The Life of an EDTC Mentor

This semester, I mentored 8 EDTC 300 students. It was fun to follow everyone’s learning journey since they were all so unique and interesting!

One aspect that I found challenging about online teaching was troubleshooting issues. It was difficult sometimes to assist with technical issues about blogs over text messages when I was unable to actually see the problem. However, there are ways around this such as screen-sharing. Another challenge that I ran into was when some of my mentees did not post consistently. This was an issue because I found myself commenting on the same individuals’ blogs often. If this was my class, it would be unfair to some students if I was only giving feedback to the same 4 students. However, I feel that I still did a fairly good job of commenting on all my mentees’ blogs. You can view my mentoring log here.

The most rewarding part of mentoring was the growth of my PLN. I was able to connect with other teachers-in-training and share resources, along with many encouraging words. I also participated in a couple Sask-Ed chats with my mentees! I also found that the learning projects inspired me to learn a few new hobbies myself, especially during this time of social distancing. I followed Jaelyn’s yoga journey and she has inspired me to try out some yoga at home!

Through this experience, I have learned that it may be a bit tougher to hold students accountable for posting online because the teacher is not able to remind them face-to-face of a due date. Although students can be reminded through messaging, the teacher may not be able to know for sure if the student received their message or not. However, if the class is meeting online (like zoom), this would solve that issue.

Moreover, I feel that I have learned a lot about giving feedback online and giving feedback in general.

Thank You For Your Feedback“Thank You For Your Feedback” by Got Credit is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In this sense, I feel that I have grown my “teacher voice” by giving both suggestions and encouragement. This will be useful if I am to teach an online class in the future. It has also taught me that, just like in a regular classroom, communication is important in an online setting. By communicating with your students online, you are able to build a connection or relationship just like you would in a physical classroom.

The Great EdTech Debate: The Final Round

The final round of “The Great Edtech Debate” was brought to you by yours truly, and Darrian. I may be biased, but I felt that this was the most heated debate as there were strong and compelling points being made by both sides.

I will not spend much time discussing my opening argument as it can be viewed here but I would like to go over some of my main points. I argued that if a cellphone ban is put in place, parents will insist that they need to be able to contact their child via their cellphone at all times. I also argued that when cellphone bans are put in place, they do not prevent most students from using their phones at school. Moreover, the use of cellphones in class helps “fill in the gap” when classrooms have a low supply of laptops.  Further, I believe cellphones are a huge part of students’ lives outside of school and therefore, it is important that they are being taught how to be responsible cellphone users and are given the space to learn and practice when it is appropriate to be on your phone, and when it is not.

Conversely, in her opening argument, Darrian argued that students are cellphone addicts and allowing phones in school is feeding their addiction. She also argued that they are a huge distraction for students and a classroom management issue. Additionally, banning cellphones would reduce the bullying that occurs at school.

BULLY“BULLY” by PlanetFab Studio is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

However, Darrian believes a simple ban of cellphones would not be enough; a widespread ban of cellphone use on school property would be ideal to address these issues around cellphone misuse.

Throughout the debate, our classmates got heavily involved and offered some great insight. As a class, we struggled with issues such as parent push-back and the losing battle against cell-phone use. Darrian and I both got asked questions we did not necessarily have an answer for. I did not know what to say when Darrian asked me how I would teach responsible cellphone use and she could not outline a clear method of how she would police a wide-spread ban of cellphones. I think this is because we were asking questions that teachers have not found the answers to yet. I feel that the opinionated nature of this debate was due to how relevant the topic is to all of us. The issue of monitoring cellphone use will certainly be faced by each one of us as teachers, in our placements and our careers. Thus, it is important to develop our own philosophy towards their place (if any) in our future classrooms and how we plan to monitor or control their use.

 

The Great EdTech Debate 3: Victor v.s. Thunderbird

Our third round of “The Great EdTech Debate,” was focused on whether or not schools should teach things that can be googled. Victor argued the pro side – Schools should not teach things that can be googled, and Thunderbird disagreed. Victor argued that teachers should not focus on basic skills as it encourages “quick answers.” Instead, students should be active learners and develop deep understandings of concepts instead of rote memorization of basic facts. He also argued that students now have the ability to “check” their answers online anyways. Victor also mentioned Bloom’s Taxonomy which suggests students need to be given the opportunity to create. Erica Swallow, a contributor to Forbes.com agrees with this; “Innovative learning cultures teach about creating, not consuming.” 

On the other hand, Thunderbird argued that schools should not only be teaching things that can be googled but should be teaching with google. She argued that allowing students to find information accurately and quickly on the world-wide-web, schools are developing their research skills.

google-chrome“google-chrome” by EJeffson is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

Although both debaters made excellent points for their corresponding arguments, our class discussion slightly veered into different areas of the debate. Victor’s statements about basic skills and quick answers led us into a heated discussion about the importance (or not) of the memorization of multiplication tables. This article from the Edmonton Journal argues that this focus on memorizing the times tables communicates to children that math is hard and math is to be memorized, not understood. However, Darrian pushed against this idea in class stating that these basic math skills are necessary for students to develop a rich understanding of numeracy. However, I wonder if this process of memorization seems to kill students’ interest in math then will it not destroy the chance of the student to ever develop a deep understanding of mathematical concepts?

Further, we discussed what might be some of the implications if schools were to stop teaching things that can be googled. How would university courses change? What would be left to teach if most things can be googled? One important argument, brought up by Meg, was the fact that not all students can or will want to google the information that is no longer taught. What kind of disadvantages or challenges would that bring for those students?

Overall, I found this debate one of the most interesting ones we have had since it led us into so many directions. It seemed as though it ended with more questions than answers which is not always a bad thing.

 

Great Edtech Debate 2: Brittnee v.s. Dallin

The second round of debating this week was between Brittnee and Dallin. Brittnee argued that social media is ruining childhood and Dallin argued against her. Before the debate started, I felt somewhat “on the fence” about this topic.

Fence“Fence” by www.discloser.sk is licensed under CC BY 2.0

However, I knew I felt strongly about the current pressure on young women to post provocative images on social media. An article written by Rebecca Sweat on vision.com echoes my concern; “There’s a tremendous pressure in our society for children to become ‘sexually precocious’ at a younger and younger age.” For that reason, I voted for the “agree” side of this debate.

However, I was surprised to find that this idea of sexual innocence was not the focus of either debater’s argument. Brittnee’s opening statement focused on children turning to their screens instead of being active or building real-life connections with others. Her argument is supported by an article written by Kim Brooks; “Children turn to screens because opportunities for real-life human interaction have vanished.” These real-life interactions have vanished, Brittnee says because parents are not allowing students to have these experiences. An article on today.com supports this theory; “Families now are more fearful and would never allow a 9- or 10-year old to spend the day, unsupervised, at the pool.” Moreover, Brittnee focused on the vicious cycle social media creates. She also spoke about the addictive nature of these social media sites, which this video also explains. I was not shocked by this information but it is quite disturbing to view social media in this way. Lastly, Brittnee mentioned the mental health effects of social media. As this video mentions, “The more you use social media, the more likely you are to feel lonely or isolated.”

However, Dallin argues against this. In fact, he says kids are more connected than ever. An article on raisesmartkid.com supports him in this; “It is easier for kids to make friends with people all over the world, most of whom they will never ever meet without these technological advances.” He also mentioned that in fact, “It has been observed that social media makes people more empathetic, considerate, and relationship-oriented.” I felt that Dallin made some compelling points in regards to the need of some students to connect with others online. In my opinion, Dallin’s most compelling argument was similar to Meg’s from the previous debate which was that technology/social media is here to stay. Therefore, “spending time online is important for the younger generation to pick up necessary technical skills they will need to navigate their way through the future.” We can attempt to keep children away from social media but they will come across it eventually, and we should prepare them for that reality. For that reason, I now feel that I stand on the “disagree” side of this debate and believe that social media is not ruining childhood. However, I feel that it is in fact, altering our relationships with others and our understanding of “childhood.”

 

Great Edtech Debate 1: Meg v.s. Josh

The first round of the Great Edtech Debate focused on technology in the classroom and whether or not it enhances learning. Meg and Josh were the first two debaters. Meg argued for the “agree” side (technology does enhance learning) and Josh argued against her (technology does not enhance learning). Due to the vague nature of this debate topic and all the obvious benefits of technology, I figured it was clear that Meg was arguing for the correct side; technology does enhance learning.

At the beginning of the debate, Meg made some convincing and clear arguments for why technology does enhance learning. One of her main points was that technology is everywhere and is unavoidable. This was also stated in the article she suggested: “Technology is everywhere – entwined in almost every part of our culture.” I fully agree with this argument. Technology is here and it is here to stay. Not to mention, Meg provided some statistics that illustrated teachers’ and students’ support of technology. In particular, one thing stood out to me from Meg’s closing statement; we have this class (EdTech) for a reason. Clearly, technology is recognized as an important aspect of pedagogy by our educational system. Not to mention, models like TPACK and SAMR were created and are being used for a reason. Technology and education go hand in hand. As Meg discussed, technology will be waiting for students when they leave our classrooms whether we like it or not, so we must prepare them for that reality. It is our responsibility to give students the tools they need to succeed in a digital world (ie. digital citizenship, digital literacy, and more).

On the other hand, Josh’s main argument focused on “cyber-slacking.” He stated that technology encourages off-task use and distracts students. For instance, a quote from one of the articles he shared with the class reads: “research shows that students often use technologies for distractive purposes like off-task activity and multitasking.” For the most part, I also agreed and resonated with Josh’s argument. As this article on campustechnology.com states, “[Students] tend to check their digital devices, particularly, their smartphones, an average of 11.43 times during class for non-classroom activities.” I can definitely say that I fall into this statistic as I am easily distracted by my phone during lectures now that there are no clear restrictions for my cell-phone use during class time. (I am continuously checking my phone while I write this).

Silence your phone-- Regain your focus!“Silence your phone– Regain your focus!” by askpang is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

However, Meg’s rebuttal to this argument was also convincing; Students will be distracted no matter what. Josh’s suggested article even supports her in this statement: “researchers suggest that restricting the use of external educational technologies does not remove distraction within students, so trying to limit the use of educational technology merely shifts the burden from external distractors to an internal, anxiety-laden urge to check for messages and news.”

Although some other interesting issues were brought up like the digital divide and creativity, by the end of the debate, I felt that I still had a strong pull to the “agree” side of the argument. After doing some more research, I found that the benefits of technology are inescapable such as these 8 examples discussed by mashable.com: “simulations and models, global learning, virtual manipulatives, probes and sensors, assessment, storytelling and multimedia, and epistemic games.” I think both debaters made some great arguments but clearly, I remain on the “agree” side of this debate.

Digital Literacy and The Big Bad Wolf

Last class, I presented my digital literacy mini-lesson to my fellow Ed-Tech 400 classmates. I chose to focus on digital collaboration as well as a grade 7 English outcome:

CR7.5 Listen critically to understand and analyze oral information and ideas from a wide range of texts (e.g., complex instructions, oral explanations and reports, opinions or viewpoints, messages presented in the media).

I, specifically, narrowed in on this indicator from the outcome:

Identify the perspective implicit within an oral presentation and what information, arguments, or positions are not included.

After listening to “The True Story of The 3 Little Pigs!” by Jon Scieszka,

I had my classmates explore and use some digital collaboration tools (MindMeister and Kialo) to brainstorm ideas. Next, they debated against each other either in favour of the wolf or against him.

I was impressed by the participation I received from my peers and the ideas they brought to the lesson. Through some discussion, we were able to make connections to fake news, media sensationalism, and even race issues in North America. Some of these connections might have been harder to make with grade 7 students but I do believe it would be possible, and these are very important connections to be made.

If I were to do this lesson again, I would focus greater on the aspect of digital collaboration. To do this, I would dedicate a full prior lesson to teaching the students how to use digital collaboration tools and discussing why these platforms are beneficial. Moreover, I would explain how these online tools can be used safely outside of school.

The biggest challenges I faced in the lesson were time and communication. I overestimated what could be accomplished in 30 minutes with my classmates which means I would have even accomplished less with actual grade 7 students. However, this was a great thing for me to learn as I was able to adapt my lesson accordingly and can now shorten my lesson if I were to do it again in the future. Another challenge was communication. I was unaware that I would not be able to send messages to the students when they were in their breakout rooms. For this reason, if I were to do this lesson again, I would create a google doc with the information the students would need access to while they were in their group discussions.

Upon reflecting on my lesson, I think I could have focused more on the digital literacy aspect and less on the English outcome while still “hitting” both. Since presenting my lesson, I have come across many ideas for digital literacy lessons on Twitter, Pinterest, and a variety of other sites. However, through planning my mini-lesson, I discovered many great digital tools that are available for students and teachers. I will be creating a digital literacy lesson again and I am glad to have my first one under my belt! A special thanks to my EDTC 400 classmates for being my guinea pigs!

LuLu“LuLu” by lusjan7 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0