Author Archives: Amanda Brace

Stop Multitasking and Quit Typing: Some Thoughts on Productivity

Productivity.

It’s a loaded word. It means different things to different people. I have always thought of productivity as having the motivation and the efficiency to get tasks done effectively and quickly. However, as I thought more about what productivity means to me and what it means to our society, my perspective started to shift.

In a video called “Single-Tasking is the New Multitasking”, James Hamblin says, “if you asked me the last time I did a thing and just did it and wasn’t also trying to do something else… I wouldn’t be able to tell you.”

These words resonated with me on a whole new level. I want you to ask yourself a similar question…

When was the last time you solely focused on one task?

The older and busier I get, the harder it is for me to focus on one task at a time. This is especially true when I use technology. I started using technology for productivity. I still use it for that very reason, but I wonder if my ability to multi-task with technology actually slows me down and hinders my productivity. Sometimes I find myself using technology tools like Google Docs and Google Slides for the purpose of productivity, but when I am using all of these technology tools at once, it can actually slow me down. The idea of multitasking and pursuing productivity is not only apparent when I use technology, but also in my personal life.

I have always been a multitasker. I like to do multiple things in a short amount of time. I am constantly busy, I have a hard time slowing down, and I have difficulty saying no. I have always thought those were good qualities to have. There is actually a big difference between being busy and being productive, as you can see in the sketch note by John Spencer. As time goes on, I realize that my ability to multitask can actually take away the quality of the task and the completion of the activity.

In March, I ruptured my Achilles tendon. If you need something to slow you down and stop you in your tracks, this is it. Before the injury happened, I remember thinking to myself that I need to slow down because I had too much on my plate. Lo and behold, the injury happened. I had to stop everything. Teaching, extracurricular activities, and my social life all came to a halt. Quickly after I was injured, the pandemic hit, which meant everything else shut down around me too. I was forced to slow down in a way that I’ve never done before. Through that experience, I was able to do one task at a time, at my own pace. No more multitasking needed! I was happier, healthier, and had more energy and motivation in life.

Now that I am back to teaching and taking another class, I am quickly finding that my old habits of multi-tasking and moving at a busy pace are back. I thought the lessons that I learned during my time of slowing down would stick with me today. Unfortunately, I am finding myself at that same point before I got injured, and that’s on the path to burn out.

The idea of productivity and multitasking has been on my mind a lot this week. With assignments due, deadlines coming up, and priorities and commitments in my personal life, I have been busier than ever. I haven’t been slowing down or resting, which has actually hindered my productivity. I am less alert, more tired, and very overwhelmed. This brings me back to the idea of what it means to be productive. I’m realizing that a lot of the expectations that we have for ourselves and others are not sustainable or healthy. Productivity should mean achieving our goals and getting tasks done in ways that allow us to be our best selves. The idea of multitasking is impossible, and our expectations of productivity need to change.

I recently listened to a podcast by Hope and Wade King called, “The New Edu”. They talked all about productivity and completing tasks. One of the ideas they suggest is starting your morning in a way that benefits you. They talk about how introverts and extroverts gain energy in different ways, and if we start our day in a way that suits our personality, it can set us up for success. They also suggest that we “Eat the Frog” by getting the big tasks done first. When we accomplish the most intimidating and time-consuming tasks early on in the day, then we feel less overwhelmed for the remaining tasks. It helps to know that conversations surrounding health and productivity are happening with other educators. Sometimes we all need a reminder to slow down in order to pursue true productivity.

Emily Bonnie, suggests “44 Productivity Hacks to Turn Procrastination Into Action” that fall under four categories: Focus, Save Time, Prioritize, and Get Motivated. Here are some of her suggestions that I want to put into action:

  1. Write distractions down.
  2. Delegate whenever possible.
  3. Pick 3 “Most Important” tasks to complete.
  4. Break big tasks into bite-sized pieces.
  5. Stop multitasking.

As you can see, there are many ways for us to boost our productivity without multitasking and adding more to our plate. There are many ways for us to slow down, yet stay productive. I want to make it a priority to stay productive without burning out.

In Emily Bonnie’s list of 44 Productivity Hacks, she also says Quit Typing and “try speech dictation software to get your thoughts down faster”. So that’s exactly what I did this week. I wrote this entire blog post with the speech to text feature on my phone. Productivity at it’s finest!

Moving forward, I want to follow in the footsteps of Emily Bonnie. I want to find new ways to stay productive, yet healthy and happy. So, who’s with me? Let’s remember to Stop Multitasking and Quit Typing.

-Amanda

What We Can Still Learn From Sesame Street

“…We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street.” Which is to say, we now know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.” – Neil Postman (1985)

When I think back to my own schooling experience, I remember moments of engagement, moments of excitement, and moments of disinterest. The years that I remember the most always had to do with the teacher and the type of learning that was taking place. It also had to do with the amount of ownership and participation that I was involved in. The lessons that impacted me were rarely done through traditional schooling methods, like taking notes or reading textbooks. Instead, I was moved by real-world lessons and assignments that gave us the opportunity to look beyond ourselves.

When I think about my own schooling expereince, it brings me to this quote by Neil Postman (1985) when he says “…We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street.” Which is to say, we now know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.” I grew up craving non-traditional learning experiences, similar to the type of learning that Sesame Street presents. Why is Sesame Street seen as a different learning experience? Well, first of all, they were always ahead of their time… pushing the boundaries so that each child felt seen and heard. They also moved beyond the idea of “traditional schooling” because their content was delivered through a unique approach… through television and AV technology.

AV Technology in Education

AV technology is “electronic media possessing both a sound and a visual component”, such as movies, television, and projectors. It has been around for quite some time, as you can see in the “Then VS Now” infographic. AV technology has especially been utilized in education, which has changed the traditional model of teaching. Ever since AV technology has been incorporated into education, there has been a shift in the way learning has been facilitated. Educational Technology has changed the way “schooling” happens. Tablets, computers, and interactive whiteboards have all played an important role in education over the last decade. However, the traditional ways of schooling are still the norm in many classrooms, but is it the most effective?

The idea of using Educational Technology in teaching, specifically AV technology, reminds me of my experience in a P3 school. I first applied to work in one of these schools because of the open-concept classrooms, the push for collaboration, and the opportunities for 21st-century learning. The interactive projectors, audio tools, and captivating technology had also motivated me to apply. During my experience in this type of learning environment, I pushed myself to use technology in new ways so that my students were further engaged and excited to take ownership of their learning. I wanted to emulate the type of teacher that I remembered and respected in my own schooling journey. However, if I didn’t have that passion or drive to integrate the technology tools in creative and authentic ways in my classroom, then the learning would have fallen flat. As educators, if we don’t lead our learning with purpose or meaning, then the technology is useless. Dean brings up this point in his post when he says, “it’s not about the technology, it is about the learner experience and technology should be a tool not an ends to a means.” 

The lessons that I remember from school growing up impacted me because they were meaningful and were facilitated in authentic ways. Educators need to facilitate learning that is meaningful. It doesn’t always matter what mode we use to get there, but we need to give students the opportunity to think deeper and learn in new ways, just like Sesame Street does.

Moving Forward with Meaning

It is evident that Sesame Street is seen as a different learning experience that “undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents”, but is that a bad thing? It’s not seen as a different way of schooling just because the program is delivered through television. It undermines the traditional way of schooling because it goes beyond the standard subjects of reading and writing. It represents something bigger.

NPR says that “…Sesame Street has proven for 40 years, sometimes a show is more than just a show.” It’s a platform to reach kids in a tangible way. A show that isn’t afraid to bring up controversial topics and big ideas, which isn’t always the case in the classroom.

If you explore the Sesame Street website, they have a list of “Tool Kits” to help kids understand difficult subjects. The show has a “history of explaining the world to children” in hopes of bringing up topics such as divorce, substance abuse, and grief. In their newest season, they are airing an episode called “The Power of We” to discuss racism. They are tackling real-world issues head-on so that families and children can be a part of these conversations together.

Was Postman right in saying that Sesame Street differs from what the traditional idea of schooling represents? Yes. However, I choose to look at that in a positive way. I think we can all learn a thing or two from Sesame Street and move forward with education in a non-traditional way.

-Amanda

My Take on Chrome Extensions

What’s your choice of browser?

Maybe it’s Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge, or maybe even…. dare I say it… Internet Explorer? When it comes to a web browser, everyone has their personal preference. My personal choice of browser? Google Chrome.

Steve Johns says that Chrome “allows its users to customize and control their user experience to a degree most other browsers don’t.” One of the other benefits of using Google Chrome is accessing the Chrome Extensions. If you are a Google Chrome user, you have probably had your fair share of using the extensions. Extensions are applications that can be added to your personal Chrome browser to increase accessibility and performance. In order to download a Chrome Extension, you need to:

1. Open up your Chrome browser.
2. Go to the Chrome Extension Store.


3. Search for the extension you want to add to your browser.
4. Click “Add to Chrome”.

5. Read and approve the security settings.
6. Access the extension in the browser toolbar after it’s downloaded.

There are endless amounts of Chrome Extensions to choose from to serve whatever purpose you need. For example, in order to add the photos that I used in the instructions above, I used the Chrome Extension called Lightshot– a screenshot tool. It allows you to screenshot the selected area and save to it to your computer and social networks. It also has a drawing and shape tool to add to your picture before you save it.

Along with Lightshot, there are many other extensions that are useful for educators and students. Here are some extensions that I have enjoyed using during my time of online teaching:

Screencastify:
A video screen recorder

Features:

  • It can capture a screen recording of a single tab or your whole screen.
  • You can show your face with the embedded camera, or you can simply narrate with your microphone.
  • It has a drawing tool and a highlighter when the mouse is clicked.
  • It automatically saves to your Google Drive, but it can also be easily downloaded.

Setbacks:

  • The free version only saves a 5 minute video.
  • The video can only be trimmed from the beginning or end. As soon as you want to add more editing to the video, you need to purchase the paid version.
Bitmoji app icon | Bitmoji app, App, Emoji

Bitmoji:
An extension that connects to your Bitmoji character… because who doesn’t love using them in every lesson possible.

Features:

  • You can easily insert your Bitmoji into Google Docs and Slides.
  • Conveniently search for a specific theme or picture to insert into your document.
  • You can simply copy and paste your Bitmoji so that you can easily transfer it.

Setbacks:

Google Meet Grid View:
It shows every participant with video in your Google Meet in grid-like squares.

Features:

  • Once the extension is downloaded, it automatically shows up in your Google Meet settings.
  • The extension says that it “does not track any user data”, something that is rare for a Chrome Extension.

Setbacks:

  • Honestly… it’s a very glitchy extension. There were times that the extension would stop working and I would have to re-install it. However, it’s difficult to host successful Google Meets without it!
  • The Chrome store has multiple extensions called Grid View, so make sure you download the correct one.

New Chrome Extensions

Math in GSuite with EquatIO and EquatIO mathspace – EdTech Awesomeness
EdTech Awesomeness

I wanted to try out a few new extensions to add to my repertoire. Recently, someone told me about the digital math extension called Equatio. I’ve had a lot of fun playing around with it and can see how it benefits educators and students! Have you ever tried to write a math equation on a Google Doc or Form? It’s not fun! This extension allows you to add complex math symbols into your Google documents seamlessly. You can add your math equations into the “Equation Editor” and even create symbols to add to your documents, as seen in the video below (that I created using Screencastify). This numeracy extension is incredibly convenient to have for teaching and creating math lessons!

Another Chrome Extension that I tried out is called Noisli. I was interested in this extension because it can help with productivity for educators and students. Ever since I started teaching online, I have difficulty remembering to take breaks during the day because I get so focused on the task at hand. With this extension, you can set a timer for yourself and break up your work day. The extension creates nature background “noise” for a calming work environment. The downfall with this extension is that there are limited sounds with the free version. If nature noises help you focus, then the paid Noisli extension might be worth it!

Is It Worth the Risk?

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When all is said and done, are Chrome Extensions worth the security risk? That’s something that I ask myself quite often. Every time you download an extension, you have to “agree” to the Terms and Conditions… and sometimes those conditions have to do with tracking your personal data. There are risks to weigh when it comes to using online applications, downloading plug ins and extensions, and browsing on the web. It’s crucial that we focus on not only protecting our own privacy and data, but our students privacy and data as well. Curtis brought up the importance of “getting our students to consent to where their data is going” so that they understand how their information is being used online.

So what now? Should we continue to download Chrome Extensions? In my opinion, yes.

As educators, it’s important that we recognize how much education has changed. Students are primarily online, which means that we need to meet them where they are at. We have the opportunity to make our online teaching experience easier, and make their learning experience more accessible and enjoyable. Chrome Extensions are a great way to engage students and accommodate learning needs. However, instead of downloading every Chrome Extension we come across, let’s remember to read up on the Privacy Policy first so that we know how our data is being stored and used. And let’s continue to make security a priority as we manage this digital world.

-Amanda

A Look into Learning Theories

Learning is something that sustains our society and drives our world. It is integrated into every facet of our lives. Are you curious how to bake bread? Are you interested in becoming a skilled guitar player? Do you want to know how to solve an intricate math problem? You can learn it! You can learn through storytelling, reading books, researching online, or through experience.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

The list is endless.

If you’re like me, however, you are probably unaware of the theories that are behind this driving force of learning. Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism… these are all learning theories that have been established over time. Little did I know, these theories (and more) have been interwoven in my teaching practices throughout the past seven years. Paul Stevens-Fulbrook does a great job of breaking down the meaning of each theory in regards to education.

Behaviorism:

“Behaviourism is based on the idea that knowledge is independent and on the exterior of the learner. In a behaviourist’s mind, the learner is a blank slate that should be provided with the information to be learnt.”

This theory is about repeating certain actions and then receiving a reward or consequence based on that action.

Cognitivism:

“Cognitivism focuses on the idea that students process information they receive rather than just responding to a stimulus.”

This theory allows the student to reorganize information with their past knowledge, process it, and then apply it to their own world. In the article, “Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features From an Instructional Design Perspective”, Peggy A. Ertmer and Timothy J. Newby state that “when a learner understands how to apply knowledge in different contexts, then transfer has occurred.”

Constructivism

“Constructivism is based on the premise that we construct learning new ideas based on our own prior knowledge and experiences. Learning, therefore, is unique to the individual learner. “

The theory of constructivism is not about facts or memorization, but instead, it allows the learner to gain knowledge based on interactions and experiences.

Theories in my Teaching

All three of these theories have showed up in my classroom in various ways. They have even played a part in my pedagogy, and some currently still do.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I am intentional about cultivating deep discussions with my students, using real-world examples in my lessons, and encouraging problem solving in learning… which all resonate with cognitivism. I have facilitated inquiry based learning, group collaboration, and research projects in my grade 3 classroom… which all fall under the theory of constructivism. However, the theory that I connect with the least is behaviorism.

When I first started teaching, I didn’t understand the negative connotations that this “action and reward” theory can have in education. I am guilty of using it in the past for different activities in my classroom, such as classroom incentives, student behaviour charts, and positive feedback or reward for good behaviour. I now realize that when the theory of behaviorism is used in this way, it has the potential to cause shame and guilt within our students. Like I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, specifically about Class Dojo, it “can create a negative label for students at a young age and wrongfully gives teachers the opportunity to present their own biases towards certain children.”

My Connection to Connectivism

Photo by Junior Teixeira on Pexels.com

As I evolve and grow as an educator, especially as an educator who uses EdTech, so do my theories and educational practices. I have never been able to put a name to my current educational pedagogy, but through our readings this week, connectivism resonated with me. This theory has been established within the internet era, unlike the three other theories mentioned above. I appreciate the modern take on learning that connectivism brings. In an article called “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age”, George Siemens reminds us that “over the last twenty years, technology has reorganized how we live, how we communicate, and how we learn”, and “learning now occurs in a variety of ways – through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks.” The theory of connectivism gives freedom to the individual to learn in their own way and to seek knowledge through different avenues. Learning doesn’t necessarily have a start and an end.

As I look forward in my teaching career, my desire is to give ownership to the students in their learning process so that they learn the skills necessary to “flourish in a digital era”. My pedagogy and practice may continue to change over time, but my desire to instill a love for learning in my students will stay the same. At the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about?

-Amanda Brace

The Deeper Definition of EdTech

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Technology has been a part of my classroom ever since I started teaching. Over the years, I’ve developed a passion for using technology in education, but my definition of Educational Technology, otherwise known as EdTech, has evolved and changed over time. There are many ways to describe EdTech, but according to Wikipedia, it’s “the combined use of computer hardware, software, and educational theory and practice to facilitate learning” and “improve user academic performance.” If I were to critically examine this definition of EdTech, I would say it’s lacking some substance. If I looked at this definition when I first became familiar with EdTech seven years ago, I would have simply agreed with it.

When I first started teaching, I was eager to use technology in my new grade 3 classroom. I didn’t have a lot of experience with it, but I was creative, ambitious, and willing to experiment through trial and error. However, when I first began, I used EdTech for the sole purpose of using EdTech. It was for the image and the anticipation of the “cool” tricks I could perform in my classroom. I didn’t think about the purpose, the repercussions, and most importantly, the privacy or protection of my students. I was unaware that with the use of EdTech comes responsibility to do my research.

Neil Postman, an American author, educator, and critic of media and culture, wrote an article that analyzes and critiques modern advancements and change in technology. He reminds us that “we need to proceed with our
eyes wide open so that we may use technology rather than be used by it.” This is something I didn’t consider when I first started my journey with EdTech as a first year teacher. Postman lists “5 Things We Need To Know About Technological Change.” The ideas can be summed up like this:

  1. “For every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage.” Lisa talks more about this idea in her recent post, “The Price of Technology.”

  2. “The advantages and disadvantages of new technologies are never distributed evenly among the population.” He suggests that we ask ourselves important questions when we use technology and media, such as:

    Why do you do this?
    What interests do you represent?
    To whom are you hoping to give power?
    From whom will you be withholding power?

    As educators, it’s absolutely critical that we ask these questions.

  3. “Every technology has a prejudice.” Postman goes on to say that technology and media have biases. He reminds us that “it predisposes us to favor and value certain perspectives and accomplishments.”

  4. “We must be cautious about technological innovation” because “the consequences of technological change are always vast, often unpredictable and largely irreversible.”

  5. “When a technology becomes mythic, it is always dangerous because it is then accepted as it is, and is therefore not easily susceptible to modification or control.” Postman means that when we think of technology as the “be-all and end-all”, then there is no room to be critical and conscious of what we are using or promoting. He encourages us to ” view technology as a strange intruder.”
Fractus Learning (Mike Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship)

I still have a long way to go, but with the knowledge and insight I’ve gained through my teaching experience and my Master’s classes, I have come to realize that EdTech has multiple layers. These layers include digital access, security and privacy, equality and diversity, digital citizenship… a lot of which are included in Mike Ribble’s “9 Elements of Digital Citizenship.” It is not just about the “cool” tricks I can do in my classroom. EdTech needs to have deeper meaning and purpose, because at the end of the day, EdTech is not the teacher. So what does a deeper definition of EdTech look like? Here is what I would include in my definition today:

Educational Technology: “Using technology purposefully in education to enhance learning, empower students, provide access, establish protection and security, critically analyze media and news, and give equal opportunity.”

What does your deeper definition of EdTech look like?

-Amanda Brace

Back to the Blogging World

After a whole summer off, I am back to the blogging world. It’s hard to believe that 2 months have come and gone, but here we are… ready for another semester. I accomplished a lot this summer, but more importantly, I rested and took a break. After rupturing my Achilles tendon, navigating the world of online teaching, and isolating for months due to COVID-19, I was ready for a summer of relaxation.

Instead of travelling to Europe like I had originally planned, I spent the summer at my cabin enjoying time with family. I read books, slept in, and worked on a building project with my dad. I tried things this summer that I have never had the time for in the past (did I mention that I dyed my hair pink?) I could finally slow down and enjoy what was in front of me.

Now that I had my time of rest and rehab, I am ready for another Master’s class and year of teaching. I am looking forward to learning more about the foundations of EdTech so that I have a better understanding of the online tools and platforms that I use in my own life and with my students.

Even though I am excited to learn about the content in this class, it’s really the people that make it worthwhile. I don’t know about you, but my favourite part about these online classes is the community that we build. I can’t wait to connect with each of you on Twitter, through blogging, and in our weekly night classes. So here’s to another semester… let’s do this!

-Amanda

Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology: Summary of Learning

It’s hard to believe that another semester has come and gone. This has truly been one of the most challenging, yet inspiring classes I have been a part of. I never expected to grow and learn so much in just a month and a half. Debating contemporary issues in education is something that every educator should take part in because it allows you to see issues from all points of views and widen your perspective. If you would like to go back to the beginning and read my reflection of each debate, you can click the links below:

  1. What’s Your App Count?
  2. The Big Debate: Does Technology Enhance Learning?
  3. The Deeper Meaning Behind the Digital Divide
  4. Not What we Are Learning, But How: A Look Into Inquiry-Based Learning
  5. Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?
  6. Cellphones in the Classroom: The Controversy Continues
  7. Is it Fair to Share?
  8. Nothing Good Comes From Being Neutral

Like I say in my Summary of Learning video, I am so grateful for everything I learned during this semester. I feel impacted by each one of you in my class… whether it was through your stories, your perspectives, your humour, your blog posts, your tweets, or your encouragement. Thank you for being a part of my #edtech journey and for pushing me to be a better educator so that collectively, we can make a difference in the lives of others and in our world.

-Amanda

Nothing Good Comes From Being Neutral

Desmond Tutu once said, “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” These words couldn’t be more relevant to our world right now. These words challenge me to advocate, speak up, and seek change… because nothing good comes from being neutral. Does taking part in social justice look the same for everyone? No. However, I do know that staying silent is not an option.

These thoughts and ideas, along with many others, were brought up in our final #eci830 debate last week. It was a class that I will never forget. I was moved, impacted, and inspired through the words that were spoken and the stories that were shared. The topic was “educators have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice.” For the debate, Mike and Jacquie brought forward valuable points that reminded us that “school can and should be bigger than its walls.” They said that promoting social justice through social media allows students to develop skills in problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and perseverance. They said that if we want equity, then we can’t stay silent. On the other hand, Brad and Michala talked about how instead of addressing social justice issues online, educators should focus on face-to-face communication because social justice starts with relationship. They also reminded us of the problems that can arise with “slacktivism”, which is “showing support for a cause with the main purpose of boosting egos of participants in the movement.”

As educators, I do believe it is our responsibility to teach social justice, but it doesn’t necessarily mean through social media. Rather, social media gives us the opportunity. However, staying out of these conversations because they are too “political” or too “complicated” is a privileged point of view. Your voice is needed in these important conversations. Your voice is needed in your personal relationships, at your workplace, and around the dinner table. For some of us, our voice needs to be used online, within social media, and in a digital setting.

We are living in a time where social media is used by the masses. It has the ability to reach people in an instant and make a mark. This has especially been made known within the last two weeks. We have seen an outcry of support for #BlackLivesMatter through social media movements like #BlackOutTuesday. We have been able to spread awareness, sign petitions, and stand together online. There is no doubt about it, social media has gained an important place in our society, especially when it comes to social justice. Even though there is incredible value in using our voice online, it’s also important to make sure we are amplifying the voices that are needed right now. This is something that I have come to recognize the incredible importance of.

Monique Melton, an anti-racism educator and author, posted two pictures on Instagram recently that struck me to the core. The first post says “Your Silence is Violence.” She goes on to say that “when I think of all the ways in which white supremacy is so violent, one that comes to mind is white silence….So what are you going to do? How will you disrupt this legacy of white silence? It’s not about being an expert or having all the words to say…it’s not about this at all. There’s a way to use your voice without speaking over us or for us—we have a voice and you need to be amplifying it. But instead you’re silent. And that’s violent.”

In another post titled “White Fatigue is Violent”, she says “the white fatigue keeps you silent, apathetic, inactive & violent…Instead of focusing on how this work makes u feel, focus on why this work must be done, daily. This work must be done to end the racialized violence against BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour), repair the centuries of harm done & redistribute power & resources equitably so we can all live fully in our humanity. Do the work, daily.”

It’s crucial to recognize that before we can be effective in using our voice online, we need to look within ourselves and like Monique says, “do the work daily”. We all need to address and evaluate our own biases and privilege in our own lives before we take it to the world. Jacquie brought up an important point in the debate by saying “the deep work is personal.” When we talk about anti-racism work, it’s more than posting, donating, or signing petitions. It’s a conscious effort to not only recognize the privilege in your own life, but to actively stand up to the white supremacy that is embedded into North America. It’s about speaking up for the marginalized and oppressed in every platform or circle we are a part of. We need to collectively come together and dig up the roots of racism and injustice in our society. What it comes down to is that we all have a responsibility to promote social justice, but we also have deeper work to do, which cannot be done on social media.

If you need somewhere to start, here are some resources that have helped me in this social justice journey. But remember, this is just a starting point. The work needs to be done daily… in our everyday thoughts, actions, and words.

As Jacquie said in our debate last week, “maybe we don’t need to go for the home run of fixing the world through one tweet, perhaps it’s those little things and those little moments of leaning into what breaks your heart and creating ways and places that we can act in service, and kindness, and in compassion.” Social media can be the platform of change, but we all need to carry empathy and compassion on this road of anti-oppression and social justice if we want to make a difference in our world. We will pursue the deeper work within ourselves, so that we can continue to fight for change in our work places, families, churches, classrooms, and communities.

-Amanda

Is it Fair to Share?

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When I first signed up for social media, I posted pictures on Instagram, status updates on Facebook, and location pins on Foursquare without thinking twice. I had no need to look deeper into the ramifications that these online actions would have. Social media was like a shiny new object that everyone was enamoured by. Looking back now, I realize that since social media was new for everyone, I had no one guiding or teaching me about digital citizenship or online privacy. Openness and sharing online was seen as an exciting new world, yet now we know it comes with some concerns.

We had a great debate in our #eci830 class this week about openness and sharing in schools… something that I didn’t have a strong stance on before the class. Melinda and Altan argued that online sharing in education is unfair to kids. They reminded us that posting pictures of our students on social media is something that should not be taken lightly because it becomes a part of their digital footprint forever. They talked about the privacy concerns and potential dangers that occur when pictures or information are posted online without a second thought. They also touched on the opportunity gap that takes place when we expect students to use Open Educational Resources at home, only to make the Digital Divide more prominent. On the other hand, Dean and Sherrie talked about the positive outcomes that openness and sharing can bring into the classroom and community. It offers deep and meaningful learning opportunities, encourages the use of the “4 C’s” (collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking), and creates life long learners.

Even though each team brought up valuable points that agreed and disagreed with the statement that “Openness and Sharing in Schools is Unfair to Kids,” they both settled on the fact that teachers need to model and discuss positive digital citizenship with their students. This includes bringing up privacy and security concerns with both students and families. Common Sense Education reminds us that “our students need teachers who model pro-social, creative, and responsible social media use.” They come up with a crucial list of ways you can protect your students’ privacy on social media. Teachers, please read this! It’s SO valuable. Some of the points they make are:

  • Review your school’s social media rules so that you are aware of what is acceptable and required before you post online. Make sure you don’t share pictures of students without parental consent.
  • Use signed consent forms/ media release forms with your parents.
  • Have a discussion with your students about how you will be using social media in your classroom.
  • Be aware of any visible student or class information around your classroom like Seesaw codes, first and last names, log ins, passwords, assessment, etc.
  • Go through your online files on Google Drive to make sure there is no sensitive information that could go public. Make sure that your file names do not contain student names.
  • Double check pictures of students before you share on social media. Make sure there are no names present.
  • Disable location services on Twitter or Facebook when posting pictures.
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As educators, it’s our job to not only be aware of these things, but to actively share the importance of them with parents and other teachers. When I started thinking more about openness, online sharing, and privacy concerns, the online platform Class Dojo came to mind. I have never personally used this app, but I am aware of how it works and how it can be used in the classroom. If you are someone that uses this online tool, please hear me out before you decide to use it in your classroom next year. When we talk about protecting our students online privacy, it doesn’t just have to do with sensitive personal information like names, birthdays, or browsing data. It also has to do with academics and behaviour. Not only does this app reward and discipline students in an open online setting, causing many problems to arise in itself, but it also tracks how students do academically and behaviourally in the classroom. This platform can create a negative label for students at a young age and wrongfully gives teachers the opportunity to present their own biases towards certain children. It can also record sensitive information for various companies and individuals to use in the future. This is information and data that should not be shared publicly. Natasha Singer says that Class Dojo “is being adopted without sufficiently considering the ramifications for data privacy and fairness, like where and how the data might eventually be used.” Teachers need to be aware of the concerns that arise when we use data-tracking apps in the classroom because these choices can negatively impact our students in the future. Before promoting or using an online tool in the classroom, we need to do our research and look at the bigger picture.

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When all is said and done, openness and sharing online is intricately woven into almost every part of our students lives. As educators, we need to understand how to use social media and online learning safely and how to teach our students to do the same. Even though there are guidelines we should follow when it comes to sharing online, it does not mean the sharing shouldn’t happen. Instead of deleting social media or staying silent, Jessica Baron suggests that educators and families should “give more thought to what they post, eliminate unnecessary layers of information like geotagging, and talk to their kids as soon as they’re able about what’s being put online about them.” Dean and Sherrie reminded us that if we understand consent and privacy, openness and sharing “creates a safe learning space, culture of collaboration… and an immediate audience.” So as educators, is it fair to share online in an open setting? I believe it is, as long as we are aware of the concerns, the consent, and the citizenship. Let’s remember that there is power in online sharing and learning when it’s done thoughtfully and intentionally.

-Amanda

Cellphones in the Classroom: The Controversy Continues!

Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation or in the midst of telling a story and the other person pulls out their phone to text or scroll through social media? It might seem hard to believe, but trust me, it happens. It can be hard to carry on a conversation or keep a story going when this occurs because you lose attention, connection, and engagement from the other person.

Similar circumstances often happen in our classrooms. As a grade 3 teacher, this kind of scenario doesn’t play out all too often in my current classroom, but I understand the difficulty that teachers have with the increase of cell phone use during class time. I hear from countless teachers how distracting cellphones in the classroom can be. Paul W. Bennett from the Globe and Mail says “cellphone proliferation has affected student behaviour and compounded the very real challenges of class management.” Cellphones have the power to interrupt, disrupt, and disengage students. Does that mean we should respond by banning cellphones in the classroom altogether? I would argue no.

Last week, our #eci830 class had a debate about the use of cellphones in schools. Should cellphones and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) be banned in the classroom? We debated and discussed to find out. Jill and Tarina, who argued that cellphones should be banned, brought some important arguments forward. They said that cellphones not only distract the user, but others in the class as well. They argued that students should use school devices instead of bringing their own devices because school devices are safer to use with their privacy and firewall settings. They also talked about the negative behaviours that cellphone use and increased screen time can bring, such as cyberbullying, “sexting”, and screen addiction. These are all important points to reflect upon, but the argument that cellphones shouldn’t be banned from the classroom still rings true for me.

Instead of banning cellphones from the classroom, Skyler and Alyssa argued that there should be an emphasis on responsible cellphone use instead. Their catchphrase, “don’t make a ban, have a plan”, lets educators know that personal technology can be used as a powerful tool for learning if there are guidelines set in place. Lucie Renard reminds us that, “it’s better to embrace them than to ban them.”

Yes, using cellphones in the classroom can add new, difficult elements of change. Change is not easy, yet it is necessary. As educators, we need to ask ourselves if we are going to take hold of this change and use it as an opportunity to empower our students. Are we going to encourage our students to use our classroom as a “safe space to make mistakes”, as Alyssa pointed out in our debate, or are we going to ignore the technology that students use on a regular basis outside of the four walls of our classroom? Instead of banning cellphones altogether, let’s talk about some productive ways to encourage responsible and inspiring use in the classroom.

In a post called, “Mobile Phone Etiquette: How to Promote Concentration in the Classroom”, Lucie Renard poses 5 ways for maintaining focus in the classroom when cellphones are present.

  1. Create your own mobile phone policy
  2. Make use of educational apps
  3. Use smartphones to assess learning
  4. Encourage the use of organization apps
  5. Let your students have some fun

After reading her list, it got me thinking about the way I would implement cell phones in the classroom and what my “Top 5” would be. Here are some of my ideas:

  1. Integrate Digital Literacy and Citizenship Skills Authentically and Regularly

Kids are using their devices outside of school, so why wouldn’t we take that into consideration in our classroom? We are raising students in a digital world, which means we need to teach them how to navigate it in positive ways. Using resources like Common Sense Education, Media Smarts, and the Saskatchewan Digital Citizenship Policy Planning Guide will help you implement digital skills in your lessons so that students can use their cellphones and devices with a greater understanding. Teachers need to be intentional about modelling and implementing digital citizenship with their students so that cellphones can be used for a greater purpose.

2. Responsibility Takes Practice

Just like any other skill, using cellphones in the classroom takes practice. Students should not only learn basic digital citizenship skills, but they also need to learn how to use their devices responsibly in social settings. Some teachers start by implementing systems to teach them regulation and self-control, such as the Cellphone Stop Light System, like Amy mentioned in her post. When the green light is highlighted, students can use their cellphones for learning purposes. When yellow is marked, the cellphone is at their desk, but they need to ask before they use it. If the red light is highlighted, it’s either off or on silent. Some teachers have Cellphone Parking Lots or Phone Pockets where students can leave their cellphones during class to limit their distractions. These are all procedures some teachers find useful when monitoring cellphone use within the classroom.

3. Have a Unified Plan as a School

It’s always hard to implement routines in your classroom if other teachers are on vastly different pages, especially when it comes to technology. Establishing a plan with your school or grade-alike teachers at the beginning of the school year can ease the transition with cellphone use in the classroom. Discuss the guidelines you want to implement for BYOD and what types of skills you want to teach your students early on and throughout the year. It’s also important to discuss equity and equal access for your students as a staff or even school division. What are your plans when students lack access to devices or connection? How will you create an environment that benefits all learners? Having these discussions with your school are crucial if you are implementing BYOD or encouraging cellphone use in your class. When you have a unified plan as a staff, you will bring more opportunity for unity among your students.

4. There’s a Time and a Place

It’s important to recognize that cellphones are created for connection and community, but it’s also necessary to have physical and face-to-face connection in the classroom. ISTE suggests 3 Tips for Balanced Digital Wellness and remind us that “technology and smart devices are integrated into our lives. Just as we teach the importance of physical exercise and healthy eating, digital wellness and balance is a critical skill that children must be taught early and often.” There is a time and a place for cellphone use in and out of the classroom and students need to learn that before they are able to carry it out as a habit.

5. Empower Your Students

When students have access to technology and social media, they have access to empowerment and leadership online. As educators, we need to empower our students to use technology for good. When students are given the chance to use their cellphones in class as a learning tool, we can teach them how to positively influence and impact other people online. Just last week, there was a group of six teenagers who “organized and led a 10,000-person protest in Nashville against racism and police brutality”, which all started on Twitter. They were able to use social media for social justice. We can inspire these types of actions in our classroom, all with the use of their devices and cellphones.

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So… Should Cellphones Be Banned?

With all that being said, there are so many different aspects to consider when using cellphones in the classroom. We need to understand that it’s not as simple as banning or not banning. There are issues that arise when integrating technology in the classroom, especially personal devices. However, I believe that when we model responsible use, come up with a plan with our school team, and empower our students to use their devices for good, then we can see a lasting positive impact of cellphone use in the classroom. So I’m curious…

Have you had positive or negative experiences when implementing BYOD or cellphone use in your classroom? Are there specific guidelines or structures that you have implemented in your classroom to make BYOD successful?

Debating these controversial topics in education are essential so that we can widen our perspectives and see issues from all points of views. I am looking forward to hearing your perspective!

-Amanda