Long time no see! Welcome back to The Hackel Hub! I am so excited to be entering my final semester of my Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Regina. I have been through many changes this school year and it has dramatically impacted how I will be approaching this course. In this post you’ll learn my story and my goals for this semester as I work towards using research and action to explore assistive technology, universal design for learning and worthwhile apps and online programming at Ecole Connaught School.
A Change in Brain: For the past seven years I had been at Lakeview Elementary School, located in the old Lakeview area of the city, teaching grade 2/3. This school year I was moved to Ecole Connaught Community School teaching grade 5/6. Although these 2 schools are only a few blocks from one another geographically, they are worlds apart as far demographic and family engagement. As if moving from primary to middle years wasn’t enough, the immense shock of going from engaged and involved families, to essentially no family engagement was hard to handle. My kids this year are often going without food, warm clothing, and struggle to even make it to school as there is often times no one at home encouraging them to do so. It was and still is a HUGE mind shift. Daily, I am reminded how completely crucial it is to meet basic needs before any learning can happen. Not to mention, many of my students are coming from significant trauma. They are trying to unpack what they have been through and work through it with their limited life experience and a brain capacity not meant to handle these often grown up issues. This greatly affects how much learning takes place and how my students interact with each other and me, as their teacher.
My next mind flip happened when I realized what kind of academic struggles I was facing – not only do my kiddos this year have very little school stamina, my classroom is VERY diverse in academic/emotional need. I have students reading at a grade 1 level all the way through grade 8, I have students with ADHD, depression, intellectual disorders, dyslexia and autism to name a few. Many of the resources I am pulling from are well below grade level and 11 of 25 students are assigned assistive technology from division office. Diverse doesn’t even begin to explain what I have going on!
So here’s the trouble – I have 11 students with computers assigned to them for a variety of reasons. Realistically, all my kids should probably have them. I have received no guidance on what do with these computers, little guidance as to why the child has the computer in the first place (the needs of each child vary SO greatly a computer doesn’t seem to address it all) and little guidance as to how to utilize the technology so it benefits the student to its full capability. I have App and programming suggestions with what I feel is little reasoning behind them and very minimal training to assist me in ensuring I am using the technology appropriately. All of that being said…
I have many goals for this course all that should conclude with me assessing my practice and deciding what is actually going to work with my kiddos! Below are questions I hope to explore through research and action in my classroom over the course of the semester:
- Is there benefit to students having individual technology in a class where everyone doesn’t have access to it as readily?
- Do students feel uncomfortable being singled out with assistive tech (wiggle seats, sounds cancelling headphones, alternative seating, computers, etc)?
- What is the most effective way to integrate technology into the classroom (if at all)?
- Should students have an opinion in assessing apps and technology programs they use in school? If so, what would they actually say?
- Does social media have a place in the classroom?
- If technology in the classroom doesn’t improve learning, what is it doing? Are there still positives?
I am thrilled with the opportunity to explore some of these questions and bring my students along for the ride. The only time most of them seem engaged is when we bring out the computers…however, I would venture a guess that most of them only like it when they get “free time”! I am looking forward to assessing some of my current teaching practices and seeing where I can improve with this unique and varied group of students!
“Educating the mind without educating the heart,
is no education at all.”