Tag Archives: IWB

Just Do It? Reflections on Perfection Paralysis

Irene’s work with her students is so inspiring. But when asked to share it with others, she declines, saying that it’s not really that great.
Dan is excited about making a movie with his students, but he feels that he needs to really master the latest software, and also learn more about sound editing before he tries. So no movie this year.
Elsie wants to try a new literacy approach, but there are so many facets of it that it seems overwhelming. Maybe next year, when she has read more and made a better plan, she’ll try it.

What do these stories have in common? They are all about people afflicted with a malady of our time: Perfection Paralysis. In fact, many of us are afflicted with it. Ironically, this blog post almost didn’t see the light of day because of it.

What is “Perfection Paralysis?” I would define it as the inability to let go of a work out of fear that it is substandard or imperfect, or to avoid trying something because our mastery of it is inadequate. It is a personality trait that many of us share, but it is also learned when we set unrealistic expectations for others as well as ourselves. For some, our natural fear of failure has escalated to a fear of imperfection.

A few months back, a newspaper article prompted a conversation with a colleague about the concept of perfection, and how we put enormous pressure on ourselves to be perfect to the point that it becomes paralyzing. The letter provoked some deep thinking.

By Marcus Quigmire from Florida, USA (Perfection  Uploaded by Princess Mérida) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Marcus Quigmire from Florida, USA (Perfection Uploaded by Princess Mérida) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Over the years much of the focus of much of my work has been to assist educators with the implementation of technology in the classroom. As I’ve worked with teachers to introduce technology over the years, often heard refrains have been:

“I’m not good with computers”;
“It’s not ready to share with others”; or
“My work isn’t good enough to share.”

The sentiment is understandable. We want to put our best face forward, and what we do not know well is often intimidating, or even threatening. But I am often left with the impression that many people feel that they must possess either a high level of expertise or a natural aptitude in order to be able to use technology.

When I attempt to introduce a professional educator to something new, and the first line of response is, “Before we begin, you should know that I suck at this,” then what should my reaction be? Comebacks like this make work for people like me much more difficult, because they imply defeat.

This frustrating starting point is not exclusive to technology, but the curious way that people perceive computers and technology has preoccupied and driven me since I entered education 20 years ago.

Computing devices are unfeeling, precise, calculating, and unforgiving of error. Perhaps the perceived threat is that if we are not perfect, we are somehow inferior. There is a social aspect to it too. No one wants to be caught out looking less than competent in front of his or her students and colleagues. Considering that students are steeped in technology these days, it is still hard for many teachers to accept that they are not necessarily the experts in the classroom when it comes to technology.

So how do we address the problem of “perfection paralysis?” Is the solution to lower our standards?

I think that when we look at the work of our colleagues and students, we tend to be too pedantic. The result is to focus on minutiae rather than taking overall quality into consideration. If a teacher has used technology with their students to produce something, and we focus on small details rather than the big picture, it takes away from the fact that the teacher has moved forward in their use of technology. It puts the pressure on individuals to focus on those details and cultivates perfection paralysis.

Let us celebrate progress and encourage engagement rather than resorting to pickiness.

The strategy that has worked best for me over the years has been to create a non-threatening atmosphere in which teachers can experiment and explore without repercussions as they become more familiar with technology tools. The key is to cultivate a climate of discovery and experimentation as opposed to one of judgement and unattainable standards. After all, we don’t expect our students to be perfect the first time around. We encourage them to experiment and take risks. If everything had to be perfect right away, we’d never get anything done!

It’s about time we give ourselves the gift of ‘just fine’ as opposed to ‘best’. The gift of ‘try and see’ instead of ‘has to be perfect’. One thing is for sure: we’ll all be moving forward and our students will benefit from our spoken and unspoken lessons of experimentation.

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To read about another educator’s struggle with perfection paralysis check out this blog post by Vicki Davis from Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

 

 

In the Eye of the Beholder: iPads, Smartboards and Visual Impairment

http://www.flickr.com/photos/philipedmondson/776492653/
Philip Edmondson, Creative Commons Attribution

I recently had a request from a resource teacher in a remote school.  She has a young student who has vision problems and great difficulty seeing what is on the Smartboard from anywhere in the room.  The student has an iPad and the teacher was wondering if there was a way that the image from the Smartboard could be sent to the iPad so that the student could view it up close and if need be enlarge the image.  In fact the student was recently diagnosed with severe Hyperopia (farsightedness).  Getting a better view from up close would be a more effective strategy for someone who is Myopic (nearsightedness).  However, in this case any way of seeing what was on the board in a closer view would be an improvement.

Exploring the possibilities

The first step was to see if there was an app for that.  Because they were using a Smartboard I started with Smart Technologies. It turns out they have recently come out with a product (Bridgit conferencing software) that seems to come close.  It is actually to interact with the Smartboard remotely from the iPad but you can see what is on the Smartboard on your iPad in order to do that.  The problem is the cost.  2700$ for the software license and the need for a server to run the software.  Not a simple or budget solution, but this led me to the search for other remote access apps.  There are quite a few out there and many are free.  Beware, you have to read the fine print.  In many cases the app is free, but to make it work you need special software for the computer that is being controlled remotely by the iPad.  That is not so free.  The software licenses cost anywhere from 200$ to thousands,  and like in the Smart solution, some require a dedicated server for that purpose as well.

Hitting on a viable solution

mochvncThere are a few remote access apps for the iPad that are free that do not require additional hardware or costly software.  One such app is Mocha VNC Lite.  It worked out really well.  Mochasoft does make a full version that costs 5.99$ but for the needs of the student in this case, the added features are not required.  Also needed is another piece of free software for the PC that runs the Smartboard.  It is used to set up and use VNC.  The one that is recommended is the free version of  Real VNC.

Using the VNC (Virtual Network Computing) settings of the host computer, the one running the Smartboard, the iPad can connect to and show what is being seen on the board.

With iPad gestures, one can enlarge the view and move to sections of the screen to see them.  Moving things on the iPad does not affect what viewers of the Smartboard see.  Being the Lite version, scrolling does not work, which in this case is a plus.  In addition, in the settings there is an option to disable mouse clicks so there is no danger of the student clicking on a link or opening a shortcut to other software on the Smartboard.  It really works as a “viewer” for the user.

The school board will be installing the app and the software shortly and I hope to have feedback as to how it is working for this young student. Hopefully, it will be helpful to others as well!

Below are links to both the app and an explanation of how to setup and use RealVNC.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mocha-vnc-lite/id284984448?mt=8

http://www.mochasoft.dk/wizard_w2wvista.htm

Interaction or Interactivity? How we use IWBs and electronic tablets

L’original de ce texte à été publié en français le lundi, 3 octobre, 2011.
This is the English version. 

Interaction ou interactivité?

The current adoption of IWBs (Interactive White Boards)by educators, coupled with the growing popularity of tablet computers in schools brings up an oft discussed and sometimes hotly debated notion: interactivity. So ubiquitous is the idea of interactivity, and so apparently clear its benefits, that when asked about the inherent advantages of IWBs or tablet computers, the automatic response is usually “Why, it’s interactive!”

But what do we really mean when we call something ‘interactive’? Are the educational acts described when we discuss IBWs and other technological devices really an example of interactivity? Are there any real advantages to structuring learning that is interactive?

 “This tool is interactive!”

Often, listening to some teachers talk about their device of choice is enough to understand what they mean when they call it ‘interactive’. He or she might say that students can get up and go to the board to execute a simple operation (ex.: pressing on a specific section of the IBW to answer a multiple choice question). Interactivity, in this case, is limited to the fact that the student has manipulated the board in a way not much different from the way he or she would work with a good ol’ fashioned exercise book. But is this really a true description of interactivity with the technological tool of choice, or are we really talking about interaction?

Interaction and interactivity

There are many ways of defining ‘interaction’. However, the generally accepted one is the reciprocal action or influence between two entities.  Meanwhile, the term ‘interactivity’ is used to designate the degree of responsiveness between a person and a technology (be it device or software or both). In education, the term is also imbued with the idea that interactivity is beneficial to learning, because it implies a continuous exchange between learner and device. The table below illustrates some of the ways in which the terms ‘interaction’ and ‘interactivity’ differ when it comes to student learning.

These two categories of examples highlight some of the key features of interaction vs. interactivity:

Interactivity requires a more complex level of engagement on the part of the learner than that required by interaction. In an interactive situation, the learner is called upon to modify their behavior/responses based on the changing needs of the situation.

How can we make interactivity happen? Why is it important?

Interactivity is an integral part of the conversation around integrating technology into educational practice. As educators, we need to make the distinction between basic interaction with technology and the more complex processes involved in interactivity. In order for interactivity to take root, we must create the pedagogical situations that encourage and foster it. A student manipulating an IWB or an electronic tablet in order to answer questions or complete simple exercises is not engaging in the same kind of learning as a student creating a personal or collective work or solving a problem. The student who creates, composes, solves, produces and collaborates has more chances of engaging with the technology in a way that makes him or her the principal agent of his or her learning.

This is not to say that so-called traditional exercises are in and of themselves a bad thing. It’s just that, in my opinion, putting aside the all-too-short-lived wow-factor (and who, exactly, is being wowed?), it isn’t necessary to use an IWB or an electronic tablet to complete them (I am NOT talking here about the particular or special needs of students that make the use of differentiated technological tools necessary and justified).

Overall, I think that getting the most pedagogical value out of the interactivity promised by the new technologies at our disposal in schools is a sure way to get the most bang for our buck. We need to also keep uppermost in our minds the real value of interactivity, what it means for our students, and how to make it happen for them. For their benefit, but also for our own.

 

Kish Gué
Pedagogical Consultant
EMSB

Translated by Sylwia Bielec, ed.

Interaction ou Interactivité: notre utilisation des TBI et des tablettes électroniques

L’avènement des TBI (tableaux blancs interactifs) et l’apparition des tablettes électroniques dans le monde de l’éducation a mis en relief une notion à laquelle nous faisons de plus en plus référence: l’interactivité. En effet, lorsqu’on nous demande les avantages inhérents à l’utilisation des TBI ou des tablettes électroniques, nous avons tendance à rapidement mentionner, et cela presque machinalement, que ceux-ci sont “interactifs”.

Interaction ou interactivité?

Qu’entendent les pédagogues par “c’est interactif”? Ce qu’ils décrivent est-il réellement de l’interactivité? Qu’est-ce que l’interactivité? Y a-t-il de réels avantages au développement de l’apprentissage dans un contexte interactif?

“Cet outil est interactif…”

Il suffit de d’écouter un enseignant parler pour comprendre ce qu’il veut dire par “interactif”. Souvent, il parlera du fait qu’un élève se lève, se rende au tableau blanc et y opère une opération simple (ex. appuyer sur un endroit spécifique du TBI dans le cadre d’un choix de réponse). L’interactivité, dans ce cas, se limite donc au fait que l’élève ait manipulé le tableau et donc à une simple opération ou parfois à une suite d’opérations qui souvent, ne sont guère différentes de celles auxquelles ce dernier peut se livrer dans un bon vieux cahier d’exercice. Mais est-ce là la description d’une interactivité avec l’outil privilégié ou plutôt celle d’une simple interaction?

Interaction et interactivité

Plusieurs définitions se prêtent au mot “interaction”. Cependant, le sens général qui lui est attribué porte sur une réaction réciproque entre deux phénomènes ou deux personnes.

L’interactivité, quant à elle, est plutôt utilisée pour désigner un échange entre un humain et une technologie. Dans le cadre de l’éducation, elle comporte également un processus qui présente des comportements favorisant le développement de l’apprentissage et cela, dans le cadre d’un échange continu. Dans le tableau ci-bas figurent des exemples qui illustrent des différences notables entre des actions que je considère comme étant des interactions et des activités favorisant ce que je considère être de l’interactivité.

Gestes vs. activités

Ces deux catégories font ressortir des différences dignes de mention.

Différences notables dans ce qu'impliquent l'interaction et l'interactivité

Dans le contexte de l’interactivité, plus complexe que celui que requiert l’interaction, l’apprenant est, entre autres, amené à modifier son comportement selon les besoins de la situation.

Pourquoi et comment favoriser l’interactivité?

Lorsqu’on parle d’intégration de la technologie en éducation, je crois que l’interactivité est incontournable. En tant que pédagogues, nous devons cependant faire une différence entre une interaction et une interactivité. Si nous voulons que celle-ci porte fruit, elle doit nécessairement avoir une incidence sur le choix d’activités organisées par l’enseignant. Contrairement à un apprenant qui manipule un TBI ou une tablette électronique dans le simple but de réaliser des exercices, l’élève placé en situation de création de contenu ou de résolution de problèmes aura plus de chance de vivre une interactivité riche de sens qui lui permettra d’être l’un des acteurs principaux dans le développement de son apprentissage.

Ceci étant dit, je ne pense pas que les exercices dits traditionnels constituent en soi une mauvaise chose. Je pense simplement que dans ce cas, outre le facteur “wow, c’est cool”, il n’est pas très pertinent d’utiliser un TBI ou une tablette électronique (je fais ici abstraction de besoins particuliers qui parfois nécessitent une différenciation tout à fait justifiée et souhaitable).

Enfin, je pense que profiter de l’interactivité que permettent les nouvelles technologies constitue un pas sûr dans la réalisation de leur potentiel. Nous nous devons cependant de constamment réfléchir à l’importance et à la valeur réelle de ce phénomène, tant pour notre bénéfice que pour celui de nos apprenants.

 

Kish Gué
Conseiller pédagogique
EMSB