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Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Relative Advantage of Implementing Technology into the Second Language Classroom



One of my roles as vice principal is to act as the liaison for our World Languages Department.  We provide classes in French, Spanish and Japanese at our school and our teachers are very dedicated to providing students with a wonderful classroom experience.  However, technology usually doesn’t play a large role in this.  I welcome the opportunity to outline the relative advantages of using technology in the realm of learning a second language.  You will notice that I focus on French as a Second Language (FSL) as I used to be an FSL teacher and it is the traditional second language most students learn in Canada.

Roblyer outlines two issues in foreign language learning.  “There is the need to create authentic learning experiences that expose learners to native speakers and there is the need to create a broader audience and purpose for student creation” (2015, p 291).  

Technology can play a role in addressing these two issues.  For one, classrooms can access online tools that can expose them to a wide range of native speakers.  For example, Radio France International broadcasts the daily news in a format directed and language level specifically for French language learners.  Exposure to other accents and voices is critical for second language learners as it pushes them to get out of their comfort zone.  As a former FSL teacher, I know my students could understand me but had difficulty understanding someone else who spoke French.

In addressing, the need for a broader audience, technology provides communication tools that open up the world to a classroom.  Using a video conferencing tool like Skype can allow students to speak to more than their classmates.  They can speak with virtually anyone but setting up meetings with another class in a foreign country is more possible than ever.  Modern communications technology provides learners with the chance to overcome this limitation (Pim, 2013, p. 23) and speak with native languages speakers in an authentic manner.

The advantages of technology in foreign language learning do not end here and it is a shame that integration of technology is not more widespread.  Virtual field trips are possible and easily accomplished by using a service like Learn around the world. There are a number of computer assisted language learning websites and games (think Duolingo).  There are even virtual villages in Second Life where visitors can practice almost any language. Above all, integrating technology provides more authentic situations for language learners to practice and improve their language skills.  Language is communication so it only makes sense that second language learning benefits from advancements in ICT.

Resources:
Pim, C. (2013). Emerging technologies, emerging minds: Digital innovations within the primary sector. In G. Motteram (Ed.), Innovations in learning technology for English language teaching (pp. 17-42).  London, England: British Council.  

Roblyer, M. (2015). Integrating educational technology into teaching [Enhanced Pearson Etext Access Card]. Pearson College Div.



Monday, July 3, 2017

EDTECH 541- Walled Gardens and Social Media

This weeks entry has been done within Voice Thread.  In this Voice Thread I voice my opinions on maintaining "walled gardens" and embracing social media in our classrooms.  Have a listen and add your voice to the "thread" by leaving a comment.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

EDTECH 541 Acceptable Use Policies

As technologies becomes common place in all educational environments and society in general, it is important to teach students/users what is acceptable and unacceptable practice.  The first step in the formation of responsible users is an effective acceptable use policy.  Simply put, an acceptable use policy (AUP)outlines how a school or school district expects its community to behave while using their networks and hardware (Common Sense Education, 2017). An AUP helps manage users behaviour and keep all users safe while online.  In a world, where one's digital footprint is everlasting, these contracts are important in maintaining a positive online environment.

When developing an AUP,  officials should include certain elements.  According to Education World, AUP's should have a preamble where the importance and purpose of the document is discussed.  There should also be a definition section where specific terminology is clarified.  For example, what is considered a district piece of hardware,  what is a network etc. There should be a policy statement that outlines the conditions students  must abide by before they can use technology.  Also, acceptable and unacceptable uses should be clearly outlined.  For example, students may use resources that are connected to their curricula but may not use the district's wifi network to engage in abusive behaviour towards others.  Finally, violations of policy and sanctions should be outlined as well.(Education World, 2017).   The best AUPs incorporate what if scenarios in their creation (Michell, 2016).  What if a student cyberbullies another?  What if a student downloads something illegally? What if a staff member ignores copyright?  These questions and many more emphasize the need for such policies to exist.

Here are some examples of Acceptable Use Policies.  I have included my own district's policy which, as it turns out, is not a very good example of what an AUP should be.

Red Deer Public Schools- My own district's net user agreement with policy included. Looks like it needs an update. This document also addresses computer access in our district.

Calgary Board of Education- This is from the largest school district in Alberta. 

Seattle Board of Education-  From the home of Microsoft.

Credo Christian High School- This well worded policy is from a small high school outside of Vancouver, British Columbia













Resources

Common Sense Education. (n.d.). 1 to 1 essentials: Acceptable use policies.  Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/1to1/aups

Education World. (2009).Getting started on the Internet: Developing an acceptable use policy (AUP). Retrieved from: http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml

Mitchell, B. (2016, September 16). Introduction to acceptable use policies (AUP).  Retrieved from https://www.lifewire.com/acceptable-use-policy-aup-817563

Monday, June 26, 2017

EDTECH 541 Video Blog

This week's entry is a little different.  I have created a video blog where I asked colleagues about how and why they use video in their classrooms.  They all have a variety of answers but a common theme to there answers is how video enhances their students learning.  Here are their responses:




Monday, June 19, 2017

The Relative Advantage of the Google Suite

I have been using the basic Google suite of tools (word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tool) for a few years now and I have found a number of advantages to using them in a classroom setting. In fact, it seems like Google created these tools with teachers in mind.As with any basic suite of software, the G suite allows for improved productivity, improved appearance, improved accuracy, and  more collaboration (Roblyer, 2015).  These qualities are what all software suites would boast so what is the relative advantage of the Google suite?

The cloud based aspect of this suite is one relative advantage.  By not being tied to a particular machine, users can work on their files anywhere there is an internet or wifi connection.  This is very liberating and allows for redefinition of the work place.  I can easily do my work on my desktop in my office at work then continue working in my backyard on my laptop seamlessly.  Because everything is constantly  saved to your Google Drive, files are constantly being backed up and saved automatically. G suite really does increase productivity.

Another advantage of these tools are their relative ease of use.  Google designed their suite to only include the features of word processors, spreadsheets and presentation tools that people use most (Grevstad, 2016).  The lack of complex features is a big bonus when the majority of users are not tech savy.  The same can be said for classroom use, as the suite is easily used by learners of all ages.

The collaborative nature of Google tools is the suite’s greatest asset in the educational setting.  Teachers can collaborate easily together in developing materials.  Items can be transferred from one person’s “drive” to another simply by using the share button in every Google file.  Teachers can edit students' work, informally assessing them by using the comment feature in Google Docs.  Students can collaborate with each other within this suite which has helped reinvent what can be considered outputs for student work.  For example, students can share research collaboratively on a single document shared with the class or collaborate with each other during the writing process.



Grevstad, E. (2016, October 16). At home with Google G Suite. Retrieved from http://www.pcmag.com/article/344692/at-home-with-google-apps

Roblyer, M. (2015). Integrating educational technology into teaching [Enhanced Pearson Etext Access Card]. Pearson College Div.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

EDTECH 541 Reflections on the 2017 Horizon Report's Preview

I always get a little excited when the Horizon Report comes out.  I feel like by reading it, I become privy to information that few teachers get even though they could easily access it. Reading the preview of the 2017 report has me thinking about how some knowledge of what is on the “horizon” is already affecting my teaching practice in the realm of Social Studies. Of all the upcoming trends that this report highlights, I can see three that could be integrated easily in my area of the school and in some cases, have already started to implement.

Redesigning learning spaces is one area that interests me a great deal.  Already, early adopters in my school are started to embrace the notion that our classrooms should be more student-centred than teacher centric (Horizon Report, page 4).  This idea follows the notion that we need to teach our students how to learn as much as what to learn.  In fact, my jurisdiction has recently signed on to an Alberta Education initiative called Moving forward in High School Redesign. Under this initiative, we can allow several entry and exit points for students throughout the year.  For example, if a Math prodigy has learned an entire course by mid-march, why would we make him sit in the class until the end of June.  The goal of redesigning this structure of High School is ultimately to have students be more accountable over their education.  In fact, Alberta Education defines flexible learning environments as a place where learning is student centered and teachers are empowered to decide how best to structure time to teach students (Alberta Education, page 2). So far our experience with this flexibility has been positive.

Another trend that I have already experimented with to a certain degree is Authentic Learning Experiences.  I started to use  Project Based Learning with my classes last year as PBL’s foundation has authentic learning at its core. (Boss, 2017).  I found that when students have a real live, authentic, activity it is more meaningful and they are more apt to retain what is learned.  Although not a new phenomenon, authentic learning may go to the next level thanks to advancements in educational technology in areas like virtual reality.

Finally, our school’s makerspace (Horizon Report, page 7) is one thing that I have a keen interest in.  This is a recent addition to our Learning Commons area and now that I am the Vice-Principal responsible for tech acquisition I’ve been purchasing some pretty interesting things.  Recently, I acquired a 3D scanner that can scan a nut and bolt for example and then our 3D printer can recreate them.  In fact, if I was to evaluate my school and it’s readiness for the upcoming trends in education technology, I would give us an above average grade.



Resources

Alberta Education. (4 Mar. 2016). Foundational principles for high school redesign: Flexible learning environments. Retrieved from  <https://education.alberta.ca/media/3069751/flexiblelearning.pdf>

Boss, Suzie. (20 Sept. 2011). Project-based learning: A short history." Edutopia. Retreieved from  https://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning-history


NMC/CoSN Horizon Report Preview 2017: K-12 edition. (25 May 2017). Retrieved from https://cdn.nmc.org/media/2017-nmc-cosn-horizon-report-k12-preview.pdf

Saturday, June 3, 2017

EDTECH 541 Mission and Vision Statement

I have been an educator for 22 years and educational technology has always been a part of my teaching practice. I have sought to use different technological resources to enhance the classroom experience of my students by listening to my instincts as an experienced teacher but I have never articulated a formal vision or mission statement about the integration of educational technology into the curriculum I teach until now.  Doing so has increased in importance for me as I have recently been appointed vice principal of my school, and one of my responsibilities is the acquisition of edtech resources for our entire school of 1700 students.  Without a clear vision, it will be difficult for me to execute these tasks in which I am now in charge.

First and foremost, I believe that educational technology can and should enhance the curricula we teach.  Teaching and learning are complex processes and educational technology can play an important role in assisting teachers to deliver knowledge and for learners to acquire that same knowledge.  Educational technology has become a huge industry with endless choices available to schools.  Recently, we have seen Smartboards, tablets, chromebooks and  handheld devices become commonplace in our classrooms.  With all this choice it may be difficult for educators to decide what technology to acquire.  If it doesn’t enhance a curriculum, don’t bother (Provenzano, 2012).

I also believe that educational technology can help bridge achievement gaps by providing assistive technology for learners with special needs.  Thanks to apps like “Read, Write Google,” students with reading difficulties can quickly and easily have text read to them.  Speech to text apps are common place and help students who normally would have needed a scribe in the past.  Students with vision problems can overcome that limitation by increasing font size on an e-reader.  Translation tools can assistant English Language Learners in schools.  It is clear that many of the challenges some of our students face can be overcome thanks to technology.  In fact, the assistive nature of educational technology is a strong reason for its use in our educational settings (Roblyer, 2015).

Technology of all sorts is ever present in all aspects of modern life.  We have smart TVs, connected appliances, wearable technology, etc.  I strongly believe we would doing our students a disservice if we didn’t embrace technology in an educational setting.  The ability to work and live in this technological world had become a core competency that we should be teaching our students.  (Alberta Education, 2016).  With limited funding, educational institutions may find it difficult to acquire educational technology but not acquiring it, is not an option.  I firmly believe we have a moral obligation to our students to integrate technology into our schools.








Resources

Alberta Education.(2016, March 17). Competencies Overview. Retrieved June 03, 2017, from https://education.alberta.ca/media/3115408/competencies-overview-may-17.pdf

Provenzano, N. (2012, April 17). A (Very) Short Guide to Purchasing New Technology. Retrieved June 03, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/purchasing-classroom-tech-nicholas-provenzano

Roblyer, M. (2015). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching Enhanced Pearson Etext Access Card. Pearson College Div.