Monday, January 30, 2017

An Interview With Marjorie Foth

A Little Bit About Marjorie

Marjorie is currently a grade four teacher with Edmonton Public Schools (EPSB) and has helped open one of the new schools. This is the second time she was a part of a staff that opened a new EPSB school. Marjorie is adjusting to the Edmonton climate again as this is her first year back in Edmonton after teaching for three years in Amman, Jordan at The International Academy - Amman. Marjorie and I did our after degrees together and have grown as teachers together. She started as a music teacher and has since taught grade four, five and six in Edmonton. She taught grade three and five in Jordan. You can find her on Google+.

The Interview

What technology skills should students have before coming into grade four?
By grade four, students should be able to log into a Chromebook efficiently and ideally remember their password (or at least keep their passwords somewhere where they can check). They should know their email includes It would be great if students had basic keyboarding skills before entering grade four. Knowing how to resize text so it is easy to read is another useful skill.  

Where do you get your edtech ideas?
I get ideas from teaching myself how to use a program and professional reading. I get ideas from other teachers and from professional development days. Sometimes I will search Google and Pinterest; Google+ can be good, too.

What type of technology do you have in your school/classroom?
Each classroom has:
  • A teacher desktop computer
  • Wireless keyboard
  • 20 Chromebooks
  • Document camera
  • A teacher iPad
  • Four mini iPads
  • Epson Interactive board

If you could only keep one technology at your school, what would it be? Why?
Chromebooks, hands down.

It is so easy for me to share something with students because Chromebooks make accessing Google Classroom easy. Google Classroom is easy to put assignments onto and then each student then has the visual in front of them.

However, it is important to have that social time together. Coming together to look at something on the Interactive Whiteboard is important, too.

What is one piece of technology you would like to try in your classroom that you haven't had an opportunity to yet?
The iPad and iPad minis. We have iPad minis available for classroom use. I have never used an iPad in class before.

What is something new you are planning to teach this year?  
I have done coding with my students for the past two years. This year I want to have my students program robots such as Dash and Dot and do some more advanced coding with Scratch.

How has technology changed the way you teach?
It has transformed the way I teach, 100%. When I started teaching there were still film strips, chalkboards and overhead projectors. It has made everything easier. It is easier to communicate with students. It also enables students to use a variety of ways to show their learning, such as talk to text if they are struggling.

How do you decided what is worthwhile for students to learn through technology?
You need to have a balance between technology and books. Students still need to have book in their hands. I disagree with those people who say students do not need proper books, that loading everything on a Kindle is enough. Likewise, students need to learn how to print properly and write legibly. Typing is great but there has to be a balance. I have really noticed a change over the past few years  in the quality of student’s printing.

What are your favourite apps/tech tools/websites?
  • Senteos (we had them at my previous school but not this one)
  • Google Classroom, I use a different classroom for each subject.

What are your hopes for edtech in the future in your classroom? Alberta? Canada? Globally?
For my classroom, it is coding. For the past two years I have done coding with my students. This year I am hoping my students can transfer what they learn from block coding and use actual coding language to make their own simple game. I think it is important for them to transfer what they learn (coding) and apply it or teach others how to do it.

I think for all of Edmonton and even globally, there needs to be equality across schools in terms of access to technology. Not all schools in Edmonton have the same type of technology. Globally many classrooms of course do not have technology but it would be nice to one day have all classroom with accessibility - though thinking of what many countries are facing I don't see that in the foreseeable future.

If you had to interview someone for division one educational technology. Who would you pick?
Melinda Martin at the International Academy Amman knew a lot about technology. I use many of her ideas in my classroom this year.

What question did I miss asking in your opinion?
I think you missed asking about teacher training. What is being done to train teachers to use technology? I think that is lacking. Often you are given new technology and just have to figure it out.

Thanks to Marjorie for taking the time to share her ideas. Stay tuned for February's interview. 

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