Technology in Schools; the Good, the Bad, the Nitty Gritty.

Take a moment to think about the amount of years a fresh teacher will teach from graduation until retirement. For simplicities sake, assume that this is forty years. Every year, new students come in, and if a teacher works for forty years with twenty-five different students each year. At the end of each year, these students will have (estimated) two-hundred pages of notes. Add report cards, quizzes final exams, scrap paper, possible textbooks, distributed readings and so forth and it is safe to assume that this page count can be brought up to four-hundred. There are approximately 8,300 pieces of paper per tree. Doing the math of (semesters) x (years) x (students) x (pages) equals out to 800,000 pieces of paper over a math teachers’ career. That’s approximately one-hundred trees used to teach a class per teacher career. It’s important to note that most teachers teach multiple classes a semester (usually three to four). This means that in a teachers’ career, they will be personally responsible for the death of hundreds of trees. Multiply the number of teachers around the world, and a serious problem (along with interesting questions) emerge. How can a teacher reduce the waste from their teachings? Can educators teach in a paper-less environment? Is the tried-and-true method of paper and pencil due for an upgrade? What else can change in the education system, and how we teach? And the question the paper will be examining is using technologies in classes (specifically in Social Studies classes) to create and teach more comprehensive and complete content and skills.

Technology is rapidly changing and is more accessible and useful to students, teachers, and the general public. Teachers, parents, administration, and students are all beginning to see the useful aspects that technology holds, and thus are beginning to integrate it more into schools and their personal lives. Yali Zhao shows in his study that in 2005, 99% of schools in the US had a 5:1 student to computer ratio (2007). Nearly a decade later, and the ratio is as high as 1:1 in many schools. Zhao quotes students as being “born and comfortable in the internet and technology,” but with teachers this is less of a case. It is at this point in the paper that I stray from the formalities of paper writing and insert some narrative and structure changes. I first shall examine the pros and cons of using technology for the students and the teacher.

Students Pro

  • Most students have multiple access points to technology (library, home, cell phone, in class computers/laptops/tablets, computer labs)
  • Technology has the ability to turn student thought ‘boring or irrelevant’ content into hands-on learning by analyzing, creating, and allowing students to be as creative as they are able
  • Students and their teachers are able to keep up at home, when absent, or with substitutes
  • Real world practicality with researching, analyzing, summarizing, and presenting
  • Access to knowledge and resources (such as virtual tours, skype interviews, and so forth)
  • Less intimidation by a textbook and stack of papers (Griggs 2010)
  • Opportunities to individualize and express oneself better
  • Increased student inquiry (Griggs 2010)

Students Con

  • Some students will not have personal or home access to technology
  • Students may not have the knowledge how to use technology properly
  • Chance to abuse programs or technology
  • Too much change can be frustrating and intimidating
  • Students are becoming “wired for distraction” (“5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into” 2014)
  • Critical thinking issues and expectance of quick results (“5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into” 2014)

Teachers Pro

  • Ability to maximize time, creativity, and resources
    • Examples such as doing PTA over skype to increase participation and accessibility
    • Establishing online blogs, interactions, and communities
  • Summarize and express content, skills, and values more effectively
  • Technology can make a subject hands-on (“5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into” 2014)
    • Students using animation software to recreate the Lincoln assassination (Griggs 2010)
  • Non-technological literate teachers can be easily taught in workshops and PD conferences
  • Teachers were positive during PD training and workshops; using tech more often (Zhao 2007)
  • Large support system in the online community (twitter, skype, online journals, and so forth)

     Teachers Con

  • Some teachers have a lack of experience and training of apps, software, and technology
  • Classroom management concerns
  • Low teacher confidence in technology knowledge or skills (Griggs 2010)
  • Policy bans on websites or certain content
  •  Not using technology or using tech “as a crutch” (“5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into” 2014)
  • Using dated, clumsy, or inefficient technology
  • Easy to assume that students are competent in technology

Once teachers were trained with how to use technology in the classroom, they “expressed positive experiences with technology integration training, increased their use of technology in the classroom, and use technology more creatively” (Zhao 2007). An important note to remember with technology use and integration is that when teachers use too much, ineffective, or no technology at all, it can do more harm than good (“5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into” 2014). When used properly, the benefits can be reaped; in Griggs’ dissertation, he deduced from sample groups that students with technological integration (when used properly), that student inquiry and skills increased. His studies found that:

“Overall, participants were highly supportive of technology integration and willing to use emerging technologies in their presentation of world history content. Barriers to technology integration include lack of funding, lack of adequate access to technology, and lack of confidence among students and teachers in using technology.” (114)

Teachers need to have a good reason for including technology in their instruction and assessments. Teachers need to have a reason for using these tools such as saving time, improving learning outcomes, helping lesson plans, or anything else. They need to be thorough and well planned, and they need to be willing to adapt, change, and collaborate (“7 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers Who Use Technology” 2013). When attempting to integrate technology in classrooms and control groups, studies found that teachers were knowledgeable about old and current technologies and were often successful in integrating into classrooms (Griggs 2010). One fault that Griggs found in his research is that pre-service teachers are lacking training, knowledge, and confidence when it comes to integrating technology and mostly when they are forced to teach without it.

The struggle with technology is that current supporters of it sometimes may push too hard for its support and put a wedge between non-users and supporters. Teachers also need to learn to balance the technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge in their instruction. It’s a fine balance between these three and too much can poison instruction. Several of the studies I read all state the same thing, that pre-service teachers need more training in general teaching:

Michael Shriner, Daniel Clarks, and Melissa Nails’ study concluded that:

“pre-service teachers’ perceived levels of competence and confidence in teaching social studies without technology assistance… the majority of pre-service teachers reported low competence and even lower confidence in their ability to teach social studies effectively, especially with regard to textbook utilization, resource acquisition, and instructional strategies.” (37)

It does appear that the experts are finding issues with pre-service and current teachers. The good side of this coin is that teachers were easy to instruct and motivate once shown a conference or PD on technology. Within five hours into a conference, teachers were able to learn how to find virtual field trips, how to insert hyperlinks, text, pictures, video, and even put audio of them recording a narrative of the tour. Within ten hours, teachers were also able to create electronic templates and plan lessons for students to create virtual field trips “to build social studies skills and content knowledge into inquiry-based lessons (Shriner, Clarks, and Nails 2010). Skills gained through self-inquiry are much better than presenting with powerpoint and lecturing. There are a limitless number of apps and programs for students to express themselves and inquire into interesting material, but we as teachers cannot take their knowledge for granted and group students together as all-knowing in technological literacy.

Teachers need to teach students about proper sources and how to find them, as well as how to think critically and read between the lines. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation states that students are much more likely to become distracted than remain on task (and at home, one in three kids are using tv or the internet for recreation while doing homework), and that many teachers believe this to be a problem (“5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into” 2014). While this is a problem, I personally wonder why we as educators and leaders are attempting to force students to subjects themselves to the boring, outdated, and ineffective lecture based system. Why can we not alter the lessons so that students’ minds are kept on short tasks instead of zoning out on long tasks?

Technology has its clear flaws, but the benefits when used properly outweigh the difficulties with it. In the studies, journals, and books I researched teachers and students, when taught with and/or how to use technology properly, there was overwhelming support and integration by students, teachers, administration, and parents. Changing how educators teach may save the forests as well as the school system.

unit plan

A hypothetical (and free to use/access) unit plan for History 30: the 19th century of Canada & confederation

I created a Unit two plan for history 30, and anyone is welcome to have access to this! This unit plan discusses all political, ethnic, and oppressed groups of the time period, has nifty little projects in it.This unit can be found at: http://bit.ly/esst300plan.

The Sextortion of Amanda Todd

A long time ago, I watched the Sextortion of Amanda Todd. This video discussed the Amanda Todd case in depth. Before watching this, I was dissapointed that Amanda Todd was the face of bullying. When this case exploded, the news and online media talked about how an ‘attention whore’ would show nudity online (at the time, I thought it was to some of her friends over skype, rather than 150 blog tv viewers). It was never reported (To me) that she was harassed for years and attempted to get away from it. Now I see why she is, and deserves to be, the face of bullying.

The video quotes “When the boys are giving attention to a girl, the other girls get upset” This is a Common scenario. The early bloomers of puberty for girls tend to be bullied at future dates, while the late bloomers tend to become the popular ones.

Amanda was smart enough to not fullfil threats and blackmails to send more photographs for the promise of the screenshot of her flashing to not make its rounds (for the third time). But eventually, Amanda went back to the sites that she originally found trouble on, talking with people making ludicrous requests again.

Before watching this video, I only knew about the Amanda Todd incident from her single video that went viral. I believed that any child that got in trouble online did so because the parents did zero monitoring of the computer. I myself was in one of these categories; my parents did not monitor my internet or computer usage at all and there were very clearly problems with video game addiction and other things. But it becomes clear after watching that her parents did in fact monitor her activity regularly and were open minded to the possibilities of the internet.Why would she do this?

 

Keep reading to find out. It’s a well known reality that teenage girls are very mean to one another, and that this can create extremely bullied women with little self-esteem who hear very little, if none, positive things about themselves. Give them a small or large audience of compliments and flirting and bullied individuals might do things that they know they shouldn’t for it these good feelings and comments to continue.

Society took a girl who was bullied harshly, but online she was wanted and adored. She had hundreds of followers whom talked nicely to her… Even though all the trouble started online, she probably told herself to never do something like flashing again and went back on to her ‘adoring fans.’ But this is all speculation.

 

Amanda Todd is a lesson for us as people, teachers, parents, friends, and strangers. It’s a sign to stop bullying, stop cyber bullying, and teach safety to the next, current, and past generations.

Ruining Star Wars

remix

Part 1I never heard of Led Zeppelin being ripoffs until this… but now it’s clear that they were heavily influenced and snipped parts from other songs and artists.

It would be okay to take these parts and incorporate it into your own (original) piece, if enough change was made, or if attribution was given.

Part 2: I never realised just how many sequals there were to plays, movies, books, toys, characters…. and so forth, until this episode brought up the fact. Many movies are inspired by other movies, and characters by other characters.

This episode also brought up the fact that star wars heavily reenacted many scenes from many movies. I don’t want to believe that star wars is based on many other stories. While they have their own twist… But many scenes were made similar to multiple movies (intro, fight scenes, etc). Thank you for ruining my childhood. However, I feel that some of these were overexxagerated… Some movies had holograms of women or robots before star wars… does that mean that without the prior, the current would not exist? No!

It demotivates me to think that all these incredible pieces of work were filled with copies using similar camera techniques, sounds, quotes, and landscapes.

Part 3: “nobody starts out original… we need copying to build a foundation of knowledge and understanding”

copy, transform, and combine –> basic elements of creativity

When kirby was talking about the Macintosh copying everything… the thought popped into my head… is this BAD? Is it bad to copy something and give innovation? No! Progress comes from taking existing ideas and modifying them to become more efficient or serve a greater purpose.

Multiple discoveries theorem was also something that was a reality check for me. .. Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace both came up with the theorem of natural selection in the same time period. Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Grey patented for the telephone on the same day. It’s clear that progression is universal, and that our future is not dependent on single individuals. Concepts and technologies are being invented at the same time, or in close time periods.

 

 

Part 4:

Even the US is a copy of the Iroquois Confederacy.

Copies are cheaper to make and sell than original products… originals cost more to research and have more trials. Even something that seems innovative is most likely just a copy.

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Photo Credit: Sergey Galyonkin via Compfight cc

 

 

 

 

Take the Oculus Rift for example. It’s based on and competing against…well… all of these

 

vr

“when we copy… we justify it…. when others copy, we villany it”

 

 

 

 

 

Youtube in the Classroom

Youtube is a great tool. It’s free, has tens of millions of videos, and is one of the largest sources of knowledge in the world. In the last four months, I’ve used youtube videos in almost all of my lesson plans.

 

Why?

 

  1. It can capture emotion and provide a better reference point than me lecturing or students reading
  2. It captures the attention of students better than most methods
  3. It works great for audio and visual learners
  4. A video can be found for almost all scenarios and content

For example, on the history channel on youtube, there are dozens of playlists. Some of the more useful ones for education would be The Men Who Built America, Deconstructing History, or WWII in HD.

The above are great playlists for pure content. Some videos will portray a hidden message or attempt to convince the viewer to adopt a new style of thinking (Ted Talks are great for this!)

My personal favorite youtube channel is SpaceRip. I have watched almost every video on this channel and it has fueled my passion of physics and astronomy.

Youtube is a great place and excuse for people to practice something unusual and unique, upload it, and get applauded for it. Musicians upload themselves playing, gamers upload themselves playing video games, educators may upload videos of them teaching, or students may upload videos of them doing whatever!

 

If I need to learn how to fix my car, I can. 

 

If I want to learn how to play piano, I can. 

 

If I want to learn about treaties in Saskatchewan… I can.

 

Save yourself some time, give yourself some knowledge, and have some fun with youtube in your classroom.

Really TED?

For an assignment, I’ve had to write an essay about a topic that interests me. I chose cyber bullying as part of my topic and went to Ted Talks for some video resources. I had some severe troubles finding results… in fact, I found absolutely zero presentation results about cyber bullying on TED.com. Cyber bullying is a topic that needs serious addressing and is hardly being recognized in the school system. Why would TED not give curious teachers a twenty minute presentation about such a key issue? Fly someone in!

ted