Forward to the Future

This week, Heidi, Holly, Benita, Allison and I presented on the topic of assistive technologies. I chose to respond to the following blog prompt:

In the future, what technologies would you like to see offered in your profession? Who would benefit from these technologies? What would be the advantages or disadvantages?

In the future, I would like to see two assistive technologies in the field of education. One that will predominantly aid students and one that will directly aid educators, both to my knowledge have yet to be created. If these assistive technologies already exist in some form, please let me know.

Assistive Technology for Students:

The first assistive technology I am envisioning is a technological device that helps primary school aged students resolve social conflicts. I have previously discussed the importance of children understanding the depth of conflict. Adding to that, I would like to help students better read social situations and act accordingly. Social stories alone do not seem to be meeting the needs of my early years students. Resolving conflicts continues to be a dominant part of my role as a kindergarten teacher. Most days, I am spreading myself thin trying to be in three places at once.

Short of cloning myself, here is my vision of a technology I would like created:

Children would wear a ‘customizable smart necklace’. (Idea of ‘Smart watch’ was taken).

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Photo Credit: Jenn and Tony Bot Flickr via Compfight cc

The device would communicate with my students verbally or through images.

The device would let them know when they are upset or starting to feel a change in emotion. I would like the device to be able to interpret the child’s body language.

Children often are unable to label their emotions. This device would help my students develop the necessary language to express how they feel. The device would say ” I can see you are angry”, ” I can see you are sad” just as I, as their teacher, would use that customizable language.

Next, the device would guide students through self-regulation strategies practiced in class such as ‘take a deep breath’ and ‘count to ten slowly’.

Once the device has detected (perhaps through pulse rate) the student is calm (or at their baseline), the device would help students identify what the problem is, and how they arrived at the problem, and finally, steps to address the problem.

This assistive technology would not only be beneficial to students with autism spectrum disorder, as they often misread social cues, it would benefit all children learning social play rules and how to engage with others. Please note that this device would not force children to resolve conflict. A willingness to resolve the conflict must come from the student. I feel that sometimes conflict in class can get out of hand because of limited access to the teacher (25 students to 1 adult) and limited time in a day. This device would ideally go home with students as conflicts arise outside of school hours. I also foresee this device being a Web 3.0 device that would adapt to their social needs as they grow older.

Electronics for you’s article  highlights a possible disadvantage of this technology stating;

 “(…) concern that while kids are attracted to technology and it could help them discover new concepts, it comes with a huge risk of them becoming glued to the devices for long hours ignoring social interactions- which is indeed more important(…)”.

Assistive Technology for Teacher:

Teachers spend a great deal of time discussing our students needs however, I feel it is time to highlight our needs. Our chosen careers are becoming more challenging.  In an attempt to ‘solve the problems of the world’ I decided to propose the creation an assistive technology that addresses the most challenging part of my day. In recent years, the biggest challenge has been dealing with violence in the classroom. With every hit, kick, bite or object thrown in class by students (whether directed at another student or  at the teacher) comes 6 plus pages of paper work to fill out and a lot of emotions. I feel that violence against teachers is on the rise, however there is a general consensus of lack of  data in this area. Without the appropriate national, provincial or local ‘violence against teachers’ tracking mechanisms in place I do not see my chosen career’s working conditions, becoming any easier.

The correct avenue to address such concerns of collective interest is through our provincial teacher organization, the STF (Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation). Last year, in hopes of addressing this problem directly,  I wrote an STF resolution; “BE IT RESOLVED that the STF develop a reporting system to track all acts of physical and verbal violence against registered teachers in Saskatchewan in the workplace.”

What I am asking you is, what would the ideal reporting system look like for you? Would you consider a system that tracks violence against teachers (or violence in the classroom in general) to be an assistive technology?

Background information: When I wrote the resolution, in the back of my mind, I wanted the STF (Saskatchewan’s Teachers Federation) and CTF (Canadian Teachers Federation) to have concrete data in their hands so they could adequately advocate for our needs at the bargaining table and when developing policy. Initially, I wanted the wide array paper work that teachers were filling out across the province to be consistent, online and consolidated in one place.

Having taken this Ec&I 833 class I now want more out of that resolution from an assistive technology perspective.

I now envisioning the ‘tracking mechanism’ described in the resolution to be in the form of an app. I want to check off if I was hit, kicked, or bit in the workforce. Maybe the app would allow for visual documentation of damage to property? An additional function I would like the app to do is to automatically notify appropriate people; school board personnel, teacher associations and OH&S of the incident. Also in the app, I would like a box to be checked off where teachers could perhaps request restorative measures to be taken. Workplace wellness, OH&S (Occupational Health and Safety) to mention a few, could then come into the classroom to do checks on students and staff post violent episode. Perhaps the next day additional school or division resources could be re-allocated to support that particular classroom.

This is my vision for an assistive technology for teachers.

Please let me know your thoughts.

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9 thoughts on “Forward to the Future

  1. Heidi Sauer says:

    Wow, I think you may have come up with a million dollar idea Launel! I have no experience teaching Kindergarten, but having a son in K, I can definitely relate to your struggles with social conflict. Children who are only 5 years old need help in dealing with their emotions and struggles, and the reality is that there are never enough adults in the room. Short of reducing student-teacher ratio (seems unlikely in our economic situation), your suggestion seems plausible and possible.

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      • Erin Benjamin says:

        I love your suggestion, but I am also troubled that the Ministry doesn’t see value in capping primary classrooms. An assistive tech option would be great in resolving conflicts but I question whether this would be necessary if the demands on teachers were reduced by thoughtfully considering class size and composition.

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  2. nancyarmstrong says:

    Launel, you have certainly been doing a lot of thinking, as your ideas are fantastic. I know, as the mom of three children in primary school / day care, that resolving conflicts is something they all struggle with. Teachers don’t have time to deal with it, so often, the situations are just brushed aside … but feelings are still hurt and lessons are still not being learned. The idea of your Smart Necklace is excellent. I could really see it coming to fruition with Web 3.0. Perhaps, parents could record their own voices so that, if the necklace sensed that the child was sad, the parent’s voice would say, “I can tell that you’re feeling sad, Robbie. Is there a trusted friend that you could talk to right now?” … or whatever message is appropriate. I always say that I wish I was a fly on the wall (or a voice in my daughter’s ear) when she is trying to work through a difficult situation at school. Really excellent idea, Launel!

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  3. Angus McIntosh says:

    Here is a late to the party reply! Student conflict has always been a huge issue, and one of the most challenging things teachers have to deal with. My opinion is that a high percentage of reported bullying is just conflict that kids don’t know how to resolve, and then it comes into the classroom or the office. I also envision an app where kids can report incidents – I was (kicked)(punched)(poked)(scratched) in the (head)(arm)(body)(legs) at the (basketball court)(hallway)(classroom)(bathroom) when I was (walking)(playing)(working) etc. I would have my app collect send a report to the closest supervisor for immediate assistance. Bystanders could also report. Above all, my app will collect data like a bandit – who is reporting what, where are they reporting from, what are the commonalities in the incidences. The data can then be used for teaching purposes, and for setting up supervision etc.

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