To Google or Not to Google – That is the Question


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I totally agree with Nicole who said that this week’s blog responses feel ‘messy’.  I think that as teachers, we feel responsible to make sure that students ‘learn’ something in our classrooms.  The challenge – is to find the best ways to do that.

As Jeremy Black said in a blog this week “Basic skills need to be taught, learned, and memorized in order for a child to then later work upon this base to develop specialized skills that are specific to their interests and set goals.”

I appreciate Danielle’s reference to the “google effect” on critical thinking.

The idea that schools are stifling creativity and affecting problem solving and critical thinking, is an interesting concept.  The Ted talk referenced on Tuesday night where Ken Robinson talks about ‘killing creativity‘ is very funny and he makes some valid points. He goes so far as to say that ‘creativity is as important as literacy’.  Teachers must search for that ‘balance’ between imparting information, encouraging students to develop their own critical thinking skills, and encouraging them to find their own ‘path’ to success (whatever that might look like).

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What about the memorization piece? Are there benefits for our students?  William Klemm (professor of neuroscience) certainly believes that there are. He says that memorized facts always stay with you, and that we need to be able to access what is in our working memory to think and solve problems.  I believe there is some truth to this.

So, as you can see, I am very much of two minds on this topic.  I highly value the opportunities and mind expanding aspects of technology.  At the same time, I think it is necessary to put information into the brain for later use when needing to think critically and solve problems.  I think it is important to encourage curiosity in students. I want to try to teach kids ‘how’ to think, not ‘what’ to think. (I like the video that Andrew posted as an example of this)

That said, I think memorization for it’s own sake can often be meaningless.  Growing up, I learned mostly by memorization and often I had a lack of in-depth knowledge.  Countless hours were spent with mnemonic memory aids. (…just googled that for correct spelling :).  I would jam as much information into my brain as I could, spit it out on the test, and then maybe remember just a small portion of it.  I didn’t feel like I had the time to go deeper into ‘understanding’.  As a result – I always felt like I was cheating in a way and had the underlying feeling that I wasn’t really smart because I didn’t know the ‘stuff’ afterwards. I can’t remember who, but someone referred to a “false sense of confidence” in the debate on Tuesday night.  It is only later in my life (for example –  now…with this degree) that I am doing school ‘differently’. I am taking the time to dig deeper.

How’s that for ‘messy’ ?   🙂

all good



Is Technology “Unhealthy”?


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Lots of interesting points were made this week in the third debate. One of the things that really struck me, was that young children are choosing screen time over spending time in nature. This is a very unfortunate because of all the benefits – such as running, jumping, skipping, and playing in the grass and breathing healthy fresh air.  It sounds basic, but children are not having these same opportunities when they are inside on their game systems and computer apps.  The article Technology-addicted kids and Nature Deficit Disorder talks about how children are developing a “wide range of physical, mental health and behavioral problems.” I have never heard of such a thing as ‘nature deficit disorder’ –  but it makes sense. This article goes on to mention the child obesity rates have more than doubled over the last 30 years.

Cyberbullying seems to be responsible for a lot of harm.  A London School of Economics report found cyberbullying to be even more prevalent that bullying that happens ‘face-to-face’. I have not had much personal experience with this, as I teach grade three.  As far as I am aware- there is not much cyberbullying at these early stages of schooling. (Let me know if you have had a different experience with this…).

The flip side of this debate brought to mind the idea that social media can motive people to get involved with others who encourage them to participate in things that will make them become more healthy. This could be true, but I think people who have the willpower to exercise in the first place, often don’t need the support of others. The concept of support for eating disorders on instagram is an unsettling one.  The nature of eating disorders is usually for sufferers to want support in the wrong direction.  They usually want people to get shocked by how thin they are becoming.  So I’m not sure a wide audience is the best thing for helping someone to improve an eating disorder.

I loved the article about the high school student who posted positive things about his classmates for a whole year.  To me – that is a fantastic use of social media 🙂  Especially, since there is evidence that Facebook and Social Media have been linked to depression. Just like everything else, things can be used either for good or for bad.  During our ‘zoom’ session this week, the concept of balance came up a number of times.  I think it is really an important thing to remember…  I found an interesting Ted Talk where a young woman speaks about her personal experience of being addicted to social media and her cell phone.

I think balance is the goal !







The Great Technology Debate

Does Technology in the Classroom Enhance Learning?



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Interesting debate topic, and interesting points made last week.  When I think of technology in the classroom, my own limited knowledge leads me to imagine rolling in the computer cart and having students explore an interesting website I have previously vetted (like Mathletics).  This first debate topic challenged me to expand my definition of ‘technology’.  This is not the first Master’s class where I have come to know multiple layers of meaning for words I thought I had known previously (such as sustainability, mobility, curriculum etc.).

Before this debate I had not thought about technology assisting students with learning disabilities.  Of course I have students use technology this way, but have never thought about what school would be like for those students if their assistive technology was not allowed in the classroom.  I was also struck by the information in the video presentation about the importance of the teacher being knowledgeable and comfortable with technology.  I believe this responsibility should be shared between the teacher and their employer. Personally, I need to get over my intimidation and make efforts to become more comfortable with technology.

In Eric Sheninger’s twitter article, I appreciate his emphasis on the fact that giving students ownership of learning gives them ‘something to do’.  Through technology they can “… demonstrate conceptual mastery through the construction of new knowledge, as well as the acquisition and application of essential skill sets.”

Another point  that arose from the debate that I think brings value to technology in the classroom is how it facilitates differentiation.  In any given classroom, students vary in their academic levels, processing speeds, learning styles, interests etc.  What better way to meet learning needs than with technology?  That said, I repeat the emphasis that was placed on the need for ‘direct teacher instruction to maximize learning potential’.  Sam Carlson’s article points out that “…effective instruction… encourages development of higher-order thinking and information-reasoning skills among students, and socially constructed collaborative learning, all of which are increasingly required in today’s knowledge-based economy.”

I realize that Beland and Murphy’s article indicates that “The existing literature on the impact of technology in the classroom implies that the unstructured presence of technology has ambiguous impacts on student achievement”, but having taken statistics, I realize that results can be skewed in ‘specific’ directions.  I also know that technology is costly and that some believe it interferes with learning.  All things considered, I believe that when teachers are properly trained, and the school has access to ‘up to date’ technology,  it can be a window for students into endless potential.

I thought Sherry Turkle had an interesting point in her TED talk when she says that technology ‘may be taking us places we don’t want to go’.  She refers to our ‘development of human relationships’.  I don’t think that this is indicative when talking about the use of technology in the classroom, but it is interesting to think about in the bigger picture.

I can see the point that Valerie Strauss makes in her article about college students and how their performance is affected by multitasking (cell phones, laptops, etc).  After all, the software and hardware have been designed to distract.  I think it is a good idea for college students to use cell phones at breaks, and I’m not sure how to control laptop use since many use them for note taking.

I appreciate the ‘zoom room’ for how it allowed visual and audio communication for 39 people at once, last week.  So cool !

I would like to close by saying that I think that the possibilities of reaching students and contributing to their learning through technology is endless.  I would also like to thank  Ainsley for pointing out that interesting Ted talk with Andrew Essex.   What better way to inspire students learning than by offering incentives whereby they can get more access to technology.


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Cliff Jumping

Here we go!!

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Angela Switzer here.  Wow – this was interesting!  I am not one who is crazy about ‘jumping’ in to things I am not good at  🙂

I teach grade 3 at Milliken School.  I am a newbie at this technology stuff but willing to learn.  I never expected that I would be brave enough to take a technology class – just like I never expected to jump when my family went cliff jumping in Maui at the Venus Pools. I told everyone I would be the one to capture it on film.  Don’t know what happened – but I found myself jumping – screaming all the way.  Glad I did it !!  (just as i am sure i will be happy i did this class 🙂

I look forward to this technology adventure and learning from what seems to be a wealth of tech’knowledge’y.  I am super intimidated and impressed by the blogs that keep pouring in.  I was wowed by Jeremy Blacks video on his blog.

Now – I just hope this shows up where it is supposed to !

All good