AR & VR Tech: More Than Gaming

I really enjoyed the presentation this week on Augmented and Virtual Reality. Like Benita, when I heard the topic that was being presented, I immediately thought about ‘gamers’ and not about how the two could be implemented into a classroom setting.  The one app that stood out to me was Aurasma—how cool was the Cree language lesson? I immediately started brainstorming how I could use the app in the gym. Students could scan different pictures in our workout area to get a description of the exercise. Another use would be a homework assignment where students would scan to bring up a voice clip or video of their teacher giving the instructions—almost like a flipped classroom idea.

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Some further ideas that my classmates brought up when using Aurasma include: using a photo wall and having students scan to bring up their homeroom website, word walls for Physical Literacy in the gym, and workout reviews that students contribute to by scanning to the forum. All of these ideas area great! I sometimes fall into the same old routine because that is what is easiest but I need to remember I am teaching in a high school where almost every student, in every class, has a cellphone attached to them the second they are finished changing out. Why not incorporate tech as much as I can to appeal to all types of students?

After reading Elizabeth Reede and Larissa Baliff’s article ‘When Virtual Reality Meets Education’ I had similar concerns to Amy and Erin. If AR and VR technology has been around since the 1950’s then why had it not made a breakthrough until 2012? Like any technology, does this create a further digital divide? How can we ensure that all of our students are on the same page and none are left behind? On top of this, how can I be sure that I am not left behind in terms of being knowledgeable about AR and VR tech? I think it is important to learn alongside my students in an ever-changing technological world, however, I need to remember not to take on too much as this can sometimes be a daunting task to try out ‘everything’.

To close out, I want to go back to the ‘gaming’ note again. As a kid, I can remember playing SSX Snowboarding games on my Playstation 1. It is hard to believe how far things have come since that time. I came across this video about AR Snowboarding where the participant can connect and communicate with others and set up a course to collect points like a video game. Check out the teaser video below—so cool!!!

Like Benita said in her blog, I do not remember a lot of assistive technology when I was in high school. Perhaps I just didn’t pay attention or maybe my small school of 150 students K-12 didn’t have access to many different types of assistive tech. When I think about my first year teaching at Winston Knoll, I can remember a few different types but the one that sticks out is the Tobii Dynavox which is an augmented and alternative communication system for non-verbal students. The device allows students to choose words and phrases to build sentences so they can speak what is on their mind to their peers and teachers—yes, how amazing is that!

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One of the downfalls to the Dynavox was the weight and size. I remember my first day in October I went to shadow the teacher I was taking over for as she was going on maternity leave. She introduced me to all of the students and the one in particular who used the Dynavox. When they bell rang, we went down to the concourse for ‘movement class’ and while walking I noticed this student was way behind the others. He was carrying his Dynavox by a strap placed around his neck that was literally weighing him down, making him lean forward as he walked (not to mention he already had a difficult time walking). I was shocked. I felt sad. I questioned why. There had to be a better way for him to communicate with his peers without having to carry around a 20lb device (seriously, this thing was heavy!!). About a week into my new teaching assignment, I put a request in to buy an iPod touch that he could use in place of the Dynavox  and it was approved. You should have seen the smile on this guy’s face when he realized he didn’t have to carry that thing around anymore. There was a learning curve to this and he had become frustrated at times but after several weeks he got the hang of it and was able to use it properly.

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I really liked the Ted Talk by Ron McCallum this week. He spoke about his first ‘blind computer’ which helped him learn to communicate with the speech synthesizer. He went on to talk about book scanners that would read back to him and for the first time he could read what he WANTED to read. These were his first experiences of being able to read and communicate with his friends about relative experiences. His story reminds me of how some of my students must have felt the first time they were given a Dynavox, or PECS, or computer. Now that I am in a mainstream/all type classroom setting, I sometimes forget that all students still learn differently and some may need more help than others. The timeline that was shown during the presentation this week really showed that I need to spend more time looking into assistive technology and how they can help students learn, even in a gymnasium setting.

Assessment With A Competitive Twist

After learning so many great things from my partners this week, I found it difficult to choose just one tool to try out. I am going to be honest, I do not incorporate as much technology into my Phys Ed classes as I would like to. I have never used Kahoot before but I have seen it used at assembly so I thought I would try it out with my Credit 20 class as a recap to what he had learned about the benefits of Cross Fit Relays from Level 10 Fitnessk

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I found the Kahoot website very user friendly and I really liked the option of sharing and using Kahoots that have already been made by other educators—I really wish I would have known about this several years ago as I stumbled upon Macbeth Act quizzes displayed on the main page. Kahoot puts a somewhat competitive spin on learning and I found that students were challenging each other with their score. Now, this might seem like something most educators would want to avoid, however, in a class that most definitely has a competitive element ingrained in it, this was very suiting. On top of this, the questions were used as formative assessment to see that students were listening to instructors and they were immediately given the answer to reinforce the lesson if they answered it wrong. When reading the article ‘Beyond Grades: Do Games Have a Future As Assessment Tools?’ I was reminded that ‘game play could provide insight the way students think as they explore new concepts’. Although this article spoke mostly about video games, I know many of my students who play games like Trivia Crack which is very similar to Kahoot. Finding ways to make those connections to students is crucial. The way students learn best may not be the way we have traditionally taught beforehand but it is our responsibility to teach to different learning styles.

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One of the best parts about Kahoot is that I was able to use it as a management strategy as well. For those of who have never taken 28 Grade 11 students on a field trip, it can be very loud and the conversations can be very inappropriate. With bringing my iPad on the bus and connecting it to my hotspot, I was able to immediately run my Kahoot after leaving Level 10 (luckily I had already been to Level 10 with another class so I knew what was covered). The students were fully engaged, even right after finishing a grueling workout. I also like the feature of being able to boot them out of the room if they choose an inappropriate name. Although this is not a new concept, I don’t find many flaws with using it in a Phys Ed setting—the kids love it, its user friendly, and it allows me to immediately check their learning.

 

Web 3.0: A Guessing Game

Class flew by on Tuesday evening thanks to Erin, Naomi, Angus, Kyle, and Heidi—what a great presentation and I really enjoyed the Twitter Chat. This week we were challenged to blog about the impacts Web 3.0 will have on education. I’m not going to lie, although the session really got me thinking, I still could not grasp a solid idea as to what Web 3.0 actually is. So, I went to trusty ole Google to see what information the engine might throw back at me. I was actually surprised to find plenty of similarities of Web 3.0 being describing it as ‘a guessing game’, ‘unknown’, ‘vague’, ‘complicated’, and ‘difficult’. Although these descriptors don’t sound very positive, it was encouraging to hear that I didn’t miss the big picture and just like everyone else, it is continually being pieced together.
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I think the one of the impacts and disadvantages of Web 3.0 is that it is clearly still being developed and there is a lot of unknown. In order for teachers to implement certain software and educational technologies in their                                                                               Photo Credit                              classroom, they first need to educate themselves and understand how they will use these tools to TEACH. Sure, I can learn about new apps and spend the time implementing them in the classroom but if they do not foster learning then what is the point. At the end of the day, it is all about the learning experience for our students and what they take away from the class. Another disadvantage that comes to mind about Web 3.0 (and all types of technology) is the lack of access for students. Not all classrooms have a class set of devices for students to use. Like Amy said in her blog, ‘How can students be self-determined learners if they can’t read or if they lack devices and access?’  Furthermore, how can they be self-determined learners if we have yet to figure out how to implement this properly into our classrooms.
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‘Teachers did not become teachers to teach to the test, to develop practice tests or worksheets, to work with pre-scripted curriculum to meet standards. Teachers became teachers to teach students, first and foremost. The learner needs to be central to all teaching endeavors.’ –Gerstein  I really liked this quote from the readings this week. If we cannot understand a concept, then how are we to use this to facilitate learning? Although it is great to implement technology, there is some pressure to do great things with it by trying something new and up and coming. In order for that to happen, we need to educate ourselves, feel confident in the tools we use for teaching, and ultimately put our students needs first by choosing tools that work for them.

I feel as though this presentation got me thinking a lot and the wheels turning but I never did come to a solid answer. Maybe that is a good thing? Let me know your thoughts below!

Deep Search For The End Of The Internet

As the hilarious guy on YouTube went on about 3 toed sloths, liking pictures on Instagram, and composing emails, I realized that I also often find myself in a deep search for the end of the internet–possessively glued to my Mac screen hoping for that final click that will eventually lead my brain to say ‘OK, that was stupid. I am going to bed now’ about 45 minutes past my bedtime. What caught my attention was the following quote: ‘Heavy media multi-taskers are more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli’. Just the other day, it took me 2 hours to reply to an email because 1) coffee, 2) I forgot to print off my reports for parent-teacher conferences, 3) I hadn’t checked Instagram since last night, 4) memes 5) new Kings of Leon album came out. It really is true, especially at work, that I never take the time to focus on just one thing because to-do lists, distractions, social media, and people get in the way. Just like the video stated, ‘this is life mimicking the Internet’—I just never paid attention that this was going on.

‘Employees are sometimes so overwhelmed with catching up on email, they neglect other critical job duties.’ I am not sure about anyone else, but I thought this quote from ‘The Impact of Email in the Workplace’ resonates with me. I always check my emails in the morning, delete half of them because they are student releases, then try to reply to as many as I can before class begins. I will go two periods of teaching until I reach my prep and again, my mailbox is flooded with another set of new emails. Not only do they build up and add to the to-do list but sometimes they are conversations that could have
easily been had in person. I recently removed my work email from my phone because I was
constantly checking and replying to emails during my time at home which was not helping me manage my personal and work life divide. emailAlthough I would love to be prompt with my responses, I know that setting that morning, lunch, and after school time to respond to emails has helped me stay on task with teaching, marking and planning.

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Is the Internet really a productivity tool or merely an endless series of distractions? Like Benita, I find it difficult to pinpoint this answer. Of course, the Internet can be productivity tool if it is used properly. With the idea of Tabless Thursday, I feel like people would get the job done without trying to finish three other things at the same time. I also agree that it is an endless series of distractions as I currently have a total of 11 tabs open ranging from homework, YouTube, blogs, recipes, and guitar chords. In Marc Spooner’s Creativity class, we talked about how everyone processes information and comes up with creative ideas differently. One of the ideas we spoke about what the idea of incubation. When working on a project of some sort, you will leave the task at hand and move on to other work, letting your creative ideas sit and incubate. At any given time, your ideas will resurface allowing you to move forward and put your new thoughts in action. I feel as though I can relate to this idea and this is the reason I have many tabs open at a time—rather than sitting there stumped, I will move on to something new, come up with new ideas even if they were derived from distractions, then return to my work when I am ready.

I really liked that Heidi spoke about balance in her blog post. I agree with her, that it is all about balancing out when and how much time we are spending on certain tasks and activities. Although I would love to continue for hours on end watching balanceFailArmy on YouTube, I know that I would never get anything done. However, if I need a 10 minute break from my work to get new ideas and increase productivity so I can work longer then I will balance that out.

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Speaking of balance, I gave my thoughts now it is time for some coffee and an episode on Netflix—yes, just one.

The Good & The Not So Good of Weebly For Education

This week we were asked to evaluate a piece of educational media. I decided I would look at Weebly for Education because my students used this tool for a novel study and they were able to provide some sound feedback. Weebly for Education is a blogging website where students can create their own personalized page that is monitored by the teacher from the main Weebly hub.

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The Good:

  • Appeals to students: Any time that students have the opportunity to use technology in the classroom, they are happy about it. I used Weebly as an alternate way for students to do their novel study. All of their vocabulary, comprehension questions, chapter summaries, reflections etc were done online, rather than paper and pen. The fact that students could make the page their own seemed to encourage them to get to the computer lab or iPad carts and start working on the assignment for the day.
  • Homework checks: Another positive is being able to complete live homework checks (whenever you have the time). There was no more walking around the classroom, checking binders, waiting for students to find their papers etc. It was right in front of me all of the time. The ‘time edited’ option was also very helpful so I could see the last time that student had logged in and worked on their page.
  • Missed assignments: One of the more convenient parts of having a classroom blog was that students could access assignments and daily work even if they missed class. They were always held accountable because they had access to the page from home or even on their phone if they were on the go. Some students liked this, some hated it, I loved it!
  • Parent involvement: I always like for parents to see what is going on in the classroom. This was an easy way for parents to stay connected and know what their child was doing in class.
  • Password protected: Each page is protected with a password so that only I can access the page. Students were not required to comment on each others blogs or to check in on pages. This was an easy way for me to know that students were doing their OWN work and not simply copy and pasting answers onto the blog.

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The Not-So-Good:

  • Grammar: Yes, you would think that because they are in an English Language Arts class that students would be extra careful of grammatical errors. This was not quite the case. I had to revisit grammar numerous times throughout the unit because I was getting sentences like “HP is so dope cuz he is a wizard n stuff”. Though it made me laugh, this is not what I was looking for.
  • Problems saving: I had many emails from parents and students because they worked on the blog but it would refuse to save. I also had this issue a couple times and it was not related to the computer connection. In that case, students would copy and paste their work into a word document and either hand it in that way or try the next day.
  • Time consuming: Would I have gotten further in the novel study had I stayed in the classroom? Yes. The amount of time we lost with making our way to the library, starting up the computers, logging in etc was quite abundant and I found that students were spending a lot more time at home working than at school. As the teacher, even though I loved being able to do homework checks whenever I wanted, it took plenty of time to do so. By the time I clicked and went through 28 students pages, a couple hours had gone by.

Overall, I would definitely continue to use Weebly for Education as a learning experience for my students. Although it has its flaws, I think students enjoy showing their work in a different format and it is worth the time and effort to try something new. This was definitely a learning curve for me and I would do things differently the second time around to make my life, and the students lives, much easier.

Our Greatest Resource

‘…exposure to Sesame Street produced the desired educational effects. Those children who watched the program showed the greatest pretest-posttest gains, and the areas that showed the strongest effects were those that had been emphasized most in Sesame Street.’ -Fisch

As I try to unpack what Fisch is saying here, I can’t help but think about my own experiences with ‘Learning Programs’. As a child, I grew up with only two channels so the options for cartoons were limited. I remember watching shows like Sesame Street, The Big Comfy Couch & The Magic School Bus because my sister was always in control of the remote. Looking back, I remember counting with Count Von Count, telling time schoolbuswith Loonette, and learning Science with Ms. Frizzle. So, was I learning? Yes. Do I think I ever had expectations of watching TV or using tech at school? Not really. My parents
monitored TV time and ensured that even after school we were reading, doing puzzles or, most often, playing outside.

  Photo Credit: Vernon Barford School Library Flickr via Compfight cc

‘Sesame Street undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.’-Postman

I think what Postman is saying here is that students will have unrealistic perceptions as to what will happen at school. School is about structure and engaged citizens learning real life skills like patience, turn taking, and managing peer interactions in a social setting. These are all things that cannot be learned properly through a screen. Sesame Street, among other learning programs, portray school and learning as this fun, magical, and easy process but in school today we teach developmental skills to problem solve through the good and the bad, the easy and the difficult. Most importantly, students need to learn how to develop and manage personal and meaningful relationships at school with their peers. Although this may seem like an easy task from watching the show, the truth is that some students my struggle more than others to make friendships. Simply, it is not real life.

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Photo Credit: pestoverde Flickr via Compfight cc

When looking at the push for BYOD and bringing smartphones to the classroom, I think it is important as educators to see devices as a resource, not a hindrance—it is, in my opinion, students’ best resource. Many teachers at my school have a ‘cellphone bucket’ or ‘cellphone jail’ as they like to call it—I. Can’t. Stand. This. Let students know what it feels like to trust them. When we take away cellphones, we are taking away responsibility. Again, it comes down to structure and when we build structure in the classroom, students will learn to use their phone as a resource and not just for a social device. As teachers, we can now reach a wide variety of learners to increase engagement. Before, it was such a burden to use resources by booking the computer rooms, or signing out the Encyclopedias. Now, our greatest resource is at our fingertips.

Two Loaded Questions

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The two loaded questions: What is knowledge? and What is learning?

If you were to look at Aristotle’s theory of Empiricism you would find that knowledge comes from sensory experiences of seeing, hearing and feeling. Other theorists, like Locke, believed that knowledge comes from experiences. When I think of my own definition of knowledge, I am truly all over the map because I believe the idea is very complex and hard to pinpoint. Is it when you can make connections with what someone is talking about? Is it when you have that ‘Aha!’ moment? As we continue our discussions in class and I get into the weekly readings I am finding myself coming out with more questions than I started.

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Photo Credit: Kevin Stuke Flickr via Compfightcc

I began my teaching career in a FIAP classroom at Winston Knoll Collegiate. Being 22 years old, having taken no Inclusive Education courses, learning how to manage multiple instructional assistants per class, and teaching a group of amazing but challenging students, it is a miracle I even made it through the year. Looking back, the learning theory I most often identified with was Behaviourism. I was constantly adapting my teaching style, activities and sensory room based on students’ responses whether it be verbal or physical. It is interesting to look back at what my theories of learning and knowledge would have been because at the time my only concern was staying afloat.

When looking at the learning theories and my current teaching practice, I think Amy hit the nail on the head when she said:

‘I think we need to follow a combination of theories in order to best meet the needs of all of our students.  Additionally, we need to use a combination of theories to drive our practice, in order to move from ‘lower levels’ to ‘higher levels’ of thinking.’

I have considered myself as a behaviourist who continues to adapt my lessons based on student responses. I also see myself as a social constructivist who urges students to work and learn from one another. However, I cannot deny the benefits of connectivism and creating a network to foster learning.

Just like many of my classmates this week, I strongly believe that we would not be successful as teachers if we practiced just one theory. The most important idea for me, however, is developing strong and meaningful teacher-student relationships. The best feeling in the world is when you can sense that students are excited to be in class and eager to learn because those relationships have been established.