krispin

Mar 012015
 

instantI stumbled upon an app the other day called Instant. It is a nifty little “lifestyle application” that measures your cellphone use by counting the number of unlocks you do through the day, the number of minutes you spend using the device, the number of minutes you spend on each individual application and the number of minutes of walking you do. The purpose of the app is help users achieve more balance between the time they spend on their digital device and the time spent interacting with the “real world”A.

Although not a complex app, in the simplicity of its measures a profound statement is made about our relationship with technology. It is an irony for the times, that we have come to a point where we are now using technology to manage our relationship with technology. The idea of the app stems from a movement called the Quantified Self.

The Quantified Self is a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person’s daily life in terms of inputs (e.g. food consumed, quality of surrounding air), states (e.g. mood, arousal, blood oxygen levels), and performance (mental and physical)

The notion of the Quantified Self is nothing new. We have been doing this sort of thing since we had the ability to count, whether it be for fitness, health, finances or other. If we could count it we did it. Where things have changed in recent years however, is with our ability to data mine out daily activities using the technology in our pocket.

Personally I am a big fan of personal data mining apps related to fitness. Apps such as FitBit, Strava and Garmin can harvest an astounding amount of data from my daily activity. With FitBit I can count the number of steps I take, floors I have climbed, nutrition in the food I eat and even my heart rate throughout the day. When I go cycling, my Garmin App collects data on all my rides including kilometers ridden, route taken, average speed, elevation climbed, cadence, heart rate and more. The amount of data I can collect on my physical activity is astounding and has been very useful in managing my health. If I am ignoring my health, (which I do between October 31 and January 1’st) The data makes it glaringly obvious how far in the tank I have gone and if I am training for something, the data is fantastic for helping me prepare.

The other thing I quantify is my spending and again this is nothing new. People have been budgeting for years but today using an app to track your spending, the metrics you can generate on that spending is astounding. By using a spend tracking app I have gotten my Starbucks habit under control, almost eliminated buying my lunch, along with a myriad of other spending ills that tracking with paper and pencil never managed to do.

The obvious question now is, how have we gotten to the point where we need to quantify ourselves in order to lead a balanced life? Well as much as I hate to say it, we are a society that is driven to imbalance through the demands of the jobs we have, the cost of the lives we lead, the crazy family life we create and the technology we use. If you want to be part of the “modern world” you no longer have the luxury to just be; to live in the moment or to live a simple unencumbered life. Sure there are places and situations where this is still possible but it isn’t a practical choice for many of the 7 billion people living in this world.

What I would like to think is that quantifying ourselves using the technology in hand, gives us the opportunity to take back some control of the crazy lives many of us are entrenched in. Instant is a perfect example of an application that helps us break free from our unhealthy, compulsive use of our personal devices. Perhaps it will be the beginning of regaining the balance in our lives we once had, moving away from being used by technology, back toward being a user of technology.

Quantified Self? Count me in!

 

 

Feb 232015
 

magpie-clip-art-zeimusu_Magpie_2_Vector_ClipartWell welcome to Week 4 & 5 of my digital learning adventure or perhaps I should call it a misadventure. To tell you the truth, I am not learning much. I start, I stop, I restart, I see something else that looks interesting… This online learning thing is difficult but again it might just be me and my magpie attention span.

This is not to say I have not discovered anything about trying to learn coding and/or game creation by video tutorial. I have already mentioned the need for a learning community you can connect with but I have stumbled upon a few other online learning needs that I didn’t anticipate.

The first of these “needs” is a dual monitor set up. Although I use a dual monitor for graphics work sometimes, I hadn’t used it for doing video tutorials before. Specifically in a learn to code situation. I quickly came to realize just how imperative a dual monitor for something like learning to code, when I tried to do a video tutorial using just my laptop. It was a royal pain flipping between the Unix Interface and the video tutorial. I found it so aggravating, I quit after about 10 minutes. What I realized shortly thereafter was that my students would be suffering from the same frustrations when trying to learn to code using a single monitor set up like they have in our computer lab.

The next thing I came to see as needed for learning by video tutorial, is strong English language skills. Especially in listening and comprehension. I came to see this as my English language learners quickly became disinterested in trying to learn Java Script though Khan Academy or Unix 3D. The video tutorials quickly became meaningless to them as they didn’t have the language comprehension skills to clearly understand what was being said in the videos. I asked them if they could find an equivalent set of video tutorials in their own language but they searched to no avail. I would assume there are video tutorials being made in languages other than English but It would seem there is a significant shortage of such learning resources in languages other than English.

The last need I would like to talk about is money, even though it would seem to be counter to the entire free online learning movement. The reality is that many “Free Courses” will require you the learner, to lay out some money at some point. The FREE course is just the hook to get you to purchase something down the line. Adobe is a fantastic example. They have some of the best online learning opportunities I have ever seen. Their courses are so well put together and presented, you can’t help but want to learn Photoshop online, but to make use of them you need their software, so you end up paying the subscription fee. Some courses will come with FREE SOFTWARE but once you are done the introductory course and are raring to go onto the next, you discover you need to upgrade to the PRO PACKAGE in order to go any further.

These are but two examples of how FREE in online learning isn’t really FREE. There is almost always a cash catch at some point, but that is OK. If an individual or organization has put all this time, money and resources into a course, it only makes sense that they try to recoup some of that money somewhere along the line. The point here is, that learning isn’t as free and easy as we are led to believe. There will always be a cost somewhere along the line. Course fees, software, hardware, subscription fees, internet service, hydro… It all adds up.

And so wraps up this weeks of this installment of Learning on the Web.

 

Feb 172015
 

Do you ever get so busy that you get nothing done? You look at everything you need to do and choose to do none of it. When you would rather wash dishes, vacuum the floors and scrub toilets then get down to work on the heap of things you should be doing… Well that is where I am right now. Paralyzed by the sheer volume of stuff that needs to get done.

This isn’t to say that the stuff I need to do isn’t interesting or fun, it is just there, looming…

The list consists of Masters work – Report Cards – Fixing Computers for friends – Web Mastering – Learning how to use Unix 3D – Training for a Gran Fodo and… Oh ya! My family. They need some time too I suppose. It would seem I have bitten off more than I can chew but I guess that is life on the cushy West Coast and I need to get over it.

The Literature Review I am “suppose to be doing” is the biggest concern for me. At this point in the game,  I should be about 10 – 20 pages in, but I am struggling along at a whopping 6 or 7 pages. I have started off looking at Educational Theory in a digital a digital age and for an #edtech geek like me, it is turning out to be pretty riveting stuff. Far more interesting then back in the day when I was reading this stuff for my undergrad. It is amazing how much perspective one can gain from 18 years in a classroom.

The journal articles I have waded through so far are bringing up some interesting questions about education in a digital age. The two most significant being. (a) How is the digital world-changing how we learn (b) Do existing learning theories adequately address the digitally driven changes we are seeing?

My focus to date has been on question (b) simply because question (a) is just so damn difficult to come to terms with. Question (b) is easy to answer and that answer would seem to be NO! Existing learning theories don’t even come close to explaining how this digital era is affecting learning. The three biggies that teachers have been hanging their hat on over the past 100 years, behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism are falling a bit short.

Essentially, teachers are following a repair manual created for a Studebaker and we have a Tesla sitting in our garage. Sure a car is a car is a car! All the basic elements are the same, but we are definitely not working on the same vehicle. The question now is do we dump the Tesla into the old Salt Chuck and keep the Studebaker running or do we jump in the Telsa and enjoy all the technological advancements it has to offer?

Although my analogy is half-baked at best, you probably get the idea as to the problem we are faced with. We have a choice to make in education and it is an immensely difficult one. We are on the precipice of abandoning 100+ years of teaching practice for something that we have no guide-book for. The technology has changed things so rapidly that there is no theory to guide us into the future or education. We are out in the wilderness and to make matters worse, the next educational theory waiting in the wings, isn’t going to do much to waylay the fears and anxieties those who look upon the future of education with trepidation.

This new upstart educational theory is called Connectivism and what it suggests will send a chill down many a teacher’s slide rule. Essentially connectivisim proposes that learning and knowledge can occur outside of the individual. That the connections an individual makes and maintains within a digital network but outside of themselves, can be considered learning and ultimately represents an individual’s knowledge.

Wacky huh?

Of course this is the Coles Notes version of connectivisim but you probably get the idea. The digital network is here to stay and has already become an extension of our students and even our own person. Digital consciousness is about life and the living… Digital consciousness is our consciousness. Rothblatt (2014)

Like it or not, for better or worse, we have become dependant if not one with technology. The question is now, as educators, do we keep working on the Studebaker or do we conceded that the Tesla has some pretty impressive features to offer and perhaps we should give them a go? Remember… the basic elements of the two cars remain the same, but the Tesla has the potential to revolutionize the entire automobile industry. It might be fun to be along for the ride.

Rothblatt, M. (2014). The Me In The Machine. In Virtually human: The promise—and the peril—of digital immortality (1st ed., p. 9). New York: St. Martin’s Press.

 

 

 

Feb 082015
 

Unity 3d

Well that didn’t take long. My ADD has kicked in and I am looking for something else to do for my learning project. This is not unusual for me. My interest wains very quickly with things and I am off looking for something else to peak my interest.

I will continue with the Khan Academy Java Script tutorials but I have also added another learn to code platform into the mix called Unity3D. But first, lets look at some of the reasons why I lost interest in the Khan Academy tutorials so quickly. Other than the fact I have the attention span of a gnat.

I mentioned in last weeks post, that one of the significant drawbacks I found about the Khan Academy Java Script tutorials was the lack of community. I had no social reason to be there. I suspect that if my #tiegrad cohort were all required to participate in this Java Script short course, I would still be there eagerly plugging away. The funny thing is, I not a very social person in the “real world” , but in the online world I seem to be far more social. I need people to connect with or I quickly lose interest and move on.

The other thing I think is missing from the Khan Academy tutorials is that it lacks an element of creating something. Although I am learning, I have nothing to show for it. What I mean by that is, I have nothing to take away to show off to others and say “See what I did today!” Some would say that is the problem with the digital world, you don’t get anything concrete out of working in that medium.

What hope to gain from jumping to Unity 3D as a part of my learning project is that I will have something to show from my learning in the form of actual working programs that I can distribute in virtually any platform I want. What I am also hoping to find is a community of adults with which to interact with so that I have a social reason to return and continue to learn.

So wish me luck, as I try to find an online learning project that captures my att… Oh look a squirrel!

Feb 012015
 
Khan Academy Colour Tutorial (Screen Shot)

Khan Academy Colour Tutorial (Screen Shot)

Well here we are once again talking about learning Java Script online. If you recall from last weeks riveting post, I am using the Khan Academy tutorials to guide me through the wild and wonderful world of JavaScript.

To be quite frank… I have done very little this week. I started the learn to colour tutorial but have not completed it. BUT… This is not to say I haven’t seen the interface at work.

I decided to put a handful of students who wanted to start coding into the program. The nice thing about Khan Academy is that I can set up a Classroom for myself and I can monitor the kids progress within a teachers Admin Panel, this will be very handy. The other thing that worked out very well is that the kids signed up using their Google Classroom accounts so their profile is still within the Secure GAFE environment.

So far, the kids seem to like the tutorials and have been busily working away at them. Since I have a mix of students from grades 9 – 11, I have been recruiting some of my in-house Java Script geniuses to help out when someone gets stuck. As I move along with developing my coding program, I intend to utilize the kids who are already proficient at coding to mentor those who are just learning. This will be especially handy as I begin to introduce problem solving tasks into the curriculum. I also hope to start doing coding competitions within the school district next school year, which revolve around collaborative problem solving through coding.

As for my learning, WHAT HAPPENED? FitBit is what happened. My attention got hijacked by one of my classmate’s learning project. Every spare moment I had, I was out walking, but all is not lost. This lack of interest in my own learning project illustrates a couple of things about online learning.

First is that curriculum, regardless of its relevance to, or the level of interest of the learner is not necessarily enough to capture an individuals attention. Secondly, people tend to go where others are gathering even when it is online.

Learning Java Script is very relevant to me and I am actually interested in getting better at it. If I am successful, It will enable me to do my job better AND I have my own grade riding on how things play out with this learning project. I should be knee-deep in JavaScript on the daily but I am not?

Like I said, so far the tutorials are well structured, they get you going quickly and you see results almost immediately. As far as learning design goes Khan Academy is hitting the mark, yet my attention is elsewhere?

I think this speaks volumes about the importance of social connections in learning whether they be face to face or online. The FitBit project has 13 classmates participating in the periphery. Competing with one another, trying to best each others step totals. Using twitter and the hashtag #tiefit, It has become an extension of our existing learning community and so that is where my attention turns.

As good as the Khan Academy tutorials may be, I have no social connection, no learning community. I must point out that Khan Academy DOES have a learning community but I don’t really want to reach out to that community because it looks to be occupied by preteens. As much as I may be able to learn from them, chances are I would get arrested for creeping youngsters online.

So that is Week 2. Even though I have not learned much Java Script, I have certainly discovered just how important  learning communities are to effective online learning.

 

 

Jan 242015
 

Web design infographicBefore I start, I need to explain what is going on here, so my irregular readers understand why they are not reading one of my regular curmudgeonly posts.

I have been tasked with learning something online as part of a project for my masters program. I could pick whatever I wanted as long as most of my learning came from the pretty soft glow generated my some sort of digital device. I have to say it was a struggle figuring out what to do. I contemplated learning Banjo, Piano, 3D digital sculpting, Korean, basket weaving… But I settled on learning some Java Script.

The reason I chose Java Script is that I need to get a better handle on coding languages and Java Script is a great place to start. My current knowledge in this dark art is limited to HTML, CSS and some PHP but even at that, it isn’t all that good. It has all come from mucking about with my websites over the years and there isn’t much rhyme or reason to any of it. My understanding is much like a moth-eaten garment. Full of holes and prone to falling apart at any moment.

I have chosen to use Khan Academy for this little learning project for a three reasons. It is free, the site is well done AND it has a teacher admin panel that I can use to create a classroom for my ICT students later on this year. If I should deem it worthy.

Now for Day 1… An exciting thrill ride into the mysteries of Java Script. I got to Draw Rectangles, Ellipses and Lines all within the first 10 minutes of sitting down. The interface is easy to use and perhaps more importantly easy to follow.

The order of instruction so far follows Video – Practice – Challenge. Three things I like right off the bat is that the instructional videos were short, practice allowed you to see immediate results and the challenge was difficult enough to make you think but didn’t make things so difficult that you got frustrated.

The only thing I struggled with was that the voice in the video sounded like the instructor was about 4 years old. I guess the humiliation of being bested by a four-year-old is part and parcel of the new digital world order.

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 1.17.07 PMScreen Shot 2015-01-24 at 1.25.09 PM
Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 1.17.38 PMScreen Shot 2015-01-24 at 1.17.28 PM

Screen Shots from Khan Academy learning Interface

Jan 152015
 

Google-ClassroomGoogle Classroom the latest name in a long and unceremonious history of distributed learning platforms. Many people don’t realize that digitizing and delivering curriculum by computer has been around for quite some time. When I entered the education game in 1996, I started off using a program called Pathfinder followed by PlatoNautikosWeb CTMoodleEdmodo… and now Google Classroom. There have been others, but these are the ones I have used.

Some might say this list alone is evidence that distributed learning systems don’t work but I would prefer to look at this list as the genealogy of an evolving technology. In fact WebCT, Moodle and Edmodo are still very much alive and well, and now Google Classroom has just joined the party.

So what pray tell has Google Classroom brought to this party that the others don’t? Well… Nothing really, at least from a classroom teacher/student perspective there isn’t anything special about Google Classroom. Its basic function simply allows for the teachers and students to engage in the age-old transaction of Assignment-out & Assignment-in. What Google Classroom does have over other platforms is simply this. Full and seamless integration of its suite of Google Drive applications in a secure learning space.

Certainly, “secure” is a relative term when discussing cloud technologies but as far as data security goes, I would say the Google Vault is probably the safest place for our students data. Of course there is the question of, “who is going to protect the data from Google” but that is another blog post.

With this said, I am sure there are some of you are saying to yourself, BIG FRIKIN DEAL! Google Classroom does nothing that can’t be done in the here and now. Not only that,  it doesn’t add any other functionality over the platforms that already exist… but remember, this is only the beginning.

I can only expect that there will be ever-growing functionality being added to the classroom over time and this is a large part of why schools are jumping on board. Although the other platforms are beyond where Google Classroom is today, Google has the money and the people make innovative improvements that their competitors are not capable of. IMHO

So after 4 months of using Google Classroom, what would I like to see?

Better assignment management - Currently assignment management within the classroom interface is pretty crude. All you get is a long list of the years assignments from most recent assignment on down. This can become a bit cumbersome, especially if you are a teacher that hands out daily small assignments vs a teacher who assigns a fewer larger projects.

What Google Classroom needs is:

  • A flexible system where teachers can group assignments by term and unit, so that the assignment interface is less cluttered and focuses on the unit at hand.
  • They also need to think of their discussion streams more along the lines of a threaded forum or at least make that an option within the classroom set up

More efficient marking interface – The single biggest complaint I have received from teachers about Google Classroom is about how laborious and slow marking is in the Google Doc environment. Some teachers have even resorted to printing out a class set of assignments and marking them old school. This totally defeats much of the purpose of a digital classroom in that we end up going back to paper to mediate the learning transaction.

Google engineers need to understand that teachers can have as many as 200+ students. I estimate that marking an assignment in the Google Doc ecosystem can take between 1 to 2 minutes longer than on hard copy. Those who are not in the know will say “BIG DEAL!… Suck it up you whiny teachers!”. but once you start adding the time up, it is conceivable that teachers will have to spend 200 – 400 minutes more marking a set of assignments in the Google Classroom ecosystem than they did when marking hard copy.

What Google Classroom needs is

  • A dedicated marking interface
  • Quick and easy transitions from one assignment to the next
  • The ability to mark up assignments using a tablet and stylus.
  • Make it so markup and grade can be entered in one window

Classroom design options

Give teachers some options on how the Classroom is laid out. Have the basic functional layout but allow teachers to drop in modules such as Twitter feeds, YouTube channels or a Resource Library. I am going to venture a guess that may be in the works as the classroom is already a two column design and the left column is rather bare, just waiting for something to occupy the space.

Grade Book

Embedded into the Google Classroom is a rudimentary grade system where you can give assignments mark values and drop in the numerical grade earned but to be truly useful to teachers it needs to go far beyond its current functionality.

The grade book needs to

  • Allow for different assignment types and weighting
  • Provide a view that allows teachers to see and edit all marks over the year
  • Basic analytics such as class average, missing assignments, due dates

I am sure there are dozens of other things Google engineers could consider as they improve Google Classroom but these items are what I would consider most important to teachers.

Conclusion 

Google has done a good job in launching a basic curriculum delivery system. Nothing fancy, just a simple curriculum delivery platform that is definitely not as powerful or functional as WebCT, Moodle or Edmodo. At this point, any institution that currently runs one of these other platforms, have no reason to jump on the Google Classroom bandwagon.

As we look down the road however, I fully expect that Google will begin to introduce more innovative features which will make the Google Classroom the go to platform for running a digital classroom. We can only hope Google recruits a couple teachers to help them figure out the way these features should work.

Dec 232014
 

What on earth is a Digital Integration Support Teacher or DIST?

As new as this title may sound, the position has been around for quite some time. Most the time it has been done by a self-appointed techno-geek teacher, helping out when they could outside of our regular teaching duties. Over the years, I seem to have fallen into the role of head geek in my school. Although this role has been great for my wine cellar, the degree to which I could help teacher(s) was limited to a “can you do me a favour” kinda thing.

As our school moved toward a greater reliance on digital tools for teaching, this role started to require far more attention than just being a spare time, off the side of my desk kinda thing. Late last school year, it was decided that it was necessary to formally allocate time for an in-house “edtech specialist”

The tipping point was that, in the 2014/15 school year, our school was to begin the process of becoming a BYOD school and employing google classroom to facilitate curriculum delivery. If this was going to have any hope of being a success, staff would need more support. As a result our school has funded three 80 minute blocks, split between two teachers for the sole purpose of providing pedagogically sound tech support.

With this 240 minutes, we serve the technology needs of 1300+ students, 90 teachers and 70 support staff. When I interviewed for the position I referred to it as boots on the ground classroom support and so far it seems to be working for teachers, if not for my wine cellar.
Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 4.52.11 PMWhen we started this little adventure, I figured it might be useful if I tracked our tech related staff contacts over the year just to get an idea of what we were spending the most time on. In the first 4 months we have begun to paint an interesting picture of what teachers need in the way of frontline tech support.

Google Classroom – 21.2%

At 21.2% Google Classroom just narrowly edges out Workflow, BCESIS and Tech Issues for the most attention needed. This percentage should have been higher but the roll-out of Google Classroom took a bit longer than expected so it lagged behind other tech needs over the term.

So far the Google Classroom support has revolved around the nuts and bolts of creating a digital classroom. Time has been spent on helping teachers set up their Google Classroom, making use student passwords were Google compliant and showing students how to navigate the Google Classroom. Hopefully next term, we can begin to focus on helping teachers develop their digital curriculum for the Google Classroom.

Work Flow 19.7%

Work Flow is a significant issue for teachers in the digital world. Emails, calendar syncing, document sharing, posting digital assignments, collecting digital assignments… There is a lot to get your head around in the digital classroom and regardless of how simple we tell people it is, let’s be honest. We have not made things simpler by introducing technology into the classroom. To this date I have yet to see any Teacher >> Student >> Teacher transaction that is as simple as having a student write their answers on a piece of paper, then handing that piece of paper to the teacher.

The other thing we did a fair bit of, was helping teachers migrate the work they had created on a personal Google Drive, onto their new School District Google account. This work represented hundreds of hours spent by teachers creating digital content for their classes and that transfer was of the utmost importance to them if they were going to use Google Classroom.

BCESIS 19.7%

This category is only relevant to teachers in British Columbia but for those who don’t teach in BC. BCESIS is our long beleaguered student management system that does not play nice with Java. Especially Java on Mac computers. This term, I spent an inordinate amount of time making BCESIS work on Macbook computers. Needless to say, I hope the new student management system that is being rolled out in the next year, works better than BCESIS.

Tech Issues 19.7%

These tech issues usually revolved making people’s hardware play nicely with other hardware. Projection and printer issues topped the list but I also dealt with password issues, viruses, device set up and software installs. Things that were quick and easy to fix without bothering the district tech department.

Resource Consult 10.6%

This is what I was hoping to spend more time on with teachers this term but I think it will come in time.

What the resource consult would involve is sitting down with a teacher and exploring ways to integrate digital tools and media into their teaching. The DIST would sit down with the classroom teacher and go over what they would like to do or try in their class using a digital resource(s). Then the DIST would suggest what resources or tools would accomplish the teachers objective and then help plan how the teacher would implement it into their class.

This may simply involve a “Here try this!” or it might involve sitting down and helping plan a lesson, a unit, a delivery strategy or any other kind of support the teacher might need. This would Include working with the teacher in their class when they first introduce the new digital strategy, resource or lesson.

Google Drive 6.1%

Since Google Classroom is built on Google Drive, once an institution has signed up for Google Apps for Education, everyone on staff has access to Google Drive. What is happening now is that we are now helping non teaching staff move their work lives from storage on the local network, over to Google Drive. This includes Admin, counselling, learning assistants and whoever else has use for the Drive.

Website (The rest)

Bringing up the backend of this list is the lowly old website. As teachers become more digitally savvy, many begin to play with the idea of setting up a web space to call their own. Although it sits at the bottom of my tech contacts in my school, it is a topic I answer questions about quite frequently via my twitter account. For the most part, I direct most teachers toward Weebly or Google Sites as they are simple and less time-consuming. Those who are serious about their web presence (especially blogging) I tend to recommend WordPress.

So what do teachers want from there tech?

This term has been interesting but one thing has become abundantly clear. Teachers need and want help with technology in their classroom and we have left teachers to their own means for far too long. What has also become clear is that their needs are not all that complex.

A retired teacher friend of mine use to say to me “The overhead projector is the perfect piece of classroom technology”

  • Instant on, no waiting for it to “boot up”.
  • Not dependant unreliable networks
  • Easy to fix. No waiting for the tech department to come to your rescue.

Although we have come a long way since the glory days of the overhead projector, in many ways his sentiments still ring true. Teachers want technology that is fast, reliable and easy to troubleshoot when it isn’t working properly. Unfortunately, the simple days of the overhead projector have all but disappeared and as such, so have teachers expectations of their classroom technology.

2014 Top 6 Teacher Techspectations

  1. Projection - Teachers are dependant on projection, just like the days of the simple overhead projector and the nasty old chalkboard before that. If a teacher does not have projection, they are instantly hamstrung.
  2. Internet that works – So much of the supplementary material that teachers use for instruction is on the net, when it is down, an entire lesson can be destroyed.
  3. Reliable WiFi – As we move toward BYOD and students’ access to assignments and resources are dependant on WiFi, a reliable WiFi system becomes a necessity. When it doesn’t work, neither do the students.
  4. Assignment transactions – Teachers want a simple means of distributing digital assignments and collecting those assignments.
  5. Marking Digital Assignments – Being able to distribute and collect assignments digitally is all well and dandy, but if you want to REALLY make a teacher happy… Make it easy to mark those assignments in the digital environment.
  6. Marks & Attendance - The one necessary evil in the bunch, there is nothing more annoying to a teacher when the software they are expected to take attendance on and complete report cards on, does not work. If this were a day-to-day issue it would top the list of digital pet peeves.

Merry Christmas all!

Sep 252014
 

person_questionWell the time has come to choose a research topic for my masters program. Problem is I haven’t a clue what I should focus on. There are just too many considerations to be made.

To start, technology in education is such a vast area of study to delve into. How can you just pick one area? It is like becoming a Sommelier and only knowing about Merlot. I hope this doesn’t mean I have to do a PhD.

The second question/consideration is the biggest question of all. Why am I doing a masters in the first place? If the truth be known, the labour strife teachers have just finished enduring in British Columbia has made me want to just get out of public education all together. Our professor has told us to “follow our passions” but the problem is there isn’t much passion left. All that remains is just anger, spite and deep seeded need to escape.

Finally, I don’t think I had much of a passion to start with. Sure I love technology and the things it can do for you but can I really consider this a “passion”? Some of my classmates are clearly passionate about very specific areas of education and have spent an entire career becoming expert practitioners of their craft. I on the other hand I have spend a career as a Jack of all trades and a master of none. I can’t really lay claim to an expertise in anything, never mind a passion.

So where does this leave me? Well I have had a few areas of interest over the years that have garnered some attention from my peers and it is from these I am sure I will choose. They include:

  • Effects of technology on learning in the primary years
  • Elements of the ideal digital learning environment
  • The role of immersive technologies in education
  • Traditional learning tools Vs Digital learning tools
  • Free Agent Learning who and what is it good for?
  • iPads vs Laptops the ultimate learning platform
  • Effective professional development for integrating technology into the classroom.

Ultimately I think my choice will be based on three utilitarian criteria rather than any deep seeded passion.

  1. What do I want to spend hundreds of hours studying?
  2. What area of study is the road less traveled?
  3. Where will my masters work take me in the years to come?

Wish me luck… This is one difficult decision.

May 232014
 

So I got called greedy today.

I was driving to work, turned on the radio and lo and behold! The melodic sound of Christy Clark’s voice filled the passenger cabin. Apparently she is on another Sound Bytes Over Facts media tour and I was lucky enough to flip her off… I mean flip her on, just as she was calling teachers “GREEDY!”

After getting a hold of myself and resisting the urge to drive into oncoming traffic, I began to wonder. How much does a MLA cost as compared to a teacher?

We are constantly hearing how much teachers want and how much teachers cost but who costs more? Who gives the biggest bang for the tax payers buck?

Now my approach to this calculation is going to be crude, I am not going to itemize facility costs, support staff cost, supply costs. I am just going to take the total cost to run the Legislature and the total cost to run the School System and break it down on a per MLA and per Teacher basis, as if MLA’s and Teachers pocket the whole budget. So here goes nothing.

Since BC Liberals took power total MLA compensation and Legislature operational costs rose from $36 Million to $70 Million. That is a whopping 94% increase to do business in just 11 years. To add insult to injury, in 2013 MLA’s sat for only 36 days.

Tyee Spending Costs Explode
CBC No Fall Legislative Session
Globe & Mail BC Legislature Sits 36 of 572 Days
Globe & Mail Liberals, NDP Back Speaker

Compare this the operational costs of BC Schools, which went from 3.6 Billion to 4.7 billion in the same period of time. That is a 30% increase to run and organization that is 352 times bigger than the Legislature.

2001/02 funding 
2012/13 funding 

Greedy Tax SuckersCost To Do Business Increase Since 2001 Number of Greedy Days
In Session
Daily Greed Index
MLA's$70,000,00094%8536$22,000 : 1
Teachers$4,700,000,00030%30,000186$842 : 1

Although there is a segment of the population who will read this and immediately jump to the tired old refrain of “Quit your whining and get to work”. My hope that my readers who are remotely rational, will see the absurdity of a someone like Christy Clark saying “Teachers cost too much, teachers are greedy”, when she is sucking off the tax payer’s teat harder than anyone.

So this is my message to Ms. Clark.

Before you go pointing a finger at someone and calling them greedy, perhaps you should check your narcissism at the door and realize there are three other fingers on your hand pointing directly back at you.

It is people like Christy who give politicians a bad name

Note: These numbers are based on a simple Internet search. If someone has more accurate numbers, please share.