Coded Bias: Education Panelist Perspective

The film Coded Bias makes an excellent contribution to a dialogue that is far too limited in education. My comments and perspectives are based on my career as a K-12 teacher and now working in teacher education in post-secondary with an interest in transforming teaching and learning. I would like to thank Shalini Kantayya and everyone involved in the film making for provoking this much needed dialogue to help guide the way forward as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) continue to evolve and impact all aspects of society. The film reminds us that societal biases can be encoded in algorithms unknowingly or unintentionally and can lead to algorithmic bias, a problem that may not be easily detected. The use of algorithms can lead to important decisions that affect people’s lives. As shown in the film, it’s possible for an algorithm to provide an invalid assessment of an exemplary teacher that can impact employment, retention or tenure. Similarly, invalid assessments of students can impact admissions, program advancement, assessments and decisions related to their academic conduct. What are the imperatives for education? For educators, for schools, for curricula? I would like to discuss three imperatives (I’m sure there are many more):

First, biases need to be critically examined. I often refer to the double-edged sword of innovation. With AI for example, there can be extraordinary opportunities for improvement, such as increased efficiency but there can also be significant consequences, such as the invasive surveillance shown in the film. Technology can be helpful and at the same time technology can also cause undue harm. AI can be developed for seemingly good purposes and with intent to be harmless not harmful. However, there can be insufficient attention to the biases in designs. In teaching we refer to teachers as designers of learning and recognize that each teacher has bias, each curriculum designer has bias, each curriculum has bias. The film demonstrates why it is important for designers in any field to analyze bias in their designs. Bias in designs need to be critically analyzed and questioned from multiple perspectives; bias needs to be discovered and uncovered at the very early stages in the design process. Too often designers move from prototype to testing or from draft curricula in education to pilot phases without critically examining and limiting the biases.

A second imperative is to raise the expectations and standards for ethics in designs.

In education we need transparency and accountability for algorithms that are used that have potential to impact overall advancement of individuals. There needs to be full disclosure of the algorithms and there needs to be regulations for their use. We need to question the ethics and raise the standards when using AI as the first step and first stop in making important decisions that have human impact. False positives can have a significant negative human impact.

A third imperative is to take responsibility and assume a role in protecting integrity. We all have a role and responsibility to protect the integrity of a meaningful world. In my role as an educator and scholar in education, and an academic coordinator for a graduate program called Leading and Learning in a Digital Age, I aim to design courses and conduct research and continually interrogate and critically examine implications of innovations in education. We need to advocate for, look for and consider plausible consequences when designing learning or when faced with testing or piloting any new inventions and innovation. As a society, how might we take action? How might we advance high standards of the technologies we use with learners, the technologies we develop for learning, the learning designs and the curricula used?

There were three key imperatives that resonated with me from an educational perspective as I viewed the film: there is a need to critically examine the biases; there is a need to raise the expectations and standards for ethics in designs; and there is need for all of us to take responsibility and assume a role in protecting the integrity of a meaningful world.

You may find the following related links interesting ( shared by Dr. Lisa Silver,  Faculty of Law, University of Calgary):

Federal Digital Charter: https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/062.nsf/eng/h_00108.html

Law Commission of Ontario, The Rise and Fall of AI and Algorithms In American Criminal Justice: Lessons for Canada, (Toronto: October 2020)

Lisa Silver and Gideon Christian, “Harnessing the Power of AI Technology; A Commentary on the Law Commission of Ontario Report on AI and the Criminal Justice System” (November 18, 2020), online: ABlawg, http://ablawg.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Blog_LS_GC_LCO_Report.pdf (commenting on the LCO Report)

Recent privacy review of Clearview AI: Joint investigation of Clearview AI, Inc. by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec, the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia, and the Information Privacy Commissioner of Alberta:

https://canlii.ca/t/jd55x

Ewert v. Canada, 2018 SCC 30 (CanLII), [2018] 2 SCR 165: https://canlii.ca/t/hshjz (bias in risk assessment tools)

Multiple Reports on the issue from AI NOW Institute: https://ainowinstitute.org/reports.html.

LAWNOW Magazine – Special report on Privacy: https://canlii.ca/t/sjpm

An accessible perspective: McSweeney’s Issue 54: The End of Trust (2018)

Analysis of digital literacies in the Draft Alberta K-6 Curriculum

 

By Barbara Brown & Michele Jacobsen

Over the past couple of weeks, Alberta educators, curriculum experts and researchers have offered a variety of responses to the March 2021 Draft Alberta K-6 Curriculum [start here, here, here, and here]. One journalist gave the draft top marks, but most experts, after detailed and critical review, assign a failing grade. Dr. Carla Peck, Professor of Social Studies Education, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta, completed a detailed analysis of the draft K-6 Social Studies Curriculum and calls for a complete re-write. In a future post, we will address the clear disconnect between professional practice expectations of teachers (TQS), school leaders (LQS), and superintendents (SLQS) and the draft K-6 curriculum. The professional practice standards include competencies for applying foundational knowledge of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and culture in educational professionals’ work with children, and these ideas and concepts are only superficially addressed in the draft curriculum.

 

An explosion of social media activity includes diverse commentary and sharp critiques that run counter the positive and defensive narrative from the ministry. We appreciate the detailed analysis of plagiarism in the curriculum documents provided by our colleague, Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton, from the University of Calgary. The two of us (Drs. Brown and Jacobsen) have decided to weigh in on the relative lack of any meaningful role for learning technology and digital media in the draft K-6 Curriculum documents. Our initial analysis contributes a review of digital literacies and competencies, technology, coding and ethics from an educational technology perspective. The two of us hold teaching expertise and our doctorates in educational technology, conduct research in online and blended K-12 and post-secondary contexts, and have been involved in development of the Information and Communication Technology Curriculum (2000) and the Technology Policy Framework (2013) . We have both served as members of the School Technology Advisory Committee in Alberta. Alberta Education has been a world leader in the integration of technology for learning across the curriculum. The timeline of learning and technology in Alberta from 1975 to 2009 also includes various initiatives and research projects that we have both been part of and provides a foundation for our research in Alberta schools.

 

We are also involved in designing and continually updating contemporary university programs for educators, such as the Leading and Learning in a Digital Age graduate certificate that invites critical inquiry on leading learning and teaching with technology across the curriculum.

 

The following themes emerged in our analysis of close to 273 pages of draft curriculum documents including the competency progressions, literacy progressions, numeracy progressions, subject introductions and draft curriculum for ELA, Fine Arts, Mathematics, Physical Education and Wellness, Science, Social Studies, and Visual Arts. Our review does not include the French Immersion or French Language curriculum, Dance, Music or Drama. We suggest further analysis of learning technologies and digital literacy should include all of the draft curriculum documents.

 

Our initial analysis includes five key areas of concern related to digital literacies in the draft K-6 curriculum. First, we note that digital literacies and digital competencies are not part of the literacy progressions. We note that digital texts are referenced 5 times, as are vague notions of modes and media. We argue that specific reference to digital literacies and digital competencies must be included in the literacy progressions in a modern curriculum, especially if Alberta children are to learn how to navigate, evaluate and create knowledge in this post-truth era in which disinformation, appeals to emotion and fake news proliferates.

 

Second, the outcomes that include the terms technology, technologies or digital are limited in frequency throughout the curriculum, include few expectations for the early grades and are unclear with a possibility for different interpretations:

  • Words with technology appeared in 20 instances in the English Language Arts, Math and Science documents, and the term “technologies” also appeared in 20 instances but only in the Science documents.
  • In the English Language Arts K-6 draft, the first of three instances of technology appeared in grade 4. Based on our research, we are concerned about this omission in K-3 in the English Language Arts curriculum and discuss findings from one of our studies with early learners using technology here. The way the term technology and technologies are used in the draft curriculum are ambiguous. For example, in the Language arts curriculum in grade 6 – “Vocabulary is contextual and influenced by emerging or changing conditions, including technology” is vague and can be interpreted as optional.
  • In Math, the single instance of technology appeared in grade 5: “Create various representations of data, including with technology, to interpret frequency.”
  • In the Science curriculum, the term technology appeared in the introduction and started to appear minimally in grade 2. The term technologies appeared starting in grade 3. However, the terms technology and technologies appeared most frequently in the grade 5-6 outcomes. Even in the science curriculum, we noted the ambiguous use. For example, in Science Grade 6, the term technology is used as part of a list (e.g., computers, coding and technology).
  • Even though the term digital appears in over 130 instances throughout the documents, the term is mostly preceded by the term OR and can be interpreted as optional. For example, “use non-digital OR digital sources/texts” is commonly used in the English Language Arts curriculum. In contrast, a conceptual framework for emergent digital literacy from Australia used more precise language, “As we progress in the 21st century, children learn to become proficient readers and writers of both digital and non-digital texts” (Neumann, Finger & Neumann, 2017, p. 471). The Australian authors clearly emphasize the use of both digital and non-digital unlike the ambiguous wording currently used in the draft Alberta curriculum.

 

Third, we are concerned that the use of coding in the curriculum suggests that computer programming skills are sufficiently integrated in the draft K-6 curriculum. While computer science is listed in the practical skills section, coding is simplified in the learning outcomes as a mechanical process that can be done with paper/pencil. When we searched the 273 pages, the word coding only appeared in 17 learning outcomes and all of these instances were found in the Science curriculum grade 5, 6. The integration of coding is limited to learning in one disciplinary area and is absent for younger learners. Where are the “algorithms, technology and engineering to design solutions to problems” evident in the learning outcomes? These omissions in the draft curriculum stand in direct contrast to contemporary research on the importance of coding and computational thinking for all learners worldwide.  Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director (March 22, 2019), asked “Should schools teach coding?”, and presents important questions about coding and computational thinking that need to be better considered in the Alberta K-6 draft curriculum: “How can we focus learning on the “essence” of a subject rather than the ‘mechanics of the moment’? It is fair to question how working code on paper in a modern age offers any value beyond rote mechanics.

 

Fourth, we argue the curriculum should include explicit focus on ethics and technology at every age. The word ethics only appears in 3 instances and all of these were in the Science curriculum, grade 5. Here’s one of our recent books regarding the importance of ethical use of technology in digital learning environments to support our argument for increasing the curricular focus in this area. As they engage deeply in accessing and contributing knowledge a digital world, Alberta students and teachers need to be engaged in conversations and inquiry into contemporary issues such as personal privacy, access rights, copyright, surveillance, and security.

 

Fifth, there is limited and superficial reference to technology and digital competencies in this draft curriculum. We would have expected a new curriculum to build on or further develop the concepts and ideas in the Learning and Technology Policy Framework (LTPF) from 2013. The LTPF, Policy Direction 1 described the direction for technology use with students: “to support student-centred, personalized, authentic learning for all students” (p. 5) and this could have been a great starting point for developing a contemporary curriculum for Alberta’s children. Instead, this draft curriculum takes us back decades in failing to adequately consider learning technologies, digital literacy and digital competencies for Alberta children.

 

We recognize this is an initial versus comprehensive critique of the relative absence of meaningful consideration of educational technology in the draft. We anticipate and welcome more commentaries and critique to emerge over the coming days and weeks. Based on our initial analysis, we argue the ministry needs to go back to the drawing board to design a contemporary curriculum that prepares learners for their digital futures and digital economies, instead of our pasts. We also encourage everyone to get involved in the public engagement and provide feedback on the draft K-6 curriculum presented in March 2021.

 

Schleicher (2019), OECD, leaves us with this call to action: “To determine what tomorrow’s students should learn, we must assemble the best minds in a given country – leading experts in the field, but also those who understand how students learn, as well as those who have a good understanding of how knowledge and skills are used in the real world. Such knowledge sharing will allow us to more precisely determine and regularly re-examine which topics should be taught and in what sequence – without succumbing to the temptations of the moment” (P 9).

 

Some of the best minds and leading experts in their fields across Alberta, and school, classroom and university experts who understand how children learn, are analyzing, questioning and critiquing elements of this draft curriculum; will the Minister of Education listen? Or, will she continue to succumb to the ideological and political temptations of the moment?

Note: This post is also available on Dr. Michele Jacobsen’s blog

Feel free to connect with us: babrown@ucalgary.ca and dmjacobs@ucalgary.ca  OR Twitter handles: @barbbrown @dmichelej

 

Advancing Faculty Development and Graduate Supervision Online: A Global Dialogue Forum

Overview of our global dialogue presented on March 30, 2021:  In this session we discuss the challenges and opportunities for advancing faculty development and graduate supervision in online learning. We dispel myths about online learning environments and discuss how digital innovations provide possibilities for faculty and students to learn and connect globally. We also share our experiences with engaging pre-service, in-service teachers, and faculty in professional learning through an online pedagogy series and graduate supervision MOOC.

Link to Presentation  – Mar30-2021 Slides.pptx

University of Calgary Links:

Werklund School of Education Graduate Programs, University of Calgary – https://werklund.ucalgary.ca/graduate-programs

Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, University of Calgary – https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/ (open access learning modules)

Other Related Sources:

Brown, B. (2019). One-Take Productions for Student Feedback. Education Canada Magazine, 59(2). https://www.edcan.ca/articles/student-feedback/

 

Brown, B. (2020). Using Zoom to create weekly video message for students.

http://www.drbarbbrown.com/2020/06/18/using-zoom-to-create-a-weekly-video-message-for-students/

 

Brown, B., Alonso-Yanez, G., Friesen, S., & Jacobsen, M. (2020). High school redesign: Carnegie unit as a catalyst for change. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy (CJEAP), 193, 97-114. https://journalhosting.ucalgary.ca/index.php/cjeap/article/view/68066

 

Brown, B., Burns, A., Kendrick, A., Kapoyannis, T., & Delanoy, N. (2020). Adapting to changing K-12 contexts during COVID-19: Teacher education perspectives. In M. K. Barbour & LaBonte, R., Stories from the field: Voices of K-12 Stakeholders during Pandemic, Canadian eLearning Network, pp. 63-68. https://sites.google.com/view/canelearn-ert/

 

Brown, B. & Eaton, S. E. (2020). Using a community of inquiry lens to examine synchronous online discussions in graduate courses. In L. Wilton, & Brett C. (Eds.) Handbook of Research on Online Discussion-Based Teaching Methods (pp. 229-262), IGI Global. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-7998-3292-8

 

Brown, B., Jacobsen, M., & Lambert, D. (2014, May 9-10). Learning technologies in higher education [Paper presentation]. In P. Preciado Babb (Ed.). Proceedings of the IDEAS: Rising to the Challenge Conference, (pp. 25-43). Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, AB, Canada. http://hdl.handle.net/1880/50588

 

Brown, B., Roberts, V., Jacobsen, M., & Hurrell, C. (Eds.) (2020). Ethical use of technology in digital learning environments: Graduate student perspectives. University of Calgary [eBook]  https://doi.org/10.11575/ant1-kb38

 

Brown, B. & Vaughan, N. (2018). Designing group work in blended learning environments. In R. J. Harnish, K. R. Bridges, D. N. Sattler, M. L. Signorella, & M. Munson (Eds.). The Use of Technology in Teaching and Learning (pp. 82-97). Society for the Teaching of Psychology web site: https://teachpsych.org/ebooks/useoftech

 

Donovan, T., Bates, T., Seaman, J., Mayer, D., Martel, E., Paul, R., . . . Poulin, R. (2019). Tracking online and distance education in Canadian universities and colleges: 2018. Canadian National Survey of Online and Distance Education, Public Report. Canadian Digital Learning Research Association. https://onlinelearningsurveycanada.ca/

 

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education model. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.

Community of Inquiry (CoI) Framework – https://coi.athabascau.ca/coi-model/

 

Graham, C. R., Woodfield, W., & Harrison, J. B. (2013). A framework for institutional adoption and implementation of blended learning in higher education. Internet and Higher Education, 18, 4-14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2012.09.003

 

Irvine, V. (2020, Oct 26). The Landscape of Merging Modalities. Educause Review, 4. https://er.educause.edu/articles/2020/10/the-landscape-of-merging-modalities

 

Jacobsen, M., Friesen, S., & Lock, J. (2013). Strategies for Engagement: Knowledge building and intellectual engagement in participatory learning environments. Education Canada. https://www.edcan.ca/articles/strategies-for-engagement/

Jacobsen, M., Brown, B., & Lambert, D. (2013). Technology-enhanced learning environments in higher education: A review of the literature. Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, (80 pages). http://hdl.handle.net/1880/52244

 

Martin, J. (2019). Building Relationships and Increasing Engagement in the Virtual Classroom. Journal of Educators Online, 16(1), 9-13. https://www.thejeo.com/archive/2019_16_1/martin

 

Mazur, A., Brown, B., & Jacobsen, M. (2015). Learning designs using flipped classroom instruction. Canadian Journal of Learning Technology, 41(2), 1-26. https://www.cjlt.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/view/26977

 

Note: This post is also available on Dr. Michele Jacobsen’s blog

Feel free to connect with us: babrown@ucalgary.ca and dmjacobs@ucalgary.ca  OR Twitter handles: @barbbrown @dmichelej

Underlying Messages and Myths about Online Learning

Barbara Brown and Michele Jacobsen

There are many underlying messages about online learning that we have been noting in the communications and decisions related to school re-entry plans. We thought it might be helpful to provide some trustworthy information and research citations to help counter some of these myths:

 

  • Myth#1: Online learning is less effective than in-person learning
  • Myth #2: Online learning implies less interaction than in-person
  • Myth #3: More time should be spent on synchronous activities in online learning

 

Myth#1: Online learning is less effective than in-person learning

Online learning designs have been proven to be effective for learning. In fact, research occurring during the pandemic demonstrated that even during a crisis-response and rapid transition to remote teaching, this mode of learning online can be effective for a diverse range of learners. The promise and possibilities for robust online learning designs increase when instructors have ample lead time to collaborate and design digital learning plans and strategies for their students.

 

  • According to Donovan et al. (2019), blended and hybrid learning have been proven to be an important part of Canadian post-secondary education prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Online learning is accepted (e.g., online credentials are as respected as face-to-face credentials)
    • Demonstrated Student Satisfaction (e.g., Students are as satisfied with online courses as they are with face-to-face course)
    • Online learning designs often promote innovations in teaching
  • Barbour et al. (2019) indicated that approximately 300,000 K-12 students in Canada were engaged in distance and/or online learning in 2018-19. In March 2020, educators and students across Canada pivoted from in-person classrooms to educating over 5 million students remotely in less than two weeks.
  • During the pandemic, researchers shared many examples of effective teaching, technology and teacher education during the pandemic (Ferding et al., 2020). Some key findings that help support the notion that even a rapid transition to online can be effective:
    • 50 – research shows eLearning presents challenges for parents, teachers and administrators, argues for field placements online, professional development for teachers, and additional research is needed for a thoughtful digital learning plan
    • 67 – a blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities, collaborative tools, can be supportive for students with diverse learning need and can provide equitable access when approaches are grounded in patience and flexibility
    • 78 – classes that were using technologies pre-COVID found it a seamless transition to fully online and using the same technologies
    • 94 – social interactions are important and this can be achieved online
    • 132 – relationships and professional collaboration can be achieved online

 

Myth #2: Online learning implies less interaction than in-person

Some presume there is less interaction in online courses when compared to in-class, face-to-face teaching and learning (Watts, 2016). However, it has been proven that interactivity, engagement and strong social and community presence can be fostered in online courses for students and instructors (Garrison, 2017; Young & Bruce, 2011). Contemporary learning technologies enable teachers and learners to connect, collaborate and communicate effectively in diverse ways using an intentional blend of “live” (synchronous) and teacher or self-directed (asynchronous) learning designs (Jacobsen, et al., 2013; Tucker, 2020). For example, a teacher can collect, curate and assign relevant podcasts, videos, and textual resources to be accessed and viewed by learners prior to a real-time or live modelling session the teacher leads with the entire class. Known as flipped instruction, this approach to blending asynchronous and synchronous learning experiences and opportunities is an effective pedagogical approach teachers are using to design online learning experiences that are highly interactive (Mazur, et al., 2015).

 

Myth #3: More time should be spent on synchronous activities in online classes

  • Both self-directed asynchronous learning tasks and activities, and scheduled synchronous activities and interactions, are important for learning in online courses.
  • Asynchronous activities provide students with time to reflect and think before interacting with their peers in discussion groups. Students can view multi-media educational resources at their own pace with accessibility options. These are important elements of active and engaged learning in online courses (Lee & Brett, 2015; Watts, 2016)
  • Synchronous activities, such seminars, webinars and conversations with instructors, peers and expert guest speakers, are also important for learning in online courses (Martin et al., 2017; Watts, 2016).
  • Live interaction matters but relying on too many synchronous activities can promote inequities for those unable to connect/attend scheduled events (Banna et al., 2015)
  • An appropriate range and blend of asynchronous and synchronous activities using communication applications for collaborative knowledge building (Brown et al., 2013; Brown & Eaton, 2020; Watts, 2016) are ideal with flexibility for individual student needs, circumstances, and access to reliable technology.

 

References:

 

Banna, J., Grace Lin, M., Stewart, M., & Fialkowski, M. (2015). Interaction matters: Strategies to promote engaged learning in online introductory nutrition course. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 11(2), 249-261.

 

Barbour, M., & LaBonte, R. (2019). State of the Nation: K-12 E-Learning in Canada.

https://k12sotn.ca/reports/

 

Brown, B. & Eaton, S. E. (2020). Using a community of inquiry lens to examine synchronous online discussions in graduate courses (Chapter 10). In L. Wilton, & Brett C. (Eds.) Handbook of Research on Online Discussion-Based Teaching Methods (pp. 229-262), IGI Global. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-7998-3292-8

 

Brown, B., Eaton, S. E., Jacobsen, M., & Roy, S. (2013). Instructional design collaboration: A professional learning and growth experience. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(3). http://jolt.merlot.org/vol9no3/brown_0913.htm

 

Donovan, T., Bates, T., Seaman, J., Mayer, D., Martel, E., Paul, R., . . . Poulin, R. (2019). Tracking online and distance education in Canadian universities and colleges: 2018. Canadian National Survey of Online and Distance Education, Public Report. Canadian Digital Learning Research Association. https://onlinelearningsurveycanada.ca/

 

Ferding, R. E., Baumgartner, E., Hartshorne, R., Kaplan-Rakowski, R., & Mouza, C. (2020), Teaching, technology, and teacher education during the COVID-19 pandemic: Stories from the field. Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). https://www.learntechlib.org/p/216903/

 

Garrison, D. R. (2017). E-learning in the 21st century: A community of inquiry framework for research and practice (3rd ed.). Routledge.

 

Jacobsen, M., Brown, B., & Lambert, D. (2013). Technology-Enhanced Learning Environments in Higher Education: A Review of the Literature. Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. November, 80 pages. URL:  http://hdl.handle.net/1880/52244

 

Lee, K. & Brett, C. (2015). Dialogic understanding of teachers’ online transformative learning: A qualitative case study of teacher discussions in a graduate-level online course. Teaching and Teacher Education, 46, 72-83. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2014.11.001

 

Martin, F., Ahlgrim-Delzell, L., & Budhrani, K. (2017). Systematic review of two decades (1995 to 2014) of research on synchronous online learning. American Journal of Distance Education, 31(1), 3-19. https://doi.org/10.1080/08923647.2017.1264807

 

Mazur, A. D., Brown, B., & Jacobsen, M. (2015). Learning designs using flipped classroom instruction. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 41(2), 1-26. DOI: https://doi.org/10.21432/T2PG7P

 

Tucker, C. (2020). Asynchronous vs. Synchronous: How to Design for Each Type of Learning. https://catlintucker.com/2020/08/asynchronous-vs-synchronous/

 

Watts, L. (2016). Synchronous and asynchronous communication in distance learning: a review of the literature. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 17(1), 23–32. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1142962

 

Young, S., & Bruce, M. A. (2011). Classroom community and student engagement in online courses. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7(2). http://jolt.merlot.org/vol7no2/young_0611.htm

 

 

This co-authored blog post has been cross published by both authors; please access Dr. Michele Jacobsen’s post here:

http://girlprof.blogspot.com/2020/09/underlying-messages-and-myths-about.html 

School-at-Home…Two weeks later

Over the past couple of weeks dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, we have experienced both high and low points and a range of energy levels and emotions in our home.  Some of the low points included clearing out desks and lockers at school and realizing this may go on for longer than we originally expected. Discussing the new reality that we are at home now and there will be no playdates or inviting friends over during this time. Cancelling extracurricular activities, lessons, sport events, family events all at once has certainly been difficult.  Some of the high points included receiving messages from teachers and surprise messages from friends, gifts left at the doorstep and planning a virtual birthday party. Getting into somewhat of a rhythm for accomplishing schoolwork and engaging in activities such as dance lessons or piano lessons online has been positive. Connecting with family and friends online has also been an important part of the day for everyone but I also noticed the kids seek off-screen family time.  We look forward to cooking and eating dinner together.  This simple pleasure seemed like such a luxury only two weeks ago and is now part of our daily routine.  After dinner we play some games and I was even surprised to hear the kids preferred playing a board game instead of a video game since they already spent so much time online.

 

Here’s some further thoughts about learning-at-home and parent suggestions:

What’s a realistic home learning routine? Should we try to duplicate the school routine, or is the home routine a different thing?

Routines may look different and not the same for all families. Consider what might work best for your child and family.  For example, your teen may benefit from sleeping in and rising a bit later. I’m certain mine has grown in height over the past couple of weeks with some extra sleep.  I don’t think it’s necessary to duplicate the school routine at home and parents do not need to feel they are replacing the teacher at home.  Schools have been working hard to put together resources and supports for students at home.  Use the resources that work best you and your family. Also, take the time needed to rest and come to terms with what is happening.  Last week was also spring break for many students in Calgary and they are now starting to receive messages and instructions from their teachers and schools.

 

For some students, home learning is going to demand a higher than normal level of self-discipline. How do parents support their kids in getting their work done without falling into a pattern of nagging?

 

Have a conversation with children and make a plan together for what works best for you and your family.  Find a rhythm for balancing learning and family time.  We all need to adjust to a different working pattern then what we had before.  The reality is that children are not going to be able to sit and do work all day long.  Similarly, adults may not be able to work full 8-hour days from home.  There needs to be some flexibility and understanding from employers for parents working at home and likewise there needs to be some flexibility for children and learning time at home.  I also think it’s important parents remain as advocates for their children and if the work is too much for your child, then communicate with the teacher and together find ways to best support your child.

 

The Alberta mandated assignment time will work out to only an hour or 2 hours per weekday for elementary and junior high kids and three hours per week per course for high schoolers. How can parents support students doing their own self-directed learning to occupy the rest of the day?

 

Parents can support their children by helping to prioritize learning.  For example, working with your child to set up a work space. Let the child set up the work space.  Maybe it will be the same place they normally do homework or maybe it’s a different space.  Maybe it’s a shared space or moving space.  Have your child create a schedule.  Some children prefer to work on one task and for an extended time, while others may prefer to work on tasks for shorter periods of time.  Even young children can help make a schedule and can let you know what they would like their day to look like. Discuss how your child would like you to check-in.  For some this might be regular check-ins throughout the day or maybe one check in later on in the day.  This is also dependent on the age of your child.  Staying home and taking care of a young child is a full-time job.  Be kind to yourself and don’t expect to continue working at your normal pace for your full-time job while at home and also taking care of a toddler.  In regards to learning, a goal I learned from one of my child’s teachers was to be sure children are happy and learning.  Learning can be informal and can be connected to activities you are already doing around the house.

 

How important is it to draw a line between school time and play time?

I think families need to determine a routine and schedule that works best in their home. I don’t think there’s one single right way to do this.  The important part is to make sure there is play time and lots of time for breaks. Learning will go on through informal learning opportunities provided at home and formal learning suggestions provided by the teacher and the school.  This is an unprecedented time and will be forever remembered by our children.  Inspired by a twitter post I saw recently, we had a conversation with the kids imagining what our future selves would remember about this time period in future.  For my children, I want them to remember how much closer we became as a family, how we had family meals together and played board games in the evening, how we went for walks together, built puzzles, baked cookies, invented new smoothie flavors and even planned a virtual birthday party together. What will your future self and your child’s future self say about this time period?

 

A big part of school is the social part– how can students feel connected to their teachers and classmates when everyone is at home? 

 

I have been teaching online classes for the past 8 years and at first I was skeptical about developing relationships and connecting with students in an online environment as I had previously done in a classroom.  What I soon realized is that connections are possible in both physical and online spaces. Teachers may send out a quick video clip to students to provide a personal message.  Younger and older students appreciate seeing and hearing their teacher even briefly.  My child’s teacher sent a video clip the other day from inside her car.  She said it was the only quiet spot she could record a message.  My daughter loved the video.  Another teacher I know posted a Tik Tok video he created where he was lip syncing a song and doing some dance moves.  Teachers may send messages to students using tech systems they have in place for communications and sharing information.  I know some schools are phoning kids to make connections.

 

Student-to-student connections were already happening outside of school.  For example, in a recent study with 9-to-11 year olds, students reported using social media regularly outside of school to keep connected with their friends.  Have a conversation with your child to find out how they are keeping connected with friends.  It is important to keep connected and let your friends know you are thinking about them. Even though we need to be physically distant, it’s important to keep connected socially with friends and family.

Moving to Online Classes

In light of the recent requests for resources and help with moving to online classes, I thought I would share some freely accessible videos and links to publications.

Article about providing audio/video feedback to students:

Brown, B. (2019). One-take productions for student feedback. Education Canada, 59(2), p. 10. Retrieved from https://www.edcan.ca/articles/student-feedback/

Article about instructional design in online courses:

Brown, B., Eaton, S. E., Jacobsen, M., & Roy, S. (2013). Instructional design collaboration: A professional learning and growth experience. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(3). http://jolt.merlot.org/vol9no3/brown_0913.htm

Article about using a flipped model that can also be useful for designing online coursework:

Mazur, A., Brown, B., & Jacobsen, M. (2015). Learning designs using flipped classroom instruction. Canadian Journal of Learning Technology, 41(2), 1-26. https://www.cjlt.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/view/26977

Chapter in eBook offers suggestions for designing group work that can also be applied to fully online environments:

Brown, B. & Vaughan, N. (2018). Designing group work in blended learning environments. In R. J. Harnish, K. R. Bridges, D. N. Sattler, M. L. Signorella, & M. Munson (Eds.). The Use of Technology in Teaching and Learning (pp. 82-97). Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology web site: https://teachpsych.org/ebooks/useoftech

Resource prepared to help support a themed conversation about designing active learning in online environments:

Brown, B. & Ayala, J. (2018, February). Active Learning in Online Environments. Teaching Academy Themed Conversation, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB. https://prism.ucalgary.ca/handle/1880/106409

Videos about teaching online created in Adobe Connect transferrable to other programs used for synchronous sessions:

  • Schroeder, M., & Brown, B. (Producers). (2016). Adobe Connect in Action, Part I: Teaching in an Online Classroom, in collaboration with Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, University of Calgary. https://vimeo.com/151657311
  • Schroeder, M., & Brown, B. (Producers). (2016). Adobe Connect in Action, Part II: Teaching in an Online Classroom, in collaboration with Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, University of Calgary. https://vimeo.com/151659058

 

 

Start your MEd degree with 4 courses in Leading and Learning in a Digital Age

Learn with instructors and invited guests who are internationally recognized in the educational technology field and experience a highly interactive online learning environment. This is not what might be considered a typical distance-learning course where students work on their own through a packet of resources.  Meet with your instructors and peers in a variety of online spaces, including live sessions where you will see and hear everyone through an easy-to-use web conference platform. Engage in weekly asynchronous activities during times you choose and when convenient for you. Take risks and learn how to use innovative technologies, develop your social learning network, and critically examine the literature and research in the field. Plan to make a difference in your work context to help others navigate the complexities of living and working a digital world. This topic attracts teachers and professionals in educational environments as well as professionals in other fields and disciplinary areas. Instructors will encourage you to make the learning tasks applicable to your work environment.

Through four interconnected fully online courses, students will: (i) examine the implications for designing and leading interdisciplinary and technology-rich learning; (ii) strengthen competencies in technological literacies; (iii) explore ethics in technology-enhanced learning environments; and (iv) lead and empower citizenry in a participatory and digital age.

Program Goals:

  • Develop and critically assess authentic interdisciplinary and technology-rich learning designs and environments
  • Demonstrate technological fluency and competencies in technological literacies
  • Advocate for high quality digital learning environments informed by understanding of current trends and issues in the field
  • Develop empowering and proactive teaching and learning practices in schools or other work contexts that promote active citizenry in a participatory and digital age

Target Audience

  • Teachers/instructors with an interest in designing and leading digital learning environments in primary, secondary or post-secondary environments or other work contexts
  • Educators and consultants who work with supporting technology use
  • School and district leaders

More information about the program – https://werklund.ucalgary.ca/graduate-programs/topics/leading-learning-in-digital-age

Apply by March 16th 2020!

 

Advice for parents in supporting girls’ utilization of contemporary technologies

I find there is tension between wanting kids to be adequately experienced in using contemporary technology and at the same time worrying about kids being socially disadvantaged if technologies are limited. There may also be worry about excessive use causing distraction and impacting children’s growth and well-being. Some advice columns may suggest parents access resources and become more informed.  Sites I commonly suggest include Media Smarts – http://mediasmarts.ca/ and Common Sense Media – https://www.commonsensemedia.org/

 

Advice may also include guidelines or rules for using technology.  For example, banning devices from the dinner table or requiring children hand-in their devices before bed time. Setting guidelines is important. But, what else can parents do?  I will admit that I don’t have any quick- fix tips for you.  As a researcher in this area, I also experience difficulties in this area and struggle with these tensions as well.

 

One key piece of advice beyond becoming more informed and setting guidelines, is to have conversations with your child by asking questions. Research indicates that having a strong parent-teen relationship and having regular discussions with children can reduce risky online behaviors and impact adolescent’s decisions. Depending on the age of your child, you may need to adapt the questions.  Also, don’t wait until there’s an issue to have the conversation and ask questions. Technology is continuously changing, so continuous communication is necessary with our children. Here’s some examples of questions I use:

  1. How can I best help or support you to use technology?
  2. How are you monitoring your own screen-media usage? How do the reports help you?
  3. What is your perception of gender differences at home/school/or other places in the community regarding use of technology? Do you have any examples of gender differences?
  4. How are you using technology in school? How are you using technology for consuming information or creating? How do you wish you were using technology in schools? How do you think technology could be used to help you learn?
  5. How do you perceive my actions/modeling of use of technology? Give me two stars and one wish for how I currently use technology.

 

You might find some of the responses surprise you or may not be exactly what you expected. We need generative conversations to develop a contemporary image of technology use for learning and we need to involve our girls in leading this conversation. What other questions would you suggest?

 

Should cell phones be banned from classrooms?

I was invited to respond to a school ban on cellphone use in a CTV two Alberta Primetime interview this week.

The interview was prompted by information about a Toronto middle school ban on cellphones in classrooms – http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/toronto-school-bans-cellphones-from-classrooms-1.3295140

I learned this type of interview is called a double-header interview. In this case, the interviews occurred at the same time but in different locations. I was interviewed at a studio in Calgary and the other participant and host were located in the Edmonton studio.  This meant I was in a broadcast room in Calgary looking at a camera and could not see the host or other participants during the interview.  I could only hear the audio through an earpiece.

As I prepared for the interview, I tried to think of key messages that I wanted to communicate.  Here’s some of the key messages based on research that I have been involved in over many years as well as professional experiences in teaching and leading in K-12 and post-secondary environments:

  • A balanced approach is needed with a focus on learning.
  • Allowing students to use mobile devices and particularly their own mobile devices in schools requires intentional design by the teachers and school administrators.
  • There are benefits for learners of all ages. In research I have been involved in from K-12, we have observed when students are intellectually engaged, they use technology in meaningful ways. Likewise, when students are disengaged in learning, they use technology for non-educational purposes.
  • Learning can be scaffolded where learners are provided with increasing responsibility in using the tools of their day. As educators we have responsibility in designing learning opportunities that are meaningful in a digital age.  We have a responsibility to coach students when they encounter difficulties in learning. We can’t expect students will automatically know how to use technologies responsibly without providing any opportunities for learning WITH technologies in school.
  • When we ban cell phones, we are not promoting balance and we are not promoting learning for today’s students with today’s tools for learning.
  • The fear of managing situations arising from the use of cell phones often moves a school to making decisions such as completely banning these devices instead of dealing with the structural causes or other underlying causes of the misbehaviors and helping youngsters, teachers, school leaders and parents learn from the situations. Banning cell phones avoids the issues.  We can spend time patrolling to make sure the rules are followed or we can spend time designing meaning learning opportunities. Banning cell phones eliminates opportunities for learning and this includes opportunities for learning from our failures.
  • We miss critical learning opportunities both when we ban cell phones and when we allow for unguided and unlimited use. Let’s aim for a balanced approach where we make learning the focus and use the tools in meaningful and ethical ways.

 

Here’s a link to the video:

http://alberta.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1070078&binId=1.2002989&playlistPageNum=1

 

How has technology changed back-to-school preparations?

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It’s that time of year again!  As a parent, I help my kids prepare for back to school and as an online instructor, I prepare for teaching Fall term graduate courses.

 

One of my fondest memories about back to school time as a child was shopping for school supplies and buying new clothes. My kids will likely have a similar memory about back to school but instead of remembering the journey to the mall and returning home with a bag of supplies and new runners, they will remember searching online stores and anticipating deliveries arriving at on the door step. I love to shop at the mall but notice my children do not share the same enthusiasm for crowded malls at this time of year; they love to shop in online spaces.

 

I also remember back to school as a time to organize my room and desk at home, and organize dividers and binders for my school subjects.  I noticed my son taking time this week to organize his digital files. In addition, he’s making sure his laptop is ready for school, backpack loaded with appropriate cableshttp://www.drbarbbrown.com/wp-content/uploadsconnectors and digital texts are accessible.

 

Along with the excitement associated with back-to-school preparations there is also some anxiety.  I recall not sleeping the night before school started as I worried about which teachers I would have and which students would be in my class.  Similarly, kids today anxiously wait to find out who they will be working with for the year.  In some schools parents have individual login accounts and can check on the class allocations through online systems. In other cases schools post class lists outside of the building so kids find out on the first day.   I also know of some schools that send postcards or welcome letters via regular mail. My kids receive a phone call home directly from the teacher a few days before school begins.   A phone call home is a nice personalized touch and can work well to alleviate anxiety for those receiving the calls. However, students who do not receive calls remain anxious until the call finally comes in or the first day of school.

 

I previously taught face-to-face courses and now teach online. My preparation as an online instructor involves preparing the course syllabus and adding content to the online space for the course. I need to think of ice-breakers and ways for my students to get to know each other and how I can begin fostering relationships with each of my students.  For example, in an online course, discussion forums can be used for self-introductions.  Students can use use text, photos, audio or video to post their introductory note. It is important for the instructor to also post an introduction. Students can also provide introductions during the synchronous online sessions through elevator introductions. Students are asked to imagine they are meeting a group for the first time on an elevator and have about 30-60s to provide a brief introduction about their professional and research experiences.  The #SoMe activity described by Lisa Nielsen at http:http://www.drbarbbrown.com/wp-content/uploadshttp://www.drbarbbrown.com/wp-content/uploadstheinnovativeeducator.blogspot.cahttp://www.drbarbbrown.com/wp-content/uploads2014http://www.drbarbbrown.com/wp-content/uploads08http://www.drbarbbrown.com/wp-content/uploadsits-some-great-back-to-school-activity.html is a great example of an introductory activity that can be used in face-to-face or online classes providing students with a creative way to introduce themselves to their classmates.

 

Have you observed other ways technology is changing how we prepare for back-to-school or deal with the excitement and anxiety of back-to-school time?