The Classroom of the Future

Everyone thinks the future is going to be better than now. When the internet was getting started the early adopters saw it as a way to democratize society. Gone were the gatekeepers of old such as ABC, CBC, or NBC (there’s a lot of B’s and C’s in media company names). You didn’t need to tune in to the nightly news to get information, you didn’t need to buy the local newspaper, you didn’t have to buy an encyclopedia collection. As Micheal Wesch said the web was about linking information, it was going to connect it all. In a way the internet did that but it also connected a lot of other things. It allowed tech companies to become massive, to dominate over everything.

Screenshot of an info graphic explaining how tech giants make money

The web has allowed everyone to connect and not always in positive ways. The web contains the very best and the very worst of humanity and this is something that, schools, teachers, students and society need to deal with.

I found his discussion on user generated content, user generated organization and user generated distribution interesting because a lot of sites have moved away from that. Looking at Facebook and Instagram the posts you see are not necessarily shown because lots of people liked or shared them but because the algorithm thinks that YOU will like it. We don’t know how the algorithm works or what causes it to show us things so we get stories about it being limited to only showing posts from 24 people.

So what does this mean for the classroom?

The classroom of the future will need to contend with all of these things. It should no longer be about memorizing dates, places, processes or facts. Theses are all easily available online. It should be about teaching children how to learn, how to use critical thinking how to find answers for themselves. It should be about teaching our children how to navigate this new digital world. As we discussed in class with the whole world being interconnected, what is appropriate to post and what isn’t? Is it ok to post pictures of your children online without them giving consent?

The future classroom should embrace technology. The classroom of the future should use all of that time kids are spending in front of screens for teaching. Embracing the use of YouTube in the classroom is important. There are numerous channels and videos out there to help explain ideas and concepts in ways that are intuitive and relevant to kids. The classroom may evolve into assigned videos before class where students get to pick from a couple videos explaining the topic to watch before class. This will allows the teacher to focus on what is most important as well as allow the kids to learn at their own pace.

“What really is the point of trying to teach anything to anybody?” -Douglas adams

The best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. The internet and participatory culture can allow and promote your students teaching what they have learned to each other and to other classes. They could make YouTube videos, create a podcast, design a video game or numerous other things that the internet has allowed anyone to do. It promotes students creating in a medium or in a way that they feel comfortable and gaining a more in depth understanding and control of their learning.

Hello World!

There are a lot of resources out there for coding. From YouTube to Udemy to Google, Microsoft and other tech companies tutorials. The first part of my learning project was deciding where I wanted to start with learning. After taking a look around I decided that it would make the most sense to start with developing an Android App instead of a website. The reason for this is there are quite a few resources such as Squarespace or Wix that let you build websites without coding that look very professional. For this reason I decided to learn how to develop and Android App. I am starting with the Android Developers tutorial call Build your first app.

Working off of this tutorial I had to download Android Studio which is the code editor where I will work through the different tutorials and apps that I am going to work on. Android Studio is called an IDE which stands for Integrated Development Environment. Basically this is a bunch of software tools all in one program that make it easy to write code and test your projects. Android Studio is one and Microsoft Visual Studio Code is another. This is a good example of the beginning of coding you need to learn a lot of the language. That was what took up most of this week. Learning that the XML file is what defines the apps UI (user interface). This is where you decide where the buttons are located, the animations that happen when you press the buttons, how text is formatted along with a host of other things. After gaining some of an understanding it was time to run Android Studio and get into some code.

It looks complicated but it’s actually pretty easy. It has three windows with the one on the far right showing a preview of what the app will look like when it has finished compiling all the code. The middle window is where you edit, add or remove the code. This is your main work area where you would spend most of your time. The far left window shows you all the different files for your app. Thin of it like file explorer in Windows where you can see all your files and the folders within folders of your files.

Success!

After a lot of hard work I now have an app that says Hello World! Honestly a little anticlimactic but still a good start! It’s nice to know that at the very least I am able to code something. Although this is just the start I already feel a little sense of accomplishment.

Next week: Learning how to build a user interface and make an app look pretty.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Twitterverse

Twitter has changed drastically from what it originally was. It can be used for good such as with the Arab spring but also for bad such as harassment. I think this dichotomy parallels my views on the use of Twitter in the classroom. It can be used in great ways for education, but it can also be used improperly. Using Twitter to connect students with experts in the field, chat with other classes and even a research project through the use of Twitter polls are great ways of using it for education purposes. The big connecting thread for all of these is that there needs to be an element of organic use. Students should not be forced to tweet a certain number of times a day or forced to engage in topics that do not interest them. Just as with most educational practices it will require a nudge and sometimes a push from the teacher but it shouldn’t be forced down the students throats.

20 May 2019 – TALK TOGETHER\rSession : The Future of Europe\r\rSpeakers : Richard Wike, Director of Global Attitudes Research, Pew Research Center\rWith Rory Clarke, Editor in Chief OECD Observer Public Affairs & Communication OECD\r\rhttp://www.oecd.org/forum\r\rPhoto : © HervŽ Cortinat / OECD
Photo Credit: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Develop Flickr via Compfight cc

Twitter also can be hard to engage with people on topics for several reasons. The first can be that in a public forum anyone else is able to chime in and their responses are not always the most constructive. This can make it a tough tool for use in the classroom. This also can make it tough to follow a conversation since tweets can come flying by. I found this during the Saskedchat where every time I started to read a tweet 4 more would come in and bury it. This is not a fault of the people but the platform. One solution would be a slow mode for hashtags. This has already been used in live chats for live streams on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch. Another option is the use of Slack. Lots of what you do in the classroom may not need to be as public as Twitter and Slack channels could be useful for students discussing topics and allow side conversations to occur in other Slack channels.

The big takeaway from all this is that Twitter is one of many tools that can be used in the classroom. You should use it when it makes sense and works but not try and mold a lesson plan around it. Additionally with everything some students may not be comfortable using Twitter for school work so alternatives such as Slack or Microsoft Teams are useful to have in mind as well.

Being Picky

What to choose. This is a simple question but it can be infinitely infuriating. At a restaurant deciding between two meals, at a movie theater deciding between two movies. Choosing which blogs and websites to follow is very much like this. There are a lot of websites on the internet and finding the best ones to follow can be hard.

There were two categories of blogs that I specifically wanted to follow. One is general science news sources such as Nature or Discover Magazine to keep up with the latest Science news. This is very important as Science teacher since new discoveries are being made every day and news articles are a great way to promote discussions on Science!

The other category was education with a focus on science and the use of technology in the classroom. The goal of teaching science is inquiry. We want students to think critically and to come up with their own answers. Blogs are a great way to share the different experiments, activities, demos, labs and myriad of other activities a science teacher may do in the classroom.

Dead or Alive at New York Hall of Science on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018 in Queens, New York. (Andrew Kelly/ New York Hall of Science)
Photo Credit: NYSCI Flickr via Compfight cc

who doesn’t like free stuff?

One of the first sources I chose was free technology for teachers. This is a great place to find the best free tech resources for teachers. Just today there was a post about Rivet which is a new app from Google to help young kids learn to read. Not only does it provide more than 2,000 books that are ranked by difficulty but it also will listen to the child read aloud and will provide feedback and help kids with their pronunciation.

This is just one of the many examples of useful technology that this blog provides information about. With technology moving faster than ever this blog is invaluable to help teacher stay up to date on the latest tech they can integrate into their classroom.

Teaching on the edge

The next blog that I found very useful is Science Education on the edge. It is written by Chris Ludwig who is a Science teacher in Colorado. This blog us very useful in two main ways. The first is that he talks about student centered science education. The idea is that he is constantly on the “edge” trying new things and revising what he is already teaching. This is useful to see what it is like to try and make a classroom around student centered education and to gain a view into what works and what doesn’t

The other useful part I found about this blog is that he talks about the difficulties of being a teacher and what it is like with administration and different government initiatives. I find this useful to see what it is like on the inside and to gain a perspective of how things are done.

I’ve just started adding blogs and I am sure that my feed will quickly grow as the class continues on!

Who am I?

My name is Corey McCowan and I am a BEAD student in the faculty of Education at the University of Regina. I plan to become a biology teacher since my previous degree is in biology and to instill in my students the love for science that I have. I have an open water scuba diving license which means I can scuba dive anywhere in the world and one day hope to scuba dive with whales.

Mom and calf humpback whales make their way toward the surface in Tonga.
Photo Credit: Michael Zeigler Flickr via Compfight cc

CWSF

In addition to Scuba Diving I am also involved with Science Fairs. I am currently serving as the chair of the Regina Regional Science Fair and help organize or chaperone kids to the Canada Wide Science Fair. The Canada Wide Science Fair is a week long event that has students from across the country compete and present their projects. For more information about the event visit their website.

Technology in the Classroom

I have a little experience with educational technology just not in an education setting. I am familiar with slack having used it before as well as WordPress having made several websites already with it. I have a passing familiarity with Google Classroom. What I have the most experience with is Microsoft Whiteboard. This is a really cool app that gives you a digital whiteboard for your computer, tablet or phone. It allows you to draw on it using your finger, stylus or Apple Pencil. As well it lets the kids view it on their own devices. It gives kids the ability to go back and see what you wrote before as well as to copy at their own pace as they can see the whole whiteboard. This is a great tool to use so that students are able to learn at their own pace.

If you are interested in checking out this cool and very useful application go to the whiteboard website.

Blogging

I am personally not a blogger. I believe that blogging needs to be done deliberately and with care and most of the time is overused because it is an easy way to integrate technology into the classroom. This goes beyond just blogging but it needs to have a reason to be integrated and not just used for the sake of itself. I believe that it us just one of the tools that educators have and they should use it appropriately and deliberately.

In the Beginning

I have always been interested in technology I enjoy reading about technology as well as understanding how things work. A part of that has taken me to my current part time job at Geek Squad.

Photo Credit: watts_photos Flickr via Compfightcc</a

Since I have an interest in technology I have decided that my learning project will be learning to code a progressive web app or PWA and an Android App. Progressive web apps are quickly becoming popular and will most likely replace apps to some degree. I have wanted to learn how to code for a while and the learning project is a good kick in the butt to get started on it. the reason I want to learn to code both is to understand the differences between the two as well as to gain more experience with coding in general.

The Plan

My current plan is to follow Google’s codelabs tutorial and the Android Developer Training. The reason I have chosen this is because Google is one of the main companies pushing forward with PWA in addition to Microsoft and other developers. Additionally this tutorial is easy to follow and broken in to 14 chunks that I can work on. The other reason is they are very accessible and easy to follow. In addition to that I will be taking the basics I have learned in each course and trying to expand upon them using other tutorials and YouTube videos. I do not have any specific ideas for that yet as it will depend on what feature or API I am learning. I also would like to learn how to use Github which is a repository for people to upload their projects and other people to contribute. Additionally I want to delve more into the open source community. Open source means code that is developed so that the whole world is able to see and contribute. How-To-Geek has a really nice overview of what open source is.

My goal is to learn how to code a functional web app by the end of the course and to upload the code on that web app to Github so it can be viewed and changed by the open source community.