Monthly Archives: May 2016

Using Technology in Moderation for a Healthy Lifestyle

Once again coming into last Tuesday’s debates I was heavily leaning towards one side of the debate, and once again I was swayed and pulled somewhere near the middle.  Both debate groups did on excellent job of presenting current and powerful information to help support their ideas in this debate.  Debate number 3’s topic being “Technology is making our kids unhealthy. Agree or Disagree? 

Agree with the Agree

Coming into this debate I strongly felt that technology had become a negative impact on our students health and wellbeing.  As a teacher of grade 7 and 8 students I have grown leery of asking the question “what did you do all weekend?” because I was constantly getting the same answer, “played video games all weekend.” I was beginning to believe that technology was robbing our students of healthy opportunities to get outside and be active.  Being active and involved in sports growing up, I have always found it interesting how students would rather play sports video games then call up friends and organize outdoor sports for themselves.  I have a classroom full of boys who love basketball, but would rather play NBA 2k16 then go out and play for themselves.

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Photo Credit: gcacho via Compfight cc

On top of the video games creating a negative impact on students wellbeing, Social media and cell phones are also having a negative impact.  Not only are they creating an environment where student’s time is being drained, but it also has an impact on their psychological wellbeing.  In a video posted by the agree side, Five Crazy Ways Social Media is Changing Your Brain Right Now, it explains how social media can have the same effects on your brain as drugs.  This addiction results in the need to be followed or follow others on social media.

Also, in today’s society technology is being treated as a babysitter.  In some instances parents will use technology as a distraction to keep their child entertained or busy.  Often when at a restaurant, instead of conversations being held at the table, they are replaced by everyone looking at their cellphones or tablets.  This will and does have an impact on social interaction and a child’s ability to properly engage in conversation with peers.

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Photo Credit: mattlevine17 via Compfight cc

The Disagree side had some great insights

Like I mentioned earlier I strongly felt that technology was having a negative impact on our students wellbeing.  That was until the disagree team convinced me that technology does have its positive impacts on health and wellbeing.  Once again I was found treading water somewhere in the middle on this topic.  The argument that got me the most was the idea of how technology has increased life expectancy greatly and offered modern medicine more readily to those who need it.  Without technology we would not have advanced so far in medicine.

Another idea that I truly felt was a benefit to the disagree side was that technology was not making our kids unhealthy, but the misuse of technology was.  There is an infinite amount of technology out there that is designed to increase mental wellbeing and healthy life styles.  The first that pops into my mind is the fitbit watches.  Not only do they monitor how active you are in a day, but encourage you to become more active.  Also, there are many tools that can be used in the classroom that encourage classes to be active and healthy.

Somewhere in the Middle

Although coming into the debate I was strongly favoring the agree side of the debate, towards the end I was somewhere near the middle.  Like everything, technology can be meant for a positive purpose, but if misused and overused it will have a negative impact on our children’s wellbeing.  Tuesdays debates were great and gave me a lot of things to think about moving forward in my classroom and life.


Is Technology Making our Kids Unhealthy?

Kids eating tech

Photo Credit: Ian Riley -Technology is Consuming Us

YES! Well sort of…

Technology itself does not have the ability to make kids unhealthy, but it does have a lure that will make kids drawn to using technology instead of going outside or being physically active.

AtariIt wasn’t so long ago that I was a child (ok, it was a little longer than I like to admit), but there was strict ‘no-videogame” rule in our house.  This rule at the time was a horrific error in parenting (or so my brother and I thought), but it was in essence the rule which caused my brother and I to get outside and play.  This play lead to finding passions for basketball, skating, street hockey, biking, tree climbing and much more.  Not only were we not allowed videogames, but our parents also joined us outside.  So it wasn’t a situation where there was a double standard it was out parents that were being positive, healthy role models for their kids.  Photo Credit: hacknmod.com

Hay dayI would also say that the time before current technology was a much happier and active time for me.  Now I find myself sitting with my Ipad on my lap playing endless hours of Hay Day instead of going outside and doing the things I used to love as a kid.  It isn’t that Hay Day is so completely engaging that I can’t break my concentration, it’s just that in a fast paced work world, I find technology the gateway to feeling like I’m doing something, when really I’m just creeping all my friends pictures of Facebook.

Photo Credit: Hay Day

I think kids are the same.  They have been raised on the other side of the 90’s era where technology is a replacement for activity and not something used in moderation.  Parents are often too busy running errands, working multiple jobs, or rushing from one activity to another, that a phone or ipad gets tossed to a child to keep them occupied while the errands of life continue around them.  And it’s not just running errands.  It’s sitting at a sibling’s basketball game where a child plays on a phone instead of watching, learning and supporting their sibling.  Or watching movies in the car instead of playing eye spy or singing songs.  This lack of relationship building and social connection is what troubles me the most.  Our kids are finding social interactions online instead of with one another.  And the online environment for socialization is often the most fake.

Profile pic vs reality

 

 

 

This is my profile picture…..this is what I usually look like!

 

 

No wonder technology is causing increasing rates of depression and anxiety in youth today.  Amit Chowdrhy suggests that “research links heavy Facebook and Social Media Usage to Depression” and that Lui yi Lin, 2016 adds  “it is possible that people who are depressed use social media to fill a void.” Lui yi Lin further suggests that “the exposure to “highly idealized representations of peers on social media elicits feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier, more successful lives,” says the study. People that engage in activities of little meaning on social media makes them feel like they are wasting time. Spending more time on social media increases the exposure to cyber-bullying, thus causing feelings of depression. And social media fuels “Internet addiction,” which is considered a psychiatric condition linked to depression.”  This Internet Addiction is causing not only mental and emotional health challenges, but is also causing physical challenges as well.  In order for depression to be diagnosed in a person, the patient must exhibit five or more physiological symptoms for a two week period or more.  Most often these physiological symptoms include weight loss or gain, changes in appetite, prolonged sleep or inability to sleep, etc.  These physiological changes tend to increase the intensity of the disorder.  While many find solace and support in online communities of people struggling with similar challenges, the continual reliance on technology and social media only enhances the addiction and can prolong the disorder.  It’s a very difficult situation.  While many argue that online support communities have helped heal, many have also argued that online communities have only increased worry and exposure to negative information.  For example, kids who may have suicidal thoughts and feelings may further isolate themselves socially from peers and family and may find information and videos to support their suicidal choices.   Or kids who are struggling with eating disorders may find support in online healing sites such as the case with Molly Mirhashem, but may also find negative influences in the same.

The impacts of technology on health can extend to dietary and physical fitness habits as well.  Prolonged exposure to technology does not simply impact kids mentally and emotionally, but being a heavy user of technology can also lead to weight gain, poor dietary choices, sedentary lifestyles, and sleep interference.  These physical problems lead to more physical problems.  Sedentary lifestyles for example lead to obesity, heart problems, poor circulation, sore muscles and joints, sleep problems and more.  Many suggest that this is the opposite with many websites and devices like My Fitness Pal and Fitbits.  However, it all comes down to choice.  Inevitably, the connection between health and technology comes down to the user’s ability to make positive choices.  Kids can choose to spend countless hours on social media and the Internet eating unhealthy and being sedentary, or they can choose to go outside and use their Fitbit to get in 10, 000 steps and track their healthy eating habits.

The role of teachers and parents is to educate kids on the connections and safety of technology regarding their physical and mental health.  Just as it is the role of teachers and parents to educate about sexual health, drugs, alcohol and addictions, citizenship etc., it is our role to guide our kids through the world of technology as well.

So let’s teach our kids about proper technological use BEFORE it becomes a problem.

 

Sitting in front of a computer instead of walking the dog,

 

Janelle Henderson


Google: Friend or Foe?

Photo credit: Forthea Internet Marketing

This past week’s debates enhanced an issue in teaching and learning which has been burning and churning in my mind for many years.  Is it important for students to know and learn the basics of reading, writing, mathematics, etc. through memorization and drill and practice, or should schools eliminate teaching information which can be easily Googled?  There is a panacea of information on this topic and I was incredibly surprised at the quality and excellence of the articles and videos.  Great job teams!

In regards to the topic at hand, I tend to fall on the side of the debate that students should be taught the basics and should have a bank of knowledge that will help guide them through their youth into adulthood with information that they have and can share without having to look it up.  In the debates, I suggested that this information needs to be transferrable and suitable to daily living.  Some of the skills and knowledge would include basic math (including memorization of multiplication tables), fractions and temperature conversions, how to read a map/directions, basic reading and writing skills, as well as, the ability to use a dictionary, thesaurus, etc, and many more skill sets such as kinetic skills, cognitive problem solving, and seeking out sources of information in times of stress or challenge.  Ben Johnson, author of “When Rote Learning Makes Sense” suggests that “the total emphasis on critical thinking has it all wrong: Before students can think critically, they need to have something to think about in their brains.” (2010) This means that as teachers, we ignore the “misplaced angst against memorization” and use it as a starting tool. (Ben Johnson, 2010) The glob of clay, if you will, that will be molded into the minds of our students.  Johnson (2010) further states that “the brain is a learning tool. This might seem obvious, but the brain is not a passive sponge. It requires active effort to retain information in short-term memory and even more effort to get it into long-term memory.”  We, as teachers, have to remember that through practice of skills and information, we will have students who retain and can recall information much better.  It is truly simple science.  When practicing skills we connect via neurotransmitters in the brain.  The more we practice the more solid those pathways get.  Ie: building a bridge with a myelin sheath.  The stronger the bridges become, the easier it is for students to recall information to help problem solve.  The more bridges we build, the easier bridge building becomes.  Sounds simplified to bridge building, but use this explanation to your psychology students as I do, and they understand why studying isn’t just “reading their notes” and why disorders such as depression and anxiety are not simply treatable by trying to “be happy” and “not worry so much.”  It also helps us empathize with our elders and grandparents when we see them struggling to remember or battling dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  I digress with these statements, but I firmly believe that training the brain to think is much more important than training the brain to search via the Internet.

Student’s always ask me to teach them how to study.  Click the image to check out some great study tips!

How to study  Photo Credit: Danny Kerr 

Adding more science to this, Academic Earth suggests in their video “How the Internet is Changing Your Brain,” that when researching information, the prefrontal cortex of the brain is engaged but does not transfer the information to short-term memory; therefore, not transferring the information to long-term memory, unless it is further practiced and repeated.  This stimulation of the prefrontal cortex leads to the brain registering the information as only trivial and easily forgotten.  Therefore, creating what researchers and Academic Earth call “Google Amnesia.”  More often than not, before Google learners sought out the information from others in their learning community.  This interaction paired with emotions and socialization formed much stronger learning pathways than simply Googling the answer.  As all teachers know, learning in context has a much more profound effect on students.

Check out these videos for students on memory and processing.

How we Make Memories – Crash Course Psychology #13

How we make memories

 Remembering and Forgetting – Crash Course Psychology #14

Remembering

William R. Klemm Ph.D in his article ,“Memorization is Not a Dirty Word: Some Old-Fashioned Teaching Ideas Need to be Revisited,” further supports the practice of memorization for learning by giving the example of “experiments [which] show that students routinely over-estimate how much they remember and under-estimate the value of further study. In many situations, it is not practical to look up what you need. Ever try to read or speak a foreign language where you have to look up most of the words? Ever try to use computer software where you have to repeatedly refer to the instruction manual?

Memorization of facts doesn’t have to be boring and Klemm suggests that students are mentally lazy, but memorization can come in the form of simulations, guessing games, songs, trivia challenges, graffiti boards, etc.  There are a number of ways that teachers can scaffold information to include memorization that doesn’t resemble the age old picture of a teacher and students practicing multiplication tables with a ruler and fear.:)

Facebook addiction

Not only does reliance on technological devices for basic information affect wiring of the brain, it also impacts our ability to socialize appropriately with others, hinders the structure and causes spinal injuries, creates blemishes if used on the skin, has been found to lower sperm count in men, causes text claw, eye strain,       headaches, sleep problems, loneliness, withdrawals, depression and anxiety.  Of course, looking up how many millilitres in a litre isn’t necessarily going to cause depression, however, our overall dependence and almost addiction to technology (as the above photo shows – Photo Credit: Alex Noudelam from his article “10 Ways Social Media Negatively Affects your Mental Health) is causing such a plethora of problems, where we then rely on technology to solve them.  This is something that I will be talking about in the next debate blog, is technology making our kids unhealthy?

Now, I’m not suggesting that Google is not an exceptional tool for learning.  It contains a wealth of knowledge at our finger tips that helps us gain a better understanding of our world, each other and our history. However, I am suggesting that Google be used as a tool, not simply “the tool” of accessing information and then it is the job of a teacher to use Bloom’s and SAMR to integrate this technology to enhance learning for students and to create an environment where these tools are used for critical thinking and extended learning.

 

Thanks Google for the facts, now I’m going to teach the story!

 

Yours in Education,

Janelle Henderson


An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

An apple a day keeps the doctor away…well it depends what kind of apple you are using!!!!

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http://science-all.com/apple.html and cardinalatwork.stanford.edu

Our third debate was “Is Technology making our kids unhealthy”. Is it technology that is making our children unhealthy or is it society and the current “detached” lifestyle many people are living in.  As I’ve mentioned before (I apologize… early learning is my passion so I talk about it in everything I do)… “play” is how children learn, and there is not enough play happening in our society today.

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Source – First5california.com

Our great debaters brought some good discussions and points to consider for this topic. All of our choices ultimately affect our health both mentally and physically. I believe that children need to play more, but I see more children on technology – so to me I have to say “YES!!!! Technology is unhealthy for our students-sometimes”. However, there are many benefits in using technology and we can’t just throw it away and say “no more technology”.
I enjoyed the article by Lindsay Holmes. There are some interesting physical and mental health factors that I had never thought of before. “Text Claw”! I’m so happy to see that it’s a real thing… well not officially, but it’s there! I developed a terrible case of tendonitis when I was pregnant and I still have difficulty writing, picking things up and holding my phone. I love to crochet (check out my facebook page), but had to stop because of the pain. It’s gotten a bit better since stopping that, but I wonder if I had given up my phone if it would be even better now… but could I give up my phone?
Technology Causes Obesity!?! Well I don’t think it causes obesity, but I don’t think it’s helping either. Sitting in front of the T.V. or computer screen all day is going to have a negative effect on your body. Some is causes our children to choose unhealthy choice because of the commercials they see and some is reactive, like snacking while watching T.V.
The article Split Image was very moving for me. Depression is very complex and affects so many people, in all walks of life. In her digital world she appeared picture perfect, yet in reality she was having some serious struggles and anxiety. Technology can have serious affects on our mental health. Luckily people are beginning to spread the world about mental health in hopes to end the stigma and get people talking. Online support groups are great motivators and recovery supports for many people.
My favourite stories are stories of kids doing awesome things and the Buddy Project created by Gabby Frost, a 16-year-old from Pennsylvania, USA, is one of those great stories. She demonstrates a great way to use technology to benefit people’s health. You think that’s a great story… this story about a Valedictorian posting kind words about his classmates on Instagram is probably my favourite feel good tech story! It’s a “like” and “share” for sure. What a wonderful way to connect and do something positive. I would love to see this happen in one of our schools!
Konner Sauve told his classmates he had been posting to the secret account for nearly an entire year. “I wanted to focus on the better aspects of people,” the teen told the news outlet. “To shed a positive light on each individual, make them feel appreciated, and to know that someone cares.”

Using technology doesn’t make our kids unhealthy, but it can become unhealthy for us if we abuse it and don’t know how to use it appropriately. Schools offer a great place to begin the conversation about technology awareness-benefits and things to consider. If we teach about technology safety in schools, we can change the way people think and use it.
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Original Image – http://www.pcworld.co.uk/gbuk/fitbit-279-commercial.html Edited image- Lisa Cooper

I don’t own a “FitBit” but I’ve been imagining what my “TechBit” would be telling me right now after spending a week plugged into technology between 2 blog posts, reading, commenting and prepare for my own debate tomorrow….

Let’s see My TechBit is telling me I’ve reached my limit for technology time and my computer is about to self distruct in 3, 2, 1… good-bye!

 


My Balance Wheel

The debate question this week focused on the statement, Technology is making our kids unhealthy.  When both sides of the debate delved deeper into these important findings and discussions, as usual, I’m left with a lot to think about. At first, I connected with Braun Bytes’ blog post who brought up the importance of his childhood growing up in Mali, West Aftrica. Reading about his unplugged childhood memories and irreplaceable experiences of childhood are invaluable. On the flip side, watching the youtube video, Human Dystopia was a tad bit scary.

human dystopia

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The idea of balance for my students has really been a deeper concern of mine since I started my Master’s Degree. I was fortunate enough to start my journey taking the class Health, Outdoor & Physical Education with Nick Forsberg. I really resonated with being outdoors as a child and participating in numerous outdoor activities that I feel, many children don’t have the opportunity to experience. Sometimes its helicopter parenting, their socioeconomic status, types of addictions, lack of interest, and the list goes on. Nevertheless, I really started to appreciate my childhood more and more. I often worry for my students who only talk about playing video games. I try not to negate their interest, but at the same time I make a point of engaging in conversations that focus on encouraging my students to have a balance of activities for them to be involved in. As the helicopter parenting article indicates, the need to over protect their children was valid due to the events surrounding Sept. 11 and two economic crashes in 2000 and 2008, Parents had reason for concern for their child’s safety and futures.

work-life-balance

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In addition, the 2 articles, (Move Over Millennials, Here Comes Generation Z and 5 Signs You Were Raised by Helicopter Parents), point out how technology and the dynamics of our social world are changing at lightning speed. As difficult as it is to be relevant as an educator and/or to keep up with technology, unplugging remains a consistent necessity.

millenial

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helicopter parents 1

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When the opportunity arises, I like to take my students outside to our playground, for a walk, to a beautiful park not far from the school, go on outdoor field trips, etc. I think the students learn so much when they have the chance to connect with nature, face to face, communicating with their peers and problem solving on their own. A couple of weeks ago we went outside for Land Art. The students enjoyed the activity and I thought it was great!

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Ultimately, when planning for this debate, it was difficult to only fight for one side when deep down, the debate topics are purposely never on opposite sides of the binary. The answer always lies somewhere between one side of the binary and the other side.

binary

I have discovered that finding the right balance is a work in progress. Fortunately, there are many helpful articles, studies, and websites that support learning with technology from a more balanced approach.

Balance is not a new concept and has been around for thousands of years. The First Nations people understood the concept of living a balanced lifestyle before colonization.

medwheel

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“In doing this Western cultures rejected the idea of a mind, body, emotions and spirit dialogue, returning to the ancestral voices for healing, looking to plants and animals for understanding and learning and the power of the spirit in healing and wellness. This rejection had the influence of sending traditional practices underground, and in some instances traditional healing practices were eliminated from the cultural vernacular altogether” (McCabe, .2008, p.144).

The Four Directions theory is a  “holistic notion of body, mind, heart, and spirit is a time – honoured for First Nations peoples but is somewhat of a novelty in mainstream society.” This quote is so true! Why is Four Directions theory considered “a novelty in mainstream society” in 2016? Perhaps our focus to too much on negative comments and scrutinizing seen daily on social media (like with the incident of the 4 year old falling into the gorilla enclosure) and not enough “holistic approaches” to living our best life!

Perhaps we need a little more of this!

balance wheel

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And a d0llop more of that!

Familie fährt Fahrrad

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Technology and Obesity Truly linked?

Many people have asked the question “Is technology making us unhealthy?”

According to Elle Paula Author of Obesity in Children and Technology “About one-third of American children and teenagers are overweight or obese, making childhood obesity the leading health concern for parents in the United States.” She also goes on to state that the average child has about 7 hours a day of screen time (watching TV, searching the web, playing games, etc.). This screen time enhances sedentary behaviour, snacking and interferes with sleep. Because of the increase in these behaviours Paula believes that technology is linked to childhood obesity. Others like Lindsay Holms and Leah Borne go as far to say it is changing our brains and our bodies. They give examples like tech neck, head aches, low sperm count or the text claw. These are all things that were never issues in the past.

But wait, there is technology today that encourages people to be healthy in multiple ways. One could argue that there are many fitness apps and game councils designed to get people moving. Even many teachers are pulling up youtube videos or GoNoodles to take brain breaks in their classes. For example:

Kristina E. Hatch also says that technology is making us healthier socially as well. She discusses how technology like social media can widen our social circles “may act as a way for children to develop and sustain emotional bonds with peers, as well as carve their own identity.” This was not possible in the past. But there is a downside to the connection as well. The online bullying is a huge part of social well being too.

There are so many arguments about what is healthy and what is not. A person could argue for or against technology. But my position seems to sit right in the middle. How can I argue with the facts that screen time enhances sedentary behaviour or lack of sleep? Those are obviously unhealthy but, I feel like technology can also get us moving in many ways we were not before. I think the best way to find a middle ground is education. Teaching people what it means to be healthy and the benefits of it will allow people to use whatever technology or lack of technology they want in their lives. If we can teach people to be healthy then they can use technology to encourage their health. After all technology is not going anywhere. Whether you think it is so unhealthy everyone should where tin hats because of wifi or you think it is the next best thing, we need to recognize that we are going to need to learn how to be healthy with technology.

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Photo Credit: AceOfKnaves via Compfight cc

So my next question is how can I use technology to teach my students to be healthier. I do use GoNoodle in my class for breaks and often use technology to teach about health but, do I use it to encourage health. I’m not sure. Are there more ways to use technology to get students active or communicating in positive ways? Let me know if you have any idea:)


Why don’t you just Google it?

The first debate of the night, was a topic that  makes me cringe as a teacher “Schools should not be teaching anything that can be googled”. Coming into the debate I would have told anyone that students need to be taught basic facts and not rely so much on Google.  After the debate my hat is tipped to the agree team (Luke, Ashley, and Andrew) because you have offered evidence and thought provoking ideas that I have never thought of before. 

Although the agree team did a great job of arguing their side of the debate, I am still a firm believer in the teaching of foundational skills that can lead to critical thinking.  Many times throughout the year, when trying to teach complicated math concepts my students will get bogged down and hindered when posed with basic math computations in the problem.  They have become to reliant on a calculator or google to give them the answer.

From one of the articles posted by Amy Singh and Heidi, Memorization is not a dirty wordwritten by William R. Klemm it is argued that for a student to be able to critically think or problem solve they must be able to recall on previous memorized information.

“We think and solve problems with what is in working memory, which in turn is memory of currently available information or recall of previously memorized  information. The process of thinking is like streaming video on the Internet: information flows in as short frames onto the virtual scratch pad of working memory, successively replaced by new chunks of information from real-time or recalled memory. Numerous studies show that the amount of information you can hold in working memory is tightly correlated with IQ and problem-solving ability.”

 Memorization
Being able to recall this memorized information that we have stored in our longterm memory allows us to solve problems and critically think.  Although it may take time to memorize, it does save us time in the long run.  No one wants to be that person who has to take out their calculator to solve basic computations in front of a boss.
Google it!
On the flip side of the coin, I am also guilty of using Google way to much to obtain information.  Whenever posed with a question from my students that stumps me I will offer the suggestion “Let’s Google it!”  Like Amy Scuka suggests “Google has become more than just a search engine, it has become a way of life.” In my opinion this has become a problem.  Instead of forcing students to struggle and problem solve it allows them to have an answer at the click of a button.  Students are beginning to lose their ability to persevere and find answers on their own.
With this in mind, the agree team did a great job of combatting this argument with facts about how the brain works now and how Google is working as our external hard drive.  In a video they posted, How the internet is changing your brain it states “It’s less about the information you have, More about how you use the information at hand”.  It also goes on to explain that consistent internet users have twice as much activity in their prefrontal cortex, meaning that they can make decisions quicker and is reserved for short term memory.  With this in mind if we use Google appropriately we can create better thinkers.
In summary, both debate teams did a great job of putting forth powerful research and information.  Although I am a firm believer in building foundational knowledge first that leads into critical thinking, the agree team had me questioning the way I thought.  Great job to both teams

Let’s Google It?

Photo Credit: I created this Meme using Meme Generator

baby agree or disagree

Let’s Google it?!?  I was struggling with how to start this post, but this photograph on Meme Generator inspired me with my direction! Actually when I first read the debate topic I believe this is what my face probably looked like.  I had to first understand the wording of the topic for the debate before I could begin to choose a side.  I could relate to Ellen because I also found this one a little bit tricky.  Ellen raised an excellent point about if she was a History or a High School Social teacher that she “might not need to teach specific dates in History anymore, since these can easily be Googled” and that she “should, however, focus on questions about the events impact today.”  I would not have students learn about dates either.  I can remember teachers wanting my classmates and myself to memorize small specific details when we were in middle years and high school.  I created little verses, songs, or sayings from using the beginning letters of events, names, or dates to help me remember everything when I wrote a test.  As soon as the test was over I tossed it from my short term memory and I do not know if I would  have been able to recall the information a few days later.  For me personally I enjoyed when we were provided the time for class discussions and when we did hands on learning.

I believe it is important for students to be able to take part in experiential learning. The University of Texas describes what experiential learning looks like.  In one of the points is stated that “throughout the experiential learning process, the learner is actively engaged in posing questions, investigating, experimenting, being curious, solving problems, assuming responsibility, being creative, and constructing meaning, and is challenged to take initiative, make decisions and be accountable for results.”  Many of the points listed in the article reminded me of the Principles of Early Learning on page 5 in the Saskatchewan Play and Exploration guide.  As teachers we need to look at our curriculum and see what kinds of learning opportunities we can provide to our students. In science it is a lot easier to find experiments for labs and hands on learning activities, but there are learning opportunities in other subject curriculum documents as well.  The University of Waterloo also had a great explanation of experiential learning and good diagrams, such as the Kolb’s cycle-“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.”

kolbs learning cycle

Photo Credit: Source

In my second year of teaching I taught at the elementary school and I  also taught grade seven and eight arts education at Gordon F. Kells for the last period of the day.  My principal Tyler taught Social Studies and History at Gordon F. Kells at the time.  I can remember the students in his History class being so excited after class one day when he set up a learning experience outside for them.  They were learning about World War One and he wanted to teach them about the rolling barrage.  He could have gave them hand outs explaining what a rolling barrage was, have students do research, or they could have watched a video, but instead Tyler created a hands on learning experience using water balloons.  The experience was how he introduced rolling barrage to them!  If you teach History I encourage you to talk to Tyler about his lesson.  (I do not want to explain the lesson wrong.)  If was able to learn about History by doing interactive lessons I know I would have not tossed out so much of the knowledge I learned from my short term memory as I described earlier in my post.

Luke, Ashley, and Andrew gave us very interesting resources  to learn about the agree side of the debate.  I really enjoyed watching Rasmey Musallam’s TedTalk- 3 Rules to Spark Learning.  He caught my attention when he talked about the importance of teachers evoking real questions.   Musallam explains that those questions helps inform the methods of blended instruction and he stated that, “Students questions are the seeds to real learning!”  I believe that questions do ignite the learning journey and makes the learning more meaningful for the students.  If they are asking the questions then they will want to find out the answers.  In the video Musallum explains how he has 3 rules that he follows when creating a lesson.  They are:

  • #1 Curiosity comes first
  • #2 Embrace the mess
  • #3 Practice reflection
boy being curious

Photo Credit: stlcparks via Compfight cc

The way The University of Texas describes experiential learning and the principals of early learning in the Saskatchewan Play and Learning guide connects very well to what Musallum’s beliefs are.  I think often in schools teachers want to get to the content part of the lessons because there are so much to cover in just one year.  I think this leads to not providing  time or enough time for students to be curious and wonder about the topic.  I know personally next year I want to provide more time to my students to reflect about their learning and make connections before we move onto another unit.  A lot of learning can be discovered during the reflection process.  If students just went to Google to find the answers all of the time are they truly understanding and retaining the knowledge they are discovering?  Do students know other ways to find resources and information other than using Google? It is convenient that students can turn to Google to find the answers to questions, but is that the best learning experience for students?  Do students know how to tell if the information they found is authentic or from reputable source?  Now in the world of the Internet people are able to create and curate.  It is possible for people to upload documents on the Internet that may not be accurate.  Students need to learn and understand how to decide whether information they’re reading is accurate and creditable.

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I was surprised like Chalyn when I read How the Internet is Changing Your Brain.  I had no idea that “the average number of Google searches per day has grown from 9,800 in 1998 to over 4.7 trillion today.”  It was very eye opening to me! In the article is also talked about a study and how “college students remembered less information when they knew they could easily access it later on the computer.”  This is problematic as “Our brains use information stored in the long-term memory to facilitate critical thinking. We need these unique memories to understand and interact with the world around us.”  What information are we not keeping in our long term memory because we know we can access it easily through technology?

I read another article provided by the agree side called  How Google Impacts The Way Students Think  written by Terry Heick.  I think Heick raised a very good point when he stated that, “if users can Google answers to the questions they’re given, they’re likely terrible questions.”  We need to model good questioning skills to our students and help them grow as learners, just as Tyler’s cooperating teacher did as it was described in Tyler’s blog post.  We want our students to be curious and learn how to ask great questions independently.  In the article Heick lists a few reasons in how Google is impacting the way students think.  One of those ways was how “Google naturally suggests “answers” as stopping points.”  I do not want my students to stop their learning once they think they have “found” the answers.  I want my student to continue on their learning journey!  When exploring a topic there is so much to learn about and the learning should not stop after finding the answer.  Students need to understand the materials and reflect after there assignment or lesson is over.

debate 2 twitter pic

Screen shot from Twitter

encyclodia twitter

Screen shot from Twitter

On Twitter Alec posted the debate question and some of the response caught my eye.  I thought it was very interesting when Marc stated “should we teach info in encyclopedias?”  I think that is a very interesting point.  Yes often we can access information, but as I talked about earlier in my post students are not retaining the information because they know they can access it again.  Lots of the information whether they can access the answers online or from another resources still needs to be explored by the students and taught.  Marc also talked about memorization which was discussed during the debate as well.  Amy Singh and Heidi provided us with information on why we should disagree with the debate topic and a lot of the resources they shared with us talked about memorization and automaticity.  I enjoyed reading Kelsie’s thoughts from Tuesday’s debate.  She brought up excellent points about Google and how everything is “Googleable.”  I agree with Kelsie that  ‘some amount of memorization is important.”  In the beginning of her post she explores Math Makes Sense and Mad Minutes.  I think it is important for students to know their math facts and to provide them time to critically think in math through problem solving and explaining how they reach their answer.  I think for the deeper understanding to occur that students do need a level of automaticity for their math facts.  Louise Spear-Swerling discusses in an article that “Automatic recall of basic math facts, sometimes termed math fluency, is generally considered to be a key foundation for higher-level math skills.”

 

In my classroom I have my students practice their math facts through playing games that I have created or other dice and cards games that I have learned from other educators.  The only way you can become more fluent in a skill is through practice and students can “build conceptual understanding and fluency through games“.  I really like all of the strategies that students learn now in math.  I think I would have learned my facts faster if I was taught about doubles, doubles plus one/minus one, think ten, etc.  Students also need a level of automaticity in reading as well.  Tim Rasinski talks about three components of fluency and one is automaticity in word recognition.  He discusses “Readers not only are accurate in word recognition, they are effortless or automatic in recognizing the words they encounter. The significance of achieving automaticity is that readers can devote their limited cognitive resources to the important task of comprehending the text.”  Memorization is not always a dirty word…by being able to recall math facts and words helps students focus on a math problem and understanding the text. 

Ainsley wrote an excellent post about another debate and the end of that post caught my eye.  She shared a link to an article that has a teacher describing what a classroom might possibly with look like and how it could be organized in the future.   It made me reflect on when I was talking about the goals of education, but I could not remember the details.  I was excited that Katia knew what I was talking about and shared the Goals of Education for Saskatchewan with the rest of the class.  This document has not been updated since 1985 (I was not even born yet).  It is time that we take a look at this document and update the goals with the vision of 21st century learners. In a previous post I reflected about my vision in what I want to do in my classroom after I took EC&I832.

What is your philosophy of education?  What should our education goals be??

 

I think it is important to know yourself as an educator.  I completed two inventories (Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI) & Philosophy of Adult Education Inventory (PAEI)) in my EC&I804 Curriculum Development class and then we had to reflect on our teaching beliefs.  I completed the inventories again and for the first inventory I ranked the highest in nurturing.  In the second inventory I ranked the highest in progressive and humanistic.  The PAEI inventory has a chart on the second page that breaks out the five philosophies into different categories: purpose(s), learner(s), teacher role, concepts & key words, methods, and people & programs.  The chart makes sense to me because in EC&I804 from over two years ago I described in an assignment that I felt most philosophically aligned with Dewey because my philosophy is strongly progressivism. 

After two years I still believe that my grade two students learn better through cooperative and experiential learning.  My job is to guide my students while posing questions to deepen their understanding.  Social process is an important part of education because students learn better through interacting with others. If a student can explain or demonstrate what they have learned that validates a deeper understanding. Students are also more engaged in the learning if they are interested in the curriculum and when their needs are being met.  I think it is important for teachers to take inventories because it was a good reminder that I need to include the other philosophies in my classroom.  Every student is an individual and learns in their own unique way!

“Learning is experience. Everything else is just information”. – Albert Einstein

 


Debate #3: a large, uncontrolled experiment on children

I hate debates.  I understand the need to argue the merits of an idea.  I also understand the teaching value of the debate format (that’s right Alec and Katia, I see what you’re doing here).  However, I am too much of a conflict-avoidant compromise-seeking peacemaker to enjoy debating.  I prefer sifting through the grey collectively yet the adversarial structure of a debate demands black or white.  I get anxious when I am tied to a viewpoint and not able to exercise one of my greatest strengths—flexibility.

That being said, I am warming to the debate process; I can now say that I took part in a debate that I did not hate!  This week my group argued that technology is making kids unhealthy.  We created this Prezi that summarizes our research.

Tech lesson learned: do not trust screen share.  I thought that they Prezi was playing and I was unable to see the chat to know it wasn’t working.  Luckily my group members texted me to say it was time to pull the plug.  Sorry for the technical difficulties team!

I appreciated the arguments put forward by our colleagues on the con side of the debate.  I was especially intrigued by their point about increased visual reasoning.  As I dive a little deeper into their readings I am beginning to understand that children who have grown up with the visual stimulation offered by modern technology are better able to react and understand visual images.  This improves hand eye coordination and attention to detail.  I found this fact fascinating as we hear so much about the negative impacts of technology on health (obesity, eye strain, etc.) and this counterpoint shows how technology may actually be making kids healthier.

Another strong point made by our opposition was about the use of technology to measure and motivate physical activity.  I have resisted the cult of the Fit Bit, but it seems that everyone I know raves about the benefits.  As a runner I try to be relaxed— enjoy the moment!  In past years I have trained with a trusty basic Timex or (gasp!) no watch at all.  Recently I inherited a used Garmin and now I’m becoming addicted to my watch.  I want the right pace and I will push my body to discomfort to achieve it.  Seriously… my quads are very unhappy with me for what I did to them yesterday at the Saskatchewan half marathon in Saskatoon.  This may not have been the smartest choice considering I had a stomach flu last week.  My goal had been to finish the race, walk early and often, and not throw up.  Then the power of the watch got to me.  The first kilometer felt great!  And it was over 30 seconds faster than I should have been running.  While I knew rationally that I needed to slow down to do 20 more kilometers, I was seduced by the splits and imagined the amazing time I could run if I kept up the pace.  And it worked! For a while… then came the hills… the heat… the mud… the hip pain… and what was meant to be an easy run has left me limping today.

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Notice that I am running with a smile and without a watch.

Do I believe that technology is a strong motivator?  Absolutely.  Does it make me healthier?  Hard to say.  I have started training for my first full marathon this summer (Iceland here I come!) and I am reconsidering the role that I want technology to play in my training process.  Aside from what it does to my mental training there are issues of inaccuracy.  I am trying to balance my desire for watch gratification with the physical and mental requirements of healthy training.

In the struggle for tech moderation I feel that I am a blind leader and often a hypocrite.  I have been starting to consider my own screen time since learning that my students should be getting about 2 hours of screen time a day.  It is amazing how much time a day I spend scrolling through nothing.  Last year I made a conscious decision to stop reading comments—I usually like humanity better when I encounter them in person.  And I’ve moved my phone out of my bedroom.  It used to charge beside my bed and the temptation to read rather than sleep in the middle of the night is too much.  I like this blogger’s idea about moderating children’s screen time by teaching them to view some activities as “brain food” and others as “junk food”.

But back to the debate!  Interestingly, both of our teams agreed that abstinence is not the answer and that moderation is necessary.  Perhaps between our artificial black and white viewpoints we found a more truthful grey.  Technology is here to stay and our role as adults is to teach children how to maintain health while using technology.  This path is often unclear for us as educators as we continue to exist in a societal experiment.

“We have completely changed the way children play. We are in the midst of a large, uncontrolled experiment on children, the effects of which we won’t know for years.”

Dimitri Christakis, Director of the Child Health Institute at the University of Washington


Technology is not the problem… It is how society is misusing the tools

I am a strong believer in the concept that you create your own opportunities and you are in control of what you do at all times.  Blaming technology for making you unhealthy is like blaming McDonalds that you've gained 10 pounds over the winter.  I have never met a McDonalds employee that has held a gun to my head and forced me to eat my Big Mac Meal with medium fries.  I make that choice.

The Huffington post article that Aubrey, Jayme and Jennifer posted almost had me laughing.  I understood what the article was saying but in my mind it is way to much of a common sense versus reality for me.  Staring at my phone creates 60 lbs of pressure on my spine... What about staring at 32 essays for 5 hours a night for 5 nights in a row?  That's my job and I know I look even further down so does that mean the pressure on my neck increases to 70... 80...

To much screen time can put a strain on your eyes... really.  See above.

There was a section I did agree with in that HP article where it talked about shutting off your devices before you sleep.  Of course, it is like keeping the TV on and then trying to sleep all night.  It just doesn't work.

Finally the article links to how the tech we are using is slowing changing our brain function.  This links to their youtube video:
This piece of the article linked with the video very well, but again it goes back to how each individual needs to control their own actions.  I understand that within our society it is becoming to be more difficult to make that conscious choice, but I also feel like I have to make a similar choice when I go out with friends for drinks on a Friday evening.  If I have had a couple beers and I even think I have become impaired I need to make that choice to call a cab or Zero8 (not so shameless plug... these guys are my favorite people after a night out on the town).  Very similar to I need to make the decision not to post my entire life online, or become succumbed with needing social media to substantiate who I am.

Finally I come to the obesity argument.  I have a hard time placing blame on a device when it is the parent/child's responsibility to make the healthy choices.  I feel our society needs a little bit of a kick in the back side when it comes to being active.  We need to make the choice, and stop blaming technology.  Steve made a comment about how certain apps are misused and people are cheating while using them.  I am sure many people are, but again, this is a personal choice.  If a person truly wants to improve themselves they will learn the self discipline needed to improve.  The only person to blame is the one entering the information into the tool.   Steve later went on to discuss how kids are wearing fitness monitors from boxes of cereal because our society is too sedentary.  I agree with that, but is a fitness monitor not a better "prize" then the crappy little plastic maze game that we used to receive?  At least the companies are attempting to give the kids purpose to exercise.

The Livestrong article about Obesity in Children makes a good point that technology increases snacking.  I've done it.... a lot.  But choosing what you are snacking on is a huge part of a lifestyle.  My wife loves her chips, and I am the lactose intolerant ice cream fiend, but the way we get around the habitual snacking is simple.  DON'T BUY THE CRAP!  Self control.

The disagree side came at this from a strong stand point that I feel I am with strongly.  They used the article Determining the Effects of Technology on Children and within that article Sherry Turkle is quoted “I’ve tried to get across that computers are not good or bad – they’re powerful… I think we’re getting ourselves in a lot of trouble thinking there’s an Internet or a web that has an impact on children”.  Technology is not the problem it is how we are choosing to use the tech that is creating a poor lifestyle.  The article continues to talk about the benefits of tech in a classroom (which I wish I found for our debate), and talks about how tech is supposed to be a supplement to good teaching.  So how can a teaching tool be detrimental to ones health?  Is a textbook going to make me sick if I read it?

The article on Researcher: Forget Internet Abstinence; Teens Need some Online Risk was eye opening and to me I feel like it is a very teachable moment.  We have talked about digital citizenship and how we need to be teaching our students not only to be good citizens but also to carry themselves in a positive manner in their digital worlds as well.  The interconnected world is becoming closer and closer every day and I feel it is everyone's responsibility to help keep kids safe.  So maybe a little bit of work on how to stay safe online is a  good thing.

This article pairs amazing with the disagree sides last post with the list of videos.   Each one demonstrates how we as teachers can be helping our students become better digital citizens.  I have students working on an inquiry project right now around the future of social media and it's security features to help aid in the reduction of cyber bullying and decrease the amount of self harm done due to online bullies.

All in all I have to disagree with the argument that technology is making our kids unhealthy.  I am sorry if I was a little blunt but we need to teach students (and sometimes parents) that each person is responsible for their actions.