Tag Archives: Technology

It’s A Book, Jackass!: Technology v Attention

“The average time spent with screen media among 8- to 18-year-olds is more than twice the average amount of time spent in school each year.” (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010; National Center for Education Statistics, 2007–2008)

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Whenever I think about use of technology in the classroom and its impact on learning and attention, I cannot help but make connections to the book,  “It’s a Book” by Lane Smith.  The book centers on two characters.  One is a digital native and the other is an analogue learner.  The two of them are having different experiences with a paper book.  When I read it I think of the analogue learner as a grandfather and digital native as a grandson.

– CAN IT TEXT?

– BLOG?

– SCROLL?

– WI-FI?

– TWEET?

– No… it’s a book.

We live in a vastly different technological world than we did just 10 years ago, and advances in technology are unlikely to slow down.  Realistically, these advances are likely to tax our attention more and more.  We no longer need to ask the question Do advances in technology affect our learner’s attention? Because there is mounting evidence to support this.  In a recent New York Times article titled Technology Changing How Students Learn, Teachers Say Dr. Christakis showed that students saturated by entertainment media, experience “supernatural” stimulation that teachers might have to keep up with or simulate.  He further explained that heavy technology use “Makes reality by comparison uninteresting.”  Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, claims there exists the possibility physiological changes in the brain as a result of advances in technology, “Children I’m particularly worried about because the brain is the last organ of the body to become anatomically mature. It keeps growing until the mid-20s,”

The question we need ask ourselves as educators is “How do we continue to provide engaging and meaningful learning experiences for students with or without attention difficulties? Research conducted with the help of classroom teachers by Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization that studies the effects that media and technology have on young users, shows that technology advances have affected learner’s ability to attend to a variety of tasks, but at the same time the research found an increase in learner’s ability to find new information and multitask effectively.  A recent Psychology Today article written by Jim Taylor, Ph.D. supports some of the findings in the Common Sense Media research by claiming that exposure to technology isn’t all bad.

Research shows that, for example, video games and other screen media improve visual-spatial capabilities, increase attentional ability, reaction times, and the capacity to identify details among clutter. Also, rather than making children stupid, it may just be making them different.”  

I think it is safe to say that in order to develop successful learners who are able to contribute meaningfully to society a balance needs to be established with the use of technology.

Attention In My Grade 5/6 Classroom

I have worked in the same grade 5-6 classroom for the last five years, and the majority of my students spend many hours interacting with technology by playing video games and watching YouTube videos.  It is difficult to establish whether there is a direct link between increased in screen time and a drop in learner’s ability to attend tasks, but what is clear is the difficulty I have in capturing and maintain attention in class.  It would be pompous of me to think I do not own a slice of the problem, and need to continue to work on improving my learning design to better suit the needs of my learners, but I work in a system that is slow to change and adapt to a different style of learner.

So How Do We Adapt To Attention Changes Within Our Learners?

  1. We can use stories to capture and hold learner’s attention.  Stories are logical, they have a sequence we are all familiar with, they promote questioning and inferring, and can create and convey strong emotions.

  2. Use visuals cues such as infographics to help students absorb information.  “Verbal and visual cues are processed differently by the brain….Unless someone has a vision or related impairment, they learn from visuals.” Dirksen

  3. Allow students to work in groups.  Group work creates a space for positive social interactions, support, and leadership.

  4. Ask questions that cannot be answered by a simple Google search.  Ask questions that require learners to interpret

  5. Put your students a state of cognitive dissonance.   Cognitive dissonance occurs when learners are present with an event that is contradictory to their own experiences.

Tech Integration Post #7 0f 10: Using Voki’s in Social Studies

After covering The United Nations, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and The Convention of the Rights Of The Child in our social studies classes this term, I successfully used Voki’s with my students to demonstrate their knowledge.

Here’s an outline of what I had them do:

Assignment Steps:

  1. Visit www.voki.com
  2. Click on the create button in the top left hand corner
  3. Next, customize your character by gender, hairstyle, and clothing
  4. Once you are happy with your character click done
  5. Now it’s time to add the voice of your character.  I would like you to make your character talk about important points you have recently learned about the United Nations
  6. You can either record your own voice or use the text to speech box.
  7. Once you’ve selected an appropriate voice for your character click done
  8. You can now publish your work – click publish
  9. You will be prompted to name your work: Use firstname and UN in capitals
  10. If you have not already created an account you will need to do so now – use your @mrlister.co.cc email address and DO NOT use your last name
  11. Once registered choose medium sized voki
  12. Copy all the text in the box labelled “For Most Sites Use This Code”
  13. Once you have the code for your Voki visit the following Google Document and paste your code under your name – http://bit.ly/hsohIT

Student engagement levels were particularly high during this assignment and I received some thoughtful responses.  Here’s an example…

 

AC_Voki_Embed(200,267,”40fb56fdc05aa7ceb3bed7e9b22763a8″,3150442, 1, “”, 0);
Get a Voki now!

 

Tech Integration Post # 4 of 10: Teaching with TED

TED is a small non-profit devoted to ‘Ideas Worth Spreading.’  It began in 1984 as a conference, bringing together leaders in the fields of Technology, Entertainment, and Design.  The TED website makes a selection of the best talks and performances available to view and download for free.  All of the talks feature closed captions in English, and many feature subtitles in various languages. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.  If you subscribe to a news reader such as Google Reader you can also subscribe to new talks here.

I’ve used TED in the classroom to inspire my learners, to bring attention to important world events, to listen to debates and form opinions, to create and stimulate inquiry, to activate prior knowledge, to offer career and life-skills knowledge, and as a writing prompt.

The following TED talk is a debate and asks the question, “Does the world need nuclear energy?” It compares the future of burning fossil fuels energy against the possibility of increasing nuclear power production.  Obviously, the vocabulary used in these talks are not necessarily intermediate grade friendly but I feel it serves as a great introduction to a debate writing unit for grade 6, or an introduction to non-renewable resources in covered in B.C. science 6.

It’s simple to use TED as an engaging way to meet many learning outcomes in British Columbia and beyond.  Here are a few examples which link specific TED talks directly to B.C. learning outcomes:

B.C. PLO Science grade 5: Earth and Space Science: Renewable and Non-Renewable Resources

  • analyze how BC’s living and non-living resources are used
  • identify methods of extracting or harvesting and processing BC’s resources
  • describe potential environmental impacts of using BC’s living and non-living resources

B.C. PLO English Language Arts grade 6:

  • Oral Language: A1 use speaking and listening to interact with others
  • Reading and viewing: B9 read and view to improve and extend thinking
  • Writing and representing: C2 write a variety of effective informational writing for a range of purposes and audiences that communicates ideas to inform or persuade


Why use TED?

  1. It’s real
  2. It’s relevant
  3. It’s current
  4. It connects classroom’s with people making positive change in the world.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Interactive Whiteboards (IWB): Post 1 of 2

I’m attending my first IWB workshop on Friday June 18 so I thought I’d compose before and after posts.  Presently I haven’t actually used an IWB in a classroom so all the information is from research I’ve compiled.  Early next week I’ll be able to offer additional information once I’ve completed the workshop.

I’m convinced that every classroom in Canada will have an interactive whiteboard (Smartboard) installed within the next 5 years.  It is the next evolution of the chalkboard, so you might as well embrace it now.  Is resistance is futile?

What exactly is an Interactive Whiteboard (IWB)?

  • A large display that connects to a computer and projector
  • The projector projects the computer’s desktop image onto the display
  • Your learners control the display with electronic pens, fingers, or other devices
  • The display is typically wall mounted and is movable

As early as 2004, 26% of primary classrooms in the UK had IWB’s.  The BECTA, government agency promoting the use of technology integration in the classroom, completed a two-year study recent and as a result of that research, is working on an expansion plan for IWB in the classroom.

Pros:

  • Increases student engagement
  • Engaging with material in a different way 1
  • Objects are able to be manipulated in a hands-on way with an IWB i.e. measuring angles in geometry 1
  • Encourage a different, more collaborative kind of teaching 1

Cons:

  • Not enough training for teachers
  • First year of introduction leads to little/no significant impact on a learner’s academic performance
  • Teacher’s focus more on the technology than on learning outcomes
  • The interactive nature of the IWB can make some relative mundane task take longer than necessary particularly with low functioning students

It’s time to open up the dialogue surrounding the use of IWB in our classrooms.  What are your thoughts?

Professional Development Ideas for 21st Century Teaching

Does your school offer the professional development you’re need?

Recently I worked with my Twitter PLN on the topic of professional development.  Directly after the Tuesday Edchat session we worked on a document together, describing the kind of professional development opportunities we wished our schools districts offered.  We also discussed how we could developed our own in the interim.

Here’s a list of my favourite professional development opportunities I wished my district offered:

Personally, this type of collaborative effort excites me as an educator.  I would ultimately like to master my craft (education) and I feel like I move one step closer every time I connect with fellow educators from around the globe.

Many thanks to #Edchat, my PLN, the following educators – @actionhero, @missbartel, @21stcenturychem, @DrTimony, @cybraryman1, @davidwees, and everyone else who contributed to the document: http://bit.ly/aFuWAd

Technology Hurdles In Canadian Education

The Canadian education system is struggling to deal with the speed and complexity of our digital age.  In some instances it looks like decision makers view technology as a passing fad that will eventually be replaced.  They’re sadly mistaken!  Canadian educator’s and the institutions which support them need to change.  The biggest change needs to be a shift in teaching pedagogy.  Educators need to move away from acting as content deliverer’s to acting as content facilitator’s in order to engage the digital learners we see in our classroom’s today.  These are some of the challenges technology savvy educators experience in Canada:

  1. Canada’s Privacy Act combined with the U.S. Patriot Act makes it difficult for Canadian educator’s to take advantage of the latest web2.0 tools with their learners.  The Canadian government doesn’t allow educators to store any type of student information on servers outside of the Canada.  You can see the disadvantage our learners face over those south of the border.  Our learners are unable to take advantage of many collaborate tools such as Google Apps, Skype, social-bookmarking, RSS feeds, blogging software, and any other web2.0 tool which requires email registration.
  2. From a more local perspective I’m not convinced School District’s put a high enough priority on finding the right people to run and maintain their IT departments.  I realize it’s a difficult task keeping current with the latest software and hardware, but the days of spending thousands of dollars on licences for Microsoft Word are gone.  Cloud computing is the future and our IT department’s need to support teacher’s with their needs.
  3. The fear of student’s owning email addresses exhibited by superintendent’s and administration’s is difficult to understand, and even more difficult to explain away when student’s ask, “Why can’t we just create Gmail accounts?”  Creating or migrating to a new email server is time-consuming I agree, but the desire to move with any type of forward momentum seems to be drastically lacking.
  4. Funding for technology and technology integration in Canadian public schools is within the control of each school.  Clearly it’s not working!  I feel there needs to be a standard established, and maintained, for technology hardware in our elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.  The days of taking classes down to the computer lab, filled with outdated and poorly maintained machines, to work on typing skills should be a thing of the past, but it’s not.  It’s the reality in many schools.  The shift needs to be made from using technology as an add on to the tools we use to get things done.  Netbooks, interactive whiteboards, electronic projectors, and freedom to use web2.0 tools should be the norm in classroom’s throughout Canada, not the exception.

Solutions to these issues need to be sort before we lose a generation of learner’s to boredom.  Is it possible that in the future, if we don’t address the technology divide, that some students will opt to educate themselves and severely impact public education as we know it?

8 Ways To Keep Current With Technology and Technology Integration In The Classroom

8 Ways To Keep Current With Technology and Technology Integration In the Classroom

  1. Create a Personal Learning Network (PLN) and use technology as a method of communicating, collaborating and sharing ideas.  Your PLN may be local: educators in your school, nearby schools, or district wide. Alternatively, you may also decide to develop a virtual or global PLN using social networks such as Twitter , Educator’s PLN, Classroom 2.0, or for Canadian content CEET.
  2. Use a social networking tool such as Twitter to communicate with other education professionals.  Twitter is a micro-blogging web2.0 tool where education professionals share ideas, resources, ask for help, and provide opportunities to collaborate.  Updates, or Tweets as they are known, are restricted to 140 characters.  Therefore communication is to-the-point.  To find education professionals already using Twitter follow the link: https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AmdX57Dqx0tEcE1fWkU1QlMwU2dxRGFibmhsOFoyYUE&hl=en_GB
  3. Participated in Twitter chat such as #edchat – a weekly discussion about education issues at 4pm PST on Tuesday’s, or #teachertuesday
  4. Use an RSS reader such as Google Reader.  An RSS reader brings all your favourite blogs to you instead of having to go out to the Internet to view them.  Once you’ve subscribed to some educational technology blogs, you can share your feeds with other educators.  My Shared Google Reader Feeds
  5. Take advantage of social bookmarking.  Social bookmarking tools such as Diigo and Delicious allow users to store their bookmarks on the web, which makes them accessible from any computer with an Internet connection.  Additionally, these tools allow users to share bookmarks with others.  In other words, if you find a great resource site and you’d like to share with your PLN you can do so with one click of the mouse.  A very powerful tool in the PLN arsenal.
  6. Participate in Virtual Professional Development (VPD).  Sometimes as educators we need to take control of our own learning because our Districts are unable to provide differentiated professional development for all teachers.  With this in mind, I’ve found workshops, webinar’s, and webcast’s covering a wide range of technology related topics everyday of the week.  Here is a link to view upcoming events.
  7. Join and participate in technology Ning’s, Wiki’s, and blogs.  These spaces are kept current by educators who believe technology integration should be the norm and not an add on.  Here are links to my technology Ning’s, Wiki’s, and some excellent technology blogs.
  8. Take some time to share your ideas with other teachers in your school.  Soon you’ll be learning from them.  Sharing and learning with and from others educators makes it easier to keep current with technology and technology integration in the classroom.

Using YouTube To Enhance Your PLN

Yesterday I set up a YouTube account with my Gmail address and created my own YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/mrlistersd33

One of my goals for the channel is to create content to share with my PLN.  I intend to create short video’s of successful lessons, webcast’s to introduce and highlight new web 2.0 tools, video of students demonstrating effective use of technology in the classroom to, and examples of how to turn ‘offline’ activities ‘online’ to name a few.  I also plan to use the channel as place to store video’s that enhance my own professional development.  In other words, store and view video’s from educational experts I respect and follow.

Once you’ve created your YouTube channel you’re able to subscribe to other people’s channels.  In keeping with my theme of professionalism I only follow other educators or those closely connected to education.  When you’ve found the people you like to follow you can also invite people to follow you, through email.  Give permission, YouTube can access your email address book and contact some or all on the list, inviting them to follow you.

Here’s a couple of video’s that I found recently and remind me why it’s important to use technology in my classroom and move from deliverer of content to facilitator of content:

Broadening My Horizons Using Social Bookmarking

Social bookmarking is the third tool I use to build my PLN. A powerful social bookmarking tool such as Diigo can be useful in sharing, annotating, and organizing your bookmarks and the bookmarks of others in your PLN.

Bookmarking and Sharing

Using the Diigo service allows users to bookmark a URL to Diigo’s servers which means those bookmarks are then accessable from any computer or smartphone with an Internet connection.  During the bookmarking phase users can tag the bookmark to easily find the page for use later.  Diigo allows user to search their own bookmarks by title, by URL, or by tag.  User’s are also able to organize their bookmarks by creating lists.  For example, a teacher may opt to create a list that mirrors the subjects taught by that teacher.  Therefore when he/she needs to find bookmarks related to science he/she can easily click on the science list within the user’s Diigo page.  It is also possible to take a snapshot of the webpage you are going to bookmark.  This could be useful when comparing sites that change often.  Not only is it possible to bookmark URL’s using Diigo, it’s also possible to bookmark pdf’s, blogs, and any other online material.  Finally, if you have a Twitter account you can automatically tweet your latest bookmarks directly to your followers, during the bookmarking phase.

If Diigo was purely a bookmarking service it would be solid product, but it offers its user’s so much more, making it a great product.  Once you’ve developed a set of bookmarks it’s possible to share those bookmarks with friends or members of your PLN.  This allows you to see what blogs your peers are reading, what websites they’re saving for later use, what paper’s they’re reading, and who is sharing bookmarks with them.  This is a powerful option when collaborating or attempting to expand your knowledge based in a particular area.

Annotating

Before, or after for that matter, a URL is bookmarked it’s possible to highlight text and pictures.  The is particular useful when researching.  It is also possible to add notes to the page with multiple sticky notes.  Annotations will then be saved during the bookmarking phased.  These pages can also be sharing with members of your network or PLN.

Searching

One of the most exciting features of Diigo is it’s ability to search the Diigo network for tag’s of your choice.  For example, if I need to find resources on ‘digital-storytelling’ I would visit my Diigo homepage and type ‘digital-storytelling’ into the search box.  Diigo then gives me options on my search criteria.  I am able to either search my existing saved sites, search the whole Diigo network for ‘digital-storytelling’ sites, or search my friends (PLN’s) sites.

For additional information on Diigo please visit the following link to view Diigo screencasts and tutorials:

http://help.diigo.com/home