ScreenCastify: Another Google Extension in our Lives

Welcome back for another enlightening blog post everyone!

Today I want to talk about Screencastify, which can be discovered while using Google Chrome. Screencastify is one of the main browser extensions I use and not just in university classes either but also in my classroom.  My main use of Screencastify has been to record and publish my Math lessons to Youtube. A link to one of the lessons can be found here.

One of the biggest benefits to this plan is the ability for the students to be able to slow down the lesson and focus on specific steps they may be struggling with. Despite my best efforts, there is always students who may not understand step 3 before you  move on to step 4 and the ability to watch the lesson in segments should help to alleviate that problem.

This useful Chrome extension is yet another example of how Google is providing educational software free of charge (Screencastify is free, but the videos are limited to 10 minutes in length, however the premium version is very affordable at only $25/year).  However, detractors of Google could think negatively of this as well. In order to access Screencastify, you must be logged in to your Google Plus account. The small price Google pays to allow you to have Screencastify for free pales in comparison to the benefits they net from constantly having you connected to their social media accounts. It is certainly something to consider, but ultimately I will deal with the extra connections in order to access such a valuable tool.

Thanks for reading everyone and I hope to hear about your favourite Chrome extensions in the comments!

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Cognitivism to Connectivism: A Pedagogical Shift

Looking back on the beginning of my teaching career, my teaching pedagogy mirrored the way I was taught in high school. The majority of my teachers primarily taught using Cognitivism, which Ertmer and Newby describe as “knowledge acquisition is described as a mental activity that entails internal coding and structuring by the learner. The learner is viewed as a very active participant in the learning process.”  Because I was a successful student in high school, I enjoyed this method of teaching and it became my primary teaching method.

My teaching assignments are generally split between my Major and Minor, which are English and Math. For the purposes of this article I will focus on my Math teaching.

Generally speaking, my math teaching follows this schedule:

Introduce a new concept
Explain an example, slowly going over every step
Allow the students to try a question on their own
Rinse and repeat, increasing the difficulty of the questions
Once an understanding has been reached

I have always believed that this method of teaching is best for a Math class, but now I find myself wondering if there is a better method to teach students in 2018.

After completing my readings, one of the methods that I wish to integrate more into my Math classes is the foundation of Connectivism. George Simens describes it as “Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital.”

If I were to examine this more closely with the lens of a Math 9 course, I would frame it as such:

So many foundational ideas and learning concepts that are taught to students in class can be easily answered via a technology device. An iPhone gives a constant stream of new information given to our students in increasingly efficient ways. Do students need to know how to add and subtract fractions if Photo Math will do the question for them? Or is there a better way to spend our time teaching our students?

I do not know the answers to these questions yet, but I will continue to investigate as I ponder the switch from Cognitivism to Connectivism.

Personal Snapshots of Educational Technology

My personal understanding of educational technology is best examined by taking what I know now and looking back at snapshots of my educational past to see how technology has evolved and grown.

Snapshot #1: Elementary School – All the Right Type

When I think back to elementary school and the technology we accessed, my mind immediately goes to the computer classroom where we would “play” the typing game All the Right Type. Early on, my friends and I would spend our time constantly replaying the first level, trying to see how high of a words per minute score we could achieve. Even know I can remember that first line:

Photo Credit: <https://www.esd401.org/uploaded/Typing_Agent_Teacher_Guide.pdf&gt;

My school was certainly not alone in these teachings. As Michael Molenda notes: “In the mid-1990’s, student use was still rather mundane, often limited to a few hours per week of drill programs.” While that may not have been the best use of our time, it did develop typing/computing skills that have carried forward to this day. When observing my students now, so many of them use “hunt and peck” because they have little experience placing their hands in the correct spots and because they communicate by typing on their phones and they could do that infinitely faster than I could.

Snapshot #2 High School – Overhead Projectors

I graduated high school in 2002 and the main technology aspect of my time was the use of overhead projectors and writing notes down over and over and over. Memorization and regurgitation was a heavy emphasis at that time, the constant cycle of writing notes until your hand was sore, memorizing those facts for the test and forgetting them as soon as the test was over. This was certainly not the best way to learn and thankfully most people have advanced past this method of teaching.

Snapshot #3 Teaching Now – iPhones

All of these technological innovations (which were certainly all amazing for their time) have led us to the world we live in now as educators, where nearly every student has a phone in their pocket that gives access to more knowledge than we could ever have. The ease and speed with which smart devices can deliver answers makes me question what is truly important for us to be teaching to our students. Should we teach solving equations if PhotoMath will instantly solve the entire equation? Is there any facts worth memorizing for a test if they can always be accessed on Google? At the same time, as technology advances, it can be seen as perhaps more important than necessary. Neil Postman states: “technology tends to become mythic; that is, perceived as part of the natural order of things, and therefore tends to take more control of our lives than is good for us.” These questions are not just for individual teachers to consider, but foundation shaking questions that could change the entire education landscape.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the matter.

Until next time,

Kyle Ottenbreit

Summary of Learning Explanation!

Greetings and Salutations!

For my final blog post for EC&I 832, I have decided to briefly explain the rationale behind my summary of learning (located below).  My goal was to create something fun, where I could illustrate what I have learned while also making the audience laugh.

After much deliberation, I decided to revisit a classic Animaniacs staple, which was Good Idea/Bad Idea. I used Powtoon to create a short video highlighting the most important tenets of Digital Citizenship.

After being presented with each scenario there will be both a Good Idea for solving the problem, and a Bad Idea as well.  I’m happy with how it turned out and I hope you enjoy!

 

 

Personal Media Examination

Personal Strategy:

My personal strategy for analyzing information is to examine both sides of the “truth”. If a major American political story happens, I head to both CNN and Fox News to examine the spin from both sides of the political spectrum. In fact, I believe that is important to read several versions of the same story as it allows you to get a first-hand look at how the truth can be manipulated.


via GIPHY

Average Day Media Consumption:

On an average day, I consume the majority of my information and news from Twitter. I follow approximately 225 accounts that are focused around my personal interests (sports, wrestling, pop culture, local and national news). If I were to estimate, I would say that I check Twitter 40-50 times a day. I try to read the tweets in a chronological order as I do not like to feeling that I am missing out on any news. I agree that this level of checking in may be excessive and I can certainly see how my FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) has taken hold.

Facebook:

These last few months have not been very kind to Facebook, and it is very hard to be sympathetic as it is pretty much all their own doing.

Ignoring for a moment the latest Facebook Cambridge scandal, I simply have run out of patience for the hate and vitriol spewed in the comments section of every single Leader Post or CBC Story. No one has the mental capacity for dialogue anymore, instead people dig into their entrenched positions and hurl hateful insults back and forth.

I often wonder why I have not deleted my Facebook account, but the main reason to hold on is that I love receiving the Memory notifications to see pictures of my kids when they were just babies. But those memories are only a brief respite and I predict Facebook will continue to take a major slide.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below!

The Evolution of Literacy

In year’s past, when I was in high school, literacy was defined as being to read and write. The Internet was just in the infancy of its popularity and was in no way consumed the way it is now. Furthermore, we had no idea what “fake news” was and instead we accepted what the news told us as truth.

via GIPHY

However, much has changed since then. Today’s students are always connected to the Internet, their online presence is simply an extension of their “real” lives. As well, the way news is consumed has changed a great deal as well so students can no longer accept what they see/hear as truth. Therefore, being literate has now changed a great deal. In addition to simply being able to read and write, students must be digital and media literate as well.

David Rosen, in his article, describes digital literacy as something that “involves reading widely, keeping informed, knowing when and how to be critical and when to embrace new information, new ideas.” The idea of critical thinking is vitally important to digital literacy and literacy as a whole. As teachers we must move past the idea of thinking that critical thinking is something that can be taught in two lessons and instead understand it must be the basis for all learning.

If we cannot teach our students how to understand whether something is real or fake, and how to determine the bias, then what are we doing?

Mudita Kundra furthers this point in the same article when she states “for students to be digitally literate, they not only need to learn how to use technology, but to be critical of the information they gather. Students are exposed to information digitally – articles, statistics, videos. They require explicit instructions that information might be old, biased, fake, illegal, or discriminatory.”

A further extension of digital literacy is the idea of becoming media literate. The following Common Sense Media article describes media literacy as “Media literacy is the ability to identify different types of media and understand the messages they’re sending. Kids take in a huge amount of information from a wide array of sources, far beyond the traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines) of most parents’ youth.” Furthermore, the article continues on to say “The digital age has made it easy for anyone to create media. We don’t always know who created something, why they made it, and whether it’s credible. This makes media literacy tricky to learn and teach. Nonetheless, media literacy is an essential skill in the digital age.”

As you can see, the need for reliable and effective literacy programs are vitally important. The consumption of media is continually evolving, and if we can continue to grow our students into critical thinkers, then we will have done all we can for them.

To Be(er) or not to Be(er)

Digital citizenship continues to be an issue of major importance. And as we learned from this week’s chat with Patrick Maze, the issues surrounding digital citizenship extend beyond students and teachers. One of the issues Patrick discussed was the potential backlash that can be raised by parents if they find a picture on social media that they deem to be offensive. Considering the uproar that was raised surrounding the beer discussion, I decided to focus my blog post around this idea.

via GIPHY

Elizabeth Thoman states in her article, “from the clock radio that wakes us up in the morning until we fall asleep watching the late night talk show, we are exposed to hundreds – even thousands – of images and ideas not only from television but also from websites, movies, talk radio, magazine covers, e-mail, video games, music, cell phone messages, billboards – and more. Media no longer just shape our culture.. they ARE our culture.”

If we can agree that the media is our culture (and I do agree), then is seeing a picture of someone holding a beer on Facebook really that much different than seeing that happen in real life? And since we are adults, I see no issue with a teacher enjoying an adult beverage in a responsible manner.

Furthermore, Thoman goes on to say “Teens today have no memory of life without television; kindergarteners know only a world with cell phones, laptops, instant messaging and movies on DVD. To ignore the media-rich environment they bring with them to school is to shortchange them for life.” Because our students are so comfortable with technology, the interactions online feel as common and natural as “real life” interactions that we grew up with. Therefore, we would be doing a disservice to our students to disallow the use of technology in their assignments and daily lives.

Now if we are to allow students to engage this further access to technology in the classroom, we need to do our part to make sure they are digitally literate and prepared. Mudita Kundra states: “For students to be digitally literate, they not only need to learn how to use technology, but to be critical of the information they gather. Students are exposed to information digitally—articles, statistics, videos. They require explicit instruction that information might be old, biased, fake, illegal, or discriminatory.”

To wrap up these thoughts, digital citizenship certainly has a place in the classrooms, not as a one-off but as an ongoing thought process.

As the knowledge of students, teachers, and parents continues to grow, we hopefully can move past the stigma of seeing a picture on social media and understand social media is now just an extension of our real lives.

Any thoughts that you have on the subject I would love to hear.