As I write this blog post I reflect on the days of grade 5 and up where our technology in the classroom consisted of walking down to the computer lab once a week to work on our typing skills on All the Right Type, and once you passed your level moving onto CoolMathGamesforKids which we all knew had nothing to do with math! Now, after last week’s class, according to the continuum of technology-based learning, this once-a-week class essentially was a form of blended learning as these different tools we used would be considered classroom aids!
Throughout my schooling, the way we used technology continued to shift from using those different apps, to learning how to use Word and type our essays, all the way to Grade 12 where I completed my Calculus 30 through a live stream lecture class. This class was essentially online because I was the only student from my small school taking the course, so instead of having a teacher from our school teach it, I zoomed into a neighboring school. As outlined in Chapter 4, this live streamed video would have been the first step to online learning. Now don’t get me wrong, in high school this seemed like some pretty advanced stuff! I thought how cool it was that I could just log into a different classroom instead of driving to the town. Flash forward to now, after a couple of years of Covid, technology advancements, and the digital age booming; this form of live streamed video lectures still occur, however, new approaches are producing better results!
Now moving into my career, I have used different learning tools such as Google Classroom, Read Theory, EPIC, Mathletics, Prodigy, Edsby, and SeeSaw to support my teaching and the learning of my students. I mainly use these different platforms during times such as Daily 5, and math rotations as it supported me in teaching small groups and ensuring the other students were doing something productive. Luckily, students gravitate to technology so getting them interested in these different apps during independent work time produced a learning environment that was quiet and classroom management was minimum. Using these different programs in the classroom were very helpful when it came to differentiation! Having these tools set up, it was easy to ask students to grab a classroom iPad to go and work on one of the apps while waiting for the rest of the students to catch up, or have an EA support a student at a lower level through these ready to go lessons. However, I found using these apps it was hard to keep up with seeing what the student could actually do. Lots of these apps are multiple choice answers, and at the end of the day students could randomly choose an answer and get it right, resulting in them doing well on the online quiz and not so well when they came to the small group. Another benefit of these different apps was that they could all be accessed at home, when students needed extra practice instead of sending home print outs and booklets a message could be sent to parents and the student could work on the assignments online! Overall, I really liked having these apps available to my students in the classroom, but I never used them as a main teaching tool, but as an extra practice tool when needed. Reflecting back to the continuum of technology-based learning, these different tools I introduced into the classroom were merely classroom aids. These tools were used to support the students practice the skills that were already taught in the classroom. For example, I would use Prodigy (math app) to have the students practice their multiplication skills I taught the lesson in person. Not saying that this form of technology in the classroom is not valid, but as chapter 4.2 suggests, I merely was replacing a practice worksheet for a practice game on the iPad.
So, what does this mean moving forward in this class? The hopes as I continue my teaching career is to find ways to use technology as a learning enhancer rather then just a replacer. As stated in chapter 4.7, the “Agile” Design is the strategy that can be used to start bringing technology into the classroom as a meaningful enhancer to student learning. Understanding that the Agile Design is embedding learning with real world scenarios, the learners have the opportunity to gain the skills needed to be successful in the digital age. The question is, in an elementary classroom what would this agile approach to blended learning look like?
I agree so much with everything you’ve said here! I really appreciate how much technology has allowed me to differentiate instruction and support all of the different learning levels within the classroom. You’ve made such a good point, sometimes we do get caught up in using the apps, it gets hard to truly stay on top of knowing where are learners are. The instant data we get can be helpful, but it comes with additional time requirements for analyzing that data and aligning it with what we know from personal experience with our students.
I agree with several points you make. I especially support the line about using “technology as a learning enhancer rather then just a replacer”. Technology cannot replace our class discussions, etc. If tech ever becomes advanced enough to take the place of compassion for students needs and differences in learning styles, then our jobs would become non-essential. The personal, one on one, or even small group talks where you get to do formative assessment are the best part of teaching.