Technology, Sesame Street, and School

What is the traditional idea of school nowadays? To me, when I think of traditional schooling a few things come to mind: all straight rows, no technology, writing notes off of the chalkboard, mad minutes in math, big booklets about nouns, verbs, adjectives, and tons and tons of tests. Instead of viewing Sesame Street as undermining traditional schooling, we should view it as a positive step forward. It helped bridge some cultural gaps and made learning engaging. I can still recall a song I learned in grade 1 about vowels…. “A, E, I O, U… sometimes Y, oh me oh my, these are vowels and they are fun, each word has at least one!” This is incredible that I can still remember it and it helped me throughout my elementary years when spelling words and understanding what vowels are. On a website Bright Horizons, there is an article that supports music in child development. Exposing children to music during early development helps them learn the sounds and meanings of words. Dancing to music helps children build motor skills while allowing them to practice self-expression. For children and adults, music helps strengthen memory skills.

Why wouldn’t we as educators want to reach as many students as we can? The website also highlights that music isn’t just about academic intelligence but it ignites the development of children socially, emotionally, linguistically, as well as creates a sense of readiness for school. Sesame Street was viewed as parents as a way out of educating their children. Rather they could use Sesame Street as a method of engaging their children in the learning process. In addition, Postman talked about how, “anything worth learning can take the form on an entertainment, and ought to”. No matter the classroom, school, or students we are teaching, as long as we can engage them, that is where the best learning can take place.

Now what is the importance of AV in schools?

Far too often people who are not in the ‘education world’, will critique teachers who allow phones or “too much” technology. But just as the article The importance of audio visual technology in education states, “…AV creates a stimulating and interactive environment which is more conducive to learning”. Another reason we should expose students to AV in schools is because it is extremely relevant in their futures. Perhaps they want to engage in a business venture, become an engineer, or even work as a broadcaster. This is supported in the article through the statement “…There will be an increasing need for employees to possess higher level IT skills to cope with the demand for producing more innovative IT products”. We as teachers are at the forefront. We can empower students to become future leaders with technology by teaching our students and learning alongside them with the use of AV! AV in school cannot be what we may remember in our schooling. Teachers rolling out the TV cart for an educational video or wheeling out the overhead projector. We have the power to lead and show students a variety of technological apps and resources to help benefit their learning. Thea article also states that “Not exposing children to different forms of technology is depriving them of vital learning opportunities that could benefit them in later life for example through increased career opportunities. AV lessons should not just consist of children working in pairs on a PowerPoint presentation or rewriting a piece of work using Word, ICT should be challenging, exciting and fun.” This statement couldn’t ring more true to me.

Elizabeth Hartnell-Young, formulated a study about ‘How Mobile Phones Help Learning in Secondary Schools’. The results demonstrated students could be more imaginative and phones could be used for photography classes, recording science experiments, or even just recording yourself reading so students could analyze their own reading abilities or share with peers who were absent. I think we need to come to realized that phones can be used as an educational resource in our classrooms. There are always going to be downfalls or downsides to using technology, but if we teach our students in an informative and engaging way, they will be able to make good choices when it comes to tech use. We will never be able to monitor their music choices, if they go on social media, etc. But what if we include social media in our classes. That has the opportunity to engage students and make learning relevant!

As far as the format of schooling, there are more opportunities for students to take online classes throughout high school. There are a few reasons I support this. To begin, students who are independent have the opportunity to work a pace that is pleasant for them and for others, perhaps they are an elite athlete and usually miss school for games, tournaments, or practices. This is a flexible learning space for them to engage in. Even in this class, it demonstrates that we can use technology and meet online while still benefiting from engaging in learning opportunities with our peers. Having zoom breakout rooms allows for those small group interactions that can be built into classroom discussions. Therefore, for those who do not enjoy speaking in front often larger group, have the opportunity to share their voice through smaller breakout groups.

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Google Extensions

As a middle years teacher, our students have access to Chromebook carts which is our main resource in regards to technology. By using the Chromebooks we access the following extensions: Google Read and Write, Google Drive, Google Classroom, and Google forms.

The ways I use Google Chrome extensions:

  1. Collaboration – the Grade 6-8 teachers at my school use Google drive folders to share weekly writing prompts and math bell work questions. Also, all of our staff members use Google Docs in a shared folder to update what is going on in and around the school. If a teacher is away their name goes into a table with the supervisions they need covered and people can go on docs to sign up to cover for the absent staff members. This is an easy way for everyone to see what is going on. Some teachers will also post resources(videos, PDF files, etc.) in regards to relevant content. For example, prior to Orange Shirt Day, there were multiple teachers sharing resources on the Google Docs page.Related image
  2. Input – our Vice Principal will use Google Forums to communicate any questions he would like answered. For example, we had a forum about how we want things communicated (ex: Google docs folder). As well, he asked our thoughts on Halloween. This is an effective way to collect information from staff members and allows them to have a voice in what is going on. I also use Google Forums with students so they can provide me with feedback. Sometimes I am very direct (Ex: What did you think of the Katepwa trip? What should I change or keep the same for next year? ) and sometimes I am indirect (Ex: What do you like or dislike about the classroom setup? My teaching?) This welcomes feedback from students and teachers which makes them feel like they have a voice. In addition, this becomes imperative when students or teachers are introverts or shy because they can type their answers in without having to speak up to share their opinions.
  3. Differentiation – Google Read and Write is another resource that is heavily relied on to support the different needs in a classroom(Google Read and Write).  “Computer technology has great potential for supporting instruction within the classroom” (Rog, 2014, p. 31). Many school divisions have recently discovered a useful piece of technology that has definite bonuses for students who struggle with reading and writing and benefit from the usage of technology. “Google Read&Write boosts reading and writing confidence for students with learning difficulties, dyslexia, or ELL/ESL through a range of powerful tools” (TextHelp, 2015).

Google Read&Write tools include:

  • speech to text,
  • highlighting,
  • word prediction

Google Read&Write is an interactive extension to Google Documents. The unique add – on reads on-screen text aloud so researching and checking written work makes many everyday tasks easier for students who need assistance when it comes to reading and writing. The add on is simple and user friendly as compared to its predecessor used in many school divisions – Kurzweil (https://www.texthelp.com/en-us)

  1. Google Classroom – It suppose is to facilitate paperless communication between teachers and students and streamline educational workflow. Classroom allows teachers to create classes, post assignments, organize folders, and view work in real-time. Sometimes students are fearful of asking help to edit their assignments. Whenever I use Google Classroom, I can do quick checks to see where the students are at in the assignment and I can help them through working off of my computer too. If students are working on a particular assignment and it is for homework, they have easy access to this at home. They just simply sign into their Google account and go to Google Classroom. This alleviates the “I forgot my homework at school”. This is also an organizational tool for me because this way, all of the students assignments are in one spot. I don’t have to go to my shared folder or have all students make a Grade 8 folder to share with me. It keeps the students and myself organized and on track.

My technology beliefs… and some learning theories!

To be honest, every year my mind shifts on whether I should continue using as much technology in my classroom. Right now I feel as though it is a slippery slope. Some worries I have are that teens and adults alike are addicted to technology. In my classroom I try to have a daily balance of technology in subject areas and in some cases we don’t use technology at all. For example, every morning when students come in we do a daily writing prompt. The prompts vary from: If you could be any animal what would you be? If you could have your ideal playground with an unlimited budget, what would you want? In their futures they are going to have to write down things without technology so this gives them organization, structure and instructions to follow. Then for most Literacy assignments, I prefer to use a computer for a few reasons.

  • Organization – students can add, delete, and move items very easily through Google Docs.
  • Formatting – students can indent, use tables, graphics, etc. at the click of a button.
  • Spellcheck – students don’t fear being embarrassed about their spelling.Related image

As far as how my philosophy has evolved over my teaching career, again it has been a slippery slope. When I first started there was a list of rules we sent home to the parents of our Grade 6-8 students.  Am going to post them and then in read write my reflections on each piece. They are as follows:

Electronics

**All personal electronic devices brought to school are done so at owner’s risk.

  1. Students will be allowed to use electronics in the classroom but not allowed on the playground at recess. The use of Internet will not be allowed on electronic devices.(There is one supervisor at recess… can they really monitor 100 students to stay off their devices? How would we ever detect whether they are using the internet on their own devices?)
  2. Use of cellular phones during school time is prohibited.(What will this teach them? In the future they have jobs and they will need to learn how to manage themselves and their cell phone use)
  3. The music on the devices must be school appropriate.(How am I to know and track this?)
  4. Students may not share devices. (Why couldn’t they look up information together? Do we assume all sharing of devices is of bad nature?)
  5. Parents need to be aware of what is on the students device. (This all varies based on students home environment)
  6. If appropriate use is not demonstrated students may be asked to not bring items back to school or teacher will assume responsibility for device until it can be retrieved by parent.(Oh, this one sounds serious! I am sure the kids are shaking in their boots!)
  7. Three strikes for misuse of any electronic device will result in a suspension from use of the device for a period of time.  If this happens three times, the student will not be allowed to bring their device for the remainder of the year. (This is basically the one rule I now follow).Image result for no phones gif

In the end, my belief is that we need to use technology as yes in fact it benefits student learning. But we also need parameters. Students need to know appropriate use vs. inappropriate use. We are the people they spend the most time with! We need to be the ones setting a good example and teaching them what is a good time to use music, when a good time to call their parents is, and they should want to hang out with their friends at recess rather than playing on their phones. I find myself at recess wanting to show pictures of things on my phone to others. What if this is what students are doing? Perhaps they aren’t in the same homeroom and want to show a friend a picture on their phone… is this why we are banning cell phones at recess?

RANT OVER.

Onto Learning Theories… When reading Tales of the Undead…Learning Theories: The Learning Pyramid

They wanted us to remember…. 10% of what we read… 20% of what we hear… 30% of what we see… and so on, all the way up to 90% of what we do. Ironically everything worked out to an even percentage which is a multiple of 10. In the article the authors talk about  how we need to tread lightly when looking at the Learning Pyramid. Although they spent some time describing why they believe we need to move away from this model, there are some credible gains to learn from it.

Image result for after two weeks we tend to remember

  • Memory – one strong form of assessment is to survey memory and retention (for example: reading comprehension) Students could read all they want, but if they are not retaining what they are reading, what is the purpose of reading? Here is an article that you can read to understand more about learning techniques and which would be most helpful for particular students.
  • Attention Spans – as teachers we need to incorporate different teaching methods in other to keep the attention spans of our students on the task at hand. For example: lecture, do think, pair, shares, allow for small group collaboration and use the internet!

All of this stuff seems simple enough but it is always a good reminder for us as educators. We can always analyze our own teaching and make things better. There is always a more engaging, efficient more exciting way to teach. That’s the best part about our job. We have the power to change things year to year and engage students in topics they can become passionate about… while teaching students to be good digital citizens!

 

Technology… forever changing.

Let me take you back to the 90’s… My first memories of technology. I will never forget when my family first got dial up internet. We had this massive, heavy, pixelated view computer. Back then, this was the dream. I could finally play more games, talk to my friends online instead of calling, and download music. One of the first games I can recall playing was whyville! Everyone at school who had dial up internet would set a time after school to meet online to play together. Following this came the big MSN and ICQ. These were game changers for making plans with friends. I was able to connect with students from other schools and talk with my friends more often after school and on the weekends. Now this is when I first began the “texting” lingo. My parents would set timers for how long my sister and I could play on the computer because they never knew when to expect an important phone call. Whenever our time was up my mom would yell from the top of the stairs “G2G” (Got to go). If we didn’t get off right away she would come right into the computer room and type G2G on whatever msn conversation we were on. This is where I started to type incorrect words/phrases such as: how r u, ttyl, asl, lol, etc. I found this article 17 things you’ll only remember if you were an MSN Messenger addict and it hit home. It reminded me of how I used the internet most as a child.

Secondly, my memory recalls having a cell phone at the end of grade 8.It was a beautiful audiovox and I was only allowed to text a certain amount of times in a month because my parents paid for by bill. Texts were ten cents and I think my cell phone bill was around $20 a month. It became more of a safety thing so if I was out with friends, my parents could contact me and vice versa.

Fast forward to where we are now. Technology is a part of our lives every day. As teachers we use our devices to communicate, use social media just as our students are. Technology is here to enhance our lives. So why not embrace it? So many teachers are tired of cell phones and want to ban them. I understand in some cases, but rather, why don’t we as twenty-first century teachers take the initiative to teach our students how to use them appropriately. Not only can we teach them the skills but we can also help them by skillfully integrating technology in our classrooms. It would be…

  • Purposeful
  • Students would learn how to navigate websites and use it properly (fake news, citing sources)
  • Critical for future careers
    • Typing
    • Formatting
    • Access information online
  • Enhanced learning
    • Skype classroom – location can change perspective, allow for reduce cost instead of bringing in a guest speaker/travel time
  • Teachable moments about appropriate use of tech!

As educators we are the future. If we implement skills early on to enhance student learning by using technology we can set students up with the right skills to be an innovative and creative thinker.