Why Write a Blog?

August 2, 2020

Why Am I Writing This Blog?

It has been a while since I attended to this blog. I actually began blog writing through my online master’s class in education. Now that is is finished and I realized I wanted to keep writing. I thought I would add to it, make it my own, and try to make it more interesting to read.

My ultimate goal is mainly to write and to improve on it. Am I nervous that people will read this (or not) and not like what they read? Maybe. Am I worried that there may be comments that I do not like or agree with? Yep, that’s true. But, if I don’t try something because of the fear of rejection, or the fear of failing, then I let fear win. Not going to happen.

I want to write. I want people to eventually read my writing. Here is how I start.

 

My goals in writing:

1) Enjoyment. Pure and simple. I write because I like to.

Stories interest me. I LOVE to read, I LOVE to read a good story. I LOVE to read good writing. I also like to write and would love to have someone else appreciate my writing.

2) To become a better writer.

You cannot improve on something if you do not practice. If I want to be a good writer, I need to write. Here I am. Writing.

3) Publishing my work.

So this one is definitely a dream of mine. I don’t want to do it for fame or fortune (though I won’t say no to fortune), but I do want to give gratification to others the way reading has given me gratification. I am currently writing what I would like to become a book. I have no idea whether or not it will ever be completed, or if I will embrace a new idea altogether. But, for now, I will continue to work at it when the moment compels itself.

4) Something to do when I retire.

I am a teacher and I will be able to retire in my 50s. I hope to live long past that and want to have a focus when the day comes, (or at least after I am done celebrating and real life kicks in again.) Who knows, maybe my writing will allow me to retire earlier? Probably not, but never say never.

5) To be a good example to my children.

Right now my kids are young and cannot even read what I write. But, one day, I want them to be able to see that their mother chose to do something that she wanted that brought her happiness, improved her skills, and maybe made a difference to someone else. Right now, I am making a difference in my life by taking this chance and writing this blog.

 

Will this blog be read by millions and liked and talked about? Probably not and that’s alright with me. I hope that anyone reading this right now can tell themselves, hey, if this gal can do it, so can I. And it doesn’t have to be writing. Do what interests you and brings you pleasure. Do what helps alleviate the stress that life brings. Do something that may even make a difference in someone else’s life. Whatever it is, do it. Life is too short not to.

 

 

I Can’t Believe I’m DONE!!!!

My last post for my last class for my Master’s Degree in Education! Finally here!!!!

 

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I have enjoyed my journey through all ten courses but have really enjoyed these ones from Alec (since this is my second class from him). So thank you Alec and thank you to everyone from whom, and with whom I have enjoyed learning.

Summary of Learning

 

My Learning Journey: EC&I 834 Summar

March 29, 2019

When I joined this class, EC&I 834 Designing for Online and Blended Learning, I did not really know what to expect. I had previously taken a course from Alec Couros last term on Foundations of Educational Technology: History, Theory, and Practice, so I was previously  familiar with online learning, using zoom to attend the class, online teaching and learning tools, blogging, tweeting, online communities and much more. When I learned that I would have to create an online course, for this class,  I was a bit overwhelmed. I had had very little experience with working with online tools (previous to Alec’s class) and felt like this course was going to be a struggle. To my great relief, each class allowed for me to ease into each aspect of creating my online course bit by bit.

 

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Learning About and Choosing a Platform

We were given the opportunity to explore some platforms to allow for our course creation. Some of these were:

 

I chose to use Google Classroom because I was currently experimenting with it in my grade 5/6 classroom and was eager to learn more about it. I was also using WordPress to create my blogs for the previous class that I took with Alec Couros and would be continuing with it for the purpose of blogging for this course.

I briefly looked at the other platforms but found that I preferred the way that Google classroom was set up. Since it was what I used with my students during the day, I felt that this would give me the best opportunity to explore this platform more deeply and be able to compare my 5/6 classroom to my adult classroom that I was creating.

I had used Class Dojo a few years ago in my class as a classroom attendance/ behaviour management tool. I found that the point system became too much of a distraction to the classroom work and quickly abandoned it. So when Google Classroom became known to me, I was at first a bit of a skeptic. Once I had come up with a course topic for my online class, crochet, which is a hobby of mine, I felt more excited about this project and felt that this could actually be something I could create and use.

Using Google classroom with my grade 5s and 6s was a struggle at first due to their extreme “helplessness” in getting into the platform and then navigating through it. But after a while it became easier. As for my crochet course, I directed it towards adults because I thought that this would be an easier audience to work independently.

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Creating Modules

When it came to my modules, I decided to copy the structure of the course for EC&I 834 because I liked how it worked for me as a student. So I decided that I would have weekly meetings on zoom that would work as a way for the class to meet and discuss issues and course material in live time. I also chose to have the students blog weekly on their progress. The blogging in this course has helped me to gather my thoughts about online and blended learning and I thought that would be beneficial for crochet as well. Online journal-ling can be a great way to organize one’s thoughts, but also to have other people comment on them as well.

I also decided to include videos that the students could learn to do the stitches before the zoom meetings as well as any readings to familiarize themselves with the week’s topic. I like the videos because the learner can pause and rewind as much as they need to learn the skill that is being taught. They have the opportunity in this format to take the time they need to in order to learn.

Online Learning Pros and Cons, Could it Ever Replace Face-to-Face?

Unlike in face to face learning, we may not always have the opportunity to provide the ongoing instruction that online learning provides. It can be paused to slow down, repeated as many times as it takes for the learner’s needs. The one down-side tends to be the lack of immediacy of having your questions answered. The learner either needs to wait until the instructor can return a message or until a live meeting takes place to get the answers they seek. But, if there is communication with other students in the class, there is a better chance to have questions answered more quickly. The benefit on online learning for myself as an adult learner, is that I can work on my class at the times that fit my and my husband’s schedule and I don’t have to leave my children when I attend class.

This led me to think about the discussions/questions that we had at our last class about whether online learning would replace face-to-face learning. My immediate response was a big “NO”, but now I am not so sure. I think large parts could be replaced, like meeting together in the same room, but I do not think it will obliterate face-to-face entirely.

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In the case of this EC&I 834 class, there is is the plan to meet face-to-face at the last class. I think that the connections that we have face-to-face are a integral part of our humanity. We need to connect with one another without the barrier of technology. I especially believe this to be true with small children. Speaking from experience, with my own two little ones, who are yet to young to be in school, they need constant supervision, touch (hugs, hand-holding, cuddling and etc), and physical guidance (moving their hands or bodies away from something dangerous).

The children in elementary school still need the physical connection with their teachers. When they are struggling with something, a hug, a hand on the shoulder, pat on the back to help them get back on track. Or when they do something great they look for immediate praise. Teachers can give the praise verbally, but also may high-five/fist bump, or a hug or pat on the back. This need that we have for positive physical contact is why I do not think that school will be replaced by completely online learning.

I also tried to image what the classroom would look like. There would have to be someplace to “warehouse” the students, especially in elementary and middle years because you cannot have children that age unattended. So there would need to be people hired to manage the children and make sure that the learning was occurring. Would they be all together or in separate stalls? How would we incorporate play time and physical activity online? Would the individual monitoring these students be merely a “babysitter” policing the activities in which the students were participating? I just cannot see this being an actuality with this age group.

As for high school students, there may be little issues to successful learning with mature students who are willing to learn and care about working hard and well. But what about the students who were not taught work ethic at home? For the students who are currently struggling academically or socially in the schools now, how would we be able to organize an online classroom that would engage and adapt to these students? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do believe that schooling could not be completely replaced by online education. There are great many positives towards working with educational technology and using online and blended learning, but I do not think it could potentially take over what we know as school today.

I Can’t Believe I Made an Online Course!

March 25, 2019

I did it! And I almost cannot believe it! When I first started this course, EC&I 834 and I learned that my assignment was to create my own online course, I was a bit panicked. Coming from my minimal technology knowledge I thought that this would be more difficult than it turned out to be. But, after each week with Alec, I became more knowledgeable and felt more confident in my abilities to create this course. So, without further ado, here is my video on the overview of my course!

 

 

This is my first Youtube video. I first learned that I had to make a channel in Youtube before it would allow me to upload the video. But, after all that I think it is all here and ready to go.

This is were I posted the profile of my course, which is a course on teaching adults and mature teenagers how to crochet. I called it “Crochet Club” to keep it informal and more “club” like since the topic is a form of hobby. There are assignments and assessments for the course, but there is no formal curriculum and is mainly student directed in course content for what the students want to learn about crocheting.

(I just figured out how to link to a specific part of my blog! Mind Blown! )

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The course itself is located in Google Classroom with the class code: msxd04

It begins with an online overview of how to use google classrooms, which would be emailed to students before the course begins.

The first module is an introduction to the course which I created through Google docs and discuss what is expected in the course, what platforms we will use, Google Plus Communities, and the zoom meeting space.

It then goes through some introductions to reading patterns, starting crochet, history of crochet and some beginning stitches.

The second module is more extensive stitches and also a pattern for a scarf as the first project. Each allow for readable lessons as well as links to videos on how someone doing the stitch themselves.

In my peer review, someone mentioned that I should provide videos of myself doing the stitches instead of videos of other people. I liked the idea at first, then thought about how, as a teacher, I don’t tend to re-create the wheel when there are many resources out there for me to use. A great idea, thank you, but for now, I will stick to the pre-made videos. I do plan on live crocheting for my students during the zoom meetings, which as Alec has done for us, I would record them and upload them to the Google Classroom and Google Plus Communities.

I decided to use Google Plus Communities for the students to have contact with one another instead of relying on the Google classroom stream section, because I liked how the streams can be organized in Communities compared to the stream in Google classroom which tends to be a bit convoluted and unorganized. This way we could categorize our discussions, allowing for specific content to be found more easily.

I feel that I have learned a great amount in creating this course, as well in the actual screen-castify, which I have limited experience with and the youtube video creation which was a first for me.

Well, there you have it. Another successful project and a wonderful to my last large assignment for my last grad class. Two more classes, blog posts, and a summary of learning to go! I am amazed at how far I have come and look forward the next three classes. Until then!

 

Communication is Key

March 17, 2019

When thinking about what type of student-student and student-instructor interactions I have available in my online course, I thought that since I was using Google Classroom, I would just use the stream that is on the first page of the classroom. Then, I looked over it and realized that everything gets updated there, including all the lessons and activities that I post and I thought that it would end up being to convoluted for quality interactions to occur.

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In my further thoughts on what I would do, in addition to a weekly zoom meeting, I decided to stick with Google Suites and moved toward adding a Google Plus Community for my course. This I would plan to add into the the outline and provide a place for students to communicate with each other and with myself as well. I used this platform in the class I previously took with Alec, EC&I833 and really found it to be useful. I like Slack, but would prefer to stick with Google for now, due to familiarity.

Contrary to what we read in the chapter on collaborative online learning, this course would not be to discuss crochet but more as skill based course. I do not intend to have in depth discussions or debates on crochet, but have the plan to use the online interactions as a way to support skills and share patterns and issues with this craft. So my purpose as an instructor is not to guide the online discussions but to lead a crafting group at an introductory level. The goal would be for them to learn the basics so that they would feel comfortable progressing on their own to improve their crochet abilities.

I had also mentioned in my course outline that there would be a weekly blog post that would allow the students to discuss their journeys learning how to crochet and uploading short videos or images of their progress. This would be a way that I could see how the student was progressing and how/if I needed adapt my plans for the lessons that I would teach. I may use blog prompts, as Alec has done for us in his classes, and these prompts could include mini side activities or side reading that could help assist the students in their current goals. (My course is looking very similar to Alec’s. Well if it ain’t broke…)

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So far, I think that after taking into considerations the feedback from my peers, the experience with two different courses with Alec  and the readings from this week, I feel that I am well on my way to providing a great opportunity for student-student and student-instructor interactions in my online course.

Just a Little Bit of Peer Review

FROM THE BEGINNING

I was nervous and excited to receive the responses from my peers on my course module. I did not expect to have such a positive response since I thought I was taking a chance at creating a course on a hobby. I was happy to see that one of my classmates is a fellow crocheter, so I got some great feedback from someone who seems to know the material well.

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EASE OF USE

I appreciate that most of the reviewers found the platform of Google classroom to be easy to use. It is a great way to connect with the students through the comment page and for me as the instructor to add assignments and upload links. I decided to use this platform because I was familiar with it with my own grade 5/6 classroom.

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One classmate did find Google classroom to be a bit confusing to navigate, because it was her first time using it, and I would definitely take the advice on providing a small tutorial on how to use Google classroom as one of the first lessons. I had ignorantly assumed that everyone would have been familiar with Google classroom, but now that I think about it I realize that my intended audience of adult and teen crafters would not necessarily all be familiar.
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INTRODUCTION

One of my classmates mentioned how the introduction to the course was well set up and she appreciated the descriptions, pictures and links to allow for some further research for the students of the course if they were so inclined to do so.

The comment about adding a bio of myself and possibly even a picture so that students can learn about me as an instructor was a great idea that I intend to add to my module. I think this is a great way to personalize and to increase the comfort level that a potential student would be able to experience with this adjustment.

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OOPS

So, as much as I thought that I had checked things over, there were still mistakes made. I had forgotten to add a link to a website that I had fully intended on including and I truly apologize for that. I added the site introduction, but alas, did not copy and paste the URL. If at first you make a mistake, try to fix it within a decent amount of time! But, I have now fixed it and will be triple checking the next module just to make sure everything works.

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WHAT? I’M BEING TESTED ON A CRAFT?

Yes, there are assessments in this course, and no they are not too difficult. I appreciate that this was recognized in the review because I too believe that he assessments fit the type of course, which is meant to be more of a hobby type course. I decided to include assessments in order to attract students who were serious about the course and would be willing to put in the effort to learn a new skill. This was intended to direct more towards the serious crafters and to make a course that could allow for good quality instruction and serious discussions and commitments to completing projects together and to learn from one another. It may have been called “Crochet for Beginners” but I believe that the instructor could learn a thing or two in this course as well!

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RESPECTFULLY DISAGREE

I do need to mention though, that there were some things that I would disagree with from the reviews. I will not be mentioning those things here, specifically, as I do not want to embarrass or put down the opinions of others. Overall, the review was mainly positive and I really do appreciate the constructive criticism. But, just like anything that others provide their opinions to there will be times that we do not see eye to eye. So, I would just like to that I am so very grateful to have the opportunity to be reviewed by such wonderful classmate and I thank you very much for your time reviewing my module, responding to it and allowing for me to reflect upon it as well.

 

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Google Classroom Beginner

I have recently begun using Google classroom with my students. I fear that I am still quite a beginner at it and have not managed to be completely comfortable with it as of yet.  Ever since I took Alec’s class last term I began to force myself to use more technology in my teaching. I had only been substituting technology for what could also have been done on paper. Type this up and print it out.

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Now, I have been trying to incorporate Google classroom into my teaching, but feel like I am not using it to its full potential. Our school is fortunate to have our “tech guru”, a fellow teacher, who is able to come into our classrooms to show our students (and the teachers) something new in educational technology. Whether this be a new program, or website or in my case, how to write a “choose your own ending” story with Google Slides. (Really neat lesson and I really want to continue with it with my students).

So, when Alec’s class had me having to create my own online or blended course, I freaked out a little.

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I did not think that I had any skills to be able to navigate any online course let alone create one. So, I choose Google Classroom, since I was somewhat familiar with it (and it seemed the least daunting at the time). At first I thought I could create a blended course for my grade 5/6 class, but feel that since coming into this classroom mid-way through the year (maternity leave), and having a more behavior challenging classroom, I decided to stick to creating a course for adults.

I do regret sometimes, not taking the challenge to use a course for my grade 5/6 class, because I believe that it would benefit my skills as a teacher and assist in my goal to becoming more comfortable to use more technology in my teaching. I shied away because I did not feel that my class would be able to manage the tech and I would just be creating stress and havoc for myself. After reading Dani’s post, and learning that she uses Google classroom with a grade 2/3 class, I feel a bit ashamed that I did not give my students, or myself, more credit in our abilities to succeed. I do have them handing in assignments to me through Google classroom, and soon would like to use Google Read and Write to assist them with their editing and writing skills. But, I think I still have a huge learning curve ahead of me.

I am encouraged to use Google suites (and especially Google classroom) because of its ease of use and accessibility. I have found that I am able to see my students work in real time and offer comments and edits while they work on the computer. Being able to do it from my computer instead of attending to each student around the room is beginning to become a lot more efficient and less time consuming than without the technology. Less paper is wasted, students seem to be more engaged, and some even feel comfortable enough to assist each other as well. Google classroom has given me a home base that once I feel comfortable I will be more willing to explore other options for my students as well.

After reading this article on blended learning, I realize my classroom is far from this definition, but that over time I believe that I can move closer to it with my exploration and experimentation with different types of learning technology.  I feel that I need to make the effort to not be afraid to make mistakes or have lessons that fail in order to grow and learn with the technology. If Dani and Joe can continue to move forward after some minor hiccups with technology, I feel like I can as well. I won’t be able to use the technology for teaching if I don’t make the effort or have the courage to try.

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Content Creation Tools: Voicethread

February 3, 2019

I decided to review Voice Thread for this week’s blog prompt.

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My first decision to pick this particular tool was to use it as a tool for my final project. At first, from the title’s description, I was expecting it to be a video creator that I could learn to edit for videos that I would be making. Upon reviewing the first demo, I thought that I would not be able to use this tool because it appeared to me to be useful for videos that already existed. Then, upon further investigation, I realized that I could upload my own videos and make comments on them in addition to ones that already exist. I will examine some strengths and weaknesses that I found with this tool before finalizing my decision upon its usefulness in my own project for this course.

When I first looked at this editing tool, I could see how it would benefit an adult online learning or blended classroom with the opportunities for the learner to view the content at one’s own pace and to add commentary when applicable. I feel that if I was teaching an adult course, I could use this tool for formative and summative assessments that would allow for a deeper understanding of what the student understands about the course material.

This tool would also be useful for teaching a course, like the one I have planned, which is less formal and more of a group learning course. I like how comments can be made to videos, and how the course instructor can choose to show which comments get displayed to the public (or class) and in what order. It can also be used as an assessment, both formative and summative, because the instructor can keep comments hidden from others (for example, if the comments were the assessment) and do not need to share them with the other members.

Some of the students I teach are not strong in writing and would benefit from this program because they would be able to tell me what they are learning and use the videos to aide them. I think that it would also add to the students’ confidence levels because they would not need to worry about their writing abilities, but could focus on showing what they know about the material being covered. Also, as discussed in Chapter 7 of Tony Bate’s “Teaching in a Digital Age”this tool would allow for more abstract ideas being able to be shared, especially by these students, who are not strong writers. The opportunity is provided to them to be able to explain things verbally instead of pictorially or in writing.

A negative to using this tool would be if your students are EAL and are expected to comment on certain videos for grades or class presentations, and they have more difficulties in speaking clearly for others to understand. I viewed a nutrition example in the Health section for the K-12 and found a woman commenting on a nutrition video. I found it very difficult to understand what she was saying. This could also be an issue with the audio/video of either my own or her personal device, but have found that this may be an issue when using it for online and blended learning courses. This made me think about my own students, none of whom are EAL, but do have issues with speech. One student in particular, has a speech impediment, that makes it difficult to comprehend some of the things that she is saying. In this case, this tool would not be beneficial for my use in order to accurately assess her content knowledge Although, comments can be made in written form too, if chosen.

There would be a difficulty for students who do not have access to microphones or ones with poor quality microphones. If students do no have access to technology devices at home than there would need to be opportunities for the students to complete the recordings at school in a setting in which they could be heard clearly.

Overall, I think this tool would be good to use as one option of content delivery, classroom discussion, and even as an assessment tool. I believe that this tool would be useful for all students with a variety of needs. I believe that it could highly benefit students who are not strong in presenting their ideas in written form. It would take a lot of modelling and practice with this tool before students would be able to manage it on their own, in my case with grades five and six, but I think that it would become a useful tool for an educator.

A Stitch in Time, Means Getting Your Course Profile Posted!

January 27, 2019

When thinking about on what I wanted to base my course profile I thought about all the classes that I am currently teaching in my grade 5/6 classroom. But none got me as excited as the idea of teaching beginning crochet. I know. I’m a bit of a nerd. But, who isn’t. (That’s a discussion for a different post!)

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I read so many goo ideas on other classmates’ posts, such as the one on a bullying unit for grades 7 and 8 in Amy‘s, Kyla O.’s and Collette’s blogs, or the Human Body System (which I had originally planned to do) in Wendy‘s blog. So I decided to stick with what I really enjoyed doing and have always wanted to teach.

So, without further ado, here is the course profile.

CLICK HERE

 

 

Teaching Blended and Online Learning: Is it for Me?

My experience with technology began at an older age than most people who are currently in their thirties. I always felt myself to be a bit of a technological “late bloomer”. I learned how to use the family computer in my middle years, amidst taking typing tutor classes and playing Oregon Trail at school. I didn’t have much time because, like everyone at that time, my computer was hooked up to the phone line and we had to dial up to use the internet (and only if someone wasn’t on the phone or was expecting to use the phone in the near future). It also took a long time to turn the computer on! I could usually flick the on switch and then go make myself a sandwich while I waited for it and Window 95 to finally load up.

 

I was never one who really got into social media (I didn’t join MSN messenger until high school and joined Facebook a few years after my friends.) (I just joined Twitter last year!)

Fast forward to university when I actually got my first cellphone (because I had to pay for my own and could not afford it till then). I used the computer mostly for typing up university assignments or for checking the university library to see what books were available for me to use for my essays. I still went to the stacks at the U of S, to get a good old hard copy of a book for research more often than using anything online. I wasn’t comfortable with the internet, nor was it as accessible as it is today to get information. I also didn’t have the “know how” to navigate what was a good source and what really wasn’t.

As I entered into my first internship in a grade one classroom, I had my first experience with a SMART Board.  My co-op teacher used it sparingly as she was not very comfortable with it.

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So, I got some experience with it, but did not use it to the potential that I could have until I got hired at that school (about a year later) as a part time grade 4 teacher. The teacher, with whom I was sharing a position, was the school’s tech guru. I ended up using the SMART Board for most lessons and loved the interactivity I had with my students.

When I moved to Regina and got hired to teach in Moose Jaw, I was introduced to a new educational technology device, the Promethean. It was supposed to be a similar device, but I was never found technology easy to work with (still don’t), and I had a difficult time. I could not convert the SMART Board lessons (which I had spent many hours creating) that I had to work with the Promethean. It always seemed to stop working mid lesson every couple of days or so, and getting the problem fixed took a lifetime. So I ended up using it as a glorified (and very expensive) overhead projector, or not at all. The document camera was old and had a yellow tinge, so I couldn’t use that either to the extent that I wanted. I was giving up on technology in my classroom because it was causing more trouble then it was worth.

We did have classroom Ipads in the classroom (or to share with 3 other classrooms) that we could use in efforts to supplement our teaching methods and student learning. But, sadly, most of the time, we had to sign up in advance when we were going to use them, the programs always had to be updated or students were forgetting how to log into them (or plug them in), they wouldn’t work or were broken somehow and again I was fighting with a tool I had previously thought would be useful.

Fast forward a few years, and a few graduate classes later and I began to get back into the technology that was available at our school. I feel that just recently since I have come back from my second maternity leave, that our school has had an increase in the amount of working technology that continues to be updated and maintained. I also feel more confident in my own skills with educational technology, (especially since taking EC&I 833 with Alec Couros), that I have been incorporating technology more often into my lessons. I am experimenting with Google Classroom with my students (since we now have classroom laptops) and I have a new document camera that works (almost all the time) and a AV system that doesn’t crackle every time I move.

As for blended learning, I think it is a work in progress in my classroom. After reading the chapters by Tony Bates Chapter I believe that fully online learning would not work in my classroom of grade five and six students. I agree that with him on the fact that it is more likely to be used by adult learners and not middle years students. I do not feel that they would have the discipline to learn on their own. They are still at the age where most of them complain about “hating school” or “being bored” because they cannot see past their own issues and life changes. Most of them are not mature enough, nor have the self discipline to learn on their own. I believe that I would be able to begin (I think I have started already) a blended learning class, but it would still be mostly face to face because of the needs of the current students in my classroom.

If I were to create online course, it would be directed to adult learners. There would first need to be a huge learning curve for myself in order to get myself more comfortable with the technology. And as for the content, I am not sure what I would teach. I do not feel that that is the way my educational career will move towards, nor to I want to teach adult learners. I think I will always prefer the face to face experiences as an educator and do not believe that it will change much in my lifetime. But, I do want to continue to  learn about the educational technologies that I can use to better educate the students that I am currently teaching and to further my own personal goal of my life-long learning.