Category: Technology in Education

Will Technology Make Teachers Redundant?

The short answer is, “Of course not!”  Teachers play a critical role even when students are engaging with technology within the classroom or at home.  Right from day one, when computers arrived on the scene in schools, educators have been grappling with how these new technologies can be used most effectively to enhance instruction.  Here’s an article that explores the intriguing role between teachers and technology.

Chromebooks versus iPads What's the best tech solution for schools?

Over the past year, I’ve had the privilege of visiting a number of schools in various jurisdictions around British Columbia and Alberta.  As a former teacher with a strong interest in the use of technology in schools, it’s always enlightening to talk with teachers about their tech set-up.

One particularly interesting trend I’ve seen is the move away from the traditional computer lab towards having mobile trolleys with class sets of Chromebooks. 

Another trend is the move away from iPads to Chromebooks.  There are a number of significant advantages of using Chromebooks over iPads.  Chris Hoffman’s article, “Why Chromebooks are schooling iPads in education” outlines some very compelling reasons for this development.

Can Technology Help Students Become Better Writers? Food for thought in the brave new world of Ed. Tech.

Although the question posed by an article in EdTech Magazine was, “Can Technology Help Students Become Better Writers?” a much more compelling question is, “How are teachers using technology to help students become better writers?”

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and the National Writing Project, technology is used to teach writing by the use of wikis, websites, blogs, interactive whiteboards and various tools to help students edit their own work and review the work of others.

Missing from this list are a number of key elements for effective writing instructional programs.  The use of technology in writing instruction should also address:

  • how to motivate students to become engaged in the writing process.
  • how to develop the all-important skill of writing fluency (i.e. the ease with which a writer is able to generate ideas and put them into words.)
  • how to develop original ideas and think critically.
  • how to give students feedback on their writing so that they can become self-regulating learners.
  • how to cater writing assignments to individual needs.

All of these elements have been key in the development of the writing app COW.  Our goal is to provide educators with a practical and effective tool that enhances writing programs with the use of technology.

 

Bring Your Own Device Can this really work?

One of the major hurdles facing many teachers wishing to integrate technology into curriculum is, quite simply, student access to technology.  In visits to many schools and conversations with a multitude of teachers, so often, teachers voiced their frustrations in dealing with limited student access to technology– not enough computers or tablets, slow networks, and the list goes on.

One solution that’s been batted about is the idea of “Bring Your Own Device.”  This entails students using their own laptops, tablets or smart phones at school to improve access to technology during school time.

Is this really a practical solution for giving students greater access to technology for meaningful educational pursuits?  Are there too many potential problems accompanying this approach to make it workable?

Sherry Langland, a junior high school teacher in Edmonton, Alberta, spearheaded a B.Y.O.D. at her school.  Her blog post, “Our ‘Bring Your Own Device’ is a Success!” describes the steps her school took to make B.Y.O.D. a practical, workable solution to the challenges of giving students more access to technology.

Personalized Learning What Do We Really Mean When We Say 'Personalized Learning'?

There’s a lot of talk of late about Personalized Learning. Like many innovations in education, the issues surrounding it are complex.  The article, What Do We Really Mean When We Say ‘Personalized Learing’? explores some of these issues.

COW’s Meteoric Journey Guided by Students and Teachers

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At the Calgary Teacher’s Convention on February 12th and 13th, a comment we often heard at the Alieo Games booth was, “We’ve never heard of you.”

There’s a good reason for this.  As recently as the fall of 2014, COW was nothing more than the snap of a synapse, the drumming of a dendrite, and the inkling of an idea.  Over the ensuing eighteen months, COW has been on a warp-speed journey of epic proportions.  Thanks to the insightful suggestions of countless teachers and students, COW has undergone dramatic transformations to arrive at the product you see today.

At Alieo Games, we are committed to creating a writing experience that is playfully engaging, creatively challenging and a valuable tool for the development of literacy.  We’re excited by the positive feedback we’ve been receiving from students, teachers, parents and school administrators.

COW’s Journey Continues

We are in a constant state of reviewing, enhancing, upgrading, and streamlining COW to benefit our student and teacher users.  Any feedback you can provide to us on the COW experience will be warmly received.  Please contact us if you have any thoughts on COW.

We look forward to meeting teachers at the Greater Edmonton Teacher Convention on February 26th and 27th.  Please stop by for a chat, give COW a try, and be sure to enter our draw for prizes that are nothing short of fabulous!

Techno-gaga. Techno-lust. Techno-struck. Call it what you will.

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In the last post, How a 1200 Baud Modem Didn’t Change Our World, three questions were raised which educators have always needed to ask when considering the implementation of a new technology in schools. The first question was:

Does the technology address curriculum goals?

This seems like a hopelessly obvious question to ask. If it’s such an obvious question, then why isn’t it asked with the necessary regularity? The simple answer? Techno-gaga. Techno-lust. Techno-struck. Call it what you will.

Let’s define it as the state of being infatuated with the idea of using technology. Over the years, we’ve been wowed with the appearance of new technology, and the promise of how it will change education. Paradigms would shift, curricula would be redesigned, and the role of the teacher would be drastically altered. Appearing in schools was Logo, Hypercard, iMovie, Powerpoint– the list goes on. Amazing educational experiences for students, yet . . .

. . . they still have to learn to read and write. The reality of education is that fundamental literacy skills are still a primary focus of the curriculum. Many more areas of curricular concern have been added to the teacher’s proverbial plate. In addition to teaching literacy, mathematics, content areas such as social studies and science, the fine arts, and many others, teachers are now enlisted in the fight against childhood obesity, bullying, drugs, and other social problems. This is all to happen within the limited timeframe of the school day.

Given the present state of curricular pressures placed upon teachers, any new technology introduced to a school must address current curriculum requirements. Otherwise, it will go the way of past innovations and fall off that proverbial plate.

In designing COW (Creative Online Writing), Alieo Games has developed a tool for teachers that will enable them to effectively enhance the teaching of one fundamental curriculum goal: writing.

Using COW with students will not be an “add on,” but a valuable tool to get students motivated to write and receive relevant feedback upon the quality of their writing. COW provides an online learning environment in which students will not only improve their writing fluency, but also practice using elements of writing as taught by their teacher.

So, in answer to the question, “Does COW address curriculum goals?” the answer is a resounding, “Moo!” (Translated from the bovine to mean, “Yes.”)

How a 1200 Baud Modem Didn’t Change Our World Three questions educators needed to ask then, and still need to ask now.

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In 1989, a box arrived at the school. Inside the box was a 1200 baud modem. This, we were told, was our gateway to the Information Superhighway.

The Mac Classic in the library could now communicate with other schools around the world! This seemed absolutely amazing, especially given that we were still paying long distance charges on calls to the next town.

This piece of incredible technology had the promise to change the way schools worked. Students could have pen pals in Saudi Arabia! Questions could be sent to scientists anywhere in the world! The possibilities were endless. Classes would flock to the library to connect to the world. The place was bristling with excitement.

A dedicated line was installed in the back of the library office. Going online meant unwrapping a very long phone line all the way out of the office, over the circulation desk, and finally to the lone computer. It didn’t matter that twenty-five kids would attempt to huddle around the Mac Classic and try to catch a glimpse of the cryptic writing on the tiny screen. It didn’t matter because this was cutting edge technology.

Everyone listened with anticipation to that distinctive sound of the modem– the phone dialling, followed by a series of screeches, scratches, and buzzes. It was the sound of the future.

And then . . . the sound of a busy signal. The Data Pack port to the internet was shared by four schools. That social studies teacher up at the high school must be online again.

“Sorry, kids,” the librarian would say. “We’ll have to try it again later. Maybe we’ll have better luck.”

And, subsequently, whenever the librarian would do a demonstration of this amazing technology, fingers would be crossed, Hail Marys would be mumbled as everyone held their collective breath, hoping the technology would actually work.

It didn’t take long for teachers to give up. For the time, energy, and hassle, using the technology wasn’t worth it. The promises of educational technology were not fulfilled. At least, not for now.

Fast forward twenty-five years, and schools have obviously made huge progressive leaps in access to technology. Logistics have been streamlined. Teachers have become more technologically literate.

Still, in spite of these advancements, teachers still face many of the same fundamental challenges in incorporating technology into curriculum to enhance instruction.

Boiling the issues down, three fundamental questions must be asked when a technological innovation is being considered for implementation in a school:

  • Does the technology address curriculum goals?
  • Is the technology practical to use?
  • Does the technology enable students to learn in a way that is not possible without the technology?

The same three questions apply to those designing educational products for classroom and school use. Without carefully addressing all three questions, products in the realm of educational technology are doomed for a place on the shelf right next to that 1200 baud modem all covered in dust.

Is Technology Making the Written Word Obsolete?

The strap. The Gestetner mimeograph. 16 mm film. The VHS tape. The chalkboard. The floppy disk. The written word?

Thanks to Snapchat, Youtube, smartphones, and Skype, is the written word on the way out? Will it be cast aside in that storage room at the back of the school until someone stumbles over it in a few years, dusts it off, and donates it to the local museum?

Yes, of course, there is plenty of texting going on. And Tweeting. So, maybe the word isn’t entirely on the way out. But what of the paragraph? Or even the complete sentence? Is the cryptic use of words to be the norm? Will the term paper become the term Haiku?

Well, before we gently usher the longer forms of word use out to the proverbial retirement home of obsolescence, let’s take a look at another doomed medium– the radio.

Radio was given a death sentence when television became a mass media sensation. Why has it survived? Here’s a great article which explains how radio’s success has flown in the face of doom and gloom predictions: http://sparksheet.com/radio-everywhere-how-audio-survived-the-digital-revolution/

So, is there hope for the written word? The sentence? Or even the paragraph and beyond?

Of course there is.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the written word enables precision of thought. The written word can take a reader into the depths, through the undercurrents, and plunge them into the dark subterranean world of the human perception.

The written word can also dissect an issue with precision. It can present an argument or analysis built upon complex thoughts.

But here’s where my own bias shows through … Most of all, the act of writing can lead the writer to personal discoveries. Journaling has long been heralded as a healthy, therapeutic method of self-analysis and problem solving. Writing imaginative fiction can serve this purpose, as well. As an author, when the dust settles on a new piece of work, I look back upon it and realize how the creative act has taken me to explore realms of human perception I’d never before considered.

Where, then, does the written word fit into the brave new digital world of education and the new literacy that technology demands?

It means that we should not be throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. It means that thinking to write and writing to think should still hold a significant place within school curricula. We should be using the tools of technology to enable and liberate students to use the written word effectively.

We owe it as educators to provide our students with inspiring opportunities to use the written word to venture more deeply into their thinking, explore creative avenues, and embrace the written word as a valuable medium.

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