article, I read it immediately as the title alone caught my attention. The article states,

“Since September, students have been prohibited from texting, taking photos or signing into social media over the school’s lunch hour”.

Following this statement, the article notes that the use of cell phones may be permitted where a cell phone may be “helpful” to the task at hand, which includes a school activity or a specific lesson.

After reading this article, I felt somewhat torn about the situation. I understand the real life struggle that teachers and instructors face with permitting the use of cellphones in schools. It is evident that there are both pros and cons for allowing the use of cell phones within the classroom and now a days, many students own cell phones, starting at a young age. I’m sure we can all agree that it is very easy to become distracted by our cell phones. Personally, I use my cell phone for almost everything. From paying bills online, texting, taking photos and exploring social media, it is difficult for me to put my phone down and remember that moderation is key when it comes to the use of technology. In my opinion, whether or not the use of cell phones is permitted in the classroom depends entirely on the classroom teacher/instructor. However, it is encouraging to know that there are ways cell phones may be put to good use in the classroom. Rather than exhausting ourselves while “fighting the good fight and asking students to put their phones away during class”, consider the different ways technological devices, like cellphones may be used during class time. Recently, my colleague Jayme-Lee tweeted an article about “Five Ways Students Can Use Their Cell Phones in the Classroom”. Within this article, it provides a list of 5 digital resources that includes Kahoot, Quizizz, Pear Deck, Google Slides Q & A and Socrative. These resources are engaging, fun, encourages team work, and are effective for examining informational content. Therefore, if you find yourself in the position of picking battles with your students about the use of cell phones, remember that cell phones do have potential to be used for learning, as long as it is in a controlled and teacher-lead environment.

Since taking online classes with Alec and Katia, I learned about many digital resources available to both teachers and students to assist with learning. Professionally, I have grown and am much more open to technology than ever before. As an adult, I enjoy taking online classes. I am able to learn and communicate online with fantastic individuals, many within the same profession as me. Furthermore, I am able to collaborate from the comfort of my own home. As a teacher, I also believe in the concept of Blended Learning. I appreciate the combination of face-to-face instruction with my students while using technology to assist in my everyday teaching. When implemented effectively, a blended learning program can be beneficial and serve several purposes:

1) Institutions have the potential to manage instructional and facility resources more efficiently, teaching more students within a semester.
2) This approach is beneficial for students, providing the convenience and flexibility associated with online learning, freeing up time for work, family obligations or extra-curricular activities.
3) Blended learning develops a skill set for students that otherwise would not be possible in exclusive face-to-face instruction. Skills include digital citizenship, information management skills, self-directed learning, and web research and collaboration skills.

Therefore, what are your thoughts regarding the use of cell phones in the classroom? In your experience, do you agree we can use them to our advantage to assist in learning or do you feel they are a distraction? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic!

Thanks for stopping by!

Digital resources for online and blended learning

For this week’s assignment, we were asked to reflect on chapter 7 of Bates’ textbook. Within sections 7.1-7.4 and 7.7, Bates’ speaks about the pedagogical differences involving media and discusses methods for deciding which media to use when teaching. We were also encouraged to reflect upon our own experiences with learning from digital sources. After reading Bates’ text, I realized the importance of digital sources but also its usage for learning. Before integrating digital resources, a particular purpose of the exercise should be considered, before being utilized.

As listed in Bates’ text, there are 5 critical questions that need to be reviewed about teaching and learning before the teacher/instructor decides which form of media to select. By doing this, the teacher/instructor is able to determine which form of media (text, audio, video, computing and social media) will be most effective in regards to the representation of content and the development of skills.

  • what is my underlying epistemological position about knowledge and teaching?
  • what are the desired learning outcomes from the teaching?
  • what teaching methods will be employed to facilitate the learning outcomes?
  • what are the unique educational characteristics of each medium/technology, and how well do these match the learning and teaching requirements?
  • what resources are available?

Throughout my schooling experience (specifically K-12), I do not recall many instances when I worked with technology and media. My only exposure to technology was practicing my typing skills using a desktop computer. Sometimes, I got to play Oregon Trail. When research for an assignment was required, the internet was not an immediate source used to collect data. Instead, I was encouraged to use the many books found within our school library. At this point in time, technology and media was very limited. In fact, it wasn’t until my first year of university that I began using technology and media for learning.

However, with technology advancing every day and technology and media available at our fingertips, there are many reasons why teachers should and need to be incorporating technology into the classroom. Today’s technology sources provide many benefits to students, especially for those who require additional support for learning. Technology allows teachers to experience a variety of learning styles, encourages students to collaborate and share, to be actively engaged and more motivated to learn and to gain responsibility and independence. But above all, exposure to technology and media within schools is helping to prepare students for the real world in which they live. With technology entwined in our everyday lives, it is apparent that students are exposed to technology, and what better way to learn about technology and media than in schools where teachers can focus on the importance of digital citizenship and internet safety!

As a primary teacher, I make a solid effort to integrate a variety of digital resources (print, audio and visual) into my daily teaching. Like my peer Lorraine, I enjoy playing Kahoot with my students. Kahoot is an online resource which is very effective for examining content. The students enjoy playing Kahoot because it is fun and engaging. Although Kahoot can create somewhat of a competitive environment, it also encourages cooperation.

Bates’ encourages teachers/instructors to experiment with a variety of digital resources as experimenting with digital resources will produce different learning experiences. However, this process is often a challenge depending on the task at hand and the diverse levels of experience my students have working with technology. For some, signing into their personal account can be a difficult process. Before I integrate technology, I search for digital resources that will assist me in achieving particular goals or learning outcomes. Through this process, I have learned that technology and media are extremely beneficial for learning. However, it is only effective when it is used appropriately and in moderation. Although working with technology creates an intriguing learning experience for both teachers and students, it is important to note that “face-to-face teaching should also be considered a medium”. Furthermore, it is important to take the time to research the digital resources you intend to use before applying them. According to Bates’ “Different media have different potential or ‘affordances’ for different types of learning”. I strongly agree with this statement for the reason that if we take time to research specific purposes of digital resources, we can feel confident while working with technology and trust that the resources we have selected will contribute towards meeting specific learning outcomes, content and skills involved.

What are your learning preferences when it comes to digital resources? What digital resources have proven to be effective for you and your students? Please share as I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for stopping by!

Having fun with GoAnimate!

Like my classmate Benita Struik, I decided to create an animation video using GoAnimate to provide a review/tutorial of this creation tool. This was my first experience using GoAnimate. I have always wanted to try this tool and I feel it has great potential to assist with learning in my Grade 3/4 classroom. In the past, I have attempted to create videos using VideoScribe but found GoAnimate to be much more simple to navigate and user-friendly. Within this video, I explain how simple it was to sign up for GoAnimate as well as the strengths and weaknesses this online creation has to offer. Based on my recent experience, GoAnimate can be a very useful tool for learning. I hope you enjoy my video everyone! I do apologize in advance if the sound quality is not great.

I would like to note that I did have some difficulty posting my whiteboard animation video to my blog. When using the 14 day free trial, you are unable to share/export your videos. Therefore, in order to share my short video, I used a program called Screencast-O-Matic. This online tool allowed me to record my computer screen and then upload my recording to YouTube.

Please feel free to share your thoughts!

Google Classroom it is!

On Tuesday evening, we learned about CMS/LMS/VLE platforms. At first, I felt overwhelmed with the variety of platforms we covered during class and in such a short period of time, simply because before Tuesday I had never heard of Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle or Edmodo let alone used any of these online platforms before. As a primary teacher, incorporating technology into my classroom to assist with my everyday teaching can be a difficult process. Therefore, when integrating technology into the classroom I try to find programs that both my students and I will be able to utilize, whether together in the classroom or independently at home.

In choosing the online platform for our course prototype project, Jayme-Lee, Andres and I decided to explore a platform that we could see ourselves using within our own classrooms and to support student learning. Therefore, we decided to work with Google Classroom for our course prototype project. All three of us have not worked with Google Classroom before, so we were eager to discover what this platform has to offer. Today, my group and I were fortunate enough to meet with a colleague of ours who uses Google Classroom regularly with his students and was able to provide us with a detailed tutorial. While navigating through Google Classroom, we learned how to create an account, create assignments/documents as well as how to invite teachers and students to join the site. Teachers and students can be invited to join simply by entering their email address. Moreover, we were able to discover that this online platform has many valuable features and is very user friendly for both teachers and students.

Google Classroom is an online sharing tool where teachers, students and parents may have access to view/upload videos and assignments in the form of Google documents and PDF’s. Furthermore, teachers, students and parents can also view due dates for created assignments which encourages student accountability. Google Classroom is a great tool for immediate assessment, allowing teachers to edit student work and to provide feedback. Google Classroom can be accessed from a variety of devices such as computers, tablets and mobile phones. For students who have access to mobile phones, they can even receive alerts notifying them that their assignments have been edited by their teacher. Google Classroom also provides a calendar to organize deadlines and has an attractive yet simple layout.

Although it is still early within the semester, my group and I will continue to explore Google Classroom to see if this platform will complement our course prototype project. At this time, we intend to create and upload our modules, activities and evaluation tools onto our Google Classroom site. By each having access to our Google Classroom, we will be able to collaborate ideas and share documents which we will all have access for viewing.

After reading “Beyond LMS”, a post by Audrey Watters, it became clear to me that LMS has many advantages beyond the classroom. With technology advancing every day, it only makes sense that students gain access to information and their studies beyond the classroom and textbooks. Watters states,

“Ed-tech must be not become an extraction effort, and it increasingly is. The future, I think we’ll find, will be a reclamation project. Ed-tech must not be about building digital walls around students and content and courses. We have, thanks to the Web, an opportunity to build connections, build networks, not walls”. 

Therefore, if we create an environment where our students have access to their studies outside of the classroom, perhaps we can encourage students to be independent learners and to help them realize that technology can be beneficial to their education.

Thanks for stopping by!

Prototype project for blended learning, take one!

First off, I would like to start of my post for this week by saying it is great to be back online and taking another course with all of you fine folks! I have had the opportunity to read through many of your posts and have to say, I am feeling very inspired! Many of you seem to have some wonderful ideas for your prototype projects and all this motivation is encouraging! I am very eager to learn from all of you and look forward to everyone’s final products.

As for me, I am extremely fortunate to get to work alongside with Jayme-Lee Lazorko and Andres Araneda once again! Not only are they both amazing teachers, but they are also my co-workers. Together, we teach at Elsie Mironuck School. This has allowed us to stay in close touch with one another and collaborating ideas about our prototype project has been a simple process. This semester, we have been asked by Alec and Katia to create a course prototype which should entail specific lessons, activities and assessments. Jayme-Lee, Andres and I have decided to focus our prototype project around Blended Learning. Together, we appreciate how blended learning offers a combined learning experience, specifically a balance between teacher lead hands on interactive activities with digital based instruction. Moreover, we respect blended learning for offering students an equal learning experience, despite geographical location or socio-economic status. These are factors that we agreed are important and would like to see within our course prototype project. We have also chosen to focus our material at the middle year’s level. Although the specifics about our course prototype are not yet set in stone, we decided to focus our project around the English Language Arts curriculum. Seeing that technology plays such an important role within this subject area, we agreed that creating both interactive and digital lessons and activities would contribute to generating a fluent and dynamic learning experience for our students.

As for the tools we intend to use for our prototype project, we discussed using the following programs: Kahoot, Google Docs, Read & Write for Google, as well as WordPress. We chose these tools based on the activities we would like to see performed within our course prototype but also because using these tools allows us to track our students progress as well as assist them in their learning. We also chose these programs because they offer the ability to receive instant feedback for both teachers and students. Furthermore, parents have access to see what their children are learning/doing in school. My group and I are open to any suggestions you may have about any online programs you have used and found to be helpful within this subject area, so please share your ideas with us!

At this point in time, we have not thought a lot about the tools we intend to use in order to assess student learning. However, it is still very early within the semester and we welcome any ideas you may have to offer! What type of assessment tools would you use for the online portion of our prototype project? Please comment below and thank you!