stumbling through computer science

Category: Distributed and Open Learning

Active Learning and Engagement

Where Did This Idea Come From?

The idea to investigate and explore active learning strategies came after a breakout room discussion during our meeting about effective learning design back in December.  Our conversation started with some concerns about online learning not being engaging because students were not face-to-face with each other, they could mute their microphones, and effectively just be a passive observer during the lessons. Our breakout group realized, however, that this disengagement also happens just as often in face-to-face learning where students are present in the classroom. In person, though, it looks more like the student sitting at the back of the room, with their head down, and not participating in group discussions. This got us thinking about how we could adapt our lessons, both online and in person, to promote more active learning and increase participation.

What Is Active Learning and Why is It Important?

As a teacher, one of the biggest challenges is not the lesson planning itself, but rather getting the students to participate actively and engage with the material. Teacher-centred lessons are the easiest way to disengage your students because they take the spot-light off of them and you become the only source of voice or information. Using active learning strategies, you switch the emphasis from you onto the students. These techniques empower, engage, and stimulate a classroom by putting the focus and source of knowledge onto the students.

Active Learning Strategies

1. Change Up Your Classroom Setting

One of the easiest ways to bring new life into your lessons and students is to change the environment in which they learn. A new environment will break up the monotony of the school schedule, allow students to actively decide where they want to sit or stand, and a different surrounding will inspire new ideas and ways of thinking.

Teaching Outside

Here are three places you could hold your class other than your classroom:

  • Outside. Fresh air and a non-conventional classroom challenges students to move differently and embrace the fresh air and sunshine which will energize them. There is nothing more thrilling to a high school student than the words “we’re going outside!” They will be able to let their guard down and become engaged with the content in a way they won’t even realize is a lesson.
  • Gym. Allowing students to walk, stand or use quiet gym equipment such as foam blocks or balls while they are discussing ideas or brainstorming in groups
  • Common Area. Bringing your students to a more public area of the school may evoke leadership or mentorship with the younger students in the school and interact with other staff members or teachers who may not usually get to observe the learning happening in the class.

2. The Devil’s Advocate

The devil’s advocate approach challenges students to engage in the content or topic being explored and look at it from the opposite point of view being presented in the lesson. Students will have conversations in small groups, with one or more person being assigned the task of looking at the subject from the opposite point of view and presenting their thoughts.

For this to be effective, your topic must be suitable for debate and discussion and should have a well-supported argument for both sides. A great example in the media right now could be oil spill mediation and recovery plans looking at the different methods of transporting oil and how to best deal with possible environmental complications that could arise in each situation.

Using the devil’s advocate approach is flexible for any grade level or group size. You could simply divide the class into two sections, or create smaller groups for older students. Follow up lessons could include a presentation of your groups ideas or a visual representation of the other persons’ point of view on the topic. Another benefit of this strategy is increasing student engagement between each other and switching from a teacher centred to student centred approach to learning. Your students become experts on a topic from both perspectives and deliver it at a level that is appealing and at an age appropriate level.

Below are some examples of starter topics and opposing claims which could help guide your class into a devil’s advocate exercise.

devils advocate active learning activity
Image source: Bespoke Classroom.

This approach can help cultivate active learning in the classroom by encouraging students to:

  • Think more critically, challenging  participants to expand their understanding of the perspectives surrounding an issue and to view it through a different lens
  • Become more engaged, fostering involvement by drawing out opinions to explore the complexity of an issue being studied
  • Produce deeper understanding of topics or issues, using rigorous analysis to collectively clarify, probe, and pose alternatives to problems being discussed

3. Game-based Learning Platforms

In today’s classroom, a large percentage of students actively engage in video games outside (and during!) class – so why not incorporate games into your lessons?

Game-based learning platforms add depth and differentiation while allowing students to be engaged with the lesson content. Avatars, music, challenges, and escaping to different worlds all while solving a quadratic equation! Students can lose themselves in the world of video games while developing an interest in the content in a whole new way.

Video games give material relevant application and evaluation. Students solve challenging problems while using technology they are interested in on a platform they are familiar with.

An effective platform that using video games to engage learners is Prodigy, which is free to play. This platform helps students tackle problems in math using words, charts, pictures, numbers and games.

Create and sign into your free teacher account here:

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Below are some guiding questions to ask yourself when practicing some of these active learning strategies:

  • Will this be engaging and exciting for my students?
  • What assessment can I take from this exercise?
  • Is the student placed at the centre of this learning strategy?
  • Will this encourage my students to discuss a topic with one another?
  • Am I giving students the opportunity  to reflect on the learning process?
  • Is this activity getting my students to think deeply and critically about  a topic or lesson or is it simply a comprehension exercise?

New Teacher, New Role

Some teachers may be hesitant to let go of the reigns and step down from their stage in front of the room. They may question that students could learn anything from their peers and be skeptical of the effectiveness of video games for helping students in math.

Engaging in an active learning model, the teacher becomes more of a facilitator for the learning experience and helps students’ along their journey to discovery of topics they are interested in. Taking a step back and observing your students during an active learning experience allows teachers to see their content from a different point of view. They will be able to engage more with their students, content and take the lesson further by sharing the role of teacher among the students and video games. The teacher is no longer the sole bearer of knowledge and collaboration can take place.

Active Learning Blogs and Twitter Posts

Three Act Math – Active Learning in Math

Flexible Seating Arrangements in the Classroom

Using Social Media to Engage Learning

The Chair Free Classroom

A Flexible Classroom

Creating a Coffeeshop Vibe in the Classroom

Effects of Movement on Learning in the Classroom Article

Pros & Khans

A Teaching Khan-undrum

The school that I currently teach as is a First Nations cultural school with a student population of just under 100 students. On the best of days, we have around 80 students in attendance, with many students frequently away for cultural reasons including ceremonies, hunting trips, or travel. The backbone of our school belief is that our students are the future of the Saanich Nation. Our school values a collaborative partnership of students, parents, elders, and leaders working together with educators in the community to ensure our youth develop into confident, caring, capable, and compassionate human beings.

As a teacher at the school, I recognize that it is not enough for students to leave school simply with the ability to communicate effectively or to understand intimately the principles of mathematical and scientific theory; they should also leave with the sensitivity, the skills, the desire, and the good judgment to put their knowledge to use confronting the issues, problems, and concerns of humankind and the world in which they live.

The class composition changes every year based on student demographics; historically, we have only offered grades 8-10 at the high school, with the students having to leave to graduate at a nearby high school. This year is the first year we have opened our doors, restructured our classrooms, and are offering classes for grades 6-11.  My course-load this semester includes math 9-11, health 8, and a math intervention block for all students. One of the blocks that I teach is a math 10/11 split class, with students in all levels of academics and abilities. In addition to the students having a range of academic abilities, many of them are away often for cultural reasons or to help at home with their siblings and relatives. Our school recognizes that our students, in addition to a heavy course load at school, have full time jobs as caregivers in their home and cultural community. It is because of these reasons that many of our students miss multiple days of school and therefore miss lots of in class instruction which is sometimes out of their control. Attendance is key in the upper level math courses in particular, because of the pace at which content is delivered, and there is a focus on preparing students for the upcoming numeracy exam in April. These two factors left me in a hard spot: I have students who are frequently away from school, are academically low, and need to pass this numeracy exam with the help of direct instruction. I couldn’t see a way for my students to pass solely depending on face-to-face instruction in the classroom from me as the only teacher. After reading Crosslin’s article regarding mixing online and direct instruction in a wholistic manner using effective practices, I gained valuable insight into how I was going to be able to effectively run this course and get my students on track for graduation.

Combining Khan and Classroom to Create… a Klassroom

My solution for addressing a split grade class with a wide range students at different academic levels and varying attendance frequencies was to introduce an online instruction component to some of the more content heavy components of the math 10/11 curriculum. Finding an online course that was able to effectively demonstrate key concepts like algebra, variables, and multi-step substitution would free up time from me writing my own notes on the whiteboard, and allow me to supplement those lessons with my own examples and extra support to students that need it. This course needed to be adaptable to my high achieving students but also flexible to deliver content at a more basic level for students who are struggling or learn in a different or assisted manner.

The first speed bump of realizing I needed to find an online course with content to cover the heavier components of the curriculum was the easier part. The second component was that I needed the course to be either free, or relatively inexpensive per student. Our school is federally funded, and funding is dependent on registration status of each student and whether or not they identify as a First Nations individual. Our school supports a one hundred percent First Nations population, which means we have full federal funding from the government in terms of educational support. The only issue is that because I was proposing an online course late in the year, most of this funding had already been allocated to other needs in the school. So, I needed a program that was not only effective and worthwhile, but also free or cheap. With this in mind, along with the quality of content, I continued my search for the perfect online course.

My last hurdle was that this program needed to be accessible to my students at home in case they miss classes and want to catch up on their own time. As if finding a quality course for free that is adaptable to all learners wasn’t difficult enough, this course also has to be smartphone or tablet friendly, because we don’t have students with access to laptops or computers at home. This course needed to be something they could potentially do on their smartphone or tablet at home or off campus. I should mention that our school does acknowledge and factor in cultural and community work students complete which may take them out of school, but I wanted students who were keen to complete their work when they did miss classes to be able to do so with limited barriers.

With my obstacles laid out in front of me, I set to work trying to find a quality math 10/11 course that was adaptable to learners, free, and compatible with a smartphone or tablet.

After an extensive search and fighting multiple urges to just enrol every student in an expensive SIDES program, I checked out the Khan Academy website, and knew I had found the co-instructor I had been looking for.

What Khan This Academy Do for You?

Khan Academy is a non-profit MOOC provider. The platform being non-profit means that there is no such thing as pricing – everything that you’ll find on the site is available completely free of charge. MOOC abbreviates as Massive Open Online Courses – this means that Khan Academy provides its user with free, widely available and subject-specific courses that they can learn from.

The entirety of the content on the site is presented in the format of YouTube videos – which means students could access the videos from their smartphones or tablets… check!

If The Khan-ditions Are Right, You’ll Be Hooked

The homepage of Khan Academy is very straightforward, with an option to log in as a learner, student or teacher. The layout is simple, and it is easy to select from the multitude of courses they offer, create your own classroom, profile, and have students join your class with a simple code of letters and numbers. Having a stress-free, simple layout helped my students log in with ease and avoided frustration or opening another webpage of distraction before I could get around to them to help them log in. The log in page, even though it’s simple in design, isn’t generic. It offers a unique course topic layout that allows you to get a pretty good idea of what you can find on the platform itself. Having a landing page that is easy for students to log in, and get started right away reduces the temptation to go to another web page and creates the right conditions for them to get engaged in the online content right off the bat.

“You Khan Learn Everything. For Free. For Everyone. Forever”

Once you decide to choose a course, you can either do so by typing a desired keyword into the search bar or choosing a topic from the drop-down menu on the top of the main page. One thing that I immediately noticed is that even though Khan Academy offers a wide selection of topics to choose from, the main emphasis lies in math and subjects directly related to it. I simply had to choose the course I wanted to set up as the teacher, and from there an exhaustive list of lessons, videos, articles, questions and assessment options were presented to me. I could choose the students I wanted to assign the lessons to, when the due date was, and if the questions would be the same for all students. In a matter of minutes, I had set up my math 10/11 course with the lessons and assessment I wanted, and after my students had created their own log in and added my course code, they were working away at their own pace. With Khan Academy delivering the content to each student, I was free to roam around, monitor their progress and help with any issues or questions they had about the videos or questions. In one morning, I had gone from being a single teacher in the room, to co-teaching with another instructor in a manner which allowed each student to learn at their own level and pace.

Khan-tinuing Positive Reinforcement

In addition to quality content, the Khan Academy courses also offer some engaging features. When it comes to paid, subscription-based e-learning platforms, cool and interesting features are usually used to attract potential new customers while maintaining the already-existing ones. Since Khan Academy is free to use, however, all of the features that it offers are just a nice addition to an already great package.

If you choose to use Khan Academy, you will have access to personalized dashboards, instructional videos, various exercises and so on. A highlight on the course page is that the platform has an integrated “level” system – students gain XP (experience points) for learning and taking certain courses, thus increasing your overall level with time. This is a great visual motivator, and it adds some interactiveness to the overall process of learning.

The company also offers some interactive features for teachers and parents. After creating an account, as a teacher, I was able to access a huge data pool of information (all standardized and up-to-par), practice exercises, video tutorials and so on. Furthermore, Khan Academy offers tools to track student progress – something essential to all teachers. For parents that are also interested, they could also track their students’ progress.

Free Khan-tent for All

Creating an account and learning on Khan Academy is 100% free. The company aims to provide and make education available to anyone and everyone around the world – free of charge. This does make me question where and how the information my students and myself provided would be used. When logging in and creating an account, all that was asked of my students and myself was to choose their role, create a username, and a password. There was an option to link and log in using a Google account, but I opted for my students to go with the first option to reduce the amount of personal information they were giving. I would be curious to delve deeper into where Khan Academy’s information is stored and what issues are related to the ownership of this data.

In Khan-Clusion

Khan Academy is effective in delivering cross-curricular content, with multiple subjects being presented under the same topic. Also, there was a wide variety and blend of multi-modal lesson delivery methods which were delivered more seamlessly than in a face-to-face classroom. There is a flow between students watching a video, working on an assignment with diagrams and animations for support, and demonstrating their learning through a quiz or reflection.

Distance education is a convenient option when smaller schools have to combine grades based on the number of students. It would have been difficult to combine a wide range of content at multiple levels in order to effectively reach all of my students in my split math class. With online courses like Khan Academy, I was able to assign work to individual students who were at or below grade level. This online course also allowed students to work at the grade level they were at without being embarrassed or teased for being at a lower grade. It is less obvious when everyone is on the same program rather than working on completely different worksheets. I will continue to use Khan Academy in sections of my math classes, as it is an effective method of online instruction.


Crosslin, M. (2018). Effective Practices. In M. Crosslin (Ed.),Creating Online Learning Experiences. Mavs Open Press.

Collaboration, Computer Science, and Community

Multimedia and Multiplace Based Learning

Language and culture are integrated into every subject and discipline in my school community. Students are learning the language of SENĆOŦEN, which is spoken in their surrounding communities and at home. Most are fluent, some are enrolled in the immersion program, and many only speak this language at home. The process of learning SENĆOŦEN does not happen from simply writing the words on paper; it is critical to hear, feel, and see the words in context. For example, when learning about plants and plant names, we go out onto the land and find the plant in its natural habitat. The SENĆOŦEN name for Tod Inlet is SṈITȻEȽ – which means the land of the blue grouse. To learn the name for Tod Inlet, and for its meaning to be significant, visiting the land and observing the species which interact and exist at the site creates a deeper connection and understanding to the name. If students were to only learn the name for Tod Inlet on paper in the classroom, it would merely be a name on a list that they would have to memorize later. SENĆOŦEN and the process of learning languages is a perfect example of multimedia/modal learning to effectively understand content. You cannot integrate a language into your everyday life without hearing it, writing it, and experiencing the roots of the words themselves. The Basic Principals of Multimedia Learning was significant to me and I have been able to observe this teaching practice through a First Nations lens, which also integrates the First Peoples Principals of Learning.

Games and Their Purpose

Game-based learning is integrated heavily into our remote Introduction to Computer Science course. Students are designing projects using Avatars and recreating retro games such as Snake and Pong. Designing, experimenting, creativity, and a sense of play are principals in which this course focuses around. Lots of time is given to students to explore our coding programs, play the games, and create projects which represent their interpretation of the project outline. An example is students are encouraged to play games like Roblox, Lightbot, or Minecraft on lab days to be inspired by how those games run and are designed for their own projects. SNAP! is the workspace from which students create, which in itself is a digital Makerspace. Without an objective or guidance from the instructors when students are in SNAP!, this platform wouldn’t be effective. A frontloading of information and scaffolding is necessary to show students how to create code to move their characters, build game platforms, and perform actions. This was a large topic examined in the Game-based learning article: a Makerspace is a platform for learning but it won’t provide the learning itself. What Makerspaces, such as SNAP!, allow for is scaffolded instructions to equip students with the skills to produce projects inspired by their individual creativity.

Leadership and Connection

First Peoples Principles of Learning.×17.pdf

Our proposed project will emphasize the disconnect and hesitation new teachers in terms of integrating First Nations content into their practice, whether they themselves are First Nations or not. Teaching can be an isolating field, with many resources only being pulled from the internet or ancient books found amongst bookshelves at the back of the library. Since I started at the First Nations Leardership school, it became apparent how important collaboration and the sharing of knowledge is to really understand how to incorporate these Ways of Knowing and Principals of Learning into your lessons and pedagogy.

The Role of Leadership for Information Technology aligned with these Principles in a refreshing way, as it outlined how to integrate traditional, spoken knowledge and information sharing, with digital platforms and resources. A main idea behind these Leadership principles was adaptation and collaboration. In order for the information that is being shared to be useful, it must be presented in a way which is appropriate for the audience and situation where the learning is occurring. This is a shift in approach, where teachers must now consider is the resource they are using appropriate for who and where they are teaching. A collaboration between the knowledge keepers in the community or school district to look at the resource would clarify and improve the way our resources are being used. An example of this blending of traditional knowledge and digital media that is used frequently in my practice, and will be a feature in our project, is the SENĆOŦEN first voices website. Elders and speakers from the community have contributed their words to construct a comprehensive and interactive website containing words, stories, and media to teach the understandings of groups using that language. This website could be viewed from the five guiding principals for integrating technology in schools. The main principles that it follows are one of positivity, constructiveness, and simultaneity. It is a resource which acknowledges that the preservation of language requires perseverance and resiliency; the contributors are motivated by the possibilities and future where the next generation still can speak and use their language; and the elders and knowledge keepers are active in the schools and communities, answering questions about their culture and language to keep the fire and language alive for generations.

Background Check

Pedagogical Alignment

The model which is the most useful for incorporating technology into my classroom is the TPACK model because of how the lessons are developed and planned. First, instructor decides the learning outcomes of the lesson; this is the content. The second is which activities will be used in the lesson; this is the teaching pedagogy. The third is deciding which technology, from pens and paper to smartphones and videos, will be most effective in the activity for delivering the content. This model aligns with how I currently plan my lessons, so to be able to support my teaching methods with a model is very reassuring as a new educator. As a secondary trained teacher with a degree in science, it was a requirement when being hired as a teacher that I have a strong background in science and math. When teaching in a high school setting, your background knowledge in what you are teaching is critical in order to convey higher level thinking and complex topics to older students. The TPACK model prioritizes content and background knowledge, which is what has been my priority as an educator in my pedagogical development. Using pedagogy and technology to support content delivery is the basis for the TPACK model, which is how I structure my lessons and units in my science and math classes.

Background Knowledge

When examining the TPACK model, background knowledge and a high level of understanding of the content is required to simplify and present the material to students. I can relate to this through my teachings of computer science and biology to secondary students. During the summer, I completed the Introduction to Computer Science course with Microsoft, where I learned the basics of coding, programming, and simple game development using coding software. After completing the introductory course, I attended some workshops in Java script and Python coding in order to become proficient at those programs as well. Before starting the summer training, I had no previous experience using computer coding software, and I knew that I would not be able to effectively teach my students without having some background in this topic myself. Taking the Java and Python training courses allowed me to become more advanced in the course than I will be presenting to my students. It also provided an extensive knowledge base for me to draw on while working with my students. Reflecting on the TPACK model, I would have struggled to present more complex lessons in a simplified way in the introductory course had I not done the more advanced training. The TPACK model acknowledges that in order to simplify a concept for students, the instructor must have a higher level of understanding of the content. I believe this higher level of understanding also instills confidence in the instructor and encourages teachers to take on new courses that they may not have taught before. With this Java and Python training, I was also able to assess which coding software we would be using to best support the students learning. Without this further training and increased expertise in my field, I would not have been able to effectively decide which programs or technology would be best.

Supporting Inquiry Based Learning

In the new curriculum, each subject has a large inquiry based component, where students have the opportunity to explore a topic of interest to them within the subject. With inquiry based research, topics can expand far beyond the prescribed curriculum, and advanced questions can be explored. Without a teacher who has a well-developed background knowledge of the topic, the students research areas and questions could be limited. If the teacher leading the inquiry research has an extensive background knowledge of the topic, students can explore complex questions and broader subjects because of the teachers’ expertise in the field. The pedagogical insight for leading an inquiry based unit is highlighted, and the use of technology will be properly utilized because the teacher is aware of how to lead an inquiry unit based on a topic they are familiar with. Inquiry projects are best supported using the TPACK model, because it acknowledges the necessity of having a well balanced educator in the topics of teaching pedagogy, background content, and technology.

Technological Support

The TPACK model uses technology to support the content. In order to use the technology most effectively, it is critical to have a sound understanding on what you are teaching. This model favours the well-rounded individual and backs up lifelong learning. Teachers with a sound background in biology are able to go to a professional development conference to learn about a way to present the learning using a new technology and then present the lesson with that new technology in their classroom. They are not experts in the field of biology or technology, but their interest and experience in both fields allows them to blend the two worlds together to present the information to their students. This method reflects my method of teaching because I am actively looking for ways to present my information better. I have a sound understanding in both my subject areas of science and math, and technology – but I am not an expert in any of those topics. My skills as an educator and pedagogical background in teaching young adults, mixed with this technical knowledge background enables me to assess which technology to use for each lesson based on the content and learning outcomes for the student.

The Who and The What

The students and the learning environment are large components in the TPACK method, along with the technology and content. Who you are teaching to is as important as what you are teaching. While the content you are delivering to your students may be the same, the technology and teaching styles will vary based on which students you have in your class and how they are best able to learn. An example of this is while one math class may learn best through notes from a slideshow and guided practice, another class may learn best through videos and small group activities. The learning outcomes may be identical, but the technology and pedagogy behind the delivery is different depending on which group of students are being taught and their differing learning environments.


The SAMR model appeared to be much more regimented in terms of the steps used to implement the model in your teaching. While the TPACK model functions as more as a Venn diagram, integrated model, SAMR was more of a step by step guideline for using technology in place of traditional teaching, when appropriate. Substituting technology for pen a paper, enhancing your lesson by using technology such as internet links rather than textbooks, modifying your lesson to use technology when it is more appropriate, and assessing whether or not technology would make your lesson more valuable to your students. The augmentation portion of the SAMR model aligned most with my teaching beliefs where it is important to enhance your lesson with technology where appropriate, rather than doing it to tick a box or use the technology simply because it is there. The technology needs to have a purpose, whether it be replacing another resource of inferior technology, or supporting handwritten notes to deliver content, including graphic organizers such as Prezi. Currently, using my NewRow online classroom platform to deliver and moderate my computer science course, is an example of augmenting my unit to include technology. Instead of a traditional face-to-face model of teaching physically in the classroom, I have used NewRow to allow for computer science professionals in Vancouver to deliver the course content in a much more effective way to my students. Augmenting my unit and replacing face-to-face with online instruction enhanced the quality of my lesson, and follows the SAMR model process. While both models are effective and view technology as a supplemental, not essential part of education, the wholistic integration including pedagogy, knowledge background, and technology with the TPACK model resonates the most with my teaching philosophy.

1994: The World Wide Web Was Born

Book vs e Book reader published November 16, 2012 by Frederick Deligne

Before reading the articles on the Clark-Kozma media debate, I expected Clark to completely swear of technology, and for Kozma to embrace using technology entirely. I predicted that Clark would support no technology in the classroom whatsoever, and only use paper, pencils, and direct instruction in education and learning. Kozma, on the other hand, I thought would opt for entirely online, self-directed courses, using Smartboards, videos, and mediums like digital games to connect students learning without direct in-person instruction. A debate is usually black and white, with one side opting for no technology at all, and the other supporting it entirely for all learning. What I discovered, after reading and watching supporting videos regarding the Clark-Kozma media debate, is that it wasn’t really a debate at all, but rather an elaboration and continuation of the examination of the usefulness of technology in education.

Clark presented the point that technology and media do not need to be present in order for learning to occur, and that only certain medias are more effective for certain learners, learning goals, and tasks (Clark, 1994). I agree with Clark’s point that the media and technology aren’t necessary for the learning to occur; teachers and educators must be present in some form or some point of the learning to direct the students to the correct learning outcomes. There needs to be critical assessment from the teacher to ask “is this media supporting what the learning outcomes of the student are?” The media is the vessel or portal from which the content and lesson comes from, but the media or technology platform is not the source of content or material. In order for the media to be used effectively, there has to be a source of knowledge or information that is integrated into the technology. Let’s look at a Smartboard, for example: the Smartboard alone is not what the students are using to learn; they are learning the content that the teacher or educator has loaded onto that technology which is then presented through the Smartboard media in an integrated way that is captivating and experiential. Without the effort from the teacher to load the videos, whiteboard notes, slideshow animations and content, the Smartboard alone would not be the source of learning, it would just be a blank digital screen. The merging of content and media is effective because it delivers content in a dynamic, multimedia way which is engaging to learners.

The reason I feel that this Clark-Kozma media debate is less of a debate and more of an elaboration is because Kozma seems to take Clark’s points of replaceability, and the inability to learn from media alone, and find a space that media can be effectively used, despite its shortcomings. He acknowledges that media alone won’t deliver a lesson, but he does support the idea that media can be used to deliver a dynamic, engaging platform to deliver otherwise dull or difficult content. His argument that using media is a complementary process connecting the learner, content, and technology to allow for the information to be processes in a multitude of ways, including visually, audibly, and kinaesthetically, is one that I agree with. His perspective on technology comes across as an agreement to Clark’s perceptions of the shortcomings of technology and seems to offer a solution for where technology and media can be useful in education. That being said, if I had to pick a side in this loosely defined debate, it would be with Kozma because of his practical merging of technology, media, and learning.

It has been 25 years since the Clark article was written, and a lot has changed in terms of media and technology both inside and outside of the classroom. Smartphones were an inconceivable notion of the future, and just having one computer in the entire school was deemed as high tech. Students were taught using blackboards, paper, pens, and textbooks. Teachers taught at the front of the room in a face to face manner, and once they left the classroom the only way to connect was over the telephone or waiting until class the next day. I can relate to Clark’s views on technology because given the time when this article was written, there was skepticism on the new wave technology and how it would change the world we once new. Terms like “new-age”, “revolutionary”, “the computer of the future” were being tacked on to computers, calculators, and technology programs which gave the sense that it was hokey and a gimmick. I can imagine that teachers were not receptive and unsure about spending all of the school funds just to have a computer in their classroom which may become obsolete within the year. Technology was so new in schools and educators were not largely familiar with the programs or how to use the new multimedia devices, which meant they were not being properly integrated into the classrooms and learning. Computers were seen as a fun supplement to the learning and something to use for exploration and free-time after the real learning had occurred. In 1994, the World Wide Web was invented, so it is no wonder Clark did not see a connection between technology and learning… because it was such a new idea!

Flash forward 25 years later, with over 45 billion web pages existing and everyone owning their own smartphone with endless internet access in their own hands, technology has changed quite dramatically since the release of Clark’s article. It takes a few generations for new ideas to become integrated into large social groups, and the same goes for integrating and finding useful ways for technology to become part of education.

The new BC curriculum has suggestions for technology in every subject, and courses around media design, computer science and digital literacy have been created as a response to the changing job market, and presence of technology, electronics, and media in today’s society. What was once a flashy new invention is now an everyday, completely integrated existence. While Kozma’s article was also published in 1994, his views on the integration and supportive opportunities for technology and learning apply to our education system and student needs in our schools today. I am supporting my students through an introduction to computer science course, where they are learning the basics of coding, algorithms and computer literacy. The entire course is run through an online classroom, where instructors based in Vancouver are leading the course from their offices remotely. The instructors are experts in computer science, and have developed a curriculum to support the students learning of basic computer science. From Kozma’s perspective, the online classroom is not the source of the learning, but rather the support and platform through which the learning process occurs. The use of videos, digital whiteboards, coding games, and programs like SNAP! are used to transfer the instructors knowledge of computer science and coding to the students. Without the media, this learning could not occur, or would be much less effective, because the communication of ideas and theories revolving around computer science could not be as accurately demonstrated or taught.

There are implications for the misuse of technology in the classroom. The first is with students taking advantage of the media in ways which are not productive to the learning process, such as texting on their phones or playing games on the computer when they are supposed to be using their phones or computers for research or watching a movie. Technology and media redirect the control of the teacher, and it may be harder to manage a class when the technology is being used. It is difficult to manage a course when the instructors are online and not in person, or when students are asked to watch a movie about space travel, rather than learn about it from the teacher on the board at the front of the room. Direct, face-to-face instruction, with limited supplies is the easiest teaching situation to manage in terms of staying on task and classroom management, but that isn’t what learning and education should be about. Students need to have opportunities to explore new technology, outlets for learning, and be given a chance to learn though a multitude of ways. There is a time and place for media just as much as there is a time and place for teaching a lesson at the front of the room with students using pencils and paper. In this day and age, technology has come a long way and it is important to harness its potential to support the learning of our students.

Education is such a broad subject, with many different aspects involved in learning and students. There will always be new technology, fads, and initiatives developed which claim to be the next best thing in education. These new ideas and initiatives being introduced all the time include technology, programs, methods, and curriculum. Each new idea will spark debate amongst educators, because we work in a passionate field where everyone aims to provide the best learning experience for their students. With new fads and studies coming out, debates will form over which ones work the best for students. There will be topics or tools that I will disagree with, or see as impractical, but in order to deal with conflicting opinions, it is important to keep in mind that educators will always have their students best interests in mind and that we are all working towards the same goal of creating educated citizens of the future.

Technology: Approach With Caution

Three Tech Trends That Tick the Right Box

1. SmartBoards – An Oldie, but a Goodie

Most SmartBoards in schools can either be found in the janitorial closet, the basement, or covered in posters and sticky notes at the front of the classroom. These SmartBoards, or electronic interactive overheads and whiteboards, were installed or delivered to many classes across Canada, but many ended up in storage or were out of use soon after delivery. Why? Because most teachers didn’t know how to use this technology and simply gave up trying to integrate them into their classroom routine. Why would they have a use for SmartBoards when they already have a whiteboard and an overhead or projector in their classroom? The answer: Interactive learning and seamless integration.

In my grade 6 classroom, the times I lose the attention of my class the most is during task changeovers, or when I have to switch over from technology from the projector back to the whiteboard. As I am fiddling with my HDMI cord to show a video, or becoming entangled in the projector screen cord to display the worksheet on the document camera, my students start chatting, get out of their seat, and I lost their attention entirely.

SmartBoards, with their integrated technology, reduce tech change over time from document cameras, overheads, projectors and whiteboards. Students don’t have the option to become restless or distracted, because you are no longer fiddling with cords or projector screens. Teachers can play videos right on the screen, draw with digital markers over their projected notes, or display images from the internet or draw them for the class. Interacting with your class and showing concepts in written, audio, visual, or video form is the best way to teach a lesson. SmartBoards combine all of those elements into one technology.

An additional invention that would be interesting would be a tablet where the students could interact with the SmartBoard from their desk. This would be similar to individual whiteboards, where students could show their answers or participate in activities on the board.

2. Virtual Reality (VR) – From Alien Invasions to Ancient Forest Exploration

When I took my class to the UVic Digital Scholarship Commons, we had an opportunity to check out their virtual reality room, and explore the Commons through augmented reality. Students could pick from riding a roller coaster, to shooting intergalactic space aliens in the VR room. Most of them ended their turn with a huge smile on their face… and maybe a little nauseated. Virtual reality gives classes an opportunity to explore worlds out of reach on a regular school day. From exploring an archaeological site in Ancient Greece, to a flight simulator across the Atlantic, the opportunities are endless. Virtual reality in my classroom would be great for students to explore the original territories of their relatives, take a walk with an elder through ancient forests, and visit other First Nations groups around the globe. Virtual reality allows students to explore activities and destinations beyond the scope of the physical classroom.

3. Augmented Reality (AR) – When Worlds Collide

While most technology aims to bring students outside of the classroom, whether it be delving into content on the computer screen, or exploration using virtual reality glasses, augmented reality attempts to blend the classroom and technology realms. My class uses an app called HP Reveal, where students can animate or create digital clues and videos using actual objects in the classroom. For example, a map of Canada can have QR codes which students scan with the app on their smartphones to learn more about historical events which happened in each province. Videos may play, images may appear, or audio recordings will play as the app is scanned over the QR codes printed on the map. This blending of classroom and technology is very applicable with the push for cross-curricular activities and engaging students in the classroom.

Another perk about AR and VR?

The varied price point for devices and technology. Top of the line virtual reality glasses and a laptop with a high processing speed are out of reach for most classroom budgets, and more expensive equipment means fewer devices per student. If top of the line VR glasses are not in the cards for your class, cardboard attachments for any smartphone device can be made, which work just as well! There are lots of VR apps out there, some free of charge, and can be used with these cardboard attachments.

Save your recycling! You can find a link to the cardboard VR headsets here
Where in the world are your students? You can access a wide range of VR apps, including Google Expeditions, here

Three Troublesome Technology Trends

1. Generation Z: A Bad Rap For a New Generation

The TopHat article outlining the 5 tech trends to watch in 2019, Generation Z is mentioned as being the next demographic of students. This generation comes after millennials, and have been born into the technological generation. They have never known a world without the internet, smartphones, or technology surrounding their everyday lives. The article mentions how these students will want technology and digital access in all of their lessons, and will want to be connected digitally in school and into their professional careers. They prefer watching videos over text and want digital interactions over face-to-face communication. What I have noticed in my classroom is actually the opposite; students crave face-to-face interactions, written work, and offline tasks because they are so surrounded by technology in their everyday lives. They didn’t choose to be born into a technology-centred world, it is the previous generations that have forced them to be living in the digital age.

With such an abundance of technology around, students in my class are drawn to the good old-fashioned games like checkers and cards – something they wouldn’t normally access at home. When given the choice for a free play activity, a majority of my students will opt for face-to-face games like cards over a game on the computer. I had a student who complained that there was not enough face-to-face communication among his peers and that they only communicated on their apps and phones (he then immediately went back on his phone.. but old habits die hard). There is a desire to connect with folks face-to-face and that is being lost in this generation. It is important to have a balance between hands on, technology free activities, and digital devices so that students remain connected to both worlds.

2. Personalized Devices – Quantity Over Quality

While having a class where every student has their own device would be great, this isn’t a reality for most schools. Commonly, the only schools able to afford a tablet or computer for each student are those which are privately or parentally funded. In today’s education age, technology seems to be the draw for picking which school your child will go to. If you can afford to attend a school which offers devices for every student, that would appear to be the superior school. Schools which aren’t able to offer technological incentives are often seen as less desirable. This creates a stigma between children who can’t help but notice the privileges other students at other schools have, including high tech devices. The quality of education depends on what the students are actually doing with the technology, not the simple fact that each student is offered a laptop upon arrival at school. There is a time and place for devices such as laptops and smartphones, but they aren’t crucial for receiving a quality education.

TedTalk: How to Fix a Broken Education System… Without Any More Money

Seema Bansal addresses the current problems and issues in our education system, and how technology is not always the solution…

3. Wearable Technology – a loss of people skills

Wearable technology can include a wide range of technology, from assistive speech  devices to smartwatches for each student. The first issue that is raised is the cost of providing each student in your class with a wearable piece of technology like a smartwatch. Schools which are privately funded would likely be the only schools able to afford this personalized technology. Most schools are struggling just to have enough desks and chairs for kids, let alone enough smartwatches for their students.

Another issue with wearable technology, is that teachers are using them to interact with their students during class. These watches are used to remind students to stay on task, or allow shy students to answer questions without having to speak out. It is important that teachers maintain that personal interaction between themselves and their students, which has a positive impact on classroom management. If those students acting out only receive a small buzz and a text message to their wrist, this method of keeping them on task will rapidly become ineffective. Students behave best when there is mutual respect and valuable interaction between teacher and students. Using these watches to allow shy students to answer questions will not serve them in the long run. In life, it is necessary to speak in front of a group, and the classroom should be the safest space to practice and become comfortable with speaking in front of your peers. Teacher and peer support in low-risk situations should support and develop student confidence with answering questions in class and public speaking. These wearable devices, if used incorrectly, could act as  a negative crutch for some students and hinder teacher to student relationships.

The Everest Effect: Doing Something Simply Because It’s There

The “Everest Effect” refers to the act of doing something just because you can. People climb Mount Everest, just because it’s there. The same goes for bringing new technology into your classroom. Should you bring in tablets to your classroom, just because you can? I find that with the rush of technology in our education system today, teachers are bringing in all of these new technology programs and devices just because they are offered to them, without assessing the actual educational value of these devices. Does having a laptop or tablet for each student really increase the education they are receiving? Do smartwatches really improve the behaviour of each student in the class, or are we just using these devices simply because they are there? It is critical for teachers to not assume that improved technology leads to improved instruction or learning.

Top Three Education Trends

1. Alternative seating in classrooms including stools, beanbag chairs, no furniture at all, and eliminating rows of desks
2. Twitter for teacher professional development year round
3. Global Connection Apps such as Tik Tok, SnapChat, and NewRow virtual classrooms

Holland & Holland – Acknowledging The Individual

In Holland & Holland’s article, Implications of Shifting Technology In Education, the authors address how to find a balance between the use of technology and other teaching methods. A main issue that resonated with me was the gap in technological knowledge which exists among teachers. With all of these new apps, robotics, tablets, and coding programs being released by tech companies almost daily, it is impossible for teachers to remain up to date on these new programs in order to teach their students. The importance for teachers to fully explore what technology they are using in their lessons is critical to deliver and implement these programs effectively. An example in my own classroom is my Intro to Computer Science course I am teaching this year. I spent some time in the summer completing the Intro to Computer Science curriculum and made sure that I was able to complete all of the assignments I will be delivering to my students. Holland and Holland address the gaps in student knowledge with technology, but gaps also exist in teacher knowledge as well. Before bringing any technology into your classroom, it is important that teachers are well versed and able to fully support their students learning.

It was refreshing to read this article because it effectively weaved technology, apps, and computer programs into learning styles and lesson delivery techniques. The authors explored online programs such as and Hour of Code, but also addressed how to use these programs in a variety of student exploratory methods including inquiry, problem based learning, and global learning. Rather than showcasing the technology or program as the focus of the lesson, it became a part of a larger learning exploration. An example of this was using problem based learning with the support of online programs to solve their larger group problem. In my classroom, I am looking forward to using the Hour of Code from as part of a global connection during our inquiry lesson. This way, the technology is not the centre of the learning process, but rather a part of the bigger learning picture.

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