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classroom technology

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Teachers and Tech: Our HOME Teacher Survey Results

Two months ago we created a Teacher Survey to learn more about how K-12 teachers in the Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa areas are using technology as an educational tool in their classrooms. By filling out our survey, teachers were also entered into a contest to win a Free iPad Stop-Motion Animation Workshop at their school! While we finalize the winner we wanted to share some of our survey findings!

First of all, we were so excited to see that 100% of the teachers that filled out our survey use some form of technology in their classroom and over half of the respondents also stated that they actually allow their students to use their own devices for learning purposes in the classroom!

Also, while only 27.5% of teachers reported having participated in any kind of media and/or technology Professional Development session, an even lesser 6.7% reported that their students had access to any similar type of Media Literacy workshops or training. This suggests that there is a disconnect between teacher media training and a follow through to their students. Many Professional Development workshops are also lecture-based and offer little to no hands-on training.

We also found out that 51.7% of the teachers are using technology every single day at their school while another 44.8% using technology 1-3 times a week.  A whopping 86% said that they would benefit from hands-on training to help them learn ways to teach Media and Digital Literacy in their classroom.

We wanted to see what kind of restrictions teachers face with technology on a day-to-day basis so we asked them what they would benefit from and what problems they are currently facing when it comes to Media Literacy training in the classroom. One teacher commented “Technology is changing so fast and as much as I'd like to, I can't keep up. I would love for my students to get more instruction that is as current as possible in their ever-changing world”. We at Hands On Media know that the constantly changing nature of technology can be overwhelming for teachers! New apps, platforms and interactive media are always emerging and we believe that teachers would truly benefit from the opportunity to learn how to use these tools.

Another teacher stated, “We are told to incorporate more media and digital literacy into our teaching but we lack resources”. A common complaint we have heard from hundreds of teachers, which we know can be a very frustrating reality.

We found that there were a lot of teachers who do not know how to incorporate the already existing technology into their classrooms or feel they lack the technology itself. When we asked to describe if they would benefit from a hands-on instructional workshop on how to incorporate Media Literacy, Digital Literacy, iPads and laptops into their curriculum, almost all responded "YES!". The responses ranged from a desire for technical iPad training, to learning how to teach Digital Storytelling, to learning about Media Literacy more generally.

There is an immediate demand from educators for help with the integration of technology into the classroom learning experience and we are happy to be ale to provide teachers with the help they so desperately need.

Contact us now for more information on how we can provide you, your staff and students practical, educational and effective tools and activities for technological integration for the classroom.  Together, we can help bridge the digital divide we know so many students and teachers are experiencing.

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Is there an IT skills gap in Canada? Introducing digital skills and careers in the classroom

By Jovana Jankovic

Today, we bring you some business news and its relevance to the digital media literacy we practice and preach here at Hands On Media. Did you know that some experts worry we are in the midst of a widening IT skills gap in Canada? Many industry insiders report that Canada just isn't competitive in the global marketplace when it comes to technology. We can change this for the next generation by starting youngsters off early and bringing digital literacy and tech skills into the classroom. The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), the governing body that administers the .ca domain, just released a new report called “From Broadband Access to Smart Economies: Technology, skills and Canada’s future.” You can read the full report here, but here are a couple of key takeaways:

* Many large Canadian IT companies surveyed in this report say that it’s difficult for them to find the talent they need in Canada — 40% of respondents report they had trouble recruiting IT professionals with the right skills.

* 49% of respondents believe that Canadian technology companies are not adequately equipped to compete in the global marketplace, while 75% stated the importance of “made-in-Canada” solutions for the kinds of technology challenges Canada faces today and in the near future.

A few weeks ago, the CIRA held their sixth annual Canadian Internet Forum at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. A number of panelists and speakers expressed concern that the digital literacy skills gap is widening in Canada. According to the Ottawa Business Journal, “panelist Tanya Woods, vice-president of policy and legal affairs for the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, said a lack of digital literacy in young Canadians from kindergarten to post-secondary school will negatively affect the IT industry in the years ahead.”

The panel on which Ms. Woods spoke was particular focused on the current state and future potential of the multi-platform video game industry. Did you know that Canada’s video game industry grew by 31% between 2013 and 2015? The industry currently contributes $3 billion to the country’s GDP—and yet talent is hard to find. Young people interested in technology may be pleased to learn that video games, a beloved form of leisure, could present a very real and rewarding career opportunity for them in the future!

So, how do we jump-start the process of a lifelong commitment to learning about technology (and digital media in particular)? Educators, with the help of our in-class student workshops, can act as "media mentors," engaging with kids to encourage them to use technology in creative, active, and interesting ways, rather than simply passively consuming media. Setting up this active engagement encourages kids to then “mess around” on their own with digital media tools—experimenting with new tools and developing new skills that will eventually be highly sought-after in a professional setting.

A recent report by the Information and Communications Technology Council of Canada asserts that “Canada simply does not have enough young people selecting STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines in school nor ICT (information and communications technology) as a career choice to meet its current and future needs.”

Let’s change this by bringing technology and digital media creation tools into the classroom now! Young people already think of digital media devices as a daily part of their lives, but getting them to think of these tools and activities as not simply a form of leisure but as a viable and rewarding career choice can shrink Canada’s IT skills gap in one generation. Learn more about our in-class workshops here.

Yes it is summertime, but you can begin to plan your students’ digital media education for the 2016-2017 academic year now!

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Discover the advantages of technology in the classroom for kids with special needs

By Jovana Jankovic

Yesterday, Hands on Media conducted an in-classroom workshop in North Vancouver with a group of 7 kids at the incredible Kenneth Gordon Maplewood Elementary School, dedicated to students with special needs.  We thought today would be a great time to spread the word about the importance and value of technology (specifically iPads) in special needs classrooms as students use slide shows, movies, audio presentations, and music to learn and to communicate. How can your special needs students benefit? Here are a few fast facts:

* Software is more predictable and orderly than human communication, which is usually context-dependent and nuanced. Kids with some form of autism can often feel safer and more ready to communicate through software than human interaction.

* For tools to work with special needs kids, they need to be motivating and encouraging, engaging them in repeated attempts to use the tools. Kids on the autism spectrum are often not motivated by authority and instruction the same way some other kids are (ie. “Teacher has told me to do this, so I will.”) Software, and particularly large, portable, high-resolution tablets like iPads, is visually engaging and appealing, rather than simply instructional like some traditional classroom tools. Autistic kids are often more adept at learning and communicating visually rather than verbally.

* For students with physical or motor impairments, tablets and their highly receptive touchscreens are more aligned with how their bodies move. For example, these kids may find it easier to tap and swipe than to point and click with a mouse. Tablets allow them to keep their eyes focused on one spot (the screen) rather than moving their eyes, necks, and heads between a screen and a keyboard.

* Digital technology is multi-sensory and customizable; if a student is impaired visually, she can deploy aural and audio technologies to communicate her ideas, and vice versa. Non-verbal students may find it useful to communicate through images, shapes, and colours, making them more expressive overall and increasing their variable range of communication.

* Digital communications can increase social awareness and social communications skills. Video chats, for example, may help students focus specifically on learning to read facial cues, a big part of the emotional development of students with special needs.

* iPads and other digital technologies are “cool”, unlike some older development tools for students with special needs, which often came with stigma. Students with learning disabilities already feel like they’re on the margins; contemporary digital technologies are a non-conspicuous way of customizing the learning environment for special needs students without making them feel out of place.

* Text-to-speech software (a program that reads type words aloud in audio) can help students analyze and revise their written work; hearing the text read aloud may assist students in catching grammatical errors that are harder to catch through reading alone. Studies show that text-to-speech software “can improve students’ sight reading and decoding abilities” and “can improve the reading comprehension of individuals with specific deficits in phonological processing (difficulty hearing letter-sounds) as students can learn to decode new words when they are highlighted as they are read aloud.”

* Any students who struggle with the mainstream curriculum due to their particular needs or disabilities will respond well to something that is perceived as fun! “It’s more like a game for them,” says Christina Panichi, a third grade special education teacher in New Jersey. “For some reason when technology is involved—especially cartoons—it engages them more.”

There you have it! These are just a few of the many advantages that digital technology, and especially tablets, can bring to student with special needs. Research into the benefits is still on-going and developers continue to design a huge array of products for special needs kids. But the future looks bright as humankind expands the ways in which we communicate through the power of technology!

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