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Dwelling in the Possibilities: Reflecting on #ecoo13

Mrs. Murgatroyd and Ms. Cimbron recently attended the 34th annual ECOO (Educational Computing Organization of Ontario) Conference in Niagara Falls.  The seminars and presentations were plentiful, as were the conversations in the corridors with other passionate educators.  Two days of connected learning with like-minded individuals from across the province.  At times it was ‘system-overload’ with so much to process, here they share the salient observations and reflections from their time at #ecoo13.Let us start with the end in mind.  What is the objective of learning technology?  Better yet, what is the objective of learning?  Understanding this will help us determine where the role of technology fits in.  I would suggest that the objective of learning is to acquire knowledge, develop understanding, and hone the skills necessary for success.  These skills include critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication.  How can we harness technology to deliver on these objectives?  In a word, thoughtfully.  It starts with intentional teaching, and a pedagogy that honours these objectives.  Technology is a tool to engagingly deliver this when used effectively; and is little more than a distraction when not.  Here’s the thing, if we want to teach our students to be creative and innovative, we have to be creative and innovative. 

Use What You Have

We haven’t come close to discovering all the ways that we can use the technology already available to us.  While we were at #ecoo13, for example, we saw alternative ways to display the Epson boards already at our school.  Such a simple, yet innovative change to how our students can engage with technology! It’s not just the hardware that can be implemented alternatively. 
What about apps?  Royan Lee of YRDSB shared his experience with GarageBand – not limited as a tool for music class.  Mr. Lee provides opportunities for his students to compose their own music.  This creative experience can be used to express mood for presentations, and can also reinforce the mathematical concept of patterning.  It goes without saying then, that the importance of educators as collaborators is paramount.  We need to connect and share ideas.  Social Media has made this easier than ever, and it’s difficult to understand why any educator would cut themselves off from this incredible pool of colleagues.

Create More, Consume Less*

It’s easy to develop an app-addiction.  They’re fun, relatively inexpensive, and are constantly spawning.  As educators, it’s important to ask ourselves the objective each time we recommend that a student use an app.  Is it to keep them busy?  Is it really just acting as a digital worksheet?  Angie Harrison’s workshop at #ecoo13 focused on a trio of apps that allow students and teachers to create content:

  • Pic-collage
  • Story Maker
  • Explore Everything

These apps can incorporate photos, text, drawings and even audio – imagine the potential for documentation, for reflection, and for engagement with families. *With thanks to Angie Harrison, YRDSB, for her engaging workshop of the same title.
Imagine the Possibilities

Sometimes learning objectives become clouded by the allure of technology.  We can be enchanted by shiny things and believe that new is necessary to being modern and progressive.  There is an element of truth to this.  We do need to stay informed and familiarize ourselves with the technology that is most certainly part of the world we live in.  We also have a responsibility to our students.  Intentional teaching with a pedagogy that honours learning objectives will ensure that technology is embedded through the curriculum in a meaningful way.
There is so much more to be said, challenged, and further reflected upon with regard to technology and education, and finding the balance.  Conferences like #ecoo13 provide an opportunity to connect, dialogue, and learn from one another; and we left energized and excited to continue the conversation, online.

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