Sunday, July 30, 2017

EDTECH 541 Justifying investment in assistive technology

Those of us in public education understand that there are a finite amount of funds and infinite demands for those funds.  Currently, the question is whether Assistive Technology (AT) is justifiable given that only a small number of students will benefit from the investments made.  This perspective seems to assume that all AT comes at great cost and that what benefits a minority of our population has no benefits for the majority.  Both of these perspectives are inaccurate.  At the same time, I believe we have a moral obligation to reducing as many barriers to learning as possible for our students.  

Assistive technology is simply a tool to help certain learners get over barriers similar to the reading glasses I now have to put on to overcome the barrier of aging.  I certainly wouldn’t deny myself that assistance and neither should we deny these tools for our students.  Some would suggest that providing assistive tools and services is too expensive.  In fact, some AT is expensive but at the same time some of it is rather simple.  As technology advances, the costs of these technologies are coming down.  In fact, legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based on disabilities (LD Online, nd)  and thus is increasing the demand for these products.  With higher demand comes lower costs.  Computer operating systems also come equipped with basic assistive technologies as well.  My MacBook can easily do text to speech for people with reading barriers or even use voice controls for people with physical limitations.  A quick google search will find a plethora of free assistive apps for all sorts of devices.  Frankly, I think the cost argument against AT has lost relevance. In fact, these technologies lead to more inclusion and inclusion is proving to be more cost effective than operating pull out programs (The Understood Team, n.d)

Assistive technology can help all students as every student has unique needs (Government of Alberta, Alberta Education, 2017).  In fact, there is more and more documentation that states that all students benefit from increased use of AT as it helps more kids reach their potential and helps students become more confident (Ianyst, 2014).  In the current state of education, AT is just part of what we do.  It is part of the responsibility of educational institutions to provide the tools necessary for all students to succeed.  We wouldn’t deny me the use of my reading glasses at school so why would we deny a student the tool they need to succeed.


5 Benefits of inclusion classrooms. (2014-2017). Understood: For learning and attention issues. Retrieved  from

Family Center on Technology and Disability. (2017). Assistive technology laws.  LD OnLine. Retrieved from
Government of Alberta, Alberta Education. (2017). Inclusive education- overview. Retrieved from

Family Center on Technology and Disability. (2017). Assistive technology laws.  LD OnLine. Retrieved from

Saturday, July 29, 2017

EDTECH 541- Obstacles and solutions in integrating technology in the Language Arts Classroom

As with any curricular area, English Language Arts faces specific challenges when it comes to integrating technology with this discipline.  In many ways, the challenges the language arts teacher faces are daunting as the responsibility of teaching literacy lies within this realm.  As with many challenges, there are also solutions that can be found within technology as well.

Reconciling traditional literacy skills with new 21st century competencies is one issue faced by language arts teachers.  How do you teach traditional reading and writing skills (literacy) in a world where communication technologies are rapidly evolving? It appears that “new literacies” (Roblyer, 2015, p. 261) are required to be taught in language arts and finding the balance between old and new is challenging.  These digital literacies are outlined by Roblyer (2015, p. 262) and include: developing proficiency with new technology tools, strengthening independent thought, analyzing and synthesizing of information and content creation.  Solutions can actually be found within educational technology.  Students can develop these skills using an abundance of Web 2.0 tools such as writing blogs and microblogs, analyzing comments in social media or by publishing their own ebook.

Another obstacle to overcome is helping teachers develop their own technological capacity. Young and Bush state that we “ must cultivate the same media and technology literacy we desire for students among our teachers” (2004).  Teachers often lack the knowledge and confidence to implement the technological desires of policy makers.  This obstacle can be overcome by designing effective professional development for English teachers that can bridge the old and new literacies as well as outlining the relative advantages of new technologies.  Engaging educational technologists to assist with this is critical as they can guide teachers through the process.  This can be done by creating a professional network in Google+ or a staff wiki. Quite often, in my school setting, technology is purchased and teachers are left to figure things out themselves.  In my opinion, this strategy only serves to perpetuate a digital divide among teachers between those who are tech savvy and those that aren’t.  If we are committed to teaching our students 21st-century competencies then a more structured implementation is required.  

As with many issues in educational technology, the solutions are often found within the same technology that causes the reluctance in the first place. Implementing educational technology in language arts can cause challenges for teachers and students but our changing world demands that students become literate in new ways and the language arts class is ideally set up to do just that.  To make this possible, language arts teachers need guidance and support by educational technologists and decision makers to make sure they have the knowledge and skills necessary to take on this new role.

Roblyer, M. (2015). Integrating educational technology into teaching [Enhanced Pearson Etext Access Card]. Pearson College Div.

Young, C. A. & Bush, J. (2004). Teaching the English language arts with technology: A critical approach and pedagogical framework. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education [Online serial], 4(1). Retrieved from

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Relative Advantage of Implementing Technology into the Second Language Classroom

One of my roles as vice principal is to act as the liaison for our World Languages Department.  We provide classes in French, Spanish and Japanese at our school and our teachers are very dedicated to providing students with a wonderful classroom experience.  However, technology usually doesn’t play a large role in this.  I welcome the opportunity to outline the relative advantages of using technology in the realm of learning a second language.  You will notice that I focus on French as a Second Language (FSL) as I used to be an FSL teacher and it is the traditional second language most students learn in Canada.

Roblyer outlines two issues in foreign language learning.  “There is the need to create authentic learning experiences that expose learners to native speakers and there is the need to create a broader audience and purpose for student creation” (2015, p 291).  

Technology can play a role in addressing these two issues.  For one, classrooms can access online tools that can expose them to a wide range of native speakers.  For example, Radio France International broadcasts the daily news in a format directed and language level specifically for French language learners.  Exposure to other accents and voices is critical for second language learners as it pushes them to get out of their comfort zone.  As a former FSL teacher, I know my students could understand me but had difficulty understanding someone else who spoke French.

In addressing, the need for a broader audience, technology provides communication tools that open up the world to a classroom.  Using a video conferencing tool like Skype can allow students to speak to more than their classmates.  They can speak with virtually anyone but setting up meetings with another class in a foreign country is more possible than ever.  Modern communications technology provides learners with the chance to overcome this limitation (Pim, 2013, p. 23) and speak with native languages speakers in an authentic manner.

The advantages of technology in foreign language learning do not end here and it is a shame that integration of technology is not more widespread.  Virtual field trips are possible and easily accomplished by using a service like Learn around the world. There are a number of computer assisted language learning websites and games (think Duolingo).  There are even virtual villages in Second Life where visitors can practice almost any language. Above all, integrating technology provides more authentic situations for language learners to practice and improve their language skills.  Language is communication so it only makes sense that second language learning benefits from advancements in ICT.

Pim, C. (2013). Emerging technologies, emerging minds: Digital innovations within the primary sector. In G. Motteram (Ed.), Innovations in learning technology for English language teaching (pp. 17-42).  London, England: British Council.  

Roblyer, M. (2015). Integrating educational technology into teaching [Enhanced Pearson Etext Access Card]. Pearson College Div.

Monday, July 3, 2017

EDTECH 541- Walled Gardens and Social Media

This weeks entry has been done within Voice Thread.  In this Voice Thread I voice my opinions on maintaining "walled gardens" and embracing social media in our classrooms.  Have a listen and add your voice to the "thread" by leaving a comment.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

EDTECH 541 Acceptable Use Policies

As technologies becomes common place in all educational environments and society in general, it is important to teach students/users what is acceptable and unacceptable practice.  The first step in the formation of responsible users is an effective acceptable use policy.  Simply put, an acceptable use policy (AUP)outlines how a school or school district expects its community to behave while using their networks and hardware (Common Sense Education, 2017). An AUP helps manage users behaviour and keep all users safe while online.  In a world, where one's digital footprint is everlasting, these contracts are important in maintaining a positive online environment.

When developing an AUP,  officials should include certain elements.  According to Education World, AUP's should have a preamble where the importance and purpose of the document is discussed.  There should also be a definition section where specific terminology is clarified.  For example, what is considered a district piece of hardware,  what is a network etc. There should be a policy statement that outlines the conditions students  must abide by before they can use technology.  Also, acceptable and unacceptable uses should be clearly outlined.  For example, students may use resources that are connected to their curricula but may not use the district's wifi network to engage in abusive behaviour towards others.  Finally, violations of policy and sanctions should be outlined as well.(Education World, 2017).   The best AUPs incorporate what if scenarios in their creation (Michell, 2016).  What if a student cyberbullies another?  What if a student downloads something illegally? What if a staff member ignores copyright?  These questions and many more emphasize the need for such policies to exist.

Here are some examples of Acceptable Use Policies.  I have included my own district's policy which, as it turns out, is not a very good example of what an AUP should be.

Red Deer Public Schools- My own district's net user agreement with policy included. Looks like it needs an update. This document also addresses computer access in our district.

Calgary Board of Education- This is from the largest school district in Alberta. 

Seattle Board of Education-  From the home of Microsoft.

Credo Christian High School- This well worded policy is from a small high school outside of Vancouver, British Columbia


Common Sense Education. (n.d.). 1 to 1 essentials: Acceptable use policies.  Retrieved from

Education World. (2009).Getting started on the Internet: Developing an acceptable use policy (AUP). Retrieved from:

Mitchell, B. (2016, September 16). Introduction to acceptable use policies (AUP).  Retrieved from