Breaking News! Your Phone Isn’t Just for Cat Pictures: Take Action!

Today I would like to reflect on how technology can be used to promote social action. Ben Rattray discusses how social media can be used to create grassroots movements through sharing digital stories and starting campaigns and petitions that lead to nation-wide movements. Maybe most influential is the idea that our technology is just beginning, therefore, our social action is just beginning. Ben notes that “we face big problems… but the democratization of technology [means] people will be able to start more campaigns than we can possibly imagine… because together with the right tools, we can change the world.” This video gives me hope that “there is no issue that will be left untouched.”

But how do we get students to engage in these issues that matter? I do think great change will happen but the technology is just the tool. In other words, the tools don’t use themselves. We must use the tools properly to make the change. It is the people behind the screen that matter.

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Photo Credit: andres musta via Compfight cc

So how do we promote social action for our students?

1. Knowledge/Exposure – kids cannot fix things if they do not know they are broken. We have the information at our hands. It is very important that we do not let single stories dominate our teaching. It is important that we show the voices of all: strengths, weaknesses, issues, successes, etc. If we expose children to knowledge in the right ways, this creates a culture of empathy in our classrooms/societies.

2. Create a Positive Digital Citizenship – kids need to create a positive online self. They need to actively be creating this positive imagine and we must assist them along the way (ie. get them to create a blog, discuss the risks/provide examples of inappropriate technology use that led to issues for people like this UCLA Student, discuss cyberbullying through examples like Amanda Todd, etc.).

3. Passion – with exposure to the knowledge and the know-how and platform to have a positive voice, students will find things that matter to them. It is up to us to help them pursue these things. Committees like We Day or SRC can help students work towards their goals. I was proud to be part of both of these groups during my internship and amazed at the action the students took; for instance, selling rafikis to empower women/families in Kenya. Here are some more examples of what has been done or what could be done:

Note that with all positives, come negatives, too. For instance, the ASL bucket challenge was a huge waste of water and highlights privilege (many people do not have clean drinking water so dumping good water on ones head would seem a bit insane to some). There is also the socio-economic divide causing a lack of access to technology. And we can’t forget the trolls of the internet.

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Photo Credit: uomoplanetario.org via Compfight cc

But in my opinion the pros outweigh the cons. If we expose students to different causes in an environment that encourages a positive sense of self; if we are proactive about bullying; if we help students find their passions; if we provide additional tools so that everyone has access to learning (even if it isn’t through technology); if we make technology a top budget priority in our schools; there really will be no issue that will go untouched. The internet, like our world, can be a more equitable place for all if we work from within. 

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My Tech. Plans as a Beginning Educator

My last post, Compiling Tech Resources, highlights that the world of technology is vast. There are more options than we can begin to count; my post just scratches the surface. This is the most overwhelming part of technology for me: the overflow of information/choices. Keeping this struggle in mind and also the “less is more” ideology, I wanted to come up with a “baby-steps” or “starting small” technology plan for my first few years of teaching.

What technology will I use for professional development (beyond professional journals/articles/books)?

What technology will I use to plan the Sask. Curriculum outcomes and indicators for my class?

What will I use in high school ELA? Elementary ELA?

What will I use for assessment for and as?

What programs am I considering but not 100% sure of yet?

(I want to use one of the above 4 and will make the decision based on learners/resources/class/subject).

If anyone has a case for or against any of the above, I would welcome it in the comments. I would also welcome more information about any of the above tools. Do you use them in the classroom? What are the positive and negatives of the specific tool?

Compiling Tech. Resources

In ECMP 355 we have learned about many tools to facilitate 21st century education! From Blackboard to Pensieve to My Fitness Pal – it feels like we have covered it all. For my own benefit (and anyone else who is interested), here is an overview of what we have explored and some of my own favorites:

1. MOOCs

2. Blog/Writing/Classroom Places for Resources

  1. RSS Feeds/Bookmarking
  1. Communication/Assessment
  1. Social

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Photo Credit Globovisión via Compfightcc

6. Productivity/Plan

  1. Presentation/Assess
  1. Creative
  1. Media
  1. Coding
  1. Misc.

12. Autism Apps

13. Sign Language Apps/Sites

Today I also want to compile the resources from two articles: Snapshots Of Understanding? 10 Smart Tools For Digital Exit Slips and Apps That Rise to the Top: Tested and Approved By Teachers. Note: some resources repeat.

The first article discusses exit slips (an important element of assessment as… or assessment for if they are entrance slips). The article outlines these following technological options:

The second article outlines teacher-approved apps for:

1. Digital Storytelling/Presenting

2. Video Tools

3. Photo Editing

4. Augmented Reality

5. Reading/ELA/Library

*more ELA resources at kgorhamblog ELA Resources 

6. Commenting Tools

7. Coding

8. Note Taking/Organization

9. Digital Citizenship

10. Social Media

.11. Misc.

What other tools are out there? What is your favorite tool? What is a technology that you and your classroom couldn’t survive without!?

Time Signs ASL and Taking the “Time” to Reflect

Please feel free to leave some feedback in the comment section:

The camera is a bit further back this time; this was a correction I needed to make, as suggest by Nadene via email correspondence who noted that “ASL requires the whole upper body, not just the arms and face.”

Please view my model: Bill Vicar’s “100 Basic Signs” from 4:17 to 6:13.

Taking the Time to Reflect:

Thanks to networking on Twitter I was able to connect with Nadene who has signed for 25 years and is part of the deaf/hard of hearing community. Firstly, I would like to say how shocked I am that someone would be kind enough to take the time to watch my videos, give feedback, and send a very encouraging email. This connection is one that would not have been made without the internet/social networking and I am very grateful. Nadene was able to assure me that resources from ASL University are valuable learning tools. I feel very encouraged that someone who has spoken ASL for 25 years was able to tell me: “from the videos you posted, I think you are getting the gist of the alphabet and signs.” If you are reading this, Nadene, thank you very much for your time, honest feedback, and encouragement!

Although the benefits of technology have allowed me to connect and begin my ASL learning journey, Nadene made the point that I need to take my learning beyond a computer screen. She noted that learning a language is not something I can entirely do online as “ASL encompasses a culture that requires [people] to meet face-to-face in order to learn the social norms of that language.” The idea that I am not just learning a language, but also a culture is both exciting and frightening. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by this notion but I am just taking it day-by-day and I keep reminding myself that my goals are to prepare myself for a ASL class and work through the challenges and successes of self-directed, online learning. I am not expecting to learn an entire culture and language overnight. When I put it into perspective, I’ve been working on the English language for 21 years (four of them as an English major at the University of Regina) and I still have improvements to make.

Nadene’s comment that resonated with me the most is that “when it comes to expressive language, there’s really no substitute for face to face interaction — even if it is through Skype.” The quizzes and videos are a great way to improve my receptive fluency but I need to practice my expressive fluency face-to-face with someone else. That is the best way to “catch [my] errors and help [me] improve.” I also have noticed that at Camp Easter Seal I was able to pick up the basics of sign language easier because I was working with people who only spoke that language; being immersed in face-to-face interactions cannot be replaced by technology, although both have their positives. I am hoping to connect with another ECMP 355 student this semester and we can test out our receptive skills. It is on my bucket list to take an actual ASL course where I will work on expressive and receptive fluency with professionals. For instance, the Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services host ASL classes in Regina.

This experience has reminded me and reaffirmed for me that technology and face-to-face interactions need to be balanced in our classrooms. They both have their positive and negative aspects but used together, the best and most-rewarding learning can take place.

Balance is key:

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 Photo Credit: Erin Costa via Compfight cc

Twitter, Networking, and ASL Learning Project

Over the last couple days I have really being feeling the benefits of online learning. I think these photos from my Twitter account show the possibilities that are present when we learn online; collaboration, connection, and networking are just some of the benefits that these photos display. Ironically, technology is often blamed for causing a lack of connection but I am feeling quite the opposite – people who don’t even know me are willing to help, offer resources, and encourage me on my learning passion. Glass is definitely half full today! 🙂

Sign Language ASL Twitter Collaboration

ASL Reasons

ELA and Digitial Citizenship Resources and Activities

Resources (as suggested by Donawa and Fowler in Reading Canada Chapter 6).

 “Fan fiction writers use pre-existing fictional characters from an original work to develop alternative relational, situational, and plot events which they self-publish for one another… fan fiction makes up 33 percent of all content revolving around books [on the web]” (in Boos, 2008)”” (Donawa et al., 2013, p. 186)

“Carlie Webber (2009) points out that school assignments like writing a letter from Mercutio to Romeo are fan faction: “You put your own spin on someone else’s story”” (Donawa et al., 2013, p. 186).

Activities (as suggested in Reading Canada by Donawa and Fowler 2013)

  1. Role-play
  2. Use Cross-Country Bookshelf to get students to present about authors
  3. Movie trailers
  4. Canada Read’s to debate and defend book of choice

“The concept of play (good for the brain and emotions) requires the students to know the story, setting, characters, and themes to be able to participate. The result tends to be higher order thinking and more elaborated conversation, including more extensive understanding by the young adult readers” (Donawa et al., 2013, p. 187).

Video Games in the Classroom?! Part 2

A great read on gaming in the classroom by Zach Startup!

Zack Startup

Over the last few days, I’ve been doing a little bit of research into using video games in schools. It’s a really novel idea, I think, and a great way to make technology feel accessible and authentic, believe it or not, versus using it as 1:1 replacement for an existing teaching strategy. Make sense?

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Last week I stumbled across this image on Twitter, and I promptly passed it on to my classmates. Basically, when teachers choose to use technology in the classroom, they don’t always use it in the same way, or to the same degree, or to achieve the same goal. On the far left, we have teachers who approach technology as a way of replacing something they were already doing, with no clear added benefits. It’s a novelty, and maybe it gets learners more engaged – but I also have had some practice with this approach, and it…

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Edudemic’s Guide to a Flipped Classroom

If you are interested in flipping your classroom, I recommend reading Edudemic’s Guide to a Flipped Classroom.

Why Flip?

A flipped classroom is one of my long-term goals as an educator. After I am more comfortable with using technology in the classroom, I feel that flipping how learning takes place will be a great way to practice my inclusive beliefs and prepare my learners for an ever-changing, globalized world. Furthermore, “studies have found that students K-12 are assigned an average of three hours of homework a day, but many parents [and educators] question whether the quantity of work matches the quality of learning” (Edudemic Staff, 2015). I do not believe this is a realistic amount for most kids to complete, especially those with learning difficulties. Families lead busy lives and the measure of a sound education should not be quantity. However, I do not believe in swinging the pendulum in the complete opposite direction. My belief is that middle ground between hours of homework and absolutely no homework can be found. I believe that a flipped classroom is a model that allows for balance. Students listen to the instruction online (approx. half an hour) at home and then their work is completed in the classroom, where the teacher can assist and collaboration with peers can take place.

Benefits:

  1. This allows students to learn at their own pace: repeat the lesson if needed, skip/skim parts that they already know, etc.
  2. Questioning time is increased and teachers can support their learners without rushing lessons. Students can bring their concerns to class after some reflection.
  3. Increased collaboration due to in-class work time.
  4. Shy students have a chance to voice their concerns/ask questions in a more private manner.
  5. Environmentally friendly: this allows for an almost paper-free classroom.
  6. Parents can see what their children are learning about at school. No more need for the “what did you learn today?” question.

Disadvantages:

  1. Takes time to collect resources/make videos. The teacher and students all need to have access to technology and understand the tools they are using.
  2. Students may not complete the lecture at home. Student motivation is required.
  3. Teachers still will have to balance their time to help all of their learners. Classroom management cannot be forgotten as in-class work-time must be on-task, focused, and hold some structure.

I believe that these issues are similar as to what is already posing challenges in the traditional method. Therefore, I think this model is worth a try and teachers can make adjustments/problem-solve as needed.

Implementation:

  1. Start by getting comfortable with the technology that will be used. Both students and teachers need to know how to best use the tools.
  2. Start small. Edudemic suggests giving homework that is a YouTube video to watch at home and discussion and questions follow the next day. Consider this your pre-assessment.
  3. Start creating your lessons. I would suggest a half an hour a night but adjust accordingly. Also, take a look at what is out there already, who you can collaborate with, etc.
  4. Create in-class time activities/assessments. I would suggest giving students a voice about what they want to do to demonstrate their knowledge. The nice thing is your videos could stay relatively the same year to year but with a new class, new assignments could happen; every year would look a bit different. Students may engage more if they get to co-construct rubrics. However, if problems arise with students not watching the lectures, Edudemic suggests quizzes at the start.

What other problems do you see with the flipped model? What other benefits? How would you work around those issues? What tools would you use to create your lessons? If students were unmotivated to watch the videos at home, what could you do?

Feedly Follows

I chose to follow Think Inclusive, Edutopia, Free Technology for Teachers, and Educational Technology and Mobile Learning. My interest in inclusive education and membership in ECMP355 drove my decision to follow these pages. Inclusive education and technology (and the marriage of these two things) are vast topics that I will spend my entire life learning about. Furthermore, I am passionate and interested in these topics.

Feedly

So far I have read these articles:

5 Strategies For Structuring An Inclusive Classroom Environment – In summary, it suggests that all students benefit from a multi-sensory approach to learning, “fair isn’t always equal” and holding students to different levels/expectations is reasonable and allows them to learn at their own level, stations and centers benefit all students, rules and expectations must be clear, and teachers must be flexible/able to “read the room.” I read this article because as a fourth year education student, I am hoping to create my very own inclusive classroom environment very soon. I couldn’t agree more with what this article is saying. I am a strong believer in using Gardiner’s multiple-intelligences and used this theory to plan lessons/activities in my internship at Mossbank School. I also used stations in my 3/4 health class and this was by far their favorite lesson (aside from when I took them skating to promote healthy exercise). It was a lot of work but the learning was so valuable and well-received by all that it was worth every second! Finally, I believe that the best quality I can bring to the table as a student support teacher/inclusive educator is flexibility. I need to be flexible to meet the needs of students, parents, and teachers.

7 Things Every Special Education Teacher Should Know About Themselves – Once again, as a fourth year ed. student I read this article in hopes of getting some insight about what I should expect in my first job (hopefully!) as a student support teacher. The article highlights the need for self-reflection, asking for help, acting/trying your best, being flexible, accepting your own imperfections/inability to keep up to the workload, and maintaining a positive attitude. I agree with these observations, although I am reluctant to admit that accepting my own imperfections/inability to keep up to the workload will be part of my job. This is something that I will have to work on. The three things that resonated with me the most are: “The worst thing you can do is nothing” – Temple Grandin, “attitude makes or breaks your day,” and “flexibility solves 99% of all problems.” I didn’t, however, agree with the belief that I should accept weight gain. I think it is important for educators to take time for themselves. If your job is getting in the way of your eating/sleeping/working out and other basic health necessities, I think it is time to take a step back and reflect. The airplane analogy of fixing your own breathing mask in a crash before helping someone else here may apply – you can’t teach your students if you’re dead. I plan to do the best I can at my job, while still maintaining my own personal physical/mental health. I’m an avid runner/biker/swimmer and take pride in my cleaning eating lifestyle; I want to be a role-model for children and for them to see me leading a positive lifestyle! Balance is key!

8 Examples of Assistive Technology in the Classroom – This article is a great one to tab and keep around for future reference. It acknowledges the benefits to inclusion: “The philosophy of inclusion promotes a sense of community. Children learn valuable social skills like empathy, problem solving, communication, taking turns, teamwork and more!” but also lists assistive technology/tools that can help you create that inclusive environment, such as Class Dojo. Inclusion doesn’t happen overnight and it is nice to see an article that lists the benefits but also acknowledges how to carry this philosophy out! See also: 13 Disability Resources on the Web You May Not Know About 

The 8 Most Atrocious Myths About Inclusive Education – Another great article to tab and keep around if those difficult conversations ever arise. The reality of being a student support teacher is that resistant behaviors will arise and these must be met with data/facts.. as well as, a cool head!

12 Things To Remember When Working With Challenging Students – The do’s and don’ts of working with those challenging students (which we all will)! I think the most important thing to remember is the children who need the most love show this need in the most unconventional ways. The article mentions getting to know your students, realizing they want your love, AND not letting them walk all over you. To me, that is the recipe for success and all three ingredients must be added or it will be thrown in the trash. Tough love!

Assistive Technology Increasing Inclusion in Classrooms and Beyond – This article discussed the importance of problem solving in inclusive education and looked at a Desktop Desk invention that was made for a student in a wheelchair. We can go a long way and see great success if we think outside the box! It is all in the mindset we let ourselves have! To read more about mindset and reflective questioning/listening read: Opinion: Open-Mindedness Needed for Inclusion to Thrive

Providing Structure Without Stifling Creativity – This article caught my eye because in ECE 325 we were talking about how to balance exploration and play/child directed learning with our human instinct/desire of structure and teacher curriculum planning. This is something that I am just beginning to grapple with and it is one of my personal goals to take advantage of more “teaching moments.” I find this balance to be one of the hardest.  Maybe if I allow for choice in the set structure students will  be able to learn in a creative environment? Maybe I just need to throw out my watch? I am interested in how other educators deal with this tension; please comment below!

What Is Autism? A Definition By Nick Walker – I chose to look at this article because it is always good to refresh  my basic knowledge about varying abilities. Autism is a genetically based human neurological variant that starts in utero. It is a pervasive development disorder and 1-2% of our population is diagnosed on this spectrum,. Early diagnosis and information/research is needed. Autism is characterized by language development, social interactions, behavioral, and sensory issues. However, it is a broad spectrum and no one should be defined/categorized into these rigid boxes. Autism is different for each person because all people are unique!

Happy reading! 🙂

About Me!


Kourtney Gorham

Education: I grew up in Southey, Saskatchewan and attended school at Robert Southey School. I am currently enrolled in my fourth year and final semester of my B.Ed. degree at the University of Regina (English and Inclusive Education). I am also working towards my Inclusive Education Certificate. My goal is to one day become an Educational Psychologist.

Experiences: I have been involved with a wide range of experiences related to teaching. In 2009 and 2010 I co-coached the junior girls’ basketball team at Robert Southey School. In 2011 and 2012 I helped instruct at basketballs camp at Robert Southey School. At the University of Regina I am a member of the Ambassador and the UR Guaranteed programs. I have had the opportunity to volunteer with both the Campus for All and Astonished programs. These two programs have been beneficial and have increased my understanding of working with those who have varying abilities, differentiating instruction and assessment, and maintaining inclusive environments. I also have enjoyed watching my student’s reading level improve and was proud as she wrote her first essay. I have spent the last four summers working as a medication counselor/senior counselor at Camp Easter Seal, which is the only completely wheelchair accessible and level four equipped camp facility in Saskatchewan. During my internship I coached Bantam Boys’ Volleyball and Cross Country. I advised the SRC and We Day Communities and could always be found tutoring/working with students during my “lunch break.”

Interests: I am interested in healthy eating and working out. I am particularly fond of running, biking, swimming, and TRX training. I used to run half-marathons on my own… for fun… but now I am more of a 10k gal! I love to cook/bake and do low-key things with my closest family and friends. If I have time, I love to read. And since I am confident enough to be myself, I will admit that I LOVE to clean/organize. (I’m not as boring as that makes me sound).

My professional interests include a strong desire to work with students of all abilities, both in the classroom and through extracurricular activities. I can often be found researching said topics… and posting my thoughts/resources to this blog!

Worldview: I am a very strong socialist, as I believe we need to provide programs for all in our society. You could say, I like a good underdog story. I believe that everyone has a right to an education and should be included in our society. I am also interested in protecting our environment and I have personal goals to reduce my waste/not use plastic, etc. I have a long way to go but I have been a vegetarian for two years now and work hard to avoid non-organic products and corporations who do not share my environmental values.

Technology in the Classroom: Well… it is not going away anytime soon. Technology is here to stay, regardless of the love-hate relationship I have with it. Therefore, it is time for me to learn how to best use it in the classroom! This can be a challenge (I know how to use it for myself but not always how to use it with students and best use class time/resources/curriculum outcomes). My goal now is just to try it and keep an open mind. If I start small and try to implement a couple of things as a new teacher and work from there, I would consider that successful.

I look forward to meeting you all and working with you throughout the semester! Please feel free to search my blog and leave comments! 🙂