Summary of Learning

I can’t believe I am posting the summary of learning for my last class towards the Master certificate in educational technology and media!

I can tell you, at the end of this journey,  that this certificate made me better student, instructional designer and possibly even parent.  For me personally, I learned what will last with me beyond the degree, which is the skills and techniques required to become a life-long learner. Thank you very much Alec for giving us a learning experience that was so engaging, informative, creative and inspiring.

Cellphones in the classroom debate

Again, our last debate is one of the very controversial topics. Some approve the use of cell phones in the classroom, and they have very valid reasons as outlined by Skyler & Alyssa, and others do not, which has been nicely highlighted by Jill & Tarina.  A Common Sense Media survey found that that 80 percent of schools have a cell phone policy, with 25% of teachers (mostly high school teachers) finding the policy difficult to implement and 66% finding it easy to follow. 

Students+getting+their+phone+taken+away.%0APhoto+courtesy+of+Google+Images+via+Creative+Commons.+%0A
Students getting their phone taken away. Photo courtesy of Google Images via Creative Commons.

Cell phones can easily be the greatest students’ distraction tool in the classroom, not only for the users of cell phones but also for their classmates. For example, teachers have to be interrupted to ask cellphone holders to stop distracting others. Another issue with cell phones in class is that some students may use it for cheating, and other students may use it for bullying, especially with cameras being everywhere and too small to see. In addition, cell phones typically increase the amount of time each student spends alone, which reduces the social experience with classmates (albeit may increase it with virtual classmates). 

However, Cell phones can have advantages in the classroom. First, Cell phones can be an important factor for equity in the classroom.  Duncan Clark believes that mobile phone usage will be “the single most important factor in increasing literacy on the planet.” As he explains, “Every child is massively motivated to learn to text, post and message on mobiles. The evidence shows that they become obsessive readers and writers through mobile devices.” Kalyn and Nataly debate 

Cell phones can be used by students to access educational apps (such as Kahoot). Cell phones allow students to conduct research related to the material they study through, for example, access and search of social media content as well as access to their learning network. Building such a network is very important for the educational process of students. Group discussions and peer-teaching during and after class time can be the best learning times for students. Another example is when students use cell phones to access different media (videos, articles, libraries, digital textbooks) related to class topics. Cell phones also provide general apps that help students take note, and efficiently manage their time/ projects. The office of educational technology summarized this by “Digital learning tools can offer more flexibility and learning supports than traditional formats. Educators are better able to personalize and customize learning experiences to align with the needs of each student.” 

In the situation that the teacher/ Professor is following active learning methodologies, cell phones can be an integral part of the classroom. Cell phones can be used by students, for example, to answer MCQ quizzes. They can also be used as clickers to provide feedback to professors in a higher education classroom. Integrating cell phones in the classroom can enhance the learning experience and creates a functional and personalized learning environment. 

However, all of the above advantages for the use of cell phones in the classroom are conditional on the appropriate use of students of this technology.   Skyler & Alyssa’s motto ‘Have a Plan, Not a Ban.’ is really a pivotal point to this issue. I guess our plan should consider the following two conditions: 

The first condition is to incorporate different learning and pedagogy strategies in lesson/ lecture design to maximize the advantages of using technology in the classroom.  As I mentioned in the previous blog, We should look at our pedagogy goals and decide accordingly. We should ask ourselves why we choose to allow students to use a cell phone in the classroom? What problem do we think it solves? We have to take a closer look at the pedagogy and try to find out the pedagogical concerns we might have. Depending on the issues discovered, we would then choose to allow (or not) cell phones in the classroom.

Another condition before allowing cell phones in the classroom is to teach students how to use technology (whether cell phone or social networks or any other technology in fact) in the classroom. Such educational endeavours become essential as these technologies may affect students’ safety and privacy. I believe if our students are taught to be responsible digital citizens, the advantage of technology in the classroom will outweigh its disadvantages. 

Childhood and Socialmedia

Another hot and hard debate we had this week. “Is social media running our childhood.” Tough question, right? If you asked me this question before taking Alec’s classes, I would definitely say Yes. Now, I would say I am on edge.

Maybe as Kalyn mentioned in the class, it is something new that we didn’t grow up using, so we are not entirely comfortable seeing our kids on it all the time. However, I see the difference in my kids’ attention span, productivity, communication, creativity skills with and without the social media.  When there is no access to the wifi, my kids talk to each other and to us. They go to the basement and dig deep for art supplies and create some beautiful pieces. They would go outside and play together; Soccer, Basketball, Badminton, Trampoline or bikes or anything else that they come up with. When wifi is on, everything changes like they are different people. They don’t talk to us, and everyone is alone with his/ her device, which precisely what was outlined in the article Disadvantages of Social Networking: Surprising Insights from Teens.

Based on the article, Tech companies use “persuasive design” to get us hooked. Psychologists say it’s unethical.” The “Streaks” feature of Snapchat immediately came to my mind. My kids and many other kids I know would do anything to keep their streaks. They would sacrifice their privacy and even give their password to friends if we are travelling or don’t have access to wifi, to maintain those streaks.

My main concern I have is that our relationship with social media can quickly become an addiction. I notice that on myself sometimes. Especially when I am away from home or from the regular routine with the kids and family, I can spend most of my time on social media following what I missed. Needless to say, my kids are always on their mobiles, especially during the Summer holidays and those long days of quarantines.

On the other hand, we all agree that social media helps expand kids’ horizons. We can’t deny the importance of allowing the kids to use the languages and tools of their generation. Social media keeps students connected with their (learning, educational, practice and interest) communities.   My kids, during the COVID-19, were notified, through social media, of events, seminars, and play sessions that happen across the country, and they attended some. I find it hard to be able to do that with SMS or email. Not only that, but it allows them to be directly connected to experts and sources of information and knowledge from across the world.  For us, a family that moved to Canada from overseas, social media offers a very effective way of keeping in touch with family and friends back there. These are excellent features with profound impacts. Technology is here to only grow and expand.

As was mentioned in the class, I think used in *moderation* is the key. In the time of magazines, TV and Radio, we didn’t read, watch and listen to them 24/7. They were part of our lives, but not all of it.

School should teach basic skills

Source

The main idea I have is that schools play a significant part in shaping our students’ lives, much more than just teaching them skills, as I explain below.  

I guess we all agree that schools should prepare our students with the skills required in the 21st century and that teachers should try to create Innovative learning environments that lead to lifelong learning skills. This includes problem-solving, innovation, creative thinking, entrepreneurship, foundational skills and collaboration in today’s classrooms. I believe that such skills can only be taught by teaching students other basic skills. I do not think one can think critically nor solve a problem if they do not have a certain level of reading, writing and numeracy, as mentioned in In Education, Back to Basics. Creativity and innovation can be taught through reading, writing, and solving math/geometry problems, and it can be enhanced through musical and artistic skills. Googling can not explain these basic skills. As once said, “You can’t google understanding.” For our students to be able to sustain certain levels of work and creative production, they need to maintain a certain level of health, which requires them to have some basic nutritional education. While I agree with the annotated reading on listing these basic skills, I disagree with giving the art, music, health and nutrition lower priority. I believe these basic artistic, musical, and nutritional skills are important to help shape a human being with a broad horizon and appreciation to different life venues. 

I also believe schools are to operate as a certification authority of students’ capabilities and mastering skills required for life. Schools should train students on applying their basic knowledge and skills across different subject domains and disciplines, ultimately preparing and certifying their mastery of skills required for the 21st century. 

However, I do believe that schools are not there to prepare robots or problem-solving machines. I think schools play a crucial role in teaching students “social values” that are very important for their future. For example, I believe it is imperative for students to be a team players and to be equipped with values of honesty and integrity. Other values include: companionship, friendship, and respect, to name a few. These are not google-able things and have to be taught to students. This can help us save more significant problems such as ‘racism’, climate change, etc. The appreciation for these values can have a fundamental impact on our lives.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post The idea is to teach students the methods and techniques to learn the knowledge required to serve their interests and motivations and to achieve their goals as individuals but also to service and achieve the goals of humanity as well. I really believe that coming up with a standard “levels of education” framework and debating the pros and cons will help shape our educational system and schools.

This framework should be well-designed to capture the above, among many other things and also to exclude irrelevant skills and knowledge (I do not mind scrapping multiplication tables out of the curriculum). The framework should carefully consider the role of technology and how it affects the role of schools. Technological change is making it easier than ever for students to create their own lifelong learning experience. It is essential to not only teach students how to use contemporary technology but also to teach them how to learn to use futuristic technologies on their own. Maybe one possible way to enhance this is to have Teachers combine different teaching and pedagogy strategies with various technologies available. Students need to be taught how to build their digital citizenship safely; this will save them of many problems that they can face in the future.

Is technology a force of equity in the society

“Equity vs Equality” flickr photo by MN Pollution Control Agency  shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

We had a great debate experience this week. Kalyn and I were debating Victoria and Jasmine on whether technology is a force of equity in society. It is one of the toughest topics that most of us feel on edge when trying to take a side.

Educational technology offers a way for the marginalized to gain knowledge and power as it provides greater access to information, and levels the playing field for different students because it creates personalized learning. It also enables people with disabilities to connect and communicate. That is how technology is a force for equity in society.

Technology not only increases the efficiency of the existing educational approaches but facilitates experimentation with pedagogical methodologies. For example, technology is a prerequisite and enabler for the flipped classroom approach, inverting a traditional notion of classwork and homework.

Victoria and Jasmine argued that technology can cause discrimination and techno-colonialism.  But, acts of discrimination, harassment, and colonialism have been around a long time in different areas of the world before technology. Technology allows individuals with no political power to share their ideas and this allows novel models of activism. Recent online movements such as #NeverAgain, #Arabspring and #MeToo have sparked waves of social activism and demonstrates the positive power of technology when it comes to combating societal inequities and injustices of our time.

Assistive technology allows students with learning disabilities to work with their strengths while working around their disabilities. Tools build students’ self-confidence and increase their sense of independence. Judy Heumann said it best when she said “For most of us, technology makes things easier. For a person with a disability, it makes things possible.”

We believe Education is the equalizer.  It prepares people with 21st-century skills. Hence, Education is one of the most prominent factors in reducing the equity gap. However,  It is key to recognize that all students are different and come to their education with different needs. We advance equity when we do our best to meet their needs.  Technology has the ability to create opportunities for people including learning, reaching out and giving them a voice.

Annotated readings:

How Access to Technology Can Create Equity in Schools: This article discusses the ways that technology can increase equity in schools.  Equity is increased by removing barriers to learning materials, which allows students to access materials outside of the classroom. Tools can be used to personalize learning experiences, so students can work at their own pace and in a way that works with their strengths, not weaknesses. Educators can also use technology to not only grade students, but to gather useful insights about absenteeism and homework completion that guides them to make informed decisions. While technology can help, it doesn’t get “rid of systemic disparities caused by issues like income inequality, geographic isolation, or discrimination.” To ensure equity there also has to be a focus on making sure students have access to the internet outside of the school. You also need to invest in professional development so that teachers can properly use the tools needed to personalize learning experiences. 

 

The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) serves every U.S. state and territorial education agency.  Their website has an excellent list of priorities, amongst which Digital Equity is listed as the first priority. All priorities and their description is worth a good read, IMO. The report entitled: “Navigating the Digital Shift 2019: Equitable Opportunities for All Learners” highlights policies and guidance for providing equal opportunities for all learners, with a focus on personalized learning for students as well as professional development for teachers.  It discusses how educational programs should prepare students for the future of jobs and the expected automated workplaces of the 21st century.  The report highlights that students should be the point of central focus. The report focuses on knowledge and information sharing and the role technology plays in building such learning communities. The report provides an overview of the policies and practices of educational resources and instructional materials. 

This blog is a collaboration work between Kalyn and me. 

Technology in the classroom enhances learning

What a great debate we had last week. I really enjoyed Amanda and Nancy debating Trevor and Matt. It was a fun and very informative one. Hats off to both teams on the fantastic job they have done. The debate topic was, “Does technology in the classroom enhance learning?” It is one of the questions that I always debate myself. It is essential to integrate this generation’s tools such as “Smartphones” and “Apps” into the classroom. However, technology has its disadvantages. 

Reading the article What the Times got Wrong about Kids and Phones provided by Nancy and Amanda was of great interest to me. I have to admit I am one of those parents who control their kids’ WiFi access on their phones and tablets. If we do not, they will be spending pretty much all their time awake (during the COVID-19 stay at home norms) on those devices. I started to believe those devices are addictive. We allow them two hours a day for non-school/ volunteer tasks. (This coupled with one hour of PlayStation a day brings the access to 3 hours a day. Is this too much or too little you think? Any recommendations?) My take over that I am trying to minimize the addiction while enforcing some time away from their devices to do other meaningfully. We discussed different options with them, and the time limit was the one we all agreed on. I am not exactly sure if this is the right thing to do or not, but so far it works for us. But, My husband and I seem to be described by this sentence of the article “”the people who know the most about Tech are the ones who want the least Tech for their kids. Think about that,” while certainly, this sentence is not applicable for us “Some research does show that parents’ wealth [and education] are correlated with their limiting of kids’ screen time.”

Yes, kids have always had distractions. Record players. Radios. TV. Friends and the Internet. Somehow, society has managed to achieve amazing things. In today’s world, we can’t stay away from the internet, although I would agree that some aspects of the internet can distract people. However, the problem isn’t the tool itself, the problem is how we use that tool. There are lots of tools, apps or software that we can use to block notifications or track our time on Social media. 

Reading The Myths of Technology Series blog, I realize what I am doing with technology is at the level of “Compliance.” and I should start to think more about “engaging” my kids more and ultimately “empower” them.  I liked how the article explained the difference between these terms, and I think this explains very well how Tech enhances education. In fact, I actually agree with the following quote from the article, “people who can keep up with technology will outsmart those who don’t (even more than they do now).” 

Currently and with the COVID-19 situation, I would say that technology is not only enhancing education but actually enabling it. I believe education technology has evolved over time to cope with changes in learning needs and COVID-19 is such a time where so many many needs have been expressed. In my work, I deal with many instructors, and I can see a major change in how they are accepting more to use edTech two months only after they started using it because of the stay-at-home norms. Many teachers are passionate and willing to find new ways to gain their student’s attention. They are in the contentious hunt to use today’s technology and techniques and to incorporate them in their class.

My life during the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has a dramatic impact on the way I interact or approach things in my life. Family time, friends’ gatherings, education, shopping, cooking, relaxing and work are all sort of things are taking different means and shapes.  We are not at the end of this wave of change yet. I think there will be more change to come as we do things more “remotely.”

The usage of technology for me has dramatically increased in the past two months. Like everyone else I have to find alternatives virtual digital tools/ solutions for things I used to do.

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Free for commercial use

At work: Zoom is the main app I use to communicate with my team or department. Zoom is used to support instructors at the UofR by providing daily drop-in sessions to answer their pedagogical or technical questions.  My team and I supported tens of instructors, hosted many webinars and recorded many short instructional videos.  Before COVID-19, I rarely met those instructors.  Email was the dominant tool for those two months ago.  With the change, I get to remotely meet the instructors. This is where Zoom shines as it provides a larger window to see, listen to and interact with humans than email does.  This is a positive change overall.

Moodle is another technology tool that I have to dig dipper in after all university classes moved to remote delivery. This increased the number of courses/ instructors my team and I support.  We get way many more questions and ideas of how instructors would like to deliver their class materials. For example, the typical practice of some instructors in a particular field of study did not conceive teaching remotely a couple of months ago. Now they do. This added new challenges. My team and I had to think of novel ways to accommodate such fields of study.  I have to admit I had to go through a steep learning curve of how to control Moodle more. I learn something new every day either from instructors’ questions or from novel information and resources that became available to us.

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At home and personally, I had to get familiar with Google Meet and Microsoft Teams as these are the video conferencing tools my kids use at their schools. I use Khan Academy and Youtube to support their learning process. Facetime and Messenger are the two apps I use to communicate with my family back in Egypt. We have Zoom hooked up to our smart TV in the main living area of the house.  We use this configuration to talk to my in-laws in Toronto and include them in our daily activities. Seeing people on a larger screen while moving around adds a bit of a human touch to the call. My daughter is playing online chess/cards with her grandparent in Toronto to keep them both entertained during the lockdown. I will try I get my workout either by walking outside or join the virtual exercise room by a trainer I used to attend her classes. I will try the spell your name workout that Daina mentioned in her blog. I use the public library free online services to read some books or watch documentaries on Kanopy

I mostly do my grocery shopping online nowadays if I find a time slot that isn’t 10 days away:). I am most impressed and happy by the purchase history tracking provided by the PC optimum card. Grocery shopping is now easier and quicker. The app saves my purchasing history and recommends similar products based on that. I created a Paypal account to have safer and smoother transactions while shopping online. We see a lot of delivery guys leaving things at our doorsteps. Twitter and Instagram are becoming part of my daily technology usage routine as well.

I check Pinterest daily for new recipes and cooking inspiration as there is more time to cook right now. We are planning to build our deck and finish our basement during the summer so I am sure we will be using youtube a lot for this. Do you have any recommendations for resources to start with?

I am really happy with the family time we have. We have each other 24/7 which I really appreciate. However, I miss our typical normal life. I miss driving my kids to their activities and watch them. I miss hanging out with friends at a coffee shop or restaurant. I hope we all get back to our normal life soon!