Tag Archives: Digital technology

A Day without Laughter is a Day Wasted.

As a child, I (Said) would take my parents’ newspaper and go straight to the comics section. I was less interested in world events & more interested in funny pictures and clever punch lines. Nowadays, there are webpages dedicated to comic strips and pages on our social media apps (Facebook, Instagram etc…) that we can like/follow. We have easy access to regular updates and new content, which are seamlessly integrated into our browsing experience. What happens next is incredible.

I stumble on a comic and I laugh amusedly. It reminds me of my friend Tatiana, and with the click of a button, I share it with her and comment, “This is definitely you”, “Doesn’t this perfectly sum up our lives…”, “This is me in a nutshell”. What follows is a conversation about how accurate the comic is, how well we know each other, or how it captures exactly what we are thinking at that point in time. It’s a digitally-mediated social interaction that does not require a lot of effort but does contribute to relationship-building in a subtle and indirect manner. It involves multi-modal texts and expressing ourselves in ways that extend beyond traditional text. Our students are also engaging with literacy in its many forms using different modalities, which teachers need to recognize and use to their advantage as they attempt to seamlessly integrate students’ out-of classroom literacies in the classroom.

Though I am connected to the web, I mainly use social media platforms to have information delivered to my phone, which I may then share/discuss with my friends (this ranges from funny pictures to world news to score updates). This in many ways is my kind of newspaper. There is something incredibly satisfying about coming across a comic that explains exactly how I am feeling. Recently. I have thoroughly enjoyed Sarah’s Scribbles, where Sarah Anderson tackles issues like being productive and the awkward but hilarious situations we encounter in our day to day lives. Below are a few of my favourite. I hope you lol (laugh out loud) or rolf (roll on floor laughing).

You can follow Sarah’s Scribbles on FacebookTwitterInstagram.

You can follow me on Twitter.
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Using VR to Embed Indigenous Perspectives into Curriculum

virtual-reality-cree-syllabics
Source: http://www.cbc.ca

I (Pooja) wanted to share a new gaming technology used in classrooms that authentically highlights, honours and engages students in Indigenous world views. It is no surprise that Western world views and Indigenous world views do not always align (see link below); however, it is our moral imperative to educate ourselves and our students on different ways of knowing and understanding. This can be a tricky task if you are not familiar with perspectives outside of your own. How can we as educators authentically understand Indigenous world views so we can help our students develop this awareness as well? That is why I was excited to learn about a new gaming technology which Cree children in three James Bay communities are using to learn their ancestors language entitled Cree Syllabics Virtual Reality project. The 3D gaming technology immerses user in a virtual camp setting. CBC authors Wapachee and Little (2016) further explains:

Students put on headsets to enter a virtual camp setting where they meet a little girl named Niipiish and her dog Achimush. Using hand movements and buttons to move around within the camp, they go on a journey to prepare for Niipiish’s little brother’s walking-out ceremony, all the while identifying Cree words that describe the seasons, the environment and Cree traditions.

This immersive experience allows students to authentically engage with perspectives which they may or may not have grown up with. This is a powerful tool because students are able to arrive at new understandings through first-hand experiences. I hope to see this type of technology shared in classes everywhere soon!

Eight differences between Indigenous and western worldviews:

http://www.ictinc.ca/blog/indigenous-peoples-worldviews-vs-western-worldviews

Link to CBC article:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/james-bay-students-learn-cree-in-virtual-reality-1.3835500

Do we blame the process or the machine?

A Toronto school is banning the use of cellphones in the classroom & hallways amid strong protest from parents who believe that students are distracted & abusing their privilege.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/earl-grey-public-school-cell-phones-1.3992597

As I read this article, I was torn. On the one hand, I recognize that technology has the potential to enhance student learning (I do wonder how we are measuring this ‘enhancement’). I love the opportunities that access to technology and Web 2.0 tools can create in the classroom to engage students in different ways. On the other hand, I have witnessed students misuse their devices as an occasional teacher. The uninterrupted access to Wi-Fi in many school boards means that students are always connected and participating in digitally-mediated social interaction via instant messaging services (Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat etc.) while at school and in the classroom.

At the intermediate level, I get interrupted frequently while teaching because someone is taking a selfie. It is incredibly distracting. At the secondary level, students are less devious but naturally cannot resist the occasional distraction since information is literally at their fingertips. I always have to explain, “There’s a time and place for checking your social media. I do not tweet while teaching nor do I send my folks pictures of my outfit.”

Despite commitments to integrating technology in the classroom/curriculum at a school board-wide level, how it looks in action varies across schools, classes, & teachers. Some teachers treat digital technology (DT) as the carrot at the end of the stick (“Work well and you can use your devices for 5 minutes”) while others do a phenomenal job incorporating it into their day-to-day teaching. Moving forward, we need to monitor how pre-service teachers are being trained to use DT and how in-service teachers (who perhaps completed their teacher training when DT did not play a big role in learning) are reflecting on their attitudes toward DT and adjusting their practice. In my opinion, blaming devices & the internet for interrupting learning is a scapegoat for a bigger issue…the process. The process involves challenging beliefs, addressing misconceptions, designing policies, providing the how-to, educational transformation, and so much more! It is complex, controversial, bumpy, and requires constant refinement, but it is progress.

A quote from the Inherit the Wind movie (one of my favorite plays): Gentlemen, progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it. Sometimes I think there’s a man who sits behind a counter and says, “Alright, you can have a telephone, but you lose privacy and the charm of distance.”

Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLE)

My (Pooja) good friend and fellow educator has been traveling the world for a unique project. She is looking to get a global understanding of educational reform in the 21st century. On her blog this week she highlights the work of educator Felipe Spath from Bogota, Colombia. Spath is leading the SOLE (Self-Organized Learning Environment) initiative in Colombia. SOLE is a methodology developed by Sugata Mitra in collaboration with educators from various countries around the world, proposing self-organizing collaborative learning using the Internet spaces. Listen to what Spath has to say about collaborative learning in the 21st century.

To learn more about educational reform and this series, follow edumodels:

http://www.edumodels.ca/blog/introducing-the-spotlight-series

 

Using Snapchat in Higher Ed

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I (Pooja) have always been somewhat of a late adopter to the latest technologies, but I know when things are shifting because of what learners in my class and my more technologically-inclined friends are using on  their phones. What I’ve noticed is that Facebook and Instagram are quickly becoming the social media tools of yesterday. Growing in popularity is Snapchat, a social media application known for its short-lived videos. On Snapchat, your followers can view the photos or videos you “snapped” for 10 seconds before they disappears for good. Started in 2011, Snapchat now has 100 million users and is gaining users at a rapid speed, especially post-secondary students.

It is for this reason I am curious to know how (and if) teachers are using Snapchat in their classrooms. I came across an article on NPR written by Jacquie Lee that highlights the work of one professor, Michael Britt using the app in his introductory psychology course. He uses the tool to post 10-second videos which relate to the theory and concepts discussed in class. For example, to help students connect to a lesson on the biology of the brain, Brit snapped his niece in during her ballet class standing on one leg. He “used the snap as an example of how the cerebellum in the brain controls balance” (Lee, 2016). Britt notes that approximately 90% of his students check his “snaps.” That is a significant number considering how many students don’t do/complete course readings. Snapchats seem to “reach” the students in a way perhaps course readings can’t.

I still do not have a Snapchat account. I can’t imagine people being interested in the details of my day. Perhaps I should reconsider. Perhaps Snapchat is an entry point into bridging the divide between theory and practice in our courses.

To read the entire article click here:

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/03/29/467091289/how-teachers-are-using-snapchat

Dora in the 21st Century

A few weeks ago, I (Pooja) was watching an episode of Dora the Explorer with my niece and nephew. Dora and her friends were on an adventure and as per usual got lost. I expected Dora to whip out her handy animated friend, Map (see below).

map

For as long as I could remember, Map had been an integral character of the Dora the Explorer Show. Map helped the viewers understand the cardinal directions, locate familiar landmarks, and use a compass. So, I was surprised when I saw Dora reach into her pocket and pull out her phone and open Map App!!! After my initial surprise, I started to understand why the Map character had been replaced with an app. Viewers, like my 5-year-old niece and nephew had never held a map or seen a map, so of course they couldn’t relate to it. Now, an app? They know all about those!

mapapp

The initial character Map was introduced to teach life skills. Do you  think the Map App will be able to teach the same skills or more?

Building Bridges: Rethinking Literacy Teacher Education in a Digital Era

I (Clare) love sharing good news. Our book Building Bridges: Rethinking Literacy Teacher BookCoverCroppedEducation in a Digital Era has just been published. Being modest (tee hee) I think it is blockbuster!!!! Attached is a flier for the book and when you look at the Table of Contents you will see what I mean — incredible contributors. Here a flier for the book Building Bridges_Flyer
If you are comfortable share this info on your FB page/Twitter/Website. The tiny url is http://tinyurl.com/hwtvoua
I am so proud of this book and learned so much editing it!

The Digital Divide Persists

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As educators we often believe we are living in an era post the digital divide. Everyone has access to the internet, right? If we see our students with Smartphones that must mean they are connected, right? Wrong. A distressing article from the New York Times reminds us the digital divide still persists. Although this article is written about the U.S. context,  I have to believe many claims are true for Canada as well. Cecelia Kang from the New York Times writes,

“With many educators pushing for students to use resources on the Internet with class work, the federal government is now grappling with a stark disparity in access to technology, between students who have high-speed Internet at home and an estimated five million families who are without it and who are struggling to keep up.” 

While trying to prepare students for the 21st century world, we as educators post homework and assignments online, ask students to post blog entries or participate in educational chat groups, and become active on social media in generative and meaningful ways. However, while we upgrade and innovate our pedagogies, we may inadvertently be leaving several pupils behind. How do we prepare our students for working and living in the 21st century, which is so digitally driven, while ensuring our most vulnerable students are not being left behind?

Read the full New York Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/23/technology/fcc-internet-access-school.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region%C2%AEion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=1&referer=http:/m.facebook.com

The “Google generation”

Many of our learners have grown up with access to all sorts of search engines, namely Google which has quickly turned from a noun to a verb: “Just Google it.” With access to Google, many of our learners have instant answers that are just a few clicks away.

There has been an ongoing debate on whether Google is harmful or not to our ability to critically think about texts. Tan (2016) from Mindshift recongnizes, “with the advent of personal assistants like Siri and Google Now that aim to serve up information before you even know you need it, you don’t even need to type the questions. Just say the words and you’ll have your answer.” However, there are ways to ensure questions/inquiries in the class are “Google proof.” A former Kentucky middle-school teacher suggests re-thinking our instructional design is key in making work Google proof. He says, “Design it so that Google is crucial to creating a response rather than finding one…if students can Google answers — stumble on (what) you want them to remember in a few clicks — there’s a problem with the instructional design.”

I envision project-based learning and inter-disciplinary approaches as a way into creating Google proof material. Any suggestions? What have you tried/created/heard about?