Author Archives: Alyssa Johnson

That’s a Wrap! – Summary of Learning

Welcome to my Summary of Learning for my second grad studies course, EC&I 830 – Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology. This was my first Masters of Education tech course and I knew going into it that I had a big challenge ahead of me and a lot to learn!

However, the main purpose of taking my Masters in Education is to learn and grow. If I already had the acquired skill set in this area of teaching and technology, then it would therefore be irrelevant for me to complete the course.

Learning is growth, and growth leads to positive change within our classrooms and society. In life, we will continue to live and teach in a dominantly digital world. Therefore, it is vital as both educators and members of society, that we learn how to navigate the use of technology in a purposeful way.

A quote to signify the importance of professional growth: “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.” – John Dewey

As I continue to become further educated on the topic of education and technology, I look forward to developing and enhancing my pedagogy of technology in the classroom.

I want to send out a huge thank-you to you Katia, and all of my fellow classmates for a wonderful learning experience in EC&I 830. Wishing you all the best with your future endeavors of tech use and education!

The Great EdTech Debate Round Eight – Is online education detrimental to the social and academic development of children?

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The eighth and final debate topic of the semester, Online education is detrimental to the social and academic development of children. Congratulations to both the agree team of Britney, Kayla, and Colton as well as the disagree team of Arkin, Kat, and Chris on finishing the semester strong with a fantastic debate presentation! Although a newer topic to the list as Katia mentioned during class, it is very relevant due to the recent pandemic and the participation of online education for students at home.

Admittedly, I did vote agree for both the pre-vote and post-vote, although there was some confusion at the beginning of the debate as to if the debate topic was focused solely on remote learning during the pandemic or more so on general online education. However, with confirmation from Katia and the debate groups, it was explained that the topic focused on both. This therefore led into a great discussion amongst classmates, pertaining to both sides of the argument.

Online education is detrimental to the social and academic development of children. *Agree*

-Lack of Extra-Curricular Activities: Online education provides a minimal selection of extra-curricular activities. It is near impossible for students to take part in such activities through an online learning setting. Extra-curricular activities that are in-person and hands-on are much more authentic and meaningful for students. By taking part in extra-curricular activities, students have the opportunity to develop real-life, transferable skills such as teamwork, leadership, and sportsmanship. Therefore, the students that take part in online education are ultimately missing out on a lot of great opportunities to help better prepare them for a successful future.

-School and Stability: For many students, physical schools are a safe place that provides stability and security. This includes supports such as access to food, clothing, and counselling. Karen Brown, first vice-president with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario describes, “public schools provide students with equitable learning and support systems like counselors, peer engagement and lunch and breakfast programs.” During the pandemic, this was evident at Albert Community School located in North Central Regina, a school that I previously taught. The primary focus for educators during the pandemic was not providing online education, but rather delivering food and clothing hampers to students and their families, a true necessity.

-Play and Exploration: Play and exploration is a topic that I have become incredibly passionate about over the years as a Kindergarten teacher. As described in the Ministry of Education Play and Exploration: Early Learning Program Guide (2008/2021), “Quality early learning programs recognize children develop socially, emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually. When children have opportunities to grow holistically in well prepared environments, children build relationships with their peers, adults, families and communities” (9). Essentially, a well prepared environment that allows for authentic and meaningful socialization is non-existent through online education at home. Therefore, that is why it is imperative for our early learners to learn and grow through in-person learning.

Online education is detrimental to the social and academic development of children. *Disagree*

Men women writing connection
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-Mental Health and Online Education: For some students, they feel more comfortable learning in a home setting rather than in a physical school setting. More specifically, for those that struggle with anxiety, depression, mood disorders, bullying and grief or loss. Additionally, as online supports have become more commonly used throughout the pandemic, Abramson (2021) explains, “Online scheduling and remote appointments make it easier for students to access mental health resources, and some students even enjoy virtual appointments more, as they can attend therapy in their own spaces rather than showing up in the counselor’s office.” In other words, students have the option to access online education and virtual therapy in a setting that is most convenient and comfortable for them, which ultimately increases their mental health.

-Online Education and Pursuing Passions: My cousin who is an educator in British Columbia teaches in an online education program for high-school students that are constantly travelling for various reasons such as sports or performing. This program allows the students flexibility and accessibility to still pursue their passion, but at the same time also acquire their grade twelve diploma.

Final Thoughts

As we are beginning to slowly transition out of the pandemic, my admin leadership team recently shared with me that the Regina Public School Division is now transferring the majority of their online educators back to in-person learning in the classroom. Interestingly enough, not a lot of students and their families chose to continue with online learning after their experiences of online education during the pandemic. The reasons at this time for the most part are unknown, but one would assume that perhaps families made the decision based on the fact that in-person learning was more well suited for their child and for their family.

During the experiences of the pandemic and learning from home for students, this type of education of course was not optional, it was mandatory. As Rapke and Ippolito (2020) describe remote learning during the pandemic, “families [were] being asked to support students in ways that [were] unfamiliar and potentially overwhelming.” Many students and their families struggled with this type of learning for various reasons, but with time it ultimately confirmed that online education is not the best fit for all students. Rather, the majority of students are more well-suited for in-person learning.

There are specific circumstances and exceptions for students that do benefit from online education. Such as, students that travel at a young age due to performing, professional sports or those that may struggle with severe mental health issues. However, for students that are accessing online education, family support is crucial. Additionally, the student needs to have the adequate access to the tech resources required to complete their education to the best of their ability. If these requirements are attained, then for some students, online education can ultimately be successful.

Thanks for reading and stopping by!

The Great EdTech Debate Round Seven – Do educators and schools have a responsibility to help their students develop a digital footprint?

Digital footprints in virtual space concept.

This past week concluded our final debate topics, the first focus beginning with, Educators and schools have a responsibility to help their students develop a digital footprint. Congratulations to the agree team of Rae and Funmilola as well as the disagree team of Gertrude and Kim on a very well thought out and prepared debate presentation. Both of your opening statement videos were highly engaging and the facts and stats shared were incredibly informative. This ultimately led into an exciting class debate discussion, which consisted of several key questions and great dialogue.

Initially for the pre-vote, I voted agree as I was reading the debate statement from more of a digital citizenship perspective rather than a digital footprint perspective. However, once we joined our break-out rooms for further discussion after the opening statement videos, Colton made a fair point about the key difference between the two. As stated in the disagree team opening statement video, “A user can leave a digital footprint either actively or passively, but once shared a digital footprint is almost permanent in nature.” Additionally, Spada describes a digital footprint consisting of any information about you online via photos, posts, articles, videos, and comments. To further explain digital citizenship, the agree team video highlighted the nine elements of digital citizenship including:

  • Respect for Self and Others – Law, Access, Digital Etiquette
  • Educating Self and Others – Digital Literacy, Communication, Commerce
  • Protecting Self and Others – Security, Rights, Responsibilities

Even though there are several obvious differences between the two topics, in many regards there is a strong correlation between the two, as understanding digital citizenship ultimately leads to a positive digital footprint.

After the break out rooms and leading into the class debate discussion, my thought process quickly changed as I was able to read and understand the debate statement more clearly, which ultimately led me to vote disagree for the post-vote. I believe that for educators, taking on too much can become overwhelming, and at some point it is necessary for us to set professional boundaries for ourselves and to develop a shared responsibility with others that are more than capable to assist. Although there were many different perspectives shared about the digital footprint from both sides of the debate teams, I do appreciate that both the agree team and disagree team advocated for a shared responsibility on the matter, rather than placing the responsibility solely on the educator.

Educators and schools have a responsibility to help their students develop a digital footprint. *Agree*

-Family Education: It takes an entire community to help inform our children and youth on the important topic of digital footprints. Therefore, student families require support and education on this matter too, and educators have the ability to bridge that gap. Within the school, staff can provide digital citizenship workshops and inform the families on new and exciting technology initiatives that are taking place in the classrooms. As Kari suggested on her recent blog post, many schools are already hosting Literacy and Numeracy Family Nights, what about Digital Family Nights too?

-Classroom Digital Footprints: Within our classrooms, students are creating their own digital footprints right in front of us. This can be through sources such as their school email, RazKids accounts and Seesaw or Edsby acccess. One of the key components of Seesaw and Edsby is sharing student learning between home and school, which often consists of the student being in the picture or video themselves. Perhaps a different approach to this could be asking the student for permission to take their photo or video prior to uploading it online through one of the mentioned school platforms. Our students have a voice too, and ultimately it is their decision of whether they want their information to be shared online.

-Footprints Left Behind: Many of our students are not fully aware of the effects that their digital footprint have on their futures, such as employment. As McGuckin (2018) describes, “one area that [does not] get the attention it deserves is educating students on the digital footprints they leave behind. Footprints that can jeopardize their employment potential.” In connection to this statement, I do remember that when I was first beginning the hiring process as a young teacher, it was shared with me that I needed to be very cautious of what I was posting online, as it could ultimately jeopardize my career and acquiring a teaching position.

Educators and schools have a responsibility to help their students develop a digital footprint. *Disagree*

-Proactive Rather Than Reactive: The majority of students have already started to develop their digital footprint before entering school in the primary grades. Not to mention that their digital footprint is developed primarily outside of school hours. Through a national survey, Brisson-Boivin (2018) states that for children ages 0-4, “42% have their own smartphone and 38% have their own computer” (17). Therefore, it is vital that parents begin educating their children on this matter at an early age. Parental involvement and education is crucial. If this is not attained, educators will continually be trying to “catch-up” to inform their students on such an important matter. Essentially, as an entire community together, we need to be proactive rather than reactive.

“42% of children ages 0-4 have their own smartphone.”

Kara Brisson-Boivin

-School Media Release Forms: Several educators, myself included, have a large concern about the Regina Public School Division Media Release Form. With this uncertainty, of course leads to many questions:

  • What does this form all entail?
  • Are educators properly informed on this matter from the school division level to convey the correct information when explaining the form to students and their families if there are questions or concerns?
  • Are students and their families completely understanding what this form means when providing their signature?
  • Are there supports to help with immigrant families or families that are illiterate to better understand the matter?

For several responses to these questions, my immediate answer is NO. An important form such as this, for both educators, students, and families, requires more clear information and much better communication.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion to this debate topic, both personally and professionally, I am not sufficiently educated on this matter enough to teach my students about it independently. This is due to a lack of relevant resources and accessible professional development opportunities. Therefore, that is why I believe that it is important to approach the topic of teaching students to develop a positive digital footprint from more of a community-based approach. Ultimately, this allows for the responsibility to not be solely placed upon the educator, but rather to everyone involved.

Thanks for reading and stopping by!

The Great EdTech Debate Round Six – Should Cell Phones Be Banned in the Classroom?

Girl sitting on her desk while using her smartphone
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Another debate is now complete, which officially wraps up our sixth debate topic, Should Cell Phones Be Banned in the Classroom? A great effort put forth and job well done to the agree team of Echo, Lovepreet, and Amanpreet and also the disagree team of Bret, Reid and Leona. Both teams had a difficult challenge ahead of them, as this topic can be quite controversial within the educational sector. The teams presented a multitude of viewpoints and a lot of key information, which therefore led to an extensive debate discussion amongst the class to help us better understand the reasoning to both sides of the argument.

Cell phones should be banned in the classroom. *Agree*

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-Cell Phones Impact the Student Mind: The overuse of cell phones in the classroom can lead to long-lasting, negative effects on the student mind. Selwyn and Aagaard (2021) further describe this regarding an addiction to technology, the “digital distraction” and also the issue of cyberbullying (11-13). In the article, the authors argue that if cell phones are simply banned from the classroom, then essentially these mental health concerns will not arise for students. Furthermore, it was mentioned by the agree team that 20% of time in class is spent by students on their cellphones accessing apps such as email, social media, and texting. As Nulsen (2022) explains, “Even if set to silent, cell phones can still cause a distraction for students and educators, since text messaging has become a high-tech method of passing notes in school.” This results in students becoming very unfocused, falling behind in class and ultimately not achieving their learning goals or reaching their full potential.

-Cell Phones and Classroom Safety Concerns: There is a strong concern for the safety of students if they are using cell phones during a secure the building or lockdown drill in the school. If a student is using their cell phone during a secure the building drill, they could be sharing false information to their families and friends outside of the building, which could then result in extreme panic and escalating the situation even further outside of the school doors. Additionally, during a lockdown drill, you are instructed to turn off your classroom lights, close the blinds, lock the door(s) and have absolutely no noise to ensure the safety of those inside of the classroom, essentially presenting as if there is nobody inside the room. However, if students are trying to contact people outside of the school building on their cell phones, their phones are lighting up, incoming phone calls or text messages could create loud noise, which could ultimately lead the perpetrator right through that classroom door.

Cell phones should be banned in the classroom. *Disagree*

-Educators and Cell Phones: Teachers are required to use their cell phones in the classroom for important tasks and accessing information such as student medical purposes, completing attendance, submitting grades and for school safety emergencies. As educators, we have the ability to model and lead for our students the proper and professional use of cell phones. It is important to be mindful that our students are watching our every move, therefore it is critical that when at school, we use our cell phones in front of our students for strictly professional purposes.

-Cell Phones and Student Expectations: If a school or school division has made the decision to allow cell phones in the classroom, then it is imperative for both the classroom teachers and school administrators to set the expectations for the year on the very first day of school. A classroom cell phone contract could also be very beneficial in this instance as well, to not only communicate the expectations clearly with the students but also with the families at home. As mentioned during the class debate discussion, some educators have even implemented the use of cell phone pocket holders or cell phone hotels where student cell phones can be safely kept for the duration of the school day, unless otherwise being used for educational purposes in the classroom. This approach allows for educators to closely monitor the student use of cell phones throughout the school day. Furthermore, adaptability is essential when allowing cell phone use in the classroom. Ongoing and authentic conversations are needed between both the educator(s) and students to adjust the plan as needed.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, I believe that the primary reason for the controversy on this topic is the fact that there is so much inconsistency amongst schools and school divisions regarding cell phone protocol for students. It is essential for proper planning and implementation of student cellphone use at both the division and school level, a strong correlation between the two. This allows then for smoother transitions of cellphone expectations amongst grades and schools as well. If this goal can be achieved, then I do firmly believe that cellphones can be incorporated into the classroom for educational purposes. Initially I voted on the agree side of the topic, but this thought on proper school division cell phone protocol is ultimately what led me to side with the disagree team in the end.

As I currently teach in the primary grades, I have not had a lot of professional experience dealing with the challenges of cell phone use in the classroom. However, I have coached our female middle years school basketball team for several years now. At the beginning of every basketball season, I clearly state the expectations for my players, one of which is regarding the use of cell phones. Not only are these guidelines communicated to the players, but also to their families and my administration as well. The rule is simple, if I see any of the girls using their cell phone during a practice or a game, they will be benched and will not play. Of course, there are exceptions, such as at the end of a practice or game when they need to quickly call for a ride home. But the girls always have great communication with me during these instances to ensure that I am aware of the reason they are using their cell phone. Therefore, throughout both my personal and professional experiences of twelve years now as an educator, even though there will undoubtedly continue to be challenging moments, I am certain that with proper implementation and consistent expectations, cell phones should be allowed in the classroom.

Thanks for reading and stopping by!

The Great EdTech Debate Round Five! – Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

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Congratulations to both teams on another excellent debate, this week focusing on the statement of, Social Media is Ruining Childhood. Leading into this debate, I had my mind set to vote on the agree side of the topic with Fasiha, Gunpreesh and Dami. However, after the opening statement videos and throughout the debate discussion amongst my classmates, my perspective shifted to the disagree side of the topic with Jennifer, Shivali and Mike. Ultimately, the deciding factor for me was when Kelly mentioned more of a parental lens on the topic and questioning whether social media has more so ruined parenthood, rather than childhood. Even though my opinion on the topic was persuaded based on more of a discussion point during the debate, rather than the opening statement videos or shared readings, both teams still presented several valid points which eventually supported my final decision.

Social Media is Ruining Childhood *Agree*

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-Social Media and Childhood: The overuse of social media robs children of the opportunity to have an authentic and meaningful life. Before social media even existed, children spent their time playing outside and building sustainable connections with both family and friends. I am beyond grateful for the childhood that I had growing up when the use of technology was very much limited. Most of my time outside of school was spent playing sports, camping at Lake Diefenbaker, or running in the fields at the family farm in small town Saskatchewan. Our hands were always dirty, our hair constantly messy, but as kids, any moment that we could get outside and explore, we took it. Within these moments, we had the ability to be creative, use our imagination and not to mention that we were always on the move and active. The agree team concluded their opening video with the statement of, “Let kids be kids!” and this could not be anymore true for my siblings and I growing up.

-Dangers of Social Media: With the use of social media, cyberbullying is evident which can then lead to severe mental health issues for children such as depression, anxiety and sadly, even suicide. As a child, I was very lucky that I did not experience a lot of bullying growing up. However, I do remember one instance that I was the victim of bullying, particularly cyberbullying over MSN chat, which is a moment and a truly horrific feeling that I will never forget. I would assume that the words that were said to me that night perhaps would have never actually been said to my face. However, because this so called “friend” was able to hide behind a screen and a keyboard, this form of bullying was much more accessible to them. Matt Walsh also refers to a study completed by Facebook and Instagram which discovered how the use of social media by children, more specifically girls, results in them feeling lonely and struggling with body image issues and their self-esteem.

Social Media is Ruining Childhood *Disagree*

-Building Community for Marginalized Youth: As quoted by Mike in the disagree team opening statement video, “For underrepresented or marginalized youth, social media can be powerful for building community.” For children that are living in a community where they feel alone or rejected, social media provides them with a form of connection and the opportunity to join groups and build relationships with those that accept, understand, and welcome them. Additionally, as Sweet, LeBlanc, Stough and Sweany (2019) describe about those living with a disability, “Individuals with disabilities often encounter challenges in establishing social relationships and sustaining connections to their community” (2). The use of social media through apps such as Facebook allows for people living with a disability to connect with family and friends in a comfortable way, allowing for that sense of belonging and also “a way [for them] to overcome social and environmental barriers” (3).

-Social Media and Real-Life Comparisons: Presented in the disagree team opening statement video and also during the class debate discussion, there were two particular scenarios shared where the use of social media by children was compared to somewhat more relatable and real-life circumstances. The first comparison was about a child learning to swim, and the second was about a teenager learning to drive a car. For both instances, there is also a requirement for the child or teen to receive proper education, supervision, guidance, and support by an adult before eventually gaining more independence. As argued by the disagree team, the same approach should be used when a child is learning to navigate social media. As adults, we cannot assume that when we hand a child an iPad or cellphone for the first time that they are automatically going to have the acquired skill set to use it both purposely and properly. Therefore, as technology continues to rapidly advance, it is crucial for both parents and educators to continually monitor and educate children about the use of social media.

Final Thoughts

To conclude my thoughts on this debate topic, social media is not ruining childhood, but rather it is ruining parenthood. As technology continues to evolve, it becomes difficult for parents to stay informed on the latest apps and trends that their child may be accessing via social media. Therefore, it becomes challenging to locate the appropriate information and relevant training to allow parents to better educate not only themselves but also their children on the appropriate use of social media. Essentially, this is the importance of teaching children about digital citizenship from a parent’s perspective.

As Kimberly mentioned during the debate discussion, my concern for parents is that as information within this area of technology becomes too overwhelming or less accessible, will the responsibility of teaching children about digital citizenship regarding social media fall more so on the educator rather than the parent? Perhaps this is what I am already experiencing as an educator, as I frequently find myself having conversations with my students regarding the appropriateness of what they should or should not be watching on apps at home such as YouTube or also the video games they are playing. Often, what they tell me they are watching or playing at home is very concerning. Then again, is it my place to help influence that decision for my students, when what they are watching on YouTube or the video game they are playing at home is technically under their parents’ supervision and not mine? In the end, I simply am hopeful that the education and perspective that I can provide to my students in relation to this important topic, will therefore resonate with them enough to continue with them as they navigate the use of social media for the future.

The Great EdTech Debate – Round Four! Do educators have the responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice?

Anonymous social justice warriors with placards during manifestation on street
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With round four now complete of the Great EdTech Debate, that officially puts us at the halfway mark of our class debate topics! I want to first begin by congratulating both the agree team of Karen, Jenny and Jessica as well as the disagree team of Dalton and Brooke on a fantastic debate that consisted of key information, great dialogue and both creative and engaging opening statement videos.

When it comes to the use of social media and social justice matters, as an educator I question, do you necessarily need to use technology to post on social media or are there other means of connecting and making a change within your community? Ultimately, this question is what led me to side with the disagree team for this debate topic, as I do believe that there are other avenues available for us as educators to help make a change and stand for what you believe in, rather than just on social media. However, this does not at all disregard the very valid points and critical information that the agree team advocated for as well.

Educators have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice. *Agree*

-Student Voice: By teaching and promoting social justice in the classroom, it allows students the opportunity to discover themselves and gives them a voice and a sense of empowerment. As German (2020) highlights a social justice course that she developed, “There is power in student voice, and it isn’t a voice any teacher can give. We don’t give voices. We make space for them in our curricula and classrooms, or we don’t.” Furthermore, teaching social justice allows students to become critical thinkers and gives them the ability to form their own opinions based on the facts and information. As Jenny quoted in the opening statement video, “The curriculum and educators have a responsibility to teach students how to use technology and social media critically and as a tool for change.” By our students using technology and social media for social justice matters, it offers them a space where their opinion can be valued and heard.

“There is power in student voice, and it isn’t a voice any teacher can give.”

German 2020
Unrecognizable activists with black lives matter title on placard
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-Activism and Connection: With the use of social media and the focus of social justice, it has connected us globally in ways that we could have never imagined. Social justice movements rely heavily on the use of social media, such as the recent movements of #standwithukraine and #blacklivesmatter. Not only do social justice movements occur globally, but also locally right here in Regina. The Regina Public School Division uses social media through sources such as Twitter to promote social justice matters. More specifically for this month of June, they are promoting Pride Month and the school communities taking part in the Pride Parade. Essentially, activism builds connection.

Educators have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice. *Disagree*

-Lack of Support: Educators can be silenced with their own personal beliefs when they do not align with their students, student families, school community or school division. Belief systems in regards to social justice matters can also vary based on which communities you teach in, such as rural or urban communities. This can then lead to the concern of job security for many educators and also students or student families not wanting to be in a particular classroom with a specific teacher just because of their beliefs and what they publicly stand for. Within this profession, this then leads me to question whether our union such as the STF or RPSTA would support us with these matters? Additionally, there could be major repercussions for educators that support causes through social media such as The Trump Rally, The Freedom Rally or joining alongside the anti-vaxxers.

-Slacktivism: Are you posting about social justice matters but not actually carrying through with the change or supporting the cause? Reid and Sehl (2020) further describe the term slacktivism, “Without offline action, gestures like using a hashtag or posting a black square come across as performative, opportunistic, and lazy.” Also, as educators we need to keep in mind that once you post online, it is there for good and there is no going back. Therefore, if we do not take action on what we are sharing via social media, our words lose meaning and our students and school community potentially could lose trust in the teacher(s). Essentially, if you do not take action, then it is not social activism.

-Preserve Objectivity: As educators in the classroom, do we remain neutral on social justice matters to allow our students to make educated and informed opinions independently? It is evident that teachers have the ability to influence their students based on sharing their personal stance on social justice matters. Therefore, many would assume that students will choose to follow what the teacher believes, without knowing the facts and forming their own opinion. An approach shared in the Will (2020) article by Keith Mahoney, a grade six teacher in the U.S., “[Mahoney] refrains from sharing his political views online, because he doesn’t want his students to learn from them. He wants them to form their own opinions instead.” Therefore, perhaps a better approach in the classroom would be to provide students with the information they need to think more critically, and eventually developing their own opinion and stance on the matter rather than following their teachers.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion to this incredibly important, yet also somewhat controversial debate topic, admittedly I did vote disagree for both the pre and post vote. I still attribute social justice matters to be extremely important, but perhaps not so closely connected to our profession as educators. The moment you post on your personal social media for professional reasons such as teaching, it immediately becomes public and permanent. I also believe that the approach to social justice in the classroom can look very different depending on what age group you teach. And, because I teach Kindergarten which consists of four and five year olds, I take a very cautious approach when teaching social justice matters at their age. I also recognize that unfortunately, I could even receive backlash from my student families and the school community, as some might assume that these topics are sensitive and not age appropriate. I do however still incorporate topics such as family diversity, learning how to accept and value the differences amongst each other and that we are all special in our own way. Watson (2019) explains the importance of this teaching, “If we want kids to grow up to be kind, thoughtful, inclusive, and courageous, how can we possibly opt-out of our biggest opportunity to model that?” If I were teaching grade four and five as I did previously, I am certain that my approach to teaching social justice matters and my involvement on the topics via social media would look substantially different.

With much thought and reflection from this debate topic, I still find myself searching for the right answer to the following question that was shared during the debate discussion, “What is our professional responsibility as educators when it comes to social justice matters, social media, and our students?” Then again, perhaps there is no one right answer to this question, as there is also no one right way to teach.

Thanks for reading and stopping by!

The Great Ed-Tech Debate – Round Three! Should schools continue to teach skills that can be easily carried out by technology?

Photo of cursive letters on a paper
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There was a lot of build-up and much anticipation leading up to round three of The Great EdTech Debate as this was my groups debate topic. Should schools continue to teach skills that can be easily carried out by technology such as cursive writing, multiplication tables and spelling? I want to first congratulate Sushmeet and Leah on a hard-fought effort. You were tough opponents to go up against and really put us to the test. Your knowledge, preparation, and commitment to the agree side of this topic is truly admirable and overall, a job well done! I also want to send out a huge thank-you to my group members on the disagree side, Kelly and Durston! Such a fun group to work with that are not only incredibly knowledgeable in the tech world, but also were very passionate and supportive about our debate topic. Way to go team!

The agree team concluded their opening statement video with the question of, “Can we live without technology?” My answer to this question is “No.” However, as educators I believe that we need to be mindful of how we are incorporating technology into our classroom and ensuring that we are not creating an environment where we become too dependent on it. Therefore, I continue to advocate for skills such as cursive writing, multiplication tables, and spelling to still be taught in the classroom without the use of technology. These skills are critical for our students to acquire for them to become successful members of society.

Schools should no longer teach skills that can be easily carried out by technology (e.g., cursive writing, multiplication tables, spelling). *Agree*

Technology and Creativity: Integrating technology in the classroom promotes student creativity, better engagement, and higher-level thinking. At the start of my grade seven year, I attended a brand-new elementary school that had just been built in the east end of Regina. This was in the year 2000, and at the time, this particular school offered a wide range of new and innovative technology that we as middle years students were able to use for more purposeful learning in the classroom. We had pods of iMac computer labs right outside of our classroom doors for researching information and making iMovie presentations. In addition to this, we also had access to brand-new cameras for taking pictures and documenting our learning. Within this time, we had a lot to learn with the use of this new technology, but it provided us with the opportunity to take part in new and exciting learning experiences.

Technology and Pedagogy: Incorporating technology into your classroom just for the sake of saying you have essentially “checked off that box” as an educator, is simply not enough. When it comes to technology, it is crucial as an educator to have a well-developed and purposeful pedagogy. For students in the classroom to experience the direct benefits that technology has to offer, it is the responsibility of the educator to become better informed on this practice. As Mason, Shaw and Zhang (2019) describe, “For educators, engaging with technological innovation requires a willingness to explore both the benefits and dangers and to do that is also necessary to recognise the trends as they are emerging.” Essentially, as technology continues to advance, then as educators, so should our pedagogy.

Schools should no longer teach skills that can be easily carried out by technology (e.g., cursive writing, multiplication tables, spelling). *Disagree*

Development of Fine Motor Skills: Cursive writing helps to develop fine motor skills and better hand-eye coordination for students. During my first-year teaching twelve years ago, I taught a grade four and five split class where I taught cursive writing once a week. Even though I have taught Kindergarten for several years now since then, if I were to go back to teach this same grade again, I would still choose to teach cursive writing. Now that I have taught at the Kindergarten primary level, I have come to realize just how important the development of fine motor skills are for our students. If we as educators do not provide students with the opportunity to put pencil to paper, but rather fingertips to keyboard, they will not be able to develop these essential life skills. Upon arrival, are you often required to fill out paper-work when entering an important or urgent medical appointment? If you answered “Yes” to this question, then point proven, the development of fine motor skills and cursive writing are essential!

Close up photo of person writing on paper beside calculator
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels

Use of Calculators: With students using calculators in the classroom, it is diminishing their ability to develop critical thinking skills. For students to perform higher-level thinking and to develop stronger problem-solving skills, basic math facts are essential. Once again to reference to my experience with teaching grade four and five, at the beginning of each math class I always had my students work on the basic math facts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division; calculators were not used in my math class. If students did not have these foundational math skills, they were unable to complete the higher-level thinking of math computations and problems. Ultimately, for the students that did not have these foundational math skills, with time, they only continued to fall more behind.

Digital Divide: From a recent study done by Stats Canada, it has been found that 6% of people in Canada do not have internet access in their home. Reasons for this includes the cost of Internet services at 28%, cost of equipment at 19% and the unavailability of Internet services at 8%. These stats directly connect to the digital divide and the inequity gap that so many of our students, student families and communities still experience today. If we do not teach our students the important skills of cursive writing, multiplication tables and spelling, and assume technology to carry out these critical skills instead, not only will the digital divide continue to grow, but the futures for our students will become incredibly uncertain and unequitable.

Final Thoughts

The Regina Public School Division that I teach for, is currently experiencing a system wide cyber attack which has forced our schools to go completely offline. Students that often use laptops to record notes in class are now using pen and paper to copy off the board. As teachers, we do not have access to print our resources, not to mention that we no longer have any connection to Wi-Fi. Teachers are scrambling and students are frustrated, with no timeline shared at this point of when things will be back up and running again. It begs the question, for both educators and students, have we now become too dependent with the use of technology in the classroom?

To conclude my thoughts on this debate topic, I do want to clarify that even though our group was on the disagree side for the use of technology to carry out skills in the classroom such as cursive writing, multiplication tables and spelling, we do firmly believe that with informed and relevant pedagogy, technology should still be integrated into the classroom; just not within these specific skill-based areas. As educators it is important to remember that technology is a tool for our students, not a teacher.

Thanks for reading and stopping by!

The Great EdTech Debate – Round Two! Has Technology Led to A More Equitable Society?

Open the whole world for yourself

A fantastic effort put forth by both debate teams on a very controversial topic today in education, has technology led to a more equitable society? Even though I already had my mind set coming into the debate on the disagree side, therefore siding with Christina, Amaya and Matthew. It goes without saying that the agree team of Tracy, Nicole W., and Stephen still made several valid points to argue their side as well.

Technology has led to a more equitable society. *Agree*

Enhanced Supports: With the advancement of technology, there are now better supports for those living with a disability such as wheelchairs, hearing aids and assistive computer software. Over the course of my time teaching Kindergarten, I have had a few students in my class that have been diagnosed with a hearing impairment and therefore use hearing aids. In addition to this, I was also then provided with an FM system to use while I was teaching. This allowed for these particular students to be able to hear me more clearly as well. Without this assistive technology, the inclusion in the classroom would not have been possible for these students and most likely they would have been placed in a specialized program elsewhere.

Global Education and Flexibility: Technology has increased access to education globally where students across the world have much better access to the education that they so desire; education and learning is no longer location dependent. Additionally, when accessing education through technology rather than in person, it often allows the student the opportunity to learn at their own pace or take part in more of a hybrid model learning experience. Even though my students were still central to Saskatchewan during the pandemic of online learning at home, it allowed the students and their families to access the remote learning program at a time that was most convenient for them. A lot of my student families were still working full time during the day, but with the flexibility that remote learning provided, they were then able to support their child’s learning program in the evenings or on weekends. The feedback I gathered from families during this time was that they really appreciated the flexibility of the online learning program and that they were able to organize school learning around their home life schedule rather than what it was before, which of course was organizing their home life schedule around school learning.

Technology Supports the Workplace: Kymberly in her Ted Talk shares an inspiring story about a man named John who is in a wheelchair, is non-verbal and uses a communication device that is connected to his wheelchair. He is a greeter at the front entryway of a store and Kymberly describes that John has the most fantastic smile. To greet the customers at the store, John simply presses a button on his communication device which then says, “Hello my name is John, welcome to Panera!” John loves his job and with time, he helps to increase sales at the store for the one afternoon that he works there a week, he truly is making a difference and feels that sense of belonging. This would not be possible for John without the use of his supportive tech devices. As Kymberly quotes, “technology helps level the playing field.”

Technology has led to a more equitable society. *Disagree*

Inequity Gap: Access to technology and the internet for many people is a real issue and this was a harsh reality that families faced during remote learning at home during the pandemic. While more prominent schools, middle to upper class communities were concerned about how to navigate online learning from home, so many other communities were dealing with the concerns of how they were going to find food that day for their families. I used to teach Kindergarten in the North Central community of Regina, and our school was a huge provider of food and clothing for our students and their families. When schools closed down during the pandemic, the staff at the schools in the North Central community were not solely focused on developing online learning activities for their students at home. Rather, they knew they needed to put together clothing and food hampers to deliver to the students and their families, because this is what they needed in that moment of time more than anything. No matter how much technology continues to advance with time, low socioeconomic students and their families will continue to not have access to technology resources or the internet. As stated above, they have bigger things to worry about. Therefore, the inequity gap, the digital divide, unfortunately will only continue to widen, and in the end leaving so many behind.

An apple on a dry cracked desert soil. Water shortage, food insecurity, crisis, hunger and agriculture concept.

Access to Technology and the Internet: One of the data comparisons stated in the disagree groups debate video was that 43.2% of people in Africa have internet access and that 93.9% of people in North America have internet access. What is so alarming about this, is the fact that Africa makes up 17.6% of the worlds population and North America only makes up for 4.7% of the worlds population. How are people that are living in these third world countries such as Africa supposed to benefit from online global education when they do not even have access to the internet?

Lack of Funding: Schools lack the funding to provide an equal amount of devices to all students. For example, I have two separate Kindergarten classes, one class with seventeen students and the other with fifteen students, a total of thirty-two students plus one teacher and one educational assistant. For our entire Kindergarten class, we have been provided with two iPads, therefore forcing both the educators and students to share the devices. As an educator, this has prevented me from being able to incorporate technology into my classroom more, simply because we have such little access to these essential resources. Additionally, this school year I have a non-verbal student that requires an iPad to communicate through our school Speech and Language Program. However, because there is such a shortage of funding in this area, my student was only able to use the iPad for one month in the classroom before it had to be sent off to another school for another student to use. When I inquired about ordering an iPad that we could keep at the school to support this particular student, I was told that it would take close to one year to acquire.

Final Thoughts

As educators, we can no longer ignore the digital divide that consists of the access to technology and the internet, especially through the experiences of the pandemic and remote learning from home. As Weeden and Kelly (2021) describe, “Ensuring everyone has access to high-quality, affordable, high-speed broadband internet is a matter of equity.” Within communities that do not have the same access to technology and the internet, such as North Central Regina where I previously taught, these communities will continue “to be limited by a lack of education,” (Weeden & Kelly, 2021). Until significant changes are made both locally and globally, we will continue to live within a society where technology does not equal equity.

Thanks for reading and stopping by!

The Great EdTech Debate – Round One!

Round one of The Great EdTech Debate is now complete! Congratulations to both groups for a remarkable job on defending your arguments of why technology does or does not enhance learning in the classroom. Admittingly, for both the pre-vote and the post-vote I voted on the disagree side simply because I feel that a lot of educators struggle with finding their purpose on how to use technology in their classroom; to enhance their students learning. Perhaps this is because there is a lack of professional development or training for educators on this topic, but I do firmly believe that pedagogy strongly lacks in this area.

Often, I see YouTube videos put up on the screen for students to watch during snack or lunch time. Wouldn’t it be much more beneficial for students to orally communicate with one another during this time instead? This helps to enhance their language development skills and social skills, which is especially crucial at the primary level, but rather students are forced to sit quietly and stare at a screen while they eat.

I also frequently observe the students that display challenging behaviors in the classroom, then placed in front of a tablet screen to play games on an iPad. Is the student behavior problem solved? I would think not. Again, I state, that perhaps there is also a lack of professional training in the area of classroom management; a strong correlation between the two, purposeful use of technology and effective classroom management.

Nonetheless, there were several strong arguments and points made between the two debate groups on this important topic, many of which resonated with me both personally and professionally.

Woman in pink crew neck t shirt holding tablet computer
Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels

Technology in the classroom enhances learning. *Agree*

-Home and School Connection: Technology used between both home and school allows for better home and school connections through the use of programs such as Seesaw or Edsby. Recently this year, the Regina Public School Division that I teach for transferred over to using the new program of Edsby. One of its main features allows for both educators and students to post photo/video content of student learning in the classroom to share at home. Families at home are then notified when a posting has been shared where they can like, comment, or save the content to their own device.

Efficiency: Technology makes teacher planning and prep much faster and easier. This includes the use of photocopiers, access to Wi-Fi and the technology that we as educators are provided with, within our school divisions, such as personal laptops, iPads and mounted data projectors. Also, being a primary school educator, Teachers Pay Teachers is one of my favorite quick and easy online resources to access!

Assistive Technology: Technology assists and supports students with their learning that have special needs. Inclusion is crucial in our classrooms and technology provides the opportunity to include all student abilities. Teaching Kindergarten over the years, I have had several students that are non-verbal in my classroom. To support them with their communication and learning, we use the program Proloquo2Go on an iPad, which essentially provides a voice for the student and allows them to still take part in all aspects of learning in the classroom.

Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL): TEL includes the advancement of digital educational software, more specifically, education apps. In my Kindergarten classroom, I have a range of different learning centers that the student’s access during play time. One of the centers is an iPad center where the students use the Starfall learning app which focuses on activities of both literacy and numeracy. This is by far one of the student’s favorite centers as it is hands-on, engaging, motivating and most of all fun!

Technology in the classroom enhances learning. *Disagree*

Distractions: Technology can be a distraction for students, and many can no longer sit and focus on learning in the classroom for long periods of time. Personally, I am finding that more students are struggling with focus and body regulation when sitting and listening to the teacher. I am now often requesting from our school Learning Resource Teacher for more supportive materials for my Kindergarten students such as rocking chairs, weighted lap pads and hand fidgets. I do believe that the use of too much technology for students has been the result of the focus and body regulation difficulties that we are now seeing in the classroom.

Dependability: Technology is not always dependable, often devices break down or the internet is not working when you are trying to carry out a lesson in your teaching. Recently this year, our school has been experiencing a lot of Wi-Fi issues, so I often have had to hotspot off of my personal cellphone to access the internet on my laptop to still complete my planning, preparation and teaching.

Connections: There is no longer real, authentic, and meaningful connections being established face-to-face for students, rather the majority of “connection” is carried out through technology and a screen. From more of a personal perspective, I often find it so disheartening when I see people sitting at a table together at a restaurant and no one is talking, they are all glued to their phones. Is this the future of connections? If so, I find that to be very concerning.

Mental Health Concerns: The use of technology has led to severe mental health issues like depression, anxiety and sadly, even suicide. Forms of this can be through cyberbullying and also one’s perception of themselves through social media. Student mental health is rapidly declining, and a large part of that is due to the negative effects of technology. Yet, our schools lack the funding to provide the essential mental health supports that are needed in the classroom to help our students with this, such as school counsellors and professional training for educators.

Child showing a message written in a notebook
Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels

Final Thoughts

Even though I did vote on the disagree side for this debate topic, I realize that I most definitely could not effectively teach today without the use of technology in the classroom; yes, technology enhances student learning in the classroom. Therefore, the challenge for us as educators and the use of technology going forward is then finding our purpose, developing our pedagogy, perfecting our practice, and ultimately finding that balance.

Thanks for reading and stopping by!

Personal and Professional Technology

Over the years it is truly remarkable to see just how much technology has evolved and changed. It might be the old soul in me, but I often find myself remarking that I wish things just used to be the way that they were, in more simple of times before technology really advanced to the extent that it now has. However, as I take time to really reflect for this blog post and how much I use technology daily, it has brought me to truly realize of just how lucky we are to have the technology we have today and the many benefits that it provides.

Personal Tech

Everyday I begin with waking up to an alarm on my iPhone, except on the weekends of course when I try to sleep in a bit! During the week, my days are very busy with teaching, so I do not have the opportunity much to connect on my iPhone throughout the day. However, in the evening I enjoy some down time on my phone where I scroll through my favorite apps which are Instagram, Twitter, Facebook/Messenger, Snapchat and of course as I am in the midst of wedding planning, Pinterest! I also enjoy relaxing evenings at home enjoying Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime and our local cable television. I am a huge music lover, so my Apple Music playlists are a must when I head to the gym or go outside for run. I am lucky enough to now have an Apple Watch and the Apple AirPods that make accessing music while exercising an absolute breeze.

I am very much a people person, so I prefer connecting with people face-to-face rather than over a screen. But, as we all know of how busy life gets, sometimes connecting through technology is your only option. To do this, I use the features on my iPhone of call, text, Facetime and using my iPhone camera and video to share memories with family and friends as well. However, when I am using technology for personal reasons, I am very mindful of being present in the moment and taking everything in. Sometimes you just have to put down the screen and take everything in for what it is worth. Perhaps I will regret this at a later time in my life, as I will not have as many photos or videos of memories that others may have. But, connecting with people in person rather than over a screen if possible, is very important to me.  

Professional Tech

In my first year of teaching twelve years ago, we were completing attendance on paper to submit to the school office. Now we submit attendance to the school office through a program on our school laptop called Edsby. Just through this one comparison, it really shows how much technology within our schools has grown and evolved in a relatively short time.

Through Edsby, this is also our main source for home/school communication, documenting of grades, completion of report cards and recording student observations. As the classroom teacher, I use the Edsby Capture app to record photos and videos of student learning at school to then share with student families at home. It is such a great way to connect home with school, student families can even like, comment or save the photos or videos. One of the challenges that I do experience with teaching Kindergarten and using the Edsby capture app, is that it is more teacher directed rather than student directed. It is my professional goal that in the future I become more comfortable with allowing my students the opportunity to take lead in capturing their own learning at school rather than me doing it for them. With the Edsby Capture app, students and their families can also capture learning at home with a photo or video to then share with their teachers back at school!

I have a mounted data projector in my classroom which I use daily for a variety of subject areas. For the students, I will often access and display videos such as Cosmic Kids Yoga for some relaxation, Go Noodle for fun exercise or Art for Kids Hub for awesome guided drawing lessons.

Shallow focus photography of macbook
Photo by Nao Triponez on Pexels

Some other tech sources that I use professionally when at school are:

I feel that one of the greatest benefits of using technology within our schools is that it allows us as educators to connect more purposefully with student families at home. Home and school connection is crucial. However, with that said, it is also important to be mindful of students and their families that perhaps do not have access to technology or the internet. This brings me to my final question for my fellow educators:

Do you rely solely on tech sources to communicate with student families? Or, do you use a varied approach of both tech and traditional paper methods sent home?

Thanks for reading and stopping by!