One enthusiastic educator's exciting journey to teaching mastery
One enthusiastic educator's exciting journey to teaching mastery
I love beautiful things. I try to make my classroom design visually appealing and uncluttered, and the same principles apply to my digital environment. My most favourite tool for creating beautiful graphic design has to be Canva. If it's new to you, read on to see how it compliments and even improves my teaching practice. If you're already using it, I would love to learn how you are implementing it to your teaching practice.
The Beauty of Canva
Easy to use
Easy to export
Graphic Design Ideas for Teachers
I just posted a few ways you could use Canva as a teacher, yet there are many other avenues to explore. My personal challenge for the next school year will be to introduce Canva to my students- I already have a few ideas cooked up! Here are a few ideas off the top of my head: visual representations of their learning, student-created classroom posters, re-imagined book jackets.... the possibilities are endless! How would you use this tool to improve your practice?
Coding, a synonym for computer language programming, is becoming increasingly trendy in schools. Should you consider starting a coding club in your school? Read up and decide for yourselves!
When you register your club, you (as Club Guru) get to choose a theme. Possible themes include: Storytelling, Art, Fashion & Design, Friends, Sports, Social Media, Music & Sound, and Game Design. Each theme has different lessons and objectives, so you could potentially have students in many different clubs. When you create a club, each student will automatically get a login account and password. This info works for the CS First website, where students watch videos and are given their daily activities, and this same info is used as their Scratch login information. This is where they will create all of their coding!
While all the instructions and backup plans and solutions are supplied, I would suggest registering yourself as a student in your own club, and experiencing the club from that point of view ahead of time. That will help you understand what needs to be accomplished in your next session, as well as highlight goals and tips and tricks to share with your students.
Each club runs for 8 sessions (you could do it twice a week for 4 weeks, once a week for 8 weeks... you decide!). In my experience, one hour was sufficient per session. You may want and need extra time if you are running this club for younger grades.
Transformative use of technology
While many may have thought that this technological revolution would quickly spread to the field of education, progress has been quite slow. While computers and other technology have been integrated into classrooms, they have mainly been used to support traditional teaching methods. However, technology is not transformative by its mere presence, but by the manner in which it is implemented. Meaning, it is not the mere physical presence of technology that will transform education, but rather, the ways in which they will be implemented into teaching practices. If thoughtfully and prudently implemented into teachers’ practices, educational technology can work to augment student agency and transform traditional roles of both student and teacher.
knowledge based on their own experiences and interactions, will see greater results. Researchers have also identified that teachers who favour constructivism, focus on higher level thinking, and their students tend to create media, as opposed to simply consuming it.
Now, effectively integrating technology into the classroom is akin to asking for a complete overhaul of conventional education. The idea is not merely to integrate computer machines into teaching, but to move from a traditional, transmittal model of education to a student-centered, constructivist design.
It is with this framework, and these thoughts, that I left Montreal, destined to learn great things from our trip to Orlando FL!
Identifying Current Barriers
As evidenced by the literature, there is a large divide between recommended technology integration, and what actually takes place in classrooms. Some believe that the dramatic reconstruction of society due to technological advances has not extended to school settings due to administrative or financial constraints (Mao, 2014 cited in Dolan, 2016). These are mainly external barriers, also identified as first-order barriers by Ertmer (1999), that can be easily resolved with redistributed finances. I believe the cause of this static teaching situation is far more complex.
In order to reconcile the technological disconnect present in schools, it is important to address the many intricate reasons that contribute to this divide. While researchers have identified a laundry list of obstacles, I have chosen to identify the most prominent barriers, the ones that are deep-rooted into the psyche of educators, and have the greatest impact on the current situation. Together, traditional teaching beliefs, lack of guidance and constantly evolving technologies create a trifecta of barriers that prevent any progressive transformation from happening.
Teacher beliefs, and their impact on teachers’ practices, have been widely researched. Described as “the individual conceptions about desirable ways of teaching and conceptions about how students come to learn” (Beijaard, 1998, as cited in Hermans, Tondeur, van Braak, & Valcke, 2008, p. 1500), teacher beliefs have a great impact on what goes on in the classroom. Hew and Brush (2007) go on to explain that a teacher’s beliefs will determine their attitude, and that in turn, this impacts the daily goings-on of teaching.
Teachers beliefs are formed by past experiences and help maintain and form future experiences, as they are a lens through which all future experiences are seen (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010). New information, about best practices when integrating educational technology, for example, are filtered through a teacher’s belief system (Ertmer, 2005). They are deeply ingrained- so much so, that it is unlikely that a teacher could simply be persuaded to change their beliefs (Ertmer, 2005). This means that teachers will use teaching methods with which they are familiar, and that have had success in the past.
Teacher beliefs directly impact whether or not teachers will integrate technology into one’s practice. Vannatta and Nancy (2004) ascertain that teachers’ beliefs and disposition towards technology act as predictors of successful technology implementation. More precisely, traditional beliefs are shown to have a negative impact on classroom use of technology (Hermans et al., 2008), and teachers who believe using technology in the classroom is a valuable endeavour are more likely to use it in their teaching (Ertmer and Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010).
Hermans et al. (2008) stated that teacher beliefs are a determining factor of why teachers use technology in the classroom. Experienced teachers’ beliefs hold an even more significant value; should they not see the value of integrating ICT into their practices, not only will they not use it, but less experienced teachers will be deterred from initiating, or even continuing, their classroom uses of ICT (Brinkerhoff, 2006).
This may be too big a jump for many teachers who have a traditional teaching style: the pressure of changing their pedagogical beliefs and integrating technology makes them resentful, and more likely to resist change altogether (Zhao & Cziko, 2010). Yet presented in the right way, Matzen and Edmunds (2007) suggest that integrating technology into one’s teaching practice may be the right opportunity for teachers to try out a new teaching style (in this case, a constructivist one).
No Clear Objectives
As technology rapidly evolved, and was naturally woven into the fabric of our daily lives, it became clear technology would have an important role to play in education. Yet no one told teachers what they should do with it, or what successful technology integration would look like (Means, 2010). Literature on effective technology implementation has been limited (Means, 2010). As a matter of fact, there is no adopted standard definition of technology integration (Bebell, Russell & O’Dwyer, 2004). Without guidance, standards, or a model to work towards, is it no wonder that this objective has not been achieved? Working in such ambiguity would be a challenge for anyone.
Even the vernacular used in this field is unclear. The development of educational technology is accompanied by a large amount of buzzwords, that often, are empty of meaning or significance. Chief among them, the catch-all phrase of ‘21st century learning’. Many have attempted to define this term, yet a single definition remains elusive. In various research papers, 21st century learning skills can be defined as including: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, higher order thinking, information literacy, cultural competency and awareness, lifelong learning, digital citizenship, empathy, creativity, innovation, and many more (ISTE, 2007). This list of desired outcomes seems all-encompassing, and not solely reserved for the 21st century.
Technology is developing and evolving so quickly, it is impossible to keep up. Every minute, 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube (2016). This is one small example to illustrate the accelerated growth of the industry. As there is constant change and evolution in the field of technology, there are continually new ICTs being developed, new advances and discoveries being made and increased creation of programs and Apps. This means teachers have access to a growing, unlimited bank of resources at their fingertips. Should someone be able to identify a gap in educational technology, it is only a short matter of time before someone answers that need.
The ever-changing nature of technology has been frequently identified as a barrier by teachers (Ditzler et al., 2016; Dolan, 2016), but I believe it has been mislabelled. The quickly developing realm of ICT is clearly a benefit and should be embraced. While it may be threatening or intimidating to teachers that the field of technology is constantly changing and evolving, it’s dynamic nature should inspire teachers, not scare them.
The real issue is placed at the core of the current predicament of education- technology poses a threat towards conventional teaching methods. Traditionally, teachers have acted as sage on the stage; all-knowing transmitters of information instructing passive students (King, 1993). The sheer amount of material being thought of, created, and shared through technology greatly threatens the transmittal model- no teacher could ever know all the programs or Apps. Even so, most teachers have clung to this model, rejecting the transformational potential of technology, by using ICT for low level operations (Ertmer, 2005). Claiming that the great deal of ever-changing information is a barrier is really only a façade for the fear and anxiety teachers feel about change.
Current Use of ICT
Is the potential of educational technology being maximized? Not at all. In spite of the numerous benefits offered by educational technology, schools have not been using computers to their full, transformational potential (Blin, 2008). Examining current use of educational technology will highlight a blatant misuse of a potentially powerful tool. In addition, exploring the current ways in which teachers currently utilize ICT in their teaching practice will reveal the true origin of the problem.
Replicating Traditional Teaching
By and large, teachers are using technology to replicate traditional styles of teaching. In a study exploring the classroom use of tablets, Ditzler, Hong and Strudler (2016) found that applications were limited, and mainly geared towards productivity (such as calendar, and word processing). Similar findings were highlighted in a survey of over 6,000 high school Quebec students (Karsenti & Fievez, 2013). They noticed tablets remained unused for most of the classroom time. When they were used, it was overwhelmingly to support traditional teaching tasks, such as reading a digital textbook, or to employ a word processing or dictionary App to take notes on class lectures (Karsenti & Fievez, 2013). The situation is much the same in higher education. Blin (2008) found that professors mainly used the school’s online portal to upload materials that would be presented during face-to-face interactions.
Naturally, teachers play a deciding role in whether or not technology will have a place in the classroom, and what that place will be (Schnellert & Keengwe, 2012; Thomas, 2007, 2008; Wenglinsky, 2005; Wiburg, 2003). Overwhelmingly, using technology does not change one’s teaching methods. Typically, teachers who use technology in their teaching practices use it to imitate their usual teaching styles (Ertmer, 2005). This has been proven many times over; teachers with traditional philosophies are likely to use technology to support their conventional methods (Ertmer, 2005), and teachers who already use student-centered practices are likely to continue doing so when implementing technology (Matzen & Edmunds, 2007). Therein lies the problem: if instructional practices remain the same, so will learning, no matter which tool is used to deliver information (Clark & Mayer, 2011).
Transforming through Constructivist Applications
As all schools have access to some level of educational technology (Means, 2010), we might have expected to see a transformation in pedagogical execution. However, technology is not transformative by its mere presence, but by the manner in which it is implemented. Meaning, it is not the mere physical presence of technology that will transform education, but rather, the ways in which they will be implemented into teaching practices. If thoughtfully and prudently implemented into teachers’ practices, ICT can work to augment student agency and transform traditional roles of both student and teacher.
The power of transformative ICT use is unlocked when coupled with constructivist, student-centered learning situations (Honey & Moeller, 1990). That is, teachers who align themselves with Piaget’s learning theory, that children learn by constructing knowledge based on their own experiences and interactions, will see greater results. Researchers have also identified that teachers who favour constructivism, focus on higher level thinking, and their students tend to create media, as opposed to simply consuming it (Dolan, 2016; Ertmer, 2005; Hickey, Moore, & Pellegrino, 2001; Jonassen, 1996).
Leont’ev’s (1978) Activity Theory (AT) provides a framework by which we can structure and categorize the different usages of digital technologies. According to this theory, activities are a series of actions that use material objects to work towards a goal. The outcome of these action will vary, depending on what the actions are, and be categorized as either tool, tutor, resource, or environment.
In Stevenson’s (2008) application of AT employing educational technology, he classified 60 ICT classroom activities using this framework. The two most popular categories were those that supported traditional teaching; 89% of observed activities had students consuming media (Stevenson, 2008), a very passive form of education, if that at all. These types of activities do nothing to alter the current roles of teachers of students, but rather, only preserve traditional teaching methods.
The other two categories of AT represented a much less popular type of ICT use. Accounting for only 8% of the activities, these types of endeavours lent themselves to a constructivist, student-centered philosophy, wherein students were actively participating in their education creating and evaluating media.
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