Technology… Today’s New Parent and New Teacher?

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As I sit here to work on my newest post, I needed some quiet time, therefore out comes the iPad.  Now I know that isn’t the best way to occupy my child’s time, but sometimes its the easiest (and she still looks cute watching it).  It really has changed, parenting that is.  When I was a child it was “go outside till I yell for you” or “go find a friend to play with”.  Now many parents find it easier to just put an electronic device in their kids hands and be satisfied with that.  I too do this on occasion (like right now) but it really isn’t the new way to parent, it has become a new parenting choice.

The questions that were generated from the third debate really made me wonder about my life and what technology is doing to my own children and the children I teach.  I think of the first three debates, this one hit home the hardest because I am a parent/teacher and I question my own judgment all the time.  Are we as a society harming “our children” by utilizing technology as much as we do?  Or does it simply come down to moderation just as it is with so many other aspects in life?

When I look at the students I have taught over the years (especially the last five) I have noticed that technology has been having a negative effect on some of them.  Many have become addicted to some technology where they begin to have erratic sleep patterns as mentioned in the article “Sneaky Ways Technology Is Messing With Your Body and Mind”.  I have seen this in many students, who openly admit to staying up all night playing “Halo” or chatting all night using “SnapChat”Ella Paula also discusses how screen time interferes with sleep which than affects kids eating habits, leading them to snack more.  There are also more negatives that can not be seen by the naked eye -the  mental issues that arise from technology.  Being exposed to negative images, images of how society think people should look, what they should wear, what they should eat, etc.  Kids begin to have self esteem issues due to exposure to these things.  Also, due to easy communication with anyone around the world many children are open to bullying and exposed to online predators as mention by author Pamela Deloatch.  Is technology also having effects on our children’s development?

It may be very easy for society to admit that technology is having an negative effect on our children, but is it all that bad?

As Kristina E. Hatch stated in her paper “technology will be part of our world for the rest of our foreseeable lives”, therefore children need to have access to it. There are also many apps out there that can be very helpful to children, but like anything moderation is key.  I believe that we as parents and teachers must set limits on children and their access to technology.  Yes, technology is an important part of today’s society, but it can be over used.

Can technology be harmful/unhealthy for our children?  Yes, but I firmly believe that if it is used in moderation at home and in the classroom it can open so many opportunities for the kids.  We need to teach children about the negatives about technology, but we must share with them the many positives.  It comes down to us as parents and teachers to demonstrate proper usage of technology – we must be “technology role models” for them.  As stated in the above video, if we expect limits for our kids we should expect them for ourselves.  It is like telling the kids that ice cream is bad for them as we devour a DQ Blizzard.    In discussion with Justine at school the other day, she made a great point.  We cannot control what is taught or role modelled at home, we must do what we can to teach and role model responsible “technology use” when they are in our care.  We must always be aware that we are role models for our children and we are in charge of them, mentoring them to make the right choices.

 

 

 

 

 

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To Google or Not to Google…That is the Question!


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Much like old William pondered in Hamlet, I too ponder now… to Google or not to Google?  This second debate really had me questioning my views on the usage of Google in the classroom and in all aspects of life.  Are we becoming too reliant on the quick easy answers?  Or, is it okay to have quick and easy answers as long as it leads to more questions? Or can it just lead to trouble?  Just ask Sheldon.

The agree side made excellent points on how Google is in a way “weakening” our students and society as a whole.  It seems that Google is just making us wanting the answers without examining the topics in more depth.  Terry Hierck made some excellent points in his article such as …”Google is easier than thinking” and that “they find what they want rather than what they might need”.  Is Google making us “lazy”? Are we gearing away from inquiry based learning?  Hierck also states “if users can Google answers to questions they’re given, they’re likely terrible questions”.  Therefore, maybe it isn’t Google that is the issue, rather the educator that asks the question.

Ramsey Musallam made some very relevant points of interest during his TED talk, mainly around having students question.  He focused on encouraging students to be curious and inquiry.  “If we place technologies before students inquiry, we are robbing us (the teacher) of the greatest tool… student questions”.  There is place for technology such as Google but it is based on the questions that arise from the curious minds of students.  Having students do more than learn facts is very important in any classroom.

During my pre-internship (back in 1995…wow that was long ago) I was in an amazing teachers room – Mr. Ted Weir.  Ted had the ability (without the use of the internet) to challenge students to think for themselves.  During his Unit on World War One,

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he would break the class into nations and give them some basic information about their nation and some (but not all) of the surrounding ones.  They would role play the entire war by simply asking questions of him and the other nations.  He played the role of “the all knowing” and they ran ideas by him first before acting them out.  This process lead to the students asking questions and learning, not from facts but from actually playing the events out without the knowledge of what actually took place.  It was very interesting to watch him direct kids and observe them make decisions that actually took place in history without Googling the answers (which they couldn’t do back then).  This process of encouraging students to ask questions and “think” for themselves is lost in many classrooms today because answers can be found very quickly and easily.

Now with that all stated, can the disagree side be unto something with their argument?  I believe they also made some great points about the importance of still teaching things that can be Googled.  Their emphasis on students having the ability to learn things in class that can still be found easily on Google is something that many teachers believe in.  Memorization is important, therefore we must still have students memorize things such as poems and soliloquies.  As William R. Klemm’s states in his article “the more you know, the more you can know” therefore memorization will help “train the brain”.   This notion is continued by Ben Johnson who believes “the brain is a learning tool” and that “before students can think critically, they need to have something to think about in their brains”.  So we need to encourage kids to learn certain facts and figures to encourage more in depth, critical thinking later on.

Overall it is the questioning that can and should lead to students wanting to learn more.  As a former History teacher I found some merit in some information found on Google (and the internet), but it was the inquiry learning that was the main focus.  Sure we could find information from the internet, but what do we do with that information is the most important thing.  For example Louis Riel, we could find information about him on Google (if we so desired) and than ask questions such as was he truly a criminal?  Was he right or wrong?  Use the basic information and get students to think about it.  Asking the right question can lead students to so much more – having them ask the questions is even better because it shows their critical thinking.  It is the educator that must be the one to encourage students to question information they obtain in class or from the internet.  Encourage them to ask why? How come? What if? and so on.  Questioning by the teacher and the student leads to better critical thinking by all.

The following video demonstrates the importance of good questions – if we as educators can encourage students to question they will learn so much more.  They may also teach us a few new things but even questioning us.

 

The Great Escape… I mean Great Debate

Much like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape (possibly one of the greatest movies of all time), the “agree” side barely escaped with the victory last night.  The two sides shared very convincing arguments that had myself waving back and forth on who to vote for.  In the end I voted for the “agree” side because the debate statement was:

Technology in the classroom enhances learning. Agree or disagree?

In my eighteen years in the education system I full heartily believe that technology does enhance the learning.  Now with that said I must admit that there are many challenges with it but if implemented properly it can and will enhance the students’ learning.  Yes there are many possible barriers, that were very eloquently proposed by the “disagree” side, but if we look past those, technology of almost any type will enhance learning. It would be like trying to argue against the statement “working out enhances your health”.  That is a very true statement, it cannot be argued with strong supportive facts.  Are there barriers to working out, yes; finding the time, having the will power, having the skills to work out properly, and so on.  Even with these things stated , there is no argument that working out does not enhance your health.

Therefore I believe there are many reasons why technology enhances learning:

  1. Engaging the students – if we can utilize different types of technology that will get students to be more engaged in the topic being covered in class than we must.  In http://www.teacherkit.net/engaging-students-through-technology-four-strategies/ the author states “When we’re engaged in something, we do better at it. That’s as true of learning as it is anything else: an engaged student is more likely to learn and succeed than a disengaged one.” In my first few years as a High School History teacher I used many forms of technology to get my students engaged.  I used the VCR machine , the video recorder, and even a fairly new idea called the internet.  The students loved these forms of technology because they were different from the textbook and lectures that they were accustomed to in the past.  So I move ahead 17 years and we have at our disposal many new forms of technology that can also get the students more engaged.  We use iPads (for videoing), Smartboards for interactive activities (such as class surveys), laptops (for easier access to information), and much more.  And with these advancements we can challenge our students to dive deeper into content because they have unique and interesting ways to find answers and new ways to demonstrate their knowledge.  They have at their fingertips new ways to demonstrate their creative and critical thinking.
  2. Opportunity to Collaborate – the ability that some technology has provided students to be able to learn from is endless.  Whether it is obtaining information from the internet ,or collaborating with fellow classmates when not at school, or connecting with someone from across the world – students have so many avenues to learn more and especially learn more from others.  Eric Sheninger states that “social media has given rise to new definitions of community”, and really that is what students need to rely on, the world wide community that technology has opened up for them.  In 4 Strategies to Engage Students Using Technology  the author makes an excellent point, “Today’s students are also social.  They love being part of a community, collaborating, sharing and exchanging ideas.”  And I believe we must give them this opportunity to do so (with restrictions of course).  If we allow students this opportunity to reach out to the world wide community, we open them up to so much more information and new experiences.
  3. Equal Opportunities for Learning – utilizing various forms of technology opens new doors of learning for those with disabilities or those that struggle with certain aspects of learning. In the article Using Assistive Technology in Teaching Children with learning Disabilities in the 21st Century, the authors state excellent points regarding technology helping children with disabilities but they can also be used for every child.  The tools can be used to identify strengths and weakness of students which in the past (without technology) was sometimes near impossible.
  4. Technology in action – please watch this video that I posted earlier in the week on Google Plus that demonstrates technology in action in the classroom.

5.  Barriers – as stated previously in this post and also stated by the “disagree” side in the debate, there are many barriers.  Sam Carlson believes that teachers need to be trained before we even think of introducing technology in the classroom, and I agree.  The pressure needs to be on divisions to implement proper training for teachers if they want students to be knowledgeable on the changing technologies of the day.  But as Brad Kuntz sates; “Including technology in classroom comes with unique challenges…..But as we continue to set the standard for technology’s inclusion in the classroom, more clearly define and clarify its role in our teaching, and train our students to use it wisely, we can modernize our classrooms despite these challenges”.  Therefore, we as an education system must realize that this is the “new” way of education and its not going away.

So debate number one brought forth great questions but I truly believe that technology must be implemented to enhance the learning of our students.

P.S. – Spoiler Alert – Steve McQueen doesn’t escape for very long.

What am I doing?

What am I doing?  This question has crossed my mind ever since I registered for this class.  But after our class on Tuesday, I have a change in thinking.  Now I say “I need this”.  I need to learn some new “tricks”, I need to update my “techie knowledge”, and I need to change.

I guess a little background on myself is needed.  I am Tyler Fehrenbach and I am currently the Principal of Carlyle Elementary School in the community of Carlyle located in the southeast part of the province.  We are part of the South East Cornerstone Public School Division.  I have been in this role for two years and love my job.  I have an unbelievable staff, including Justine who also is taking this class.  I also have 220 energetic and amazing students.  This is my eighteenth year in education where I have taught everything from Pre-K to Grade 12, been a Curriculum Consultant, and a Vice Principal, and now in the Principal role.

More important than all of that, I am a father and husband.  My wife is currently finishing her Social Work degree and still holds the position of  Community Education Liaison at the same school that I work at.  We have a ten year old son, a three year old daughter and a little one up in Heaven whom we lost suddenly when she was only 21 months old.  Our lives revolve around our kid’s activities and I coach or assistant coach all my son’s teams.  I believe that I will be at every game and practice therefore I might as well get involved.

I am nearing my Master’s Journey which began in 2011.  When we lost our daughter I took a leave and only last year decided to continue the journey.  I have just recently finished a very interesting class in the HR field, one that really pertains to my position now.  I realize that EC&I830 will also come in very handy, especially with my staff getting younger and younger and bringing in more technology into the classroom.  My final two classes will take place this summer during the first three weeks of July.  I am looking forward to the end but also wonder what I will do in the evenings with all my spare time.

Thoughout this school year our admin meetings have included some very interesting book circles and guest presenters.  We discuss authors such as Fullan and Davies, but this year we focused a lot around the work of Tom Hierck.  Tom’s book “Pyramid of Behavior Interventions – Seven Keys to a Positive Learning Environment” has really shaped our school and many others in our division.  His ideas of a common Behavior Matrix for the school and modelling expected behaviors by all students, staff and parents has really changed the way our school operates.

 

 

I am hoping that this class will open new path ways fro me, pathways that will enable me to connect better with my students, staff and community.  At the end of this journey I want to be able to not say “what am I doing/

 

You can follow me on Twitter @FehrenbachTyler

First Blog

Wow – who would of thought that I would ever have a Blog.  I will be the first to say this is very odd for me.  Yes, I have a Facebook account (haven’t been on it since November) and I have a Twitter account (that I use rarely) but this blog thing is something unique for me.  I think it will be used mainly to discuss issues that relate to education and the changes that are taking place in the field of education.  Since I am nearing the end of my Masters journey at University, I think this Blog will very useful tool for me.  I guess we will have to wait and see.