Thinking Tech with new Teacher Candidates at the University of Ottawa

Ed Tech at the University of Ottawa  Faculty of Education

Back-to-school means I get to meet another group of new teacher colleagues this week. It also means I get to talk with them about our Digital Hub Strategy in the Faculty of Education and about Making as a promising pedagogical approach.  I’ve put together two short presentations on these topics and am sharing them here for anyone interested in the ways that we’re working to support innovative practices and development of advanced professional digital literacies skills at the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa.

Digital Hub Strategy Presentation

Key insights from the discussion include:

  • B.Ed. students are clearly thinking about the multiple stakeholders who may want to know more about them. They are using their Hubs to communicate with parents, students, colleagues, future employers, the community at large.
  • Being on the web in this way raises important questions about the tensions in this practice of open networked sharing. For example, one student asked me — does this mean that as teachers, we are now expected to have a website so that we can be “vetted” by the community openly and in a digital space? In response, I said no — this is not a broadly established or mandated expectation. Neither the Ministry nor the OCT says (in any documents that I know of) that we must have a digital professional presence where examples of our work can be curated for scrutiny by others. I would add that doing this to be scrutinized by others is not the purpose of this work either. That said, teachers have always been held to very high standards by the public. The Hub is one way for us to own our identities in digital networks, and to transparently construct the narrative for others. Do we have to do this, no. However, since many of us already exist online in many ways, this project is meant to offer an opportunity for all candidates to learn new digital literacies skills and mindsets that are fundamental to their practice today, while also asserting some control over the ways that the public can come to know us as professionals. I appreciated this question very much and invite B.Ed. candidates to share their insights with me, and with their professors during the year, as they grapple with how to present their work.
  • Reclaim Hosting may be a good option for candidates interested in purchasing a domain name and having their Hub hosted by a third party.
  • Google Sites is free to uOttawa students. *Creating a blog with the new Google sites, however, is challenging. You have to create a Blogger account and link it.
  • CV: Include one — yes. Please be sure to NOT include your home address and telephone number or email address on your web-based CV, however. You will need two versions of your CV — one for the web and one that you submit for employment (that does include all of that personal info).
  • Photos: You will not have media permission to post photos of children on your website. Take photos of yourself teaching, take photos of work (and be sure to talk with your AT about how you plan to use those photos on your website), take photos of backs of heads, learn how to blur out faces using Photoshop,  learn how add happy face stickers over children’s faces to protect identities.
  • Naming your school on your web-based CV: Since children can be identified through you, please be sure to ask your AT or the principal at your practicum school(s) whether it is okay to name the school explicitly on your web-based CV. It may be enough online to simply state you worked in a grade 7 class in the OCDSB rather than name the school specifically.
  • It’s okay to “be human” on your site. Many B.Ed. candidates show things about their interests outside of work as a way to humanize their site and show multiple stakeholders who they are. This also seems to be a way for B.Ed. students to make meaning from the work of curating a digital hub.

Making in Classrooms Presentation

Key Insights from the workshop:

  • B.Ed. students drew some kind of visualization related in some way to their area of disciplinary expertise. Some students drew models of processes, others drew abstract images connected in some way to a theme or a concept, others drew procedures. Every image was different. Then, they integrated a simple circuit using a battery, copper tape and an LED light in a way that had meaning.
  • After students completed the activity, they walked around to see what others had done.
  • As we discussed, students felt this kind of activity supported collaboration, learning through discussion and observation, invited a sense of agency, and felt motivating because it was their own project. They also realized that everyone was engaged at the same time, and that nobody had to do the exact same thing to learn common ideas.
  • They also saw that in the images I shared from maker-based learning activities, participants of all ages seemed engaged, proud and happy to be doing the work.
  • After the workshop (see slides with research-based findings and links to Maker-based resources in the Ottawa area) I had a great conversation with a student about the potential of maker-based activities for supporting learning that aligns with social justice intiatives. In research that I am doing with colleagues, we are definitely working to see how young children might come to design maker-based solutions to important issues in their school community.

Launching the Digital Hub Strategy: Fall 2017

Students in the Teacher Education program at the University of Ottawa will be expected, for the first time this fall, to create a professional website that documents their development as teachers. Faculty members have piloted this project over the past couple of years and in the spring of 2017, we gathered some survey data from graduating students who created professional digital websites in courses and as part of cohort-based initiatives that has helped us to develop a guiding framework for the launch of this project program-wide. Here are some key take-aways from that survey.

  • Students tended to think of their digital hubs as an online CV rather than a digital identity text, or as a space for developing new understandings of themselves as teachers through curation, reflection and revision.
  • Students wanted more explicit direction from the program about what to include — at least at first.
  • Students who created a website did it because they had to as part of a course or because the program was expecting it of them in some way.
  • Students told us that, at first, they did not have the technical skill set required for the development of a professional digital hub. Many said they struggled to acquire these skills as they were also learning how to teach.
  • Students told us that they needed more support around issues of identity management, privacy and how to ethically and responsibly share their work and their students’ work on the open Internet.

Students entering our program this year will learn, at Orientation, about the Hub, its purpose, and the rationale driving our programmatic choice to integrate it as part of their professional preparation program. Broadly, we see the Digital Hub as one way for teacher candidates to develop foundational professional digital literacies skills while also curating a set of documents that reflect their emerging skills, values and competencies as teachers and teacher researchers.

Information about the Digital Hub initiative can be found at http://sites.google.com/site/edtechuo

This site is for students, but also for Faculty members looking for tips, strategies and resources to support their students’ emergence as digitally literate professionals.