Unit 5: Flexible, Equitable, Achievable?

At the provincial level, the Ministry of Education within the Government of Saskatchewan recognized the need for allowing all of our students to become digitally competent citizens.  Image result for government of saskatchewanThe Millenials that consume our classrooms each day are digital natives, just because they have been born into this era does not necessarily mean that they know how to properly or safely use the vastness that is this technology. 

The Technology in Education Framework states that “not only is technology vital the learner…it allows for creativity, flexibility and allows for a greater reach in educational opportunities” (p1).  I have chosen to focus this units blog on the view that our provincial stakeholders took at using digital technology to enhance equity in learning for all in Saskatchewan.  How can technology allow for this to happen?  Just as Dylan stated in his blog, growing up in a larger center can cause one to wear blinders, not realizing that not everyone had access to the internet or computers in their schools – or even being in a larger center being forced to only take the courses offered at your school when you could have been taking courses offered at the DLC (understanding there is a financial undertaking here too, which may further resect some out).

Personally, I am a huge proponent of using technology in the classroom to enhance lessons.  In fact, I have gone away from using textbooks in my classes entirely.  Technology has the ability to allow for learning for all, students can be working on multiple levels at the same time.   But, using technology in the classroom also means that I am responsible for teaching the appropriate use of student-based technology.  Just because these Millenials have the world at their fingertips, does not necessarily mean that they know how to use it safely and in an acceptable manner.  Should educators have to shoulder this responsibility entirely?  NO.  There needs to be some responsibility with their parents/guardians too.  However, considering that our students are spending the majority of their waking hours in school, we have a responsibility to do our part if we are expecting our students to use technology in our systems. 

I realize that not all schools are equipped with enough computers for all students, therefore our students are using their own cell phones for classes. By allowing students to use their own devices, we are inviting in distractions which have to be managed.  Great – yet another thing for our classroom teachers to try to manage.  Or is it?  I caution those who are quick to complain about this.  Recently Ontario has decided to ban cell phones in classes beginning at the start of the 2019-2020 school year.  I am curious how this will pan out.  I understand that concern about the distractions, but a student can be just as distracted while on a laptop as they can be on a phone.  I understand that they are faster on their phones with the distractions, however, distractions are always there.  I am concerned that this ban will narrow the educational experience to those in remote areas who do not have access to technology that those in larger centers do.   My other concern with this is:  What if it pans out well, although Saskatchewan believes that technology enhances equity and learning for all, will we follow suit and ban cell phones in our classrooms?  Will this then become inequitable for remote areas?  How will our classrooms adjust to still function within the government mandates?

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Major Project Part 1

I have worked with Prairie Valley School Division for 11 years now.  In that time, I have seen a number of changes take place technologically within our classrooms and across our division.  I currently teach grade 10 – 12 students and use technology in my classroom on a daily basis. This year, our graduating class will consist of ~ 60 graduates, this has been the norm for LHS for the past few years.  However, our incoming grade nines will be ~100, and this will be the small group for the next seven years.  Our projected numbers will rise quite a bit. Technology is important in the classroom, and ensuring that all have access to technology while in our school (we are a BYOT division) and beyond is essential for students to perform tasks, such as creating written works, communication, and experimenting in a virtual sandbox, but it also creates a portfolio of academic growth and data collection tool of metacognition.   

A probing discussion of the current state of things

I have chosen to discuss how my division prefers that students and staff use Office 365, however, this is not conducive for my students as they will lose all of their work the moment they graduate (see below).   I would like to see all grade 10-12 students transition over to Google Drive.

Entitlement  Students – As long as you are enrolled as a student in a Prairie Valley school you are entitled to use Office 365 on up to five devices. Office 365 checks into Microsoft periodically to verify you still have a valid account/license. If you are no longer enrolled or have graduated, Office 365 will no longer have a valid account/license and Office 365 will become unlicensed and will no longer work.

When you take a look at the Technology in Education Framework manual, page 2 lists sustainability as one of the guiding principals stating: “A technology-supported learning environment is strengthened by sound business and administrative practices, is sustainable in the long-term within available resources, evolves based on research and analysis of trends, and is supported by the Ministry, school divisions, and educational partners.” I question what is meant by long-term?  How long is long? How are our senior students being supported in the long term if their technology is being removed from them at graduation?

A brief SWOT analysis of the current situation (be sure to include attention to the negative side effects that could arise from the change you propose)

Strengths:  An internal strength of not allowing students in 10-12 to migrate over to Google Drive would be that all staff and students would remain on the same system and the division would continue to have control over one operating system.  This would be easier for the division to maintain. It would also be easier for those who would be training individuals on the preferred system as they would only need to learn Office 365.

Weaknesses:  As soon as students graduate or leave our division, the will immediately lose all of their work saved in the “cloud”.  If they aren’t reminded by their educators to pull off all of their work to a memory stick or transfer it to another cloud-based system it could be gone.  This could impact future application processes for post-secondary education if writing examples, etc. are required.

Opportunity:  Teaching students how to properly use a cloud-based program to access information from home or school, without the need for a memory stick will alleviate the “I forgot my memory stick at home” homework excuse.  By using Google Drive (and Google Classroom) – students can share assignments with their teachers from any device they have installed the app on. It is rare to see a high school student without their cell phone on them today, all of their school work can literally be in the palm of their hand.  By using Google Drive, they will be able to access work that they created years ago if needed. It is the student’s personal property.

Threat: Time to learn and understand two cloud-based systems can be taxing to school staff.  Some staff are intimidated by new technology and feel that there is always something new to learn.  Because of this, they may not want to use a system that is different from K-9. It will also take time to teach students who have never used Google Drive before.  This may take time away from curricular outcomes of an already compact course.

A rough proposal for changes you would like to implement.

I would like to create a proposal to introduce the idea of why PVSD needs to think about adopting Google Drive (including Google Classroom) as the primary cloud-based system for students in 10-12.  I would like to use my creative leadership skills and test drive this for a three-month window in three of my classes (Biology 30, Environmental Science 20, Wildlife Management 20/30). At the succession of the three-month window, I would gather a qualitative narrative among the students and take the data to the administration.  From there I would like to speak to our school superintendents about allowing this change to be implemented if the narrative from the students is positive. My division will also want quantitative data – this will need to be collected in terms of the number of articles that the students have created in their Google Drives and those that I have implemented in their Google Classroom.

A brief rationale for why you wish to embark on this change.

My rationale behind wanting students in 10-12 to transfer over to Google Drive or the G Suite is simply because they will lose their Office 365 account the moment that they graduate, this means that they will then lose their entire learning portfolio.  It seems backward to me that we encourage students to use a cloud mechanism that is then going to dump everything the moment they are out of our system because they no longer have access to their school account. I am also very interested to see how Google Classroom/Drive can help enhance my own leadership skills.

Forms of technology that I use and are linked to my Google Classroom/Drive for students to access and save into their Google Drives include (but are not limited to):

CooperScience – My school blog – this is updated every day or two depending on the hecticness of the day.  It is the goto place for my students to head to when they are missing from school – or if they want to re-watch a video, find important information, etc…  This is the first place that any of my students go to when they have questions, most of the time, they will find the answers here. It’s also a place for parents to get information on what we have been doing and where we are heading in class.  I continually update the home page of my blog with hyperlinks of great online tools for my students to use to help them create their assignments and assessments with. Anything that I am keeping in my Google Classroom is linked to CooperScience – the students have the code to access the classroom – it is my security wall so that my content isn’t spread about from students of one class to students of another class (no cheating ).

Flippity – One of the best websites for creating the “Wheel of Death” as Dr. Alec Couros would put it.  It has the capability to create random groups/teams in the click of a button.  I create a spreadsheet at the start of the semester for each class and it is ready to go!  There are also some games that you can create such as Hangman and Jeopardy. This program works off of Google Sheets.  The students like to create flashcards with flippity (similar to Quizlet).  

iMovie – we make a lot of videos in my classes.  I prefer to have my students vlog their major projects rather than write a report about them.  This is something that I have just changed my view on. I know that there is a large push on numeracy and literacy in the classroom, however, as a science teacher, I can see their thinking and how they have modified their projects better in a vlog than in a written piece.  The students explain in a scientifically literate manner why they have modified their projects, etc… within the vlog. For my class, it just works. If a student doesn’t have an iPhone, Movie Maker works just as well, but I have found that most just use their iPhones and edit the vlogs right within the iMovie app.  The students upload their videos to their Drive and share them with me – it’s easy PLUS they keep a copy of their work.

On the Road to Discovery

I am a senior science teacher and Vice Principal in a small school in Saskatchewan, Canada.  Saskatchewan

Currently, I am working on my Masters of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Regina.  I have taken two classes of educational technology and social media and have had that “ah-ha” moment where I realized that THIS is what I want my thesis to be on.  The “this” that I am referring to is that of the use of MOOCs within the science classroom to increase students engagement.  I still need to figure out what engagement is to look like, but have a bit of time to work through this – any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!  I am taking an xMOOC out for a test run, but feel that I am missing something – I am missing the connections with an xMOOC that I am hoping to gain in this MOOC.

This year, I would like to try working on increasing my Twitter usage, currently I tweet or re-tweet.  But I am wanting to create tweets with substance and those that allow for a flow of conversations. I have begun to use WordPress blogs in all of my science classes – all of my students are required to blog once a week and I have moved from a paper based class towards a blog posted, online learning platform class.