Well, it has been a few years since I have been immersed in the world of academia. There is no question that I am excited for the challenge of graduate studies and for the opportunity to continue learning in my profession, but I am feeling a bit nervous about the journey ahead.
This, EC&I833, being my first class, and this blog, has me feeling a bit like I need to air out some dirty laundry… I am what some might call a social media virgin. Yes, you read that right. I am not on social media. No Facebook, no Instagram, no Snapchat, no Twitter… until this week. Well, I do have a Pinterest account under the guise of an old punk rock song title, but other than that I have not had any social media accounts where I share information. I am simply a consumer of digital information. As mentioned, I have stepped out of my comfort zone this week and joined Twitter so I can connect with my fellow educators and my peers. I have yet to share anything, but I am feeling inspired after seeing my classmates and instructors feeds. I am certain joining Twitter will reward me in my learning.
I suppose there are several reasons for my non-existent web presence, but the main one is that I have always viewed Facebook, and other social media, as a time and energy waster. When Facebook gained popularity and smart phones began to occupy pockets, I remember seeing colleagues and fellow students spend endless minutes (probably hours at home) scrolling through posts about what others were doing and what they were eating. I was curious, but I was never hooked. And hence, I never joined. As a result of not being on social media, I do have to make more of an effort to connect with my close friends and family through text messaging. Sadly, some of my relationships have suffered, but most of my family and friends are understanding. In the Postman reading this week, he shared in his third idea that:
“every technology has a philosophy which is given expression in how the
technology makes people use their minds, in what it makes us do with our bodies, in how it codifies the world, in which of our senses it amplifies, in which of our emotional and intellectual tendencies it disregards.”
As I watched the rise of Facebook over a decade ago, I saw how this new platform led those around me to value fun, beauty, money and accomplishments. This attitude initially irritated me, so I ignored Facebook and other connective apps and never looked back. Further, this is evident again in the “medium is the message” phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan. Most of us are aware that social media can consume us with all it offers. As an educator, I think about my decision to not be on social media often. What message am I sending? What do others think when they see that I am not connected?
The readings and videos on the history of technology this week have had me thinking back to my own elementary days and the devices we used. My school piloted the first edition of the iMac. Our computer lab was full of those rather large, translucent and colourful computers. During our computer lab period, we practiced typing with cardboard covers over the keyboard so we would learn to type “properly.” I admit, my typing is still a bit of a chicken peck – my fingers never fully return to “homerow,” but I am able to type efficiently.
As I reflect on my own education and the ways I integrate technology into my classroom, I would define educational technology simply as technology that can be used to facilitate teaching and learning in a variety of settings. I must mention that there are so many facets to educational technology that could be mentioned here, like specific apps, devices, and programs, but it is not necessary to list them. In my classroom, technology is integrated in all teaching and learning. Devices and programs are used daily to engage students in learning. Unlike my elementary days, much of the technology is actually in the classroom. There is no computer lab that students walk to, and no wheeled TV cart that excites learners as it gets wheeled in to the classroom, but students still use computers and still watch videos. In Bates’ “Teaching in a Digital Age” text, Chapter 6, he talks of the rapid pace of technology advancement. I believe this to be very true, however, he also tells that “new technology rarely completely replaces an older technology.” The former usually remains and operates in a new way. So in comparing my use of technology as an elementary learner to my students use of technology in my classroom, the technology being used is the same, albeit in an upgraded format. I do recognize that the use and availability of technology is different in schools all over the world, even here in our province.
Learning Theories and My Teaching
Lastly, while learning and reflecting on epistemology this week – how we know what we know – and the learning theories, I thought often of my 13 month old son. Every day for him is filled with learning and exploration. It is quite astounding to watch him grow and develop as his understanding of the world is being formed. I feel this same joy and amazement when I see growth and learning in my students. When I think about my classroom teaching there are several learning theories that I connect with, use and have used throughout my short teaching career.
- Behaviorism – Learning is through positive and negative reinforcements and punishments.
- Cognitivism – Students learn through receiving information, processing it and storing it.
- Constructivism – Students learn through constructing their own knowledge using past experiences and new understandings.
- Connectivism – Students learn through connecting various “nodes” of knowledge from various knowledge networks. This theory involves the use of technology.
I have used behaviorist methods to manage classroom behavior, and have used direct lecture instruction at times in my teaching (cognitivism). I do tend to lean towards a constructivist approach to learning. I believe students learn through creating knowledge through their experiences, so providing students with opportunities to “experience and learning” whether it is inside the classroom, or outside of the classroom is fundamental. I facilitate learning using inquiry methods through passion projects, collaboration, and having students connect using technology (connectivism). As I look to the future, I hope to utilize technology more effectively in my classroom to allow students opportunities to connect with others, and connect their knowledge.