Monday, January 30, 2012

Times Have Changed

Something so simple and obvious seems to have passed right by me. I am sure you know what I am talking about - when your brain is racing a mile a minute and processing all kinds of things the simple stuff gets missed.

We are introducing technology to the students to engage and motivate them so that they can use the technology (that engages and motivates them) to demonstrate their learning. It is one of many tools that we use to meet their needs.

Why is this so important to me at this moment? It is so important to me because part of preparing these students for the 21st century involves them learning how to use technology to meet their goals, to exceed expectations, to think differently, to be a part of the digital age - to be technologically literate, to strive for more, to be part of a global community rather than a local community, to make a difference, to transform the world in which they live in.

I was talking to someone today about our iPad/iPod project and they were fascinated. Sadly, their fascination was about the technology that the students would be using and not about the growth that would come from the technology they are using. I watch my students as they use the iPod touches I have in my classroom - I ask them about their experience, I ask them about their excitement and get answers like: "I didn't think I could read that word" and "we have an anchor chart about this". The technology excites them and motivates them and it provides me, as their teacher, with formative assessment about their learning and the opportunity to extend their understanding. It is a great springboard that helps me move their learning in a positive direction. It helps me meet their needs - no matter where they are or what their needs are.

Great things are happening in classrooms all over the place without modern 'technology'. Anchor charts, success criteria, word study, guided reading, problem solving, and collaboration are some of the things teachers are doing with their students that are allowing the kids to learn and to think differently than they did 10 years ago. The addition of modern technology items like mobile devices, touch screen tablets and social media networks like Twitter and Facebook are powerful tools to get students to release their knowledge and creativity in ways never before seen.

Times have changed and society is shifting...transforming... and we need to work on making sure our kids are as prepared as we can make them.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

QR Codes and Student Engagement

I recently learned more about QR Codes - what they are and how they can be used in an educational setting.

"A QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response code) is a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) first designed for the automotive industry. More recently, the system has become popular outside of the industry due to its fast readability and large storage capacity compared to traditional UPC barcodes. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background." ("

Here is a QR code that I generated off of the internet using (

Go ahead and scan it with your smart phone to access the website that I have embedded within it!
I want to take a moment to share my recent experience with some Intermediate students. There are a group of grade 7 & 8 students who regularly communicate with me about technology and 21st century learning. I had just finished playing around with some of the QR code generators that I found online and was pretty excited to share my learning. Strangely enough, this small group of students did not really understand what QR codes were or what they were used for even though they had QR code readers installed on their smart phones!

After explaining to them what I had just learned, they told their friends and before I knew it I had a bunch of kids standing around me with their smart phones out and ready to scan QR codes! Realizing that I had just engaged a bunch of students that wouldn't normally notice that I am around I decided to take full advantage of the opportunity and connect the learning they just experienced to ways that we could use this technology in a school environment. They were quick to point out that they could include QR codes in their assignments in order to refer to websites quickly in a "cool" way. They were also pretty excited that one day down the road they would be able to use their smart phones in class so that they could scan codes that may be in the texts that they use at school in order to further their learning about a variety of subjects.

There was a lot more that they spoke about and referred to - I just wanted to give you a flavour of their learning and excitement. The short time I spent talking to them about QR code technology and the possibilities it may offer them as learners is probably one of the best lunch duties I have experienced with an age group of students that I don't normally spend my time with.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Digital Youth and Ethics

Howard Gardner - the developmental psychologist who is best known for his theory of multiple intelligences weighs in on the challenges that ethics and education face as digital media becomes more prevalent. He raises some interesting points, one of which being the responsibilities that adults have to understand the promises and challenges that have arisen due to digital media.

Interestingly enough, Garder's perspective instantly reminded me of a document written by Regan Dore-Anderson and Michael Redfearn entitled "Ethical and Responsible Use of Information and Communication Technology - A Guideline for all Stakeholders in Catholic Education" (2009)  ( ). Dore-Anderson and Redfearn (2009) provide a much needed and welcome guideline to assist educators in working with students to help imbue a solid moral foundation as they engage and make sense of todays digital technlogies. Waiting to react to innapropriate misuse of technology is not an option - it is up to educators to serve students better by being proactive around the meaningful and ethical ways to incorporate digital technologies into their daily lives (Dore-Anderson & Redfearn, 2009).

As a Catholic educator engaged in using digital technology to assist students with their learning, I am appreciative of Dore-Anderson & Redfearn's (2009) document. The team I am part of is all about guiding our students in positive ways as they grow and develop into reflective,  responsible, life long learners who will go forth and transform our world for the better. As the team and I work with our students, we will no doubt refer to the above mentioned document as a beacon of our faith based perspective and to guide us in our teaching and learning as we work side by side with our students. 

"Do not be afraid of new technologies! These rank “among the marvelous things”–inter mirifica–which God has placed at our disposal to discover, to use and to make known thetruth, also the truth about our dignity and about our destiny as his children, heirs of hiseternal Kingdom."
The Rapid Development - John Paul II - Apostolic Letter (2005)
(taken from Dore-Anderson & Redfearn, 2009, cover page).