After the quickest six weeks of my graduate studies, I have now come to the end of my degree. I have to admit – I think this class has been one of the best ways to finish of my degree.
I have truly enjoyed exploring technology is the Social Studies context this semester – the freedom to look into what can be applied to my teaching situation has really given me the opportunity to reflect upon my own teaching values, lessons, and ideals – as well as my cynicism in regards to the constant access to content that phones offer my students during class hours
One of the best parts of this class was definitely the Tuesday evenings when we could talk about our significant takeaways from the week together. Discussing technology in all of our different contexts – be it BYOD with Kyle, elementary phys ed with Jayme-Lee, elementary French Immersion Language courses with Andres, team-teaching with Jen, and preparing for an administrative position with Jorie – brought in different perspectives to our conversations. Not only that, but it made all of this very real and authentic; we are talking about our daily lives, our jobs, and we were able to put into reflective action the readings we have found for ourselves every week. It’s been great working with everyone and learning from all of you – thanks again for a great few weeks!
During the first couple weeks of the class, I was very cynical about the true value of technology in my Social Studies classes; the distractions were becoming overwhelming and I almost felt like throwing in the towel and not allowing technology in my room at all. I really think it is thanks to this class that I didn’t completely slide off the deep-end and go a no-tech route (like some of the schools I read about the first week of class). There are other ways to solve the distractions in class (like I discovered my second week of this class), including using apps to reduce the availability of the distractions and the use of automation.
It was the third week that I was felt I was able to get back on the pro-tech train, when we started looking into interesting finds in regards to technology. This is where I was able to explore a couple different blogs, specifically Alice Keeler‘s blog and Jennifer Gonzalez’, which gave me a sense of how I can change my teaching to be better suited for the 21st century. I don’t want students to be able to get their historical knowledge simply from videos like Crash Course history – although those can be add-ons for a class, and I definitely use them often, I don’t want those videos to replace my lessons, but they could if I don’t consistently reflect upon my teaching to make them authentic and valuable for my students. Even the idea of changing my assessments so they are not incredibly repetitive from previous assignments; I find this difficult for students once they hit grade 12 because they always say “Oh, we have already done this kind of thing before…”. I need to be more creative with my assessments to be more engaging – and technology can help me do this.
The following week was when I was able to delve into how tech can help me achieve these goals. Through the articles and blog posts I read, I became more inspired to see the pros of technology specifically in the Social Studies classroom. There are so many possibilities out there for apps and websites, and yet still students will consistently go to Google Slides because of the familiarity of it. Although I love GAFE and Google Slides, I think the exploration of new tools with help students become more engaged in their learning as they become challenged not only with the content, but with the means with which they can explore and share this learned material.
Throughout the pros of technology blog post, I was able to speak to some of the apps and websites that came highly recommended from my readings that week. Two of the ones I particularly wanted to try were infog.ram and Explee. Although I had heard of infog.ram, I had never actually used it before (I was always more of a Piktochart kind of person), and I had never heard of or used Explee before. Therefore, to compile my learnings, I made an infographic (click me please – I tried to embed it into the website but it was not working!) on infog.ram, and on this infographic at the end I include a link to the Explee video I made as well to summarize briefly the major takeaways from my peers.
In working with both of these for the first time, I thought I would also share some of my pros and cons for each of them.
The pros of infog.ram include:
- Easy to use
- Simple and quick to make
- There is a free version (the one I made was free)
- You can insert videos from YouTube onto the infographic
The cons of infog.ram include:
- Very limited choice in graphics if you do not upgrade
- Very difficult to embed on a blog (even though it give you an embedding code). I STILL haven’t figured out how to do this even though I spent all weekend trying to embed the infographic into this website. Please check it out via this link or the one shared above.
- You can’t download the infographic or print it without upgrading
- Some of the colour choices are questionable (i.e. Lucidchart on my infographic is very difficult to see, but I could not change it).
Overall, I liked infog.ram for a short infographic. For one as long as mine, the choices became very limited. Furthermore, I became very frustrated in trying to download it or embed it into my blog – if you were just trying to share with a teacher or students, it would be much easier.
The pros of Explee include:
- Very easy to use
- Quick to make a video
- A lot of options for the free version (including pictures and music)
- Easy to upload into a video and share (doesn’t go on YouTube, but it does on the Explee website)
- You can add your own pictures and it will draw them. The process is easy and seamless
- You can download the video and save it to your computer.
The cons of Explee include:
- You only have a 14-day free trial.
- I couldn’t figure out how to zoom out and see the whole picture at the end.
- To embed in the blog post, you need to save the mp4 file to your desktop and then upload this to YouTube, which makes a video possible to embed in the blog post. It is a bit of a round-about way to get the video in the post.
Overall, I really enjoyed using Explee. I have used Videoscribe in the past, and I found Explee much easier to use and to share afterwards. It was quick, easy, and included everything you needed for the free version. I would definitely suggest using Explee for any project you have coming up, and I will be suggesting it to my students as well.
Last few words
I really appreciated this class and learning from everyone within it. Even though it was short, I went through a rollercoaster of ideas and feelings about technology. It isn’t a black and white scenario, and in fact technology changes in every context, in every subject, and in every classroom. The use of it in a classroom to create a more engaging and authentic atmosphere is possible by relating the different apps and websites to the outcomes and knowledge acquisition targeted. Completely eliminating technology isn’t the option – even though some schools have gone that route – but rather we should be incorporating them in the best way possible for our students and subject matter.
I also learned how to deal with my occasional negativity in regards to technology – there will be times when I get frustrated with the use in my classroom and I will want to simply walk away from the tech. When that happens, I know that I can explore more inspiring blogs and ideas shared by those truly all-in for technology, and this can inspire me to bring it back in my own classroom in an engaging way.
I’m ending this class more optimistically than I began it, and I think that summarizes the biggest take-away I have from this class: I don’t need to always be in love with technology, but it can always find a place in my classroom in ways that make Social Studies more engaging and authentic for my students.
Thanks for a great semester, and a great finale to this Master’s Degree.