Experiential Learning, Reflection, Technology

Blog Prompt #1: Technology and 21st Century Learning

1. Do you feel school is preparing you adequately for your future. Why or why not?

When I think about the word “future”, job, finances, and family are the immediate connections I make. But then reflecting upon what I’ve learned throughout high school there aren’t many things I can count on. For example, when I was applying for a job last spring, I was overwhelmed by the number of career sites in addition to the multiple companies I was applying to. I was unsure of which was the ideal path to follow so I found myself scrambling to modify, edit, and submit applications across the different sites. In addition to this confusing mess, the last time I received feedback on my amateur, outdated resume and cover letter was during my grade 9 summer Careers course. Though I was relieved when a teen’s clothing store finally replied, at that point, I was feeling stressed like a small fish lost in a big sea. Unanswered questions such as “Would the job interview be similar to my past volunteering interviews?” lingered in my mind until the day of.

I was feeling stressed like a small fish lost in a big sea.

The manager asked me a series of questions related to the skills and experiences listed on my resume. After the interview, I realized that high school has helped me develop skills that I hadn’t thought of before.. For example, having been able to balance school work and extracurricular activities made me confident in my time management skills and in my ability to handle an additional job. I was also on the badminton team where I learned the importance of teamwork and respect for teammates. Showing up on time for practices was a demonstration of this respect. Also being supportive and pushing each other to reach each other’s potential was a part of being a good teammate. As a HOSA (Health Occupations of Students in America) chapter trainer for the annual health care competition, I was expected to create weekly lessons and quizzes with minimal supervision.

I noticed that the self regulation, teamwork and organizational skills mentioned above coincide with the required learning skills on our report card. However I think I acquired most of these skills through extracurricular activities rather than in the classroom. While it may not seem like school is preparing us for the future, it prepares us with time management and other soft skills by the virtue of taking initiative beyond simply attending school. Meanwhile soft skills such as being courteous towards our badminton opponents at a game and listening to the feedback from the members in my HOSA category are all essential to be a great team player no matter where you go in the future. As I see myself in the near future going to university, I know that it’s not only the diploma that will take me far, but also the soft skills.

2. How do you personally use technology to learn?

I’ve picked up a few great online tools which really helped me get through the past 3 years of high school. The two devices I’ve been using are my smart phone and computer. I often use my phone for quick and simple things such as taking a photo of the board notes. Another great use of the phone is that it allows me to say “Ok Google” to capture my phone’s attention as I proceed to use voice search. This is a convenient tool especially for English class. When I reach an unfamiliar word, this function can tell me its definition immediately. Having information delivered to me in such an immediate way helps my concentration. However, I realize its limitations as I cannot call for Google during a silent reading period in class. At home, my computer provides many more of the technologies I use to learn and complete school work. The Google search engine continues to be essential for my daily assignments. It’s allows me to find reliable resources such as nofearshakespeare.com which I often refer to before an evaluation. Googling questions also directs me to many useful websites to research a biology project.

Although a calculator is considered a technological device, one site I benefit from is Desmos, an online graphing calculator. The difference in the learning experience of Desmos compared to my scientific calculator is astounding. I am a visual learner so being able to see the changes on a graph as the function changes helps me understand concepts in calculus such as concavity. This has helped me tremendously since my calculator could only output numbers. Therefore I would not consider my calculator as a piece of technology I learn from but rather a technology I use to input what I have learned. When I was looking for math enrichment, Khan Academy’s technology was a great resource. The videos, in particular, were the most helpful for me. If there was a concept I did not grasp in class, I’d go home and listen to his tutorials which I could pause and repeat as needed. A technology I used this summer was the Desire2Learn website offered by the TDSB. I find that when teachers upload Powerpoints, it becomes more convenient to take notes. The Adobe connect sessions also helped me learn as it provided an instant teacher-student communication to ask questions during the lesson. Looking back, all these resources offered within the technology of my phone and computer opened many doors for opportunities for external enrichment from teachers, the school board, and self-exploration.

3. Do classes that use more technology appeal to you? Is it easier for you to learn the content?

All high school teachers I’ve had utilized technology in the form of overhead projectors, projectors, and powerpoints. Occasionally, teachers would write on the chalkboard to solve a question or explain a concept in more detail. In math class, our teacher would have a document with questions displayed on a smart board to accommodate the amount of writing and erasing it’d involve if it were to be written on the chalkboard. I noticed how overhead projectors were often used for class activities such as filling out blanks in a fact sheet and analyzing an essay. Although this was a great way to engage a class, allowing everyone to take turns sharing their answers, reading the unclear writing on the blurry overhead made it stressful on my eyes. However, as the activity promoted discussion, I did find the content easier to learn. For example, when we were looking at the types of methods of development in an essay, people brought up text to self connections which strengthened my understanding of the context. So, although I do prefer powerpoints for the clear fonts, I don’t think this provided me with a deeper level of learning.

In French class, our teacher used projectors to share videos with us related to the history of France. The problem with this was that the speed they spoke at was faster than what the majority of the class could understand so the discussions we had were related to figuring out what was said in the video. Therefore I did not feel like I retained any knowledge from the video as there was no post assignment or task for us to make use of what we watched.

Although this was a great way to engage a class allowing everyone to take turns sharing their answers, reading the unclear writing on the blurry overhead made it stressful on my eyes.

In Geography, the technology of ArcGIS, a specialized mapping software, was the main focus of an assignment. However, the school computers couldn’t run the program as it lagged and crashed repeatedly. Hence, the delay of completing this assignment resulted in a short time spent on the next unit. In accounting, we were to input all of our data onto Google spreadsheets for the ISP. As Google spreadsheets allow you to share the file with other users, this made it convenient for my partner and me to work on it together. However, it did not make the content easier to learn. In conclusion, technology has, at times, enhanced my learning experience but it depends on the nature of its application.

4. Does it matter to you if a teacher uses technology in class? Why or why not?

I’ve noticed an increase in teachers using technology as I approached grade 12. In Grade 9 and 10, teachers primarily used powerpoints. These powerpoints would contains links to YouTube which I found to be a helpful add-on. Although the videos might have been a recap of a lesson but the well-made ones definitely made the daily repetitive powerpoint lesson more memorable. The videos I enjoy consist of an enthusiastic host speaking, interesting images, and light background music. The majority of educational videos integrate cool animations with text as an example and are purposely edited to be moving at a faster pace to keep the audience engaged. Technology may also help with our comprehension of a material. For example when teachers are explaining Shakespeare, it becomes more interesting to learn it when we can see it in an more understandable modern context. I appreciate teacher’s use of technology as a way to engage students. Students are more inclined to participate if they are interested. Technology is great in the classroom so as long as it’s being used appropriately and teachers understand the technology.

When teachers use technology in the form of playing a video from a popular teen YouTube channel or replacing quiet study periods with a friendly interactive challenge Kahoots with our friends, it definitely results in an increase in student engagement. So yeah! I do appreciate teachers using modern technology to become more relatable with us.

5. What technology would you like to see teachers use that is not currently being used? Why did you choose that technology?

Trying to wrap my head around the concepts of molecular bonds breaking and reforming was a challenge for me. As a visual learner, I tend to add drawings next to my notes which reinforces my understanding of the concept. In chemistry, we analyzed a lot of reactions and structures of organic compounds which became too complex for me to express in a doodle. My teacher brought in the 3D model kits which consisted of little spheres with holes for springs to fit in and connected chains of them to represent functional groups. However, as these springs were worn out and the structure had to be held in order to ensure the balls were not falling off, there was a limit to the size of the structure we could build. It was hard trying to comprehend the connections between functional groups until I found molview.org.

molview.org is an open source website that offers the technology of viewing color coded chemical compounds in 3D and 2D.

This open source website offers the technology of viewing color coded chemical compounds in 3D and 2D. As its interface allows you to rotate the structure 360 degrees, the SmartBoard would have been a great technology to go beyond 2D photo shown in the textbook. Benefits of this site include being able to modify the structure in order to demonstrate more examples, color coding the special types of bonds, and saving an image of the diagram with additional notes labelled to the structure. The redefinition of integrating 3D molecules online with neat add ons has been a great enhancement to my learning beyond my un-interactive textbook.



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