Breaking Out of the Pedagogical Prison

Okay, the readings this week made me think about my teaching practices for the past two years and question everything. Anyone else? Let me explain: Audrey Watters discusses how technology does not automatically enable new practices for teachers when they use a Learning Management System:

“technologies [can] mean new practices, new affordances … but the history of technology suggests otherwise. We often find ourselves adopting new tools that simply perform old tasks a wee bit better, a wee bit faster.”

I absolutely agree with this, and I am also excited to incorporate the word “wee” into my everyday vocabulary. Thanks, Audrey. I took a few days to look into my old LMS classes on Moodle, and I found that I was guilty of simply transferring text-based assignments to a semi-private online space. In fact, I think I am more guilty of it in my third year of teaching than my first year. It seems strange that my teaching practice would seem to go from forward-thinking to more backward-thinking. So, over the past few days, I’ve thought about why I’ve made this, seemingly strange, shift.

Image retrieved from: The Emotion Machine

Image retrieved from: The Emotion Machine

My students have more access to technology and devices than they did in my first year; so, we can cross that one off the list for reasons I have stopped expanding my teaching practice.

Part of the reason I have started resorting back to “old school” teaching methods is because I am teaching so many new courses; I’m just beginning to feel comfortable with curricula and gather resources so I have a basic flow to my units. In some ways, I feel like I am at a point where I don’t have enough time to completely innovate my online spaces. I’d love to create videos, give students opportunities for inquiry-based learning, and allow them to create an online digital identity, but I’m just not quite there yet. Sometimes as teachers we need to prioritize and, unfortunately, my pedagogical practices have suffered a bit from this process.

Image result for samr

IMAGE RETRIEVED FROM: EDTECHENERGY

That being said, when I say I’ve started resorting to “old school” teaching methods, it seems a tad over-exaggerated. I don’t have a problem giving up the power of my classroom and having a student-led room; some of the best learning, for both students and myself, takes place when I allow the students to take control of their learning. If I look at the SAMR model, many of my previous classes were at the Augmentation stage, with a few examples of Modification and Redefinition. I am hoping as I feel more comfortable with content, I can make my class more transformative.

I also struggle with having a completely open-sourced learning environment because it’s difficult to post resources students need. We are still living in the Pearson prison, where content is locked and purchasing power dictates what information is “valuable” to students. If I am going to creImage result for barcode prisonate an environment beyond the LMS, I want to be sure students can access everything they need to support their learning. I had a lot of trouble creating an open-web space when my ELA 30 classes had to write departmental exams, dictating what, mostly copyrighted, texts they could and could not use.

Image Retrieved from: AFSC ……………………

 

Get to the point, Kathy.

What platform am I going to use for my blended classroom? Well, the answer is a mixture of a WordPress blog (www.mskoskie.ca) and Google Classroom. I’ll try and be concise as I go through my rationale for choosing these platforms:

  1. Lifelong Learning. I already know how to manage and administer a Moodle class. I think it’s time I challenge myself on a different platform.
  2. Permanent Online Teaching Space. I am taking control of my online teaching identity by having my own (Canadian, eh?) domain (mskoskie.ca). Google Classroom is still semi-private, and I would need to recreate my class every year if I solely used it as my blended space. By having a WordPress blog, I am helping develop my online teaching identity.
  3. Creating a Fluid and Intuitive Space. After blending many of my classes, one of the most important things I have learned is to ensure the space is intuitive for students. I want to make sure they know the expectations for the blended space, and it is easy to navigate and submit material.
  4. Accessing Content. I want both students and educators to have access to content and assignments. There is virtually no resources out there for Saskatchewan Social Studies teachers. By continuing to use a semi-private space (LMS), I am contributing to that problem.
  5. The devices and access my students have. Each of my students has a Google account, access to GAFE, and 1-1 Chromebooks. They will permanently have access to the content they create since they can keep their student accounts once they become adults.

 

A Perfectionist Procrastinating a Prototype Project

Well, here I am, yet again overwhelmed with what to do for a project. I read an article describing how perfectionists are usually procrastinators because we tend to fear not completing something perfectly, so we put it off as long as possible.

The thinker, courtesy of darwin Bell (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Anyone else? Anyway, I think that happens to me every time I have a major project where I have a lot of creative control. I want to do so many things my brain is like, “Hey, girl. We are overloading with ideas and information right now. How about some sleep?” I usually listen to it, and, alas, a day goes by with getting nothing done. Repeat cycle.

 

The curriculum I am doing this project for is probably one of the classes I have actively avoided making a blended learning platform for: Social Studies 30. As my partner, Elizabeth, states (more eloquently than I could, if I might add) in her blog post: 

“we both wanted to collaborate on a course, and this collaboration was more important to us than our first choice in curriculum.”

I do not want to turn down an opportunity to work with another teacher to create a blended learning space. I think it is going to be a real challenge to create an engaging Social Studies 30 curriculum in a blended environment; this is partially due to the fact it’s from 1997 and the document is over 300 pages. Collaboration will hopefully give us the power to persevere!  Despite the curriculum being outdated and difficult to translate into an online experience, it is one of my favourite subjects to teach. This semester was the first time I taught this course, but it provided an amazing opportunity to link historical context with current events.

Image result for past and future

Image retrieved from: ITU News

With every unit, I had at least two current events that made students apply knowledge to what was going on today. We talked about Trudeau’s approval of pipelines, Brad Wall’s privatization of liquor stores, Indigenous issues post-contact, racism, Canadian laws, healthcare, etc. I think one of the key pieces for engaging youth in Social Studies is showing them how our history is has shaped the present and will continue to shape the future. I try and avoid being asked, “why are we learning about this? It happened so long ago.”

Sounds like I’ve pretty much mastered it, right? Well, I hate to take a word from Trump’s dictionary but….. “WRONG!” This course allows a lot of opportunity for students to interact and collaborate to gain a further understanding of Canadian history. I can safely say that my classroom didn’t have too many simulations (*cough zero*) going on this semester. I also didn’t have students collaborate with each other as much as I would have liked. Elizabeth (my partner in the project) discusses how beneficial simulations can be in Social Studies classes, so I am excited to work with her and learn how to make my class a bit more interactive!

So what are my goals for my project? Great question, and something I am still working out in my perfectionist-ee brain. I really want to focus on creating an online platform where students engage in an inquiry-based project, connecting past events and laws to the present. The unit I am going to do for my project is Unit Two: Economic Development. Sound riveting, doesn’t it? Well, that’s the goal. Let’s make students engage in economic systems. Let’s foster discussion and questions around why Canada’s economy is dynamic and evolving. Let’s create a connection to these economic systems and relationships between provinces, language, and Indigenous post-contact relationships.

Image result for open education

Image retrieved from: theconversation.com

As far as the blended learning part goes, I usually use Moodle to create blended classes (I have a few classes blended already). However, I want to go out of my comfort zone. I think this may take the form of a WordPress blog, as I like the way you can organize documents and it encourages open education. Or perhaps a mixture of Google+ Communities and Google Classroom is the golden ticket. I don’t exactly know how to make the module intuitive and fluid for students, but that will be a priority for whichever platform I decide to use.

Do any of you have suggestions for where to create a blended learning space for this type of module? Or further ideas in regards to the content of my course?

Cheers to breaking the procrastination cycle!

  • Koskie Out!

 

Back At It Again

Hello, EC&I 834 people!

My name is Katherine Koskie and I am a teacher at Melville Comprehensive School. This is my third year of teaching. I have taught nearly every humanities class in existence (SOC 10, 20, 30; ELA 10, 20, 30; LT 30; PSY 30; MST 20) and I love it! I decided to start taking my Masters because I missed being a student, and, also, I don’t have a lot of responsibilities going on right now. I don’t know how the parents out there can do it; I am struggling, and I eat my mom’s roast beef dinners on the regular. Shout out to Dad because he is a pretty sick cook too.

For those of you who haven’t taken a class with me, I have a pretty unique classroom that lends itself to blended learning.  The classroom has four televisions connected to Chromecast, four whiteboards for student-use, and students have access to 1-1 devices!

21st Century Classroom

I know I am incredibly lucky to have this technology and the opportunities it brings. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to create enough lesson plans and blended learning environments to use my classroom to its full potential. I feel like I am neglecting it. This is partially due to the normal crazy-ness that comes with learning new curriculum, starting my Masters, and extra-curricular activities. Anyway, I’m not here to make excuses. I’m determined to see this beauty up and running for second semester!

Three goals I have for learning in this class are:

1) Find alternatives to Learning Management Systems (LMS), so I can create resources and content that is open for anyone. I think technology creates some amazing opportunities for people to learn free-of-charge!

2) Create a blended classroom, not using a LMS, for a minimum of one of my classes. I need to find simple ways for students to submit assignments and create a coherent and intuitive way to organize my classes. (Pretty stoked this ended up being one of our assignments in this class– Thanks Courobrandt).

3) Learn from other’s experiences, failures, victories, and knowledge with blended and online classroom environments, as well as collaborating with people to create open-education resources. Gotta expand that PLN, if you know what I mean (*cough please follow me by hitting that link*).

Stoked to be back and learn from ya’ll.

Also, I’m bringing back the word ya’ll.

  • Koskie Out!

I Will Not Smile When the Battery Dies

The last ed tech debate, and the last time I will hear the sweet sweet beats of our EC&I 830 theme song, discussed the following: We have become too dependent on technology and what we really need is to unplug.

The agree side, comprised of Janelle, Kyle, and Dean, argued that people are too reliant on technology and need to step away from devices. Constantly being connected to the web can be unhealthy. While being in online communities may seem like a great way to collaborate and find genuine support, many people feel more alone when their social media use increases. This article states being online “cannot … fulfill our deep innate need for intimacy, genuine connection and real friendship.” Interesting, I guess the friends I have made over the past 15 years from online gaming cannot be “real friendships.” Sorry, guys! Really, this assertion bothers me; I don’t think Margie is the all powerful wizard who can tell you if a friendship is real or not.

Last month, a friend I met on Guild Wars, when I was 15 years old, called me. He is 28 years old, from California, and has been a soldier in war since I have known him. We have stayed in contact for 10 years. He called me to let me know he is getting compensation for everything that he has been through. We stayed on the phone for two hours — discussing Trump *barf*, dating, politics, and successes and hardships throughout the year. Without technology, this type of friendship would never be possible. Sorry to break your bubble, Margie, but I consider this a very real friendship and a genuine connection. I wish we could stop arguing connections we make online are not genuine.

8906423-illustration-of-online-friends-having-a-good-laugh

Retrieved from https://5636spring13.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/socialization-part-2/

Technology has allowed me to keep important connections with people. One of my best friends is in Calgary and we have a traditional Skype session every Sunday (or Monday to discuss GoT). Do I wish we could meet in person? Of course! But I’ll take virtual Tanille over no Tanille at all. Additionally, I tend to travel a lot and meet a lot of people along the way. Two years ago I went to New Zealand and every year I have met up with a friend from Wales in the summer (she comes to Saskatchewan in two days).

I do think technology can encourage people to communicate less with people who are around us. I think it’s important for people to be aware of how they use technology when they are around other people. I get extremely frustrated when I am hanging out with friends and they are constantly checking their phones and texting other people. I usually just tell them to put their phone away if it’s getting out of hand, which leads to some awkward silences. I have noticed an increasing amount of students sitting in the common areas around the school, playing separate games in total silence and sometimes I wonder if this habit will hurt their ability to converse verbally with others. EA Prince argues that humans do need to unplug from technology to stay healthy:

I think he brings up some valid points. Although, his message would be more powerful if he didn’t tweet nine times today.  He brings up some previously discussed topics: the pageantry of vanity, selfishness, loneliness, and instant gratification. These are all problems we need to face, but I don’t think unplugging is the answer. I will not smile when the battery dies.

Danielle Istace defines unplugging similar to how I do:

“Unplugging to me, means disconnecting from all sources of non-face to face communication. Phones. Emails. FaceTime. etc. To me, unplugging, really means, becoming totally inaccessible. And, frankly, I don’t think this is necessary in order to get the cleansing effects of not using technology.”

Tayler, Nicole and Angela argued technology is a part of who we are and we will never truly unplug from it. Casey Kept discusses how unplugging from technology is not authentic because “the goal [of unplugging] isn’t really abstinence but a return to these technologies with a renewed appreciation of how to use them. Few who unplug really want to surrender their citizenship in the land of technology; they simply want to travel outside it on temporary visas.” I think this is true. There is (maybe?) one person I know who has stayed off social media and severely limits their phone use. The rest of my friends’ Facebook pages and Twitter accounts reappear after a few days. Can stepping away from social media and heavy internet use help people regulate what they do and how often they are online? Maybe. And if that’s the case, then I guess close your accounts for a few days.

But, like my on-and-off Keto diet, going to extremities isn’t going to last very long and you are, more than likely, going to fall into your old habits (whether it be food or technology use). People are better off with moderation. Don’t eat the cake (OK, a tiny sliver of cake). Keep the phone on the table when you are with family. Leave the phone in the tent when you are camping. Get used to the feeling of having technology accessible and choosing not to use it. Bonus: It will save battery life.

  • Koskie Out!

Corporate Interests in Education: Standards that Should Not Be Set

The question for this week’s debate statement for the week was: Public education has sold its soul to corporate interests in what amounts to a Faustian bargain.

I don’t think it it is a coincidence Common Core Standards, and the increasing amount of textbooks schools buy to ensure students meet these standards, came out while many educators were pushing and working towards an open-source education movement.  Pearson has an overwhelming hold on educational materials that school districts purchase and the company can even profit from student failure.

It’s a terrifying thought to think companies creating educational materials rely on students to fail so they can “bring in the scrilla (it’s also terrifying I am using Glenn Beck as a source to prove something, but I guess my grandma would be proud).” For Pearson, Common Core is private profit, which means they can create standards that students will not be able to reach:

[Common Core Standards] require kindergartens to “read emergent texts with purpose and understanding.” According to the report, there is no scholarly basis for setting this bar for kindergartners. In fact, the evidence suggests, expecting children to read too early can have adverse consequences. Early childhood researchers have shown the benefits of play-based kindergarten for cognitive, social, emotional and physical development. “Children learn through playful, hands-on experiences with materials, the natural world and engaging, caring adults.” The report calls for the Common Core kindergarten standards to be withdrawn.

SUCCEED

Photo Credit: .EJW.Photography. via Compfight cc

Many educational institutions are forced to teach students too much content when students are too young to comprehend it.  Research suggests waiting for students to become older can accelerate their test scores simply because the brain is more developed. The “impact of accelerated testing has had a disproportionate impact on boys”:

When a boy who is perfectly intelligent and on target in terms of physical and mental development attempts to enter kindergarten at the usual age of five years old, he will be at a significant disadvantage relative to the older boys and especially relative to the older girls that parents have held out of kindergarten for a year.

Common Core Standards and standardized testing can do some good, in terms of keeping teachers accountable for understanding the curriculum. However, the implication with that is the curriculum is the only important knowledge (and presumably “non-bias” information) students need to understand in school.

I struggled with standardized testing this year. I am teaching English Language Arts 30 for the first time so I cannot write my own final exam.  As much as I would like to say I didn’t think about that exam while teaching, I cannot; the exam caters to a few outcomes in the curriculum and I fell into the trap of “teaching to the test.”  Saskatchewan and most school districts are moving towards outcome-based assessments, yet the standardized test for ELA 30 covers two to three outcomes. Anyone else getting mixed signals?

Photo of man with two shadows on the sidewalk indicating mixed signals

Photo Credit: mag3737 via Compfight cc

With all that being said, corporations are also helping to solve the education crisis. Many companies are not simply throwing money at the problem:

Smart companies are finding that the more they do so [lend otherwise proprietary human, technical, and intellectual capital], the more momentum and demand they create for what they provide, and the smarter they get about innovating around what’s truly needed in the education space. It’s a virtuous cycle of self-improvement.

Google for Education revolutionized my organization and teaching practice as well as how my students learn.  Having one-to-one access to Chromebooks allows me to have a more student-led classroom. I  plan knowing I am able to create innovative assessments that suit individuals’ strengths. My students can collaborate on Google Docs and I can give them descriptive feedback as they are working on assignments.

I never really thought about how Google is tracking what my students are doing in order to target advertisements towards them. I had a light bulb moment this week when Microsoft aquired LinkedIn for $26.2 biliion dollars. Why pay so much for a website that is used for adults to post work-related activity? Well, acquiring personal data is expensive and valuable. LInkedIn is a perfect platform to get relatively reliable and accurate personal data from people. Corporations want data; no wonder there is such a corporate race to see who can become the most widely used devices and sell the most products in schools.

  • Koskie Out!

Childhood Through the Technological Age

Debate topic: Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

I have given this topic a lot of thought since becoming interested in educational technology. The agree team was comprised of Logan Petlak, Amy Scuka, and Carter Davis who made some compelling arguments that social media is harming children.

The agree team argued social media negatively affects children’s mental health. Students are consumed by online spaces where their peers continuously post highlights of their life.  Children’s exposure to technology is leading to poorer sleep quality, which impacts their physical and mental health. I don’t know about any other teachers out there, but when I am severely overtired it ain’t pretty for anyone.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to social media use since “social media rewards persistent refreshing — that’s how it’s built, and I doubt that reward system will change any time soon. If you’re already a bored insomniac, it’s tempting to stay stuck in a ‘checking’ loop, because it’s something to do.” I know the last thing I do before I go to bed is check my phone for text messages and what’s new on “the Twitter.” Children have access to technology at young ages and I worry that sleep deprivation will hinder their ability to focus in school.

However, I do not believe social media is “ruining childhood” because of sleep deprivation. Hell, child-rearing practices in the middle ages involved kids receiving harsh beatings regularly and instilling complete obedience through physical and psychological maltreatment. The definition of childhood is always changing and, while we need to be critical of what kids (and people in general) are doing, we should not compare it to our past experiences as children and say one is better than the other.

Retrieved from obstacol.com

Retrieved from obstacol.com

Simply saying “back in the good ol’ days when blah blah blahjsdfjdgaojajg” allows people to shift responsibility and not teach children skills that are needed right now. I also realllllly hope they aren’t referencing the middle ages when they say “back in the good ol’ days.”  Does social media allow for bullying to become more prevalent at home? Absolutely. Is social media sabotaging real communications? Maybe, but I personally don’t agree with this (I am skeptical any time an article uses the word “dicey” in it).

One way I do think social media is jeopardizing childhood is due to the exposure kids have to unrealistic beauty standards 24/7. Women’s ideal body types have changed throughout history:

This generation is no exception. However, we have never had a society where children are (1) exposed to so many advertisements with beauty standards which are (2) literally only achievable with photo-altering programs. Now programs are allowing children to alter their appearance instantly with Snapchat. Justine Stephanson demonstrates how much these filters can change your appearance on her recent blog post. Shouldn’t we be teaching children to stop pursuing these unattainable beauty standards rather than fulfilling people’s desire to alter their appearance?  Danielle argues the “internet is aiding our children in growing up much faster than they did when [she] was a child.”

I think she may have a point. The CBC documentary “Sext Up Kids” describes girls who are learning how to sexualize themselves at a very young age. Therefore, girls being sexual and objectified by society is normalized and expected from society– a terrifying thought.

Despite my rant about the negatives of social media, I still don’t think it is ruining childhood. The disagree team (Ellen Lague and Elizabeth Therrien) provided good arguments that social media can provide a lot of benefits to students; I have seen a few of my students gain genuine support from people on these platforms.  In fact, students have become more vocal in class because they feel more supported in expressing themselves. I have mentioned the various benefits for students using social media and open education in previous blog posts but….

Basically what it comes down to (for me) is this:

  1. Social media can cause harm to children, both physically and mentally. We need to educate students about it.
  2. Social media can provide a lot of benefits to children and give them amazing opportunities. We need to show how it can empower students.
  3. It’s not going anywhere. Lets talk about it.
  • Koskie Out!