Convergence and Mobility

First off, I like the idea of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in an educational setting. I recognize that there are class problems that can arise from this, since there are absolutely students who don’t have their own phones/tablets/laptops to bring, but if the school can provide devices for the use of those students, then that’s basically problem solved.

This week’s topic discusses the wide uses of mobile devices in the classroom, and specifically the idea that the phone in your pocket isn’t just a phone (it probably rarely gets used for actual phone calls anyways), but it’s also a microphone, a camera, a touch-screen, and access to the internet and apps all in one. I remember back in high school, when working on a video project, I had to borrow camcorders with actual TAPES to make a video project with. Now any student could make a video whenever they wanted with their own device using free software that’s available as long as there’s a web connection.

Of course one of the downsides of allowing mobiles into the classroom is the potential for them to be used as a distraction. This obviously requires addressing in any classroom, since that’s become a staple of classroom management. But to paraphrase the words of one of my old professors, Jason Donev, on the invitation of the use of the internet into the classroom, “I found that by inviting it into the classroom and not having it as something restricted, then that also invites responsible use of it as well.” By actively showing students that their phones can be used as more than just a texting and Youtube device, then they’ll be more likely to use it responsibly and for creative outlets both in and out of the classroom.

I came across this article yesterday, talking about how many schools in Norway have banned cell phone use in schools and have students store them in “mobile hotels” so that they’re safe over the course of the day. The article paints this idea in a very positive light, and as a very progressive act, yet I would argue the opposite. If the emphasis is on tradtional teaching methods, then banning mobiles make sense, but there are so many ways that mobiles can be helpful to student learning that can’t be explored in those schools because of the decisions of the administrators rather than leaving it to the professional judgement of the teachers. It could also be argued that in this day and age of constant technology use, it’s good to get students out from in front of a screen. The argument certainly has some validity, but by enforcing this, we’re also teaching children that technology shouldn’t be used for educational or work purposes; just for use in personal life.

Basically what banning cell phones does.

Basically what banning cell phones does.

Once again, I come to the idea of classroom management: many teachers feel frustrated with students and their phones, and feel like they need to compete with them. The key to managing any classroom is to have clear expectations and to hold students to those expectations. By letting students know your expectations on the use of technology, all you’re doing is being an effective teacher. I feel that this is the key to the technology in the classroom debate; we need to teach responsible use of technology to our students, and it will open up many new doors for them.

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On Social Media

I’ll start off this blog post like I have the last several: by saying that I have been a long-term denizen of the blogosphere and that its influences have shaped me in many ways, arguably in both good and bad ones. Many of my elementary school friendships existed with people in other countries whom I’d met online through social media (specifically Gaia Online and Nexopia), so social media and I go way back.

Firstly, I’d like to address the matter of controversy around social media: In my opinion, the bringing together of people with common interests can very rarely be a bad thing. There are, of course, sometimes when you really don’t want people spreading their ideas, like when it comes to racial bigotry or young teens running off to join ISIS, etc. That being said, when you start getting people together, whether it’s online or in person, then amazing things can start to happen. In those cases when people are so far away from each other that they can’t meet in person, then the virtual way becomes the only way. When people are able to talk together en mass, then it’s usually a catalyst for something good (again, with some exceptions). There might be some cases that we as teachers will encounter that are some of those exceptions, like when some students are cyber-bullying others. It is in these moments that we can address with our students the concepts of ethics and digital citizenship to get them ready for further online interactions later in life.


I really like some of the things that Maureen Henderson brings up in her blog post, but I also feel like she’s reaching a very far-gone conclusion in that you should “quit” social media. Like I said, I think there are upsides and downsides both to the concept. One of the upsides for me is that it helped me to develop confidence and social skills when I was younger and bullied at school. That being said, I think her point about harming self-esteem can be quite accurate. I’ve had people say things to me before along the lines of “your life looks so interesting!” after viewing my Facebook profile for a while. I can safely say to you now that I am a very boring person and that I only share the interesting bits so that others don’t think I’m as boring as I am. But this has a very interesting effect, because people get glimpses into the lives of others through social media, but only what those people want them to see (unless they’re on a reality TV show).

twitIt’s in this way when people are only getting to see the “choice cuts” of others lives that they can really start to feel inadequate when it comes to their own personal lives. I could also make the same argument though that I feel equally inadequate for not having friends like Joey (Friends) or Ahbed (Community) in my life as well. I’m pretty sure that’s why we have reality TV shows, right? So that we can watch those and then regain confidence that our own lives aren’t so bad after all.

Now moving aside from the effects of social media on society at large, let’s focus it back down to the classroom. Can social media be used as an effective tool in the classroom? I say yes, it absolutely can be. But first off, I’ll come back to the requirement we have as teachers that says that it is our responsibility to determine when a technology is effective and when it is a hindrance to our students, and in my opinion, most social media falls under the latter of those two categories. I like the idea of a class Twitter, Flickr, or Vine account, for example, where students will be able to share information, pictures, and video of things they’ve worked on or want to share with the educational community. I also like the idea of encouraging the use of Pinterest, Reddit, or Tumblr accounts within and outside of the classroom. All three of these websites can offer up new ideas that others have shared which the students can make use of. For example, a student with an interest in science could follow the r/science subreddit and share those ideas excitedly with their friends. Another could follow r/writingprompts and become a much better writer for it. These are also excellent places to talk about ethics and community: we could look at poor comments others have made and discuss how that might affect someone online. The matter of uncontrollable content raises its head with these sites too, though: with so many users online at a given time, there’s no way for a teacher to filter out undesirable content from the classroom, such as pornography or foul language. The argument that students could get too distracted to make effective use of these tools is also a valid one: on a website like Reddit, there is SO much to see that it could be difficult for students to stay on-task. But then there are websites like Facebook where in the grade-school curriculum, I honestly can’t see a good use for. The thing is that so many people use their Facebook accounts for personal use, any time they would log on with the intent of educational use, there would again be too many personal distractions to be able to accomplish anything. How could you get any work done when all your friends are IMing you at once? Blogging is the last thing I wanted to touch on: I think this is probably one of the best choices out there for teachers. By having students keep online journals, you can try and keep track of them for informal evaluation that way, although I think that any assessment through the content provided would have to remain minimal by default. And by that I mean that you don’t really know that it was the student (and not a friend, sibling, parent, etc.) that wrote it.


Now once again, if anyone has arguments to the contrary, I would love to hear them, but I feel like social media has quite limited use within the classroom. If I were to make use of any for my students, I would probably restrict it to Reddit, Twitter, and possibly have students keep blogs as well.

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On Communication (Again)

The content of the internet can be a scary place. But the reason for this is because people can be equally as scary. (Is it any wonder that I’m an introvert?)


Topic 4 of this Internet and Education course is kind of a funny one for me because the topic boils down to the concepts of chatting, video conferencing, and IMing online. Like I’ve said before: I’m no stranger to the internet or talking with people through it. There was once upon a time when I was so bullied that I was literally not allowed to have friends at school, so I went and found friends online. Gaia Online, Nexopia, MSN Messenger, and MySpace were some of my favourite haunts and I met people all over the world to spend my time with. Often at lunch or after school, I would get home and immediately hop on the computer because my friends in England and Israel were just going to bed, or the ones in Australia and Japan were just waking up. It was a grand time, and I learned a lot about people around the world. Eventually, I even went and visited some of them.

But I keep coming back to the idea of using online communications in the classroom, and quite honestly I keep finding myself at a loss for answers as to “why would I have students talk to other people online?”

Let’s start with forums: Forums are probably one of the top forms of online communication that I would encourage. Using websites like Reddit to look for and find information and answers to problems (like the amazing subreddit, Explain Like I’m 5: is a great alternative source to using Google, and even just browsing (like I do every single day) can lead to some amazing finds and can help me to keep up on current events.

Onto IMing: I’m pretty sure that the single best reason that I can type as quickly as I can and without being a two-finger-typer or watching my hands is because I spent SO much time on MSN Messenger when it was still around. But quite frankly, that’s the only application of IMing that I could possibly think of for using IMing as a teaching resource. If you (as a teacher) were using it with the intent of finding information from a specific person, then video conferencing would be a much better experience.

On Video conferencing: It’s a great tool. You could meet with people from all proverbial corners of the world without even needing to put on pants… but like pretty much every other specific topic that has been offered in this topic, I really don’t feel like there’s a good use for it in education. Sure you can interview a scientist, author, or go on a virtual tour, but I feel like the novelty of the experience often eclipses the useful portion and students just walk away thinking, “that was neat, but what did we talk about again?” (I feel this way because that’s been my personal experience with it.) I could be a bit jaded and outdated in that regard though, since technology has come forward a lot since it was introduced to me as a student. Video calls are no longer things you just see in the Jetsons: they’re part of every day life.


In summary of all this, I honestly feel a bit jaded. I love technology and I love the idea of having it in my classroom, but whenever something like video conferencing or chatting online comes up as a possibility, I always end up feeling like the effort required to make it happen far outweighs any benefit, mostly because the benefits are superficial. There are certainly some aspects of the curriculum that are worth exploring with regards to communicating online; namely things like digital citizenship, web awareness and safety (which are absolutely important, there’s no doubt), but in terms of teaching specific course content, I simply feel like there are better and more effective ways of doing it. After all, part of the ICT curriculum is that we as teachers need to recognize when technology is useful and when it becomes a distraction. I would really like someone to change my mind on the matter, but until then, I feel that in the classroom this sort of thing can’t possibly amount to anything more than a distraction or minor amusement.

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On Communication

Communication is a funny thing. In this day and age, “communication” is nearly synonymous with “technology,” thinking about keeping in touch with people over long distances instantly, but so much of the communicating that we do has been reduced from incorporating all our senses to only using one: our eyes. Text-based communication is, in many ways, the way that people talk to each other en mass now, but that’s not just an electronic change either: the Gutenberg Press made the written word available to anyone with the ability to read, and all of a sudden people around the city, country, and world were able to communicate with each other over great lengths of distance and time. Current technology, in particular the text message, is a oddity because while it keeps us connected with each other, it also allows for a certain amount of anonymity provided behind the safety of a screen. Phones themselves are almost an anachronism because many people use their phones for everything BUT making phone calls.

That being said, new media is really bringing back the integration of the senses in many ways. Programs like Skype allow us to see and hear people over long distances, and tools like video games and the internet allow for bidirectional communication interactions through various software and applications. By bringing the sense back together in terms of communication, people are able to get more out of a message than when using a medium through which only one sense is being utilized.

One of the biggest things that I took away from this assigned reading was the need for varied means of communication within the classroom. We as teachers need to always be on the lookout for what’s best for student learning, and I think that very rarely will that need be met by simply having students learn through the same medium over and over. In high school chemistry, the only way that my teacher would teach was by having us copy notes off of the overhead on the board, and I can safely say that that did me no favours.

While utilizing the internet or video games to teach classroom may not always be the easiest means by which to make a point, it is beneficial if in no other way than by using a variety of methods to keep students interested in the course content. Many students will thrive on “new” means of teaching, while others won’t so much. But by bringing in multiple lines of communication to the classroom, we’ll be better able to address the needs of all the students and not just the few.

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More on Assessment

This entry is building off of my last post where I was talking about unit tests in my PS2 practicum.

I’ve done more thinking and reflecting on what exactly happened in one of the unit tests in particular where the students did… not-very-well: asking myself what might have missed, what the students may have missed, and what I could do to solve for it. As much as we’re told not to teach to the tests, I have to wonder if maybe I didn’t teach to the test enough. I ruminated on this bit especially, since I have this philosophy that the students shouldn’t be given nasty surprises on a big test (although I feel that some new situations to see if they can apply their knowledge and understanding would be appropriate), and I would make sure that the students had ample practice with what they needed to know and be able to do before giving them the unit test. Most students did well on the quizzes and practice problems that I had handed out, so why was it that they weren’t doing so well on the unit test?

It was actually another friend from the U of L who suggested that maybe they didn’t know how to tie it all together. The whole way along, they’d been doing the unit in discreet packets and chunks (which I still made sure to tie together so they weren’t stand-alone), but whenever they would do a quiz or assignment, they would know that this one quiz is specifically on force and acceleration (for example), so they’d need to use these particular equations for this particular sheet.

But then when it came time to start identifying when the appropriate situation to use a certain equation, they fell apart. All of a sudden it was no longer as simple as just-take-this-equation-and-apply-it, now they needed to go and find which equation to use first and then figure out how to use it.

So it was after I got this suggestion that it all started making sense, and I started kicking myself a bit for it. After all, I’ve done a full physics degree and so of course I should have recognized that actually building the problem from the ground-up is something that’s important to focus on.

I’m still not sure about the best way to address this, but what I think I’m going to do is try to design quizzes and worksheets in such ways that they spread out the use of equations (for physics and math, anyways) to challenge the students to figure out the problem before they can solve it. I’m also toying with the idea of having practice final tests before the real ones so that the students can have a better idea of what to expect for when it counts towards grades. I’m not sure how much I like that though, because like I said before, I don’t want to simply teach to a test. So it becomes a balancing act of telling the students that THIS is what you need to know, versus presenting new situations in which to apply their knowledge.

There also comes the question about what to do with students after a not-so-great summative test. I know that there were a few students who seemed to be doing well in class and then bombed the summative, but it’s a question of whether they blanked, had a bad day, or just plain-old didn’t know the material. If I weren’t leaving my practicum immediately, then the first step I would have taken would have been to ask the students about it and see what their thoughts are. After that, I might make plans with them to try and address any issues that arose, or even to rearrange seating so that they will be in a more learning-conductive situation and have fewer distractions in terms of chatty friends. (But of course, I also don’t want to completely isolate them socially either.)

All-in-all, this whole experience has only served to increase my interest in the psychology of assessment, which I really hope to do some graduate studies in later in life.