I admit it. I’m biased.

Those colds I wrote about last week? Through some bizarre twist of biology, they’ve morphed into stomach flu. 0/10 do not recommend.

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Source: Giphy

I am approaching this week’s blog entry with a large amount of bias: I am an English teacher. I teach “text”.

But, as I tell my students, text means a whole lot of things. According to the English Language Arts Curriculum, a text is:

…any form of communication, whether oral, written, visual, or multimedia (including digital media), that constitutes a coherent, identifiable unit or artefact (e.g., poem, poster, conversation, model) with a definable communicative function. It refers to printed communications in their varied forms; oral communicating, including conversations, speeches, dramatizations; and visual communications such as illustrations, video, and computer displays.

So when Bates classifies “text” as simply print media, I’m working against my prior knowledge.

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Source: QuotesWave

However, I am intimately familiar with text, as Bates describes it. My first love is reading. I have read thousands of books, stories, poems, plays. Books are my one true love (sorry, Nathan). Books are the reason I pursued an English degree and am currently teaching English. What better job is there than to teach what you love?

To hear my mother describe it, I began reading at two years old. Apparently, I had Dr Seuss’s A Great Day for Up memorized.

But that creates an interesting juxtaposition: I had memorized through audio rather than print. Hm.

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Source: Momfilter

My first “real” chapter books were my mother’s copies of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, which introduced me to all kinds of colloquialisms like jalopy and dungarees. These were quite frequently mispronounced by me, which created never ending laughter for my parents. Again, the juxtaposition of audio and print. Hm.

As for auditory, I’ve begun listening to podcasts while on maternity leave, just to have some noise and other adult voices. Stuff You Should Know is a current favourite of mine. Lots of interesting things to hear, but like Sarah, I find I don’t learn anything. It’s too easy to tune out because there’s no reinforcement of the material, as Bates discusses. Sure hearing about the origins of quinoa is interesting, but do I remember anything from it? Nope.

Another juxtaposition of audio and text. I’m noticing a pattern…

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Source: Open Clip Art

So then, what about video? I love video. I’m a frequent purveyor of YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video etc. But what I find is that more often than not, I have subtitles turned on. I find it easy to understand what is going on when I can see and hear what is happening. Maybe that speaks more for my advancing age than anything else, but another piece of the pattern: audio and visual and text. Hm.

And we reach computing. It seems to be the amalgamation of all of the above media: “it can combine the pedagogical characteristics of text, audio, video and computing in an integrated manner” (Bates, 2015, 7.5.4). Seems like the perfect solution, no?

Yes and no. I do spend a lot of my (non-maternity leave) days on a computer, interacting with audio, video, and text, whether researching content for a class, modeling, or just exploring. However, using a computing method of teaching/learning requires due diligence and constant double checking.

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Is that awesome website still up? No?!

Finally, social media. Ah, yes. The boon and bane of my existence. I use social media for, well, everything. I crowdsource questions, communicate with my parents who live 3000km away and keep up with the news (today’s Reddit is tomorrow’s Facebook). I really enjoy the collaborative atmosphere of social media and it combines a lot of the previous media. It almost seems a culmination of the other media.

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Source: Makeawebsitehub.com

Again, it has its drawbacks, as it can be a time suck and disseminate false information as truth (fake news), as well as create hostile spaces. It takes a bit of teaching and learning in order to use it well and effectively.

But that’s the same with any of the other types of media: they take time to learn thoroughly.

So, to conclude, all of these types of media are intimately linked together, through one way or another. All of that validates the definition of text from the curriculum: it is all this and more.

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Source: Giphy

If you’ve read this far, thanks.

 

I leave you with a question: how do you decide which type of media to use?

Crash course in Crash Courses

I’m writing a little later in the week than anticipated (thank you, cold. Everyone, even the baby, is sick. It’s truly a magical time) but I’m so glad I did!

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Source: Imgflip

Reading through classmate’s blogs has been super informative this week. I especially appreciate the blog posts on the creation aspect of this past week. It really helped alleviate my (usual) procrastination about end-of-semester projects.

Liz looked at iMovie, which I have been contemplating for my project, as I’m on leave and don’t have a laptop, but I have my own iPad. I really glad to see the pros and cons of using that program.

Twana and Stephanie both blogged about Adobe Spark, which is another program I’ve been wanting to try out, potentially for the summary of learning. Their reviews definitely convinced me to try it out.

This week, I didn’t focus on the creation part, but the learning part. Like Andrew, the Crash Courses intrigued me.

In doing some cursory research, I found out that Crash Courses are actually partnered with PBS and Khan Academy.

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Screen Grab: PBS
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Screen Grab: Khan Academy

Which is kind of cool, because it adds validity to their content because it has presumably been vetted by these partner companies.

I decided to watch a couple videos on Hamlet as that’s what my module will focus on.

I found the videos really informative and accurate, which is good for students looking to confirm their knowledge and to expand on information about the play they were unsure of. As well, the production value is WAY beyond my budget, both talent-wise, time-wise, and money-wise. But that’s good. It’s much more entertaining than I can be (some days).

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Source: Vancity Buzz

But, I found that it went so. fast. Like super fast. I was looking for the subtitles and the rewind button constantly. I feel that a script or watching (and re-watching) segments would be the best way to tackle this as I found it too much to ingest all at once. I would feel that I am also really putting my EAL kids at a disadvantage because of the speed.

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Source: Vancity Buzz

Overall, though, I really like the format because I think it appeals to students, especially after they find out he’s the author of The Fault in Our Stars (Okay? Okay.) (and many more)

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Source: Vancity Buzz

And yes, that’s good.

You get what you pay for

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Source: PC Mag and Google, edited by me

This week I decided to try and work with Canvas as an alternative to Google Classroom as some of the accessibility issues were brought up in class (fun fact: I had my first international discussion with someone on Twitter about how to get more public access! I was impressed with my ability to connect with the wider world. Thanks @AliceKeeler!)

So, onto my review of Canvas.

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Source: Giphy

After I logged in for the first time, I was struck by the similarities between Google Classroom and Canvas. The layout of how classes are grouped was similar.

But, upon further investigation, the differences started to stand out. And that’s not necessarily in Canvas’ favour.

As I worked through adding information, assignments, discussions, and a syllabus to Canvas, I was struck by the fact that I had no idea of what my class would look like to a student and I wasn’t sure how I would check.

This is what I see as a teacher:

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Screenshot

Is this what students see? How can I find out? If this is what students see, I’m unimpressed. To me, it looks cluttered and intimidating. There are almost too many options. For a student, I’m not sure I would know what to do without very specific instructions and modeling.

Logan mentioned some really pertinent points about the integration of “revolutionary” tools. There really aren’t any, proprietary or otherwise. Yes, it has Google Drive access and Twitter integration, but it lacks finesse with those tools.

Audrey Watters’ post about LMS really challenged the way I was approaching the content and the structure.  A big plus to Canvas is the openness of it and the ability to leave the course “open” so students can access it beyond the course’s technical end date. In this way, students are more central to the learning occurring. It seems the Watters’ post had a significant impact

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Picture Source: SheKnows, edited by me

HOWEVER, I’m not sure I’ll be using Canvas in the near future, due to the fact that my division subscribes to the Google Apps for Education. That fact simply cannot be surmounted. I have access to all kinds of tools and my students are “walled” into the Google Classroom through the division’s purchases.

As my title suggests, in this case, I get what I (my division) pays for. Canvas looks similar to Google Classroom, but with further investigation, I find myself drawn back to Google’s monopoly of apps and programs. I just cannot get past the fact that Google offers more helpful tools for teachers through Google Docs and parental/guardian access.

So, I enjoyed my sojourn through different LMSes and have a couple more that I want to explore (thanks, Amy!), but for now, Google is king.

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Source: Lazy Grace

And goes and goes

Ahhh. Silence. One child is sleeping and the other is out with his father. I finally have time to work on this class. Coffee in one hand, mouse in the other. #momlife

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Source: Google

Ok.

So I started setting up my Google Classroom and was almost immediately overwhelmed with the possibilities for my class, students, and parents. I’ve begun to explore all of the options in setting up a classroom that can be effective for all learners I may encounter in this class. I think I’ve resisted setting a Google classroom for so long because I thought it was just another iteration of a classroom blog, like the one I had already set up.

My rationale for the classroom blog was multiple: trying to reduce paper waste by not photocopying extra handouts (my mantra was “did you check the blog?”), providing copies of handouts for parents and tutorial teachers that were accessible anywhere, and assisting students who had missed class.

Google Classroom, on first glance, seems to be this and oh-so-much more.

Like, much more.

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Source: Relatably

Looking at Google Classroom, I knew I’d have to pick a subject and topic with which I was familiar, as tackling Google Classroom already seemed like a ginormous mountain.

So, like Nicole Brown and Kyle Ottenbreit, I’ve decided to tackle the beast that is Shakespeare.

Ah yes. Everyone has fond memories of Shakespeare, right? Everyone loves to learn about iambic pentameter, rhyming couplets, and theatre in the round?

Sigh. An English teacher can only wish.

Because, honestly, I do love Shakespeare. I really, really do. I think he’s funny, bawdy (what teenager can pass up a good fart joke? Shakespeare sure couldn’t, and honestly, if you actually read Shakespeare, even the tragedies, there are so. many. dirty. jokes), timeless, adaptable, and relatable. Yes, all of those things.

For my final project, I’ve decided to create a fully formed unit on… drumroll please…

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Source: Giphy

Hamlet. Hamlet is required for English Language Arts B30 and is one of those plays that has influenced our language in so many ways. There are many lines from the play that have made their way into everyday speech as truisms.

For example: “Neither a lender nor borrower be” (1.3.76) or “to be or not to be” (3.1.57).

It’s also Shakespeare’s longest play (and my blog entry is unintentionally reaching Hamlet-esque lengths. My apologies) and the only one I can think of that has been Disney-fied.

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Source: Wikipedia

And so, this marks the beginning of my semester-long attempt at making Hamlet accessible, relatable, and most importantly, FUN in a blended learning way.

My challenges in working with Shakespeare is trying to make the learning “personal“, as Stephen Downes discusses. As well, the Oblinger/Hawkins article echoes that sentiment: “Learning occurs as a result of motivation, opportunities, an active process, interaction with others, and the ability to transfer learning to a real-world situation”. Students will have to first get on board with the why of Shakespeare before they can make the learning their own.

I’m very excited to start on this adventure and really hope that I can produce something that I can use when I return to teaching.

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Source: Giphy

Finally, if anyone has experience with Google Classroom, I’d be very grateful to hear your pros and cons of using it! Forewarned is forearmed.

And so it goes…

Here it goes!

I’m Kelsie and this is my second tech class with Alec and Katia. The first was a whirlwind spring course that challenged pretty much everything I knew about technology and its use. The format of debates really showed me that there are no definitives in technology and education, that everything is shades of grey in terms of access and ability.

When I’m at work, I teach 9-12 English Language Arts at Campbell Collegiate.

I’m a huge English geek, and I think I’ve passed that love onto my son. As I’m typing this, he’s brought me a stack of books to read to him (current favourite).

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Truth. (Source: Grammarly)

But, I’m not at work right now. I’m at home, enjoying my second maternity leave with my two boys. Having an active 2 1/2 year old and a 2 month old keeps me hopping and drawing on all my creativity to keep them entertained during this long cold winter (thank you, Pinterest).

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Almost 2 months old!

In my downtime, I’m a news junkie, with a special place in my heart for CBC as a kid who grew up all across Canada.

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Source: CBC

I’ve also ventured into an unknown space: Twitter. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m more often browsing social media than posting, so my resolution is to post more frequently to become a more active participant in the conversation. I’ve also begun to notice how Twitter can feed my news habit.

Because I’m on maternity leave and hypothetically have more time on my hands, I especially want to explore Google Classroom. Colleagues of mine use it very effectively and I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to see what it can offer me in terms of making my life and my students’ lives easier.

So, this is me in a nutshell: excited to finally be trying out things I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but always found excuses not to. The time is now!

Save the Best for Last?

So last blog entry, for now.

The debate topic around unplugging came at an interesting time for teachers: summer vacation has a connotation of “unplugging” around it. Unplugging from work stress, marking, emails, phone calls, and student nagging. I’ll assume it was genius to put this debate last on the part of Alec and Katia 😉

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Photo Credit: The Daily Beast

I’ve noticed, in my current land on being inundated with emails, that sometimes I prefer to unplug and go find the colleague to actually ask them in person. (This article provided by the agree team goes more in depth about why I would want to talk to someone in person.) There’s a lot of subtext that cannot be explored within an email (namely, tone) that needs non-verbal cues in order to be understood.

During a bit of preliminary research for this topic, I discovered there’s actually a National Day of Unplugging (we missed it by a couple months, though). It’s an interesting concept: connectiveness has become such a ubiquitous thing that we need a day specifically set aside to justify unplugging.

There are all kinds of add-ins for tools like Chrome, that can limit your browsing and tech use. Getting my toddler to lock my phone for two hours has a similar effect.

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Photo Credit: LiveLongand Travel

Digital detoxes” are becoming a trend and creating business opportunities that didn’t exist before, complete with how to’s. This concept didn’t exist five, ten years ago. It’s a new business and a new job. Maybe these are the jobs we’re training our kids for?

The idea that we need to unplug should give weight to the agree side’s argument, because clearly, if there wasn’t a need to unplug, we wouldn’t even consider it. Because it has become such a large topic, it deserves some credibility. Maybe we do spend too much time in front of screens (as evidenced by the hours it takes me to write blog entries…) Maybe, if we really do need to be connected, we can do it outside?

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Snapchat proof.

Right now, it’s a glorious, sunny 20C outside. While I have to squint at my screen, I’m enjoying writing this outside. It’s summertime and with summer comes a renewed need to reconnect with nature rather than my email. Out of a staff of 100+ people, I’m the only one outside. To me, that’s a really sad reality.

I do believe that people need to unplug from their technology. But, I also understand we live in a world where connections via the internet are important to everyday life. I do need to access my email during the day. I’ve been really guilty of checking my email when I get home or on the weekends. I think I need to institute a new rule with myself that Katherine advocated: no email after 5pm. I think it’s really important to draw a balance between work and personal life.

As a teacher, I jealously guard my personal life. Because teaching is such a personal job, and it requires so much of my compassion, care, and connection with there are some parts of myself that I like to keep teacher-free. Unplugging from work allows me to do that. It prevents electronic intrusions into my time with my family.

Balance, I think, should be a watchword for the class: everything we’ve discussed is essentially a matter of balance, whether it is teacher training, parental control, access to technology, budgetary concerns, sharing over social media, and how much time we put into screens. It all comes down to yes, too much is no good. But too little is also just as bad. We need to find a middle road in order to properly use technology to its fullest potential.

So, with those final thoughts, excuse me while I go and read my (paper) book. It’s been a great semester!

 

 

Summary of Learning!

Below is a link to my summary of learning. Please ignore the cat peanut gallery. He was entirely unimpressed he didn’t get to be in the video and voiced his disapproval vehemently.

Summary of Learning

Script:

My journey of learning this semester started somewhat trepidatiously. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from an online class, let alone a technology class. I’d never taken an online class before, so luckily I came in with no expectations about how it was going to be run.  

But, I wasn’t feeling any better after the first class.

I hadn’t participated in a debate since I was in high school. I had a vague idea of how one was supposed to be run, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to even start to delve into my topic of openness and sharing. I didn’t know what to think about my topic just yet either. Looking over the topics, I knew there were some that appealed to my knowledge base more than others, but this class is about expanding horizons, not staying within my known boundaries. So, I picked a topic I was completely ambivalent about. Something about which I had no fixed opinion. I felt like this would challenge me to learn about something I hadn’t previously even considered. To me, that’s the purpose of grad classes: to tackle subjects beyond our current knowledge and to learn to care about them.

After the second class, and the first debate, I was feeling a bit better, though that first debate really set the bar high. The debate centred around whether or not technology enhances learning in the classroom and what a debate to start with. It really helped give a preview of all of the forthcoming debates. It also previewed just how contentious and intertwined all of the debates actually are. It is hard to separate just one out as a singular topic.

As well, the second class really taught me how to successfully multitask for a couple of hours. It was overwhelming for the first half hour or so trying to keep up with who was talking on the screen — even after I mastered the speaker screen — trying to match names to blogs and then trying to keep on top of the chat to the side. It was a lot of information to work on at once. I hadn’t ever experienced this kind of overload before. Previously, i was able to tune one thing out or stop a task to focus on the others. This was a new experience for me. It took a bit of missing one thing or another, but I think I’ve got it now.

That week also ushered in my first experience writing a real blog post. Sure I’d written an introduction one the week before, but this time there was a purpose and content to it. I navigated through wordpress with the help of the Google Plus community and the internet. I learned how to insert pictures, how to offset quotations, how to “pingback” to other blogs… All of this was unknown to me prior to starting the class. I was already acquiring new skills!

It was also interesting to read others’ thoughts about what they made of the debate, and not surprisingly, not everyone had the same opinion. Reading people’s blogs felt more natural and unforced rather than the  alternative I hear so much about in other online classes: posting on forums. It allowed people to say what they wanted to say without worrying about making sure they were still on the same topic or someone had already written about that.  I also liked seeing how people set up their blogs,  and what neat little things they did to make their blogs unique…

I finally felt settled into the class and felt like I could do this.

The first debate really started me thinking about what my group and I were going to do for our own debate. The concept of openness and sharing in the classroom still daunted me, but I had an idea of perhaps where I would want to start researching. I had heard, recently, of so many issues of parents and oversharing that I knew I could draw some information from there. But I still had a few weeks! I could relax a bit and enjoy the upcoming debates.

The second and third debates were on the same nights. Again, though they were different topics, the same issues kept reappearing.

There was a definitive theme developing to the debates: teacher training and funding.

Most of the discussion in the debates centred around whether teachers have the knowledge, the understanding, or the will to carry out technology in a meaningful way in the classroom.

Tied to teacher knowledge is the idea of where exactly teachers are going to get that knowledge. From whom do they get the knowledge?  is it reputable knowledge?  is it timely knowledge and how will it enhance the classroom in which they teach? All of these things are variables when considering teachers and technology.

These ideas helped frame my group’s debate. We tackled the idea of openness in a classroom being a bad thing. We knew going in we faced an uphill battle, fighting against the integration of technology in classrooms in a class dedicated to just that. We fought valiantly, and we learned so much about how openness in the classroom can both benefit and detract from student learning through our own research and through opposition research. The most important thing we learned was about the lack of guidelines available to teachers and parents about how to successfully navigate the world of social media safely for their students and children.  It was an eyeopening experience to see both sides and to have to understand both sides in order to formulate a knowledgeable argument.

The guest speakers we had on the second to last class were incredible. Audrey Watters made so many salient points that spoke directly to my worldview, it was amazing I’d never come across her before. She spoke of corporate involvement in school, especially regarding standardized testing, which is a pet topic of mine. Her discussion really affirmed what I had thought about corporate involvement. Dean Shareski brought an expanded understanding to what I had previously known and I appreciated hearing an “insider” opinion on what a corporation’s actual intentions, minus the liberal bias, may be. It was interesting that, during this class, the chat and people’s opinions seemed to be the most vehement and their blogs most prone to apologize for ranting, as though that’s not what blogs are for. The impact of corporations on teaching must impinge on some deeply held beliefs by teachers because of the extraordinarily strong, emotional response the debate and speakers elicited.

As this class closes, I am left with many more questions than when I started it, and for that I am incredibly grateful. It is wonderful to know that I still want to know more and more and more and that I will never have all the answers. It confirms that I truly do want to be a life-long learner and it is something I can model for my students. It is my job to lead by example and in this, I am a proud leader.

So thank you to Alec and Katia. This is has been a whirlwind of a class, but it has taught me so much about my boundaries and how many new things I am willing to try to be successful. I hope I have the chance to take one of your classes in the future!