I need a Tech Break

Since devices first began ‘streaming’ into the classrooms, teachers have been continuously dealing with new and more challenging ways to manage the classroom. The phones were the first issue, but that seemed very simple. “Just don’t let me see them or hear them”, was how I first dealt with this and it worked for the most part. However, there would always be a phone that ‘dung’ or rang no matter how hard you would try, and when it happened, it was a big deal and big distraction. It didn’t take me long to realize that this strategy was not effective and the best attitude to take towards the increased amount of technology making it’s way into the classroom was acceptance. Last year in the classroom, when a phone ‘dung’ or rang, I would just ignore it if we were in the middle of a good discussion or make a joke about it when appropriate and there never seemed to be any big distraction. It was just part of how the classroom looked and sounded now. Of course there needs to be expectations in place for technology use in schools and classrooms, but I think we need to bring the line back a few notches if we wish to save ourselves the insanity of it all.  

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Pixabay.com

This week’s articles discuss many great ideas towards our ‘acceptance’ of technology playing a major role in classrooms and managing it effectively. First off, I believe the idea of acceptance is no longer even negotiable considering how much learning has increased because of technology. A great point comes from the article, ‘Would a Laptop for Everybody Help?’ by Liz Dwyer shows how a school in Main, closed the gap between students from low income backgrounds and wealthier backgrounds by equally providing access to information. She uses an example that, If a low-income student is assigned a research paper, without a laptop and internet access she has to rely on her school or local public library which may not have as many up to date or accessible resources.

What is also a newer importance at schools, because of the integration of technology, is that we help students learn how to manage their own abilities to use technology responsibly and as a tool for learning. Yokohama International school is making this a priority with not only the students, but by partnering with the parents as well. They are coming together to help students with strategies and ideas of how to manage their own use of technology. The article. ‘Living with Laptops’ by Kim Cofino states, “In the end, we’re working towards each student developing their own self control, and an appropriate level of balance that works for them and their family. To do so, we would like to work as a team: parents, school and students.”

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Pixabay.com

Finally, I found the idea of tech breaks very interesting. Typically, schools and parents feel that students spend too much time on their devices. However, in Larry Rosen’s article, ‘How a “tech break” can help students refocus’. He says that because of this it is beneficial and even necessary to allow tech breaks in class and “Instead of resisting the urge to text, check Facebook or watch a YouTube video, just do it. That’s right: Cure the tech disorder with a dose of more technology!”. I’m interested to see if this idea can possibly lead to any sort of debate.

Does the Curriculum Limit Learning?

I think the big question regarding this week’s topic is not, ‘will education change due to technology?’, because I think it surely has and that it is. The question in my mind is, ‘why is it changing so slowly?’. In the video below, Dr. Madhav Chavan makes a very good point by suggesting that we are merely using technology as a tool to match with our linearly designed educational system. Whereas, technology itself is not linear which creates conflict between the two. He finishes his explanation with this great quote, “right now, the technology is only a helper in the current, inefficient system”.

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I feel that watching this video answers my question above, along with this week’s assignment question as well. To answer the question, ‘will education change due to technology?’ I now see the answer as, ‘if we as educators allow it to’. And to answer my question, I believe the educational system is moving so slowly because we are only using technology to support a very linear and limiting curriculum, instead of the opposite. Let’s think for a little bit about how we use technology (for the most part) in our classrooms. We use it to; record videos and capture images, to create fancy posters and engaging presentations, give students real time feedback, do quick extensive research, etc… All great things in my opinion, but now that I think about it, all really just demonstrating understanding of the curriculum standards in techie ways that make it just a tool to support the (pretty much) same system that had always been in place.

 

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Pixabay.com

What do we do then, if we really want to take advantage of this opportunity for students? As stated in the article, ‘The Classroom Is Obsolete: It’s Time for Something New’ By Prakash Nair, “The classroom is a relic, left over from the Industrial Revolution, which required a large workforce with very basic skills. Classroom-based education lags far behind when measured against its ability to deliver the creative and agile workforce that the 21st century demands.” So another question I have based on this, is ‘what is the purpose of school now?’.
A new aspect of education that I feel can fit into this is Problem-Based learning, which I think is a start. It’s fun and engaging to start class with a problem and give the student the time to find the answer, while they use the internet and work and learn from others. This is a very debatable scenario, but it’s starting to make sense that we could just pose problems for student and allow them to learn while solving it. A teacher could be the one who asks the students good questions and prompts them to reflect. A teacher could also be great at giving feedback. Do we really need to teach kids basic Math or could we just engage them with a problem or task that forces them to want to learn and therefore, learn how to learn? Could this be the start?

Information at your Fingertips

This week’s topic is one that I have become very interested in, not only because of its logic, but because it is now how I experience a much more effective way of learning personally. Over the course of a year I learned how to play guitar well enough to play in a band that is now being offered payment for gigs. Could I have done that going to an instructor in person? Not sure, but I am convinced not.

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Pixabay.com

Today’s level of technology has created a huge shift in the educations system. The only problem is that the education system itself is shifting extremely slow compared to technology. Technology now offers the educational system new ways to make use of in-school time. However, it is not uncommon to walk into a classroom and see a teacher spending large amounts of time communicating knowledge that is available online in many different formats. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve witnessed teachers delivering very engaging and meaningful lessons that involved a great amount of student participation and learning. However, I still think we can take these skills that teachers have and use technology along side to create even more time engaging, empowering and challenging students. As stated in the article, ‘A Flipped Classroom Model: A Full Picture’, by Jackie Gerstein, The advantage of the flipped classroom is that the content that is often the theoretical/lecture-based component of the lesson, becomes more easily accessed and controlled by the learner. What this means for teachers is that they can do more of what they want to during class time that involves engagement and interaction with the learners.

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Pixabay.com

It also states in her article that ‘One of the major, evidenced-based advantages of the use of video is that learners have control over the media with the ability to review parts that are misunderstood, which need further reinforcement, and/or those parts that are of particular interest.’ This point directly connects back to my introductory statement about how I was able to learn very efficiently and effectively by continuously pausing, rewinding and starting video-based lessons at my own pace in order to take control over learning the content being covered in the lesson. Doing this not only placed the lesson at the speed I needed, but it also allowed me to practice with application that worked best for my own needs. This would not work  as well with an instructor and in a full class setting. I’m pretty sure if the amount of times I paused and rewound the video would probably be a little frustrating to the instructor in person and definitely to the others in my class who were at a much higher level than me. Then, after I am able to practice what is easily accessible at home, I can go to band practice, engage with actually playing songs and problem solve and communicate with my other band members which has done wonders towards accelerating my skills.

I will end with this quote I liked from this week’s Connected Principles article, “Why do we, in the status quo,  replicate in person in our classrooms what is easily available elsewhere, the content delivery/skill modeling, and then have kids apply their learning to difficult problems at home, without us there to help?” I think it’s because how unfamiliar and messy this would be when we first implement this as part of a classroom routine. However, I also think that once students get used to this and using class time as means to play with the content and understandings, we will start seeing more motivation and engagement with students in the classroom.

The More Ways to Learn, The Merrier

In order to understand how to apply Problem, Project and Challenge based learning it is important to understand what the three are actually looking to achieve in the classroom. In their article, ‘Introduction to Problem Based Learning’, BEI’s definition of Project-Based learning is that it is a teaching method that engages students in learning knowledge and skills through an inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and tasks.

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Pixabay.com

Problem-Based Learning is defined by ‘The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning’ as a method of teaching many different kinds of skills and where student engagement contributes both directly and indirectly to achievement aroused by the problem itself. The problem engages the student, arouses interest and motivation, and the child learns as a result of being intrigued.

 

Finally, Challenge based learning, which is new term to me is, defined by NMC as “a multidisciplinary approach to education that encourages students to leverage the technology they use in their daily lives to solve real world problems and think critically about how to apply what they learn. What is also included in CBL is a technological approach to that it is clearly designed to enhance learning with its framework which involves, ‘Engaging’ with the community through ‘Investigation’, and most importantly, ‘Taking Action’.

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Reflecting on these practices comes at a perfect time, since a big focus at our school this year is Global Citizenship, which is where I see CBL fitting in perfectly. I feel that in order to enhance our understanding of Global Citizenship, we can have many discussions, but embedding the idea into the curriculum itself I feel is where the most authentic and powerful learning will take place. In order to this, we need to use all three aspects of Projects, Problem-based and Challenge-based learning together. To summarize, we could set up learning targets that engaged students authentically, by allowing them to inquire about global and local problems of their interest. They would then need to use technology to investigate, gather data, and apply what they are learning to take action and communicate solutions.
What does the planning template for this look like?