Author Archives: amymc03

Summary of Learning

It is hard to believe that another semester has come and gone! Of the 8 courses I have completed for my Masters, EC&I 830 was the first course that was not an Ed Psych course. To say I was nervous when entering this course was an understatement!  It was new, and out of my comfort zone.

That being said, I am so thankful I stepped out of the box, and took this course!  I have learned so much, and am walking away with new tools and knowledge that will help me grow not only professionally, but also personally.

Thank you to everyone who was a part of this new journey!  You have all contributed, in your own way, to my growth, and, for that, I am forever grateful!

Here is a look back on what I have learned, and will take away, from this course.  (I never would’ve imagined that I’d be making a video all on my own!!)

Educators and Social Justice

Image by tiday from Pixabay

Thursday was the last edition of The Great EdTech Debate, and the topic couldn’t have been more fitting for our current times. The last debate posed the following statement: Educators have a responsibility to use tech and social media to promote social justice. Before sharing my own thoughts and feelings, let’s take a quick look at the debate my classmates presented.

Debate Recap

Team Agree

Mike and Jacquie took on the task of arguing FOR the debate statement. In their video (posted below), Mike and Jacquie stated how social justice in education includes 4 components:

  1. Challenges, confronts, and disrupts misconceptions, untruths, and stereotypes
  2. Provides students with resources needed to learn to their full potential
  3. Draws on students talents and strengths
  4. Promotes critical thinking and supports agency for social change

They also outlines how using tech and social media to promote social justice allows students to foster:

  • Problem Solving
  • Critical Thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Perseverance
  • Historical Context
  • The idea that schools can, and should, be bigger than its four walls

Their video ended with a POWERFUL, goosebump worthy, video clip called “Martin Niemoller’s Words: First They Came For. . .” (I found the clip so powerful, I believe it deserves its own link!)

Team Disagree

On the opposing side, Brad and Michala argued how educators DO NOT have a responsibility to use tech and social media to promote social justice. Through their video (posted below), Brad and Michala stated that using social media and tech may not be the best places to promote social justice because:

  • Teachers can use their students as “tiny foot soldiers” to promote their own personal beliefs and agendas
  • Students can become “internet trolls” if they are not well-informed on social justice topics, yet choose to post online. Causing harm to their digital footprints.

They did not argue that educators should NOT teach about social justice. Rather, they argued that the education on social justice should take place IN the classroom, face-to-face, rather than through social media.

My Thoughts

This debate, once again, had me torn.  Both sides presented arguments that I found myself agreeing with, or that caused me to second guess my own thoughts/beliefs.

Arguments From Team Disagree

I think the main issue I found myself having with this debate was the wording of the debate statement itself.  I do believe that teachers should be teaching about social justice, but I don’t know if I agree that it should be done via social media or tech use. I strongly agree with Michala’s argument on how there needs to be a more face-to-face component when teaching a subject area that can be very emotionally taxing. Classrooms are supposed to be a safe place for students, which makes it the perfect setting to discuss such sensitive topics. The article Teaching Young Children About Bias, Diversity, and Social Justice has 5 great alternatives to teaching young children about social justice without the use of social media, such as; using children’s literature, or giving familiar examples such as gender stereotyped toys.

The second point Brad and Michala stressed that really stuck with me was the idea of teachers pushing their own beliefs and agendas on students. I would hope no one would do this on purpose; however, I also know it can happen from habit.  When you are passionate about something, or have strong roots in your beliefs, it can be difficult not to lead with that. Teachers, in my opinion, have an obligation not to steer students in the direction they believe in, but, rather, fully educate them on the situations and injustices of the world as unbiased as possible. Granted, this may be easier said than done, but there needs to be a strong effort to do this.

Arguments From Team Agree

The main point that stood out to me from the agree team was the idea of teachers moving beyond the idea of staying neutral.  The curriculums we teach are not neutral, and, often times, students look to us (as educators) to help guide them through scenarios that are scary or unknown. Teachers being complacent does not benefit anyone, in my opinion.  That being said, it can also be scary to step out of that comfort zone and talk about subject areas surrounding social justice, as there is always the possibility of upsetting someone. As we talked about in our discussion during class, it can be a fine line. On one hand, if you speak out, you risk upsetting/offending someone in the process. On the other hand, if you don’t speak out, you also risk offending people for being seen as complacent. In the end, you are never going to please everyone; however, as mentioned above, I believe if teachers try to give a holistic view when teaching social justice, that is all we can ask.  Teacher are also humans, who will grow and learn, just like everyone else.

I really appreciated the article Teachers must Hold Themselves Accountable for Dismantling Racial Oppression, as it outlined 3 rather simple, yet effective, ways that teachers can hold themselves accountable in schools to dismantle oppression. As Mike mentioned in his rebuttal, teaching about social justice to our students allows them to become justice oriented citizens. Hopefully, in turn, this will allow them to go on and educate others on how to do the same, and cause a ripple effect.

I think, as teachers, or at least for myself, all I want is my students to be good, respectful, citizens in this world. I want them to feel valued and accepted, and, in turn, give others the value and respect they deserve. If we shy away from teaching them about the injustices, or oppression, other people face, I believe we are doing our students a disservice. I heard on the news one night, from a protestor in Boston, that “our world is broken, and we need to change.” As educators, we have the power, platform, and, often times, privilege, to promote and model that change for our young students.

Social justice issues can be hard to tackle. They can be uncomfortable, taxing, or cause your heart to ache. However, to quote Jacquie in her closing argument, “when we lean into uncomfortable conversations, the magic that can happen, the opportunities, the connection, and the growth. . . [perhaps] it’s those little things and those little moments of leaning in to what breaks your heart, and creating ways and places that we can act in service, in kindness, and in compassion.” This statement was beautiful, and I think everyone needs to hear it, because it sums out the power of teaching social justice beautifully.

Is Openness & Sharing Unfair To Our Kids?

The 6th installment of the Great EdTech Debate focused on the ideas of openness and sharing, posing the statement: Openness and Sharing Is Unfair To Our Kids.

I found the debate topic itself rather broad, so I wasn’t quite sure where the debate teams would take it. For this reason, I also wasn’t totally sure which side I leaned more towards.  When I think of openness and sharing, my mind usually goes straight to sharing things such as pictures online, or via social media. Or, due to current events, sharing students’ work through online classrooms, such as Seesaw. That being said, through this debate, I was introduced to many other ways openness and sharing can occur.

A  Quick Debate Recap

Team Agree: Openness and Sharing Is Unfair To Our Kids.

Melinda and Altan took on the task of arguing FOR the debate statement. In their video (shown below), Melinda and Altan outlined three main reasons why they believed openness and sharing is unfair to kids. They were:

  1. Privacy Issues
  2. Challenges Caused By Openness
  3. Problems Involving The Use Of Cellphones

 

Team Disagree: Openness and Sharing Is NOT Unfair To Our

On the opposing side, Sherrie and Dean argued that sharing and openness were not unfair to our kids. Their video highlighted the positives that can come from openness and sharing, such as:

  1. Putting Learning First
  2. Learning On Your Own Terms
  3. Learning With Relevance

My Thoughts & Takeaways

Team Agree

There were 2 major points that Melinda and Altan spoke about that really resonated with me, and those were:

  1. Privacy and Language Barriers
  2. Parents Violating Privacy and Harming Their Child’s Digital Footprint

Privacy and Language Barriers

I really appreciated the information, and focus, that was given to EAL families in Melinda and Altan’s video. There is a high EAL population in the school I work at, so I found this information extremely valuable. In the video, it was argued that many media release forms given out from schools are very wordy, and it is often difficult to understand what you are agreeing to (or what you are leaving out). During the class discussion, Kalyn stated how, even with English as her first language, she often struggles with fully understanding the media release forms she receives as a  parent. Melinda and Altan argued how understanding these forms can be even harder for families that are new to Canada, or English is not their first language.

Not understanding these forms can lead to privacy issues, or parents agreeing to things (such as sharing their children’s photos online) that they actually would have preferred to not consent to.  Melinda and Altan did a great job offering solutions on how to prevent, or ease, these misunderstandings from happening. These included:

  • Using a translation program, such as Microsoft Translator
  • Rewriting the form with clear, simple explanations
  • Using examples in the form, such as photos
  • Educating parents about negative consequences

These adjustments seem so simple, and should be common sense, yet they often aren’t done. I am looking forward to using these techniques in my own newsletters and forms I send home next year to help all of my families better understand what I am trying to communicate with them.

Parents Violating Privacy and Harming Their Child’s Digital Footprint

Melinda and Altan posted the article Posting About Your Kids Online Could Damage Their Futures that stated how, “Parents are already some of the biggest violators of their kids’ privacy, leaving potentially harmful digital footprints well before the age of consent.”  This statement has been stuck in my brain since I read it. Parents, and teachers, who post photos of their kids/students often do not ASK the child before doing so.  We have talked so much this term about digital citizenship, and the digital footprints we leave, and many children do not have a say about what their footprint looks like from the start. We, as adults, are taking over this footprint.  A footprint that doesn’t even belong to us. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth. . .

As it came up in the discussion, some parents or teachers share to brag, or compare with others. There is no real concern given to how that sharing will impact that child down the road. Or even immediately. In the article Do you know where your child’s image is? Pedophiles sharing photos from parents’ social media accounts, it is outlined how innocent photos posted online can put kids at risk for exploitation and some other pretty scary consequences. 

Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m fear mongering, and saying that no one should ever post pictures of children again. I fully believe there are positives to sharing, but I also believe we need to take steps to ensure we are doing our kids/students justice when we do so.  Things like asking for their permission first, or including them in the decisions about WHAT we post about them would be a great place to start!

Team Disagree

Now, I know it may seem that I am fully on Team Agree; however, Dean and Sherrie also made strong points that stuck with me, such as:

  1. Including Students/Kids In The Process
  2. Openness and Sharing Allows for Connectivity

Including Students/Kids In The Process

I appreciate how Dean and Sherrie pointed out that openness and sharing needs to be done respectfully and responsibly, and INCLUDE kids and students. They posted a great article, Protecting Student’s Privacy on Social Media, that can even help you get started with this. 

They also make a great argument for teachable moments, and how including students in the openness and sharing process will allow them to learn how to create a positive digital footprint.

Openness and Sharing Allows for Connectivity

I also enjoyed their argument in Sherrie’s edition of RANT about openness and sharing encouraging connectivity, and the 4Cs. This has become so apparent with online teaching. Using a Seesaw classroom, there is a TON of sharing happening. Without this, parents would not be able to see the growth their child is making while away from school, and students would not be able to connect and learn.

Final Thoughts

In the end, I took a lot away from this debate, and, like the debates that came before, I can see valid points from both sides.  I think they key to openness and sharing is doing it respectfully and responsibly.  Including kids in the process of what gets shared is essential, since it is their digital identity you are shaping. Also, make sure you are sharing for the right reasons, and not just for your own clout.  I believe if these ideas are taken into consideration, openness and sharing can be beneficial for kids and students, rather than unfair.

Cellphones in the Classroom: A Distraction, or A Device to Enhance Learning?

Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

The Great EdTech Debate #5: Cellphones Should Be Banned in the Classroom

Going into this debate, it was the first time I didn’t really know what side of the argument I fell on. Since I teach Grade 1, cellphones have never been an issue in my classroom. I have heard my colleagues, who teach in the more senior grades, talk about the issues cellphones have caused in their classrooms throughout the years, but had not witnessed any problems for myself.

Because of this, I didn’t feel like I really had a strong pull to either side. For that reason, I chose to go with “Agree,” just because I had heard so many negatives, and less positives, when it came to allowing cellphones in the classroom.

Team Agree: Cellphones SHOULD Be Banned in the Classroom

Jill and Tarina took on the task of arguing for the posed debate question. In their video, shown below, they presented the top 4 reasons why they believed that cellphones should be ban from classrooms:

  1. Cellphones are Distracting
  2. School Devices are Safer
  3. Cellphones Increase Negative Behaviours
  4. Detachment from Personal Device

Jill and Tarina further proved their point with the video, There’s a Cell Phone in Your Student’s Head. This video explains how cellphones, whether they are on a desk or in a backpack, exert powerful influence and occupy mental space. The video concludes by stating that actual, physical separation from a cellphone is the best solution for ensuring students are focused on their school work; they even stated that having them turned upside down is futile.

Team Disagree: Cellphones SHOULD NOT Be Banned in the Classroom

Skyler and Alyssa were on the opposing side of this argument. The argued that the word ban was too restrictive, and, instead, offered their catchy slogan, “Don’t Make a Ban, Have a Plan.”

In their video, shown below, Skyler and Alyssa highlighted 3 reasons why cellphones should NOT be banned in classrooms:

  1. Medical and Emergency Use
  2. Educational Purposes
  3. Digital Citizenship

Skyler and Alyssa also shared a stoplight visual to help see how a plan could be put in place.BYOD Spotlight

My Final Thoughts

After all is said and done, I can still definitely see how having cellphones in the classroom can cause issues or stress.  There is no doubt that they are a distraction. Even as an adult, I can get distracted by my cellphone when I should be focused on something more important. In the video Cell Phone Addiction, Tanner Welton states how 80% of children check their phones every 5 minutes. Perhaps a break from their cellphone would be good, or even beneficial? Although it could be argued that if their cellphone is not there to distract them, they will simply find something else to occupy their mind – such as talking to a classmate or staring at a poster on the wall.

There is also the issue of online bullying that seems to be the main root of cellphone issues these days – or, at least that’s the case in my school. Apps like Snapchat make it easy for gossip or inappropriate photos to run through a school like wildfire. This very scenario is the reason my own school brought in our cellphone contracts 2 years ago (for grades 6-8). However, one could argue that these are also teachable moments, and we need to educate students on how to be good digital citizens, rather than ban something they are going to be using anyways as soon as they walk out of our classrooms.

This leads me to the points that sway me to the other side. One of the main ideas that resonated with me is the idea of students having more access to apps and the internet. In my own classroom, I only have 5 iPads for my entire class to share. This makes doing any big projects that involve technology difficult, as only a limited number of students can be online at once. If students brought their own devices, it would help connect more students, alleviating the back and forth of sharing minimal devices.

A common theme within this course is digital citizenship, and who needs to educate students on how to healthily, and responsibly, navigate technology – whether that be social media, cellphones, or other. I still don’t have an answer on where the responsibility of education around digital citizenship falls, parents or teachers, but as someone mentioned in our class discussion, perhaps digital citizenship should be put into our curriculum (sorry, I can’t remember who said this – please feel free to mention yourself in the comments!). Maybe this is a smart solution. If students are using all of this technology, and it is not slowing down, perhaps we SHOULD be addressing it in the classroom, just like we address how to build healthy relationships or be good people in some Health curriculum. The article How to Teach Your Students the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship could be a great place to start.

At the end of the debate, my mind had been switched.  I can still see how cellphones may cause issues within the classroom, but, overall, I now see more benefits than pitfalls.  With guidance and regulations, I now believe cellphones can be beneficial in the classroom. In the words of Skyler and Alyssa – “Don’t Make a Ban, Have a Plan!”  Just like everything else, if you have a plan to properly incorporate cellphones, they can be a device to enhance learning.

 

Social Media is Not the Villain in Your Childhood Story

Tuesday night’s edition of The Great EdTech Debate was extra exciting for me! My partner, Dean, and I had been working for the past couple of weeks to build our case, and, on Tuesday, it was finally our turn to go to bat for social media!

The Great EdTech Debate – Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

Before I begin, I would like to thank our opponents, Laurie and Christina, for a fun debate! Their thought provoking video (shown below) and impeccable rebuttal skills made them a tough team to go against! Be sure to check out their blogs (linked above) to hear their side of the debate. 

No – Social Media is NOT Ruining Childhood

Dean and I took on the task of arguing that social media was not ruining childhood. Now, full transparency, when I first read the debate question, I probably would have put myself on the AGREE side. That being said, I chose the disagree side, as I thought it would give me a chance to challenge my own thinking and beliefs. Boy, am I glad I made that choice!!

I came to realize that social media has such a bad rep for many people. You are constantly hearing about all of the negatives coming from social media, such as cyber-bullying or sexting, which can make any positives get lost in the constant dark cloud. Well, Dean and I tried to shine some light on those positives!

We knew we had our work cut out for us when the pre-votes came in. Granted, they were closer than I expected, but we were still in the minority of the vote.

We opened our debate with our own rendition of a Fake News Report.

In our video, we highlighted a few of the positives that we believed can come out of social media, such as:

  1. Building Connections
  2. Finding Support
  3. Having a Platform

We also used the article 10 Examples of the Positive Impact of Social Media to add to the key points we addressed in our video. Those positive impacts included:

  1. Younger students can feel empowered by teaching older relatives how to use technology
  2. Social media can be used to create a positive digital footprint
  3. Social media provides parents an opportunity for open communication
  4. Social media can help students learn essential job skills
  5. Social media can lead to more communication
  6. Students can use technology to form or join groups
  7. Social media provides a platform to showcase creativity
  8. Social media offers students a way to stay connected
  9. Students can use social media to promote their civic engagement
  10. Students can utilize social media to spread social awareness and kindness

We also used a “top 10” style article from Jennifer Casa-Todd, as well as various articles and videos in our Wakelet, to further support our case.

After a great back and forth during the rebuttals, the results of the post-vote was in! 50/50!

My Final Thoughts

Throughout this entire debate, even though I was on the disagree side, I have to applaud me opponents for bringing up several points that made me stop and rethink my own defense. Their arguments around safety and who is “responsible” to educate children and teens on how to be smart social media users were hard to argue against. As an educator, I know how full teachers’ plates are already, and adding social media education can seem both daunting and impossible.

That being said, as it was pointed out in the class conversation, the education has to start somewhere. There are adults who struggle to navigate social media (even world leaders. . .); however, since social media is so deeply woven into today’s society, we cannot simply ignore it.  In Laurie and Christina’s video, they state that 81% of teens use social media. With such a high percentage, we cannot simply hope social media will go away. I am still not sure where this education comes from, whether it is parents, or teachers, or both. . . but the education has to be there. This is the main point from the debate that still stumps me.

In the end, I have come to this conclusion: As Kalyn stated in our class discussion, social media is NEW, but not bad.

For many people, new can mean scary; however, the term RUINING is a very drastic term to use. Childhood now looks very different than it did in past decades, and it will look different again in decades to come.

As I mentioned above, when it comes to social media, the negatives often make the news and headlines, which can cloud any positives that are also a result of social media use. We need to remember all of the good that can also comes out of social media, such as;

  • Social media allows those who may not have a voice (whether it be from anxiety, isolation in a remote town, or otherwise) to find their voice.
  • It allows connections to be made all around the world, which has become more evident in the last couple of months than ever before.
  • If offers resources, such as The Kids Help Phone, at your fingertips.
  • It gives people a platform to share their talents
  • and, it allows people to find others similar to themselves (which may not always be easy).

Yes, there is no doubt that social media comes with some challenges, but they aren’t all necessarily new. Comparing how you look did not just happen because of filters on an app. Bullying happened, and still happens, on the playground. Dangerous challenges were being done in backyards long before the Tide-Pod challenge went viral. And children and teens have been glued to screens since they first got televisions and video games. Granted, some of these issues are now more visible, and I am not saying it is right; however, it is not new. . . it is just being displayed differently.

In the end, like everything else, there needs to be a balance, and education, when it comes to social media use. Social media shows no signs of slowing down. Massive corporations have social media reps as careers. So, we cannot simply ignore this “new” things that has entered childhood, but, rather, we need to learn how to properly navigate it. So, for me, social media is CHANGING childhood, but not ruining it. And with change, comes new things to learn and navigate.

Google, Are You My New Teacher?

I cannot even begin to count the amount of times that I have heard, or am guilty of saying, “I don’t know. . . I’ll Google it!” Gone are the days that if you didn’t know something you had to ask an actual human being, or research it in a book. The internet is full of information, and it is right at the tips of your fingers. So, what does that mean for teachers? Or schools? Or the future of education?  This was the focus of the latest edition of The Great EdTech Debate – Schools should not focus on things that can be easily Googled.

A Recap of the Debate

This week, both teams were in agreement as to why teachers should not rely on Google to teach. In their video (posted below), Curtis and Lisa focused on these key ideas:

  1. Mindful Learning
  2. 6 Skills Needed to Be Successful that Google Cannot Teach/Provide
  3. The LoTi (Levels of Teaching Innovation) Framework

Daina and Jocelyn also outlined several reasons why Google may not be the best avenue for teaching and learning.

Their key arguments included:

  1. The Reliance on Google Diminishes our Critical Thinking Skills
  2. Teaching using Google Widens the Digital Divide
  3. Makes Us (teachers) Expect Students to Have Basic Skills and Knowledge they Don’t Have Yet

My Thoughts

One of my favourite takeaways from this debate was the idea of The LoTi Framework (The Levels of Teaching Innovation Framework). Before this debate, I had never heard of LoTi. It is a great framework to use in the classroom, and I am excited to look more into it. I am still not an expert by any means, but I am happy to have added another tool to my teaching tool belt!

One of the groups posted a chapter from a book called So, go on then, why do I need a teacher when I’ve got Google? This was probably my favourite reads this week!  I have actually heard a student tell a fellow teacher “I don’t need to listen to you, I can just Google anything you can tell me anyways!” So, this chapter instantly piqued my curiosity!

There was a line in the chapter, in response to the title, that said, “The answer to that question depends, to be brutally frank, on how good a teacher you are.” The article goes on to talk about how a teacher’s role is to help their students find knowledge, and know “good” knowledge from “bad” knowledge, but the role of a teacher goes so far beyond that. The article outlines how a teacher’s role also includes things such as developing students’ communication skills, creativity, a sense of wrong and right, and so on.

To me, I took this as, a teacher is SO much more than a search engine. There are things that teachers do for their students that Google could never do. You cannot foster a relationship with Google, but the relationships you can develop with a teacher can last forever. It’s that innate need for human interaction or love that humans have that you simply can’t get from Google.

That being said, I am not saying Google is awful either. It can be used, like all technology, to help expand learning and explore ideas. It just needs to have balance, like all things, and be used to ENHANCE what the teacher is teaching, not replace them (I feel like that is a common line in most of my posts!).

Technology: A Force for Equity, or Forcing a Stronger Divide?

Unlike last week’s debate, I have to admit that I came in to this debate with a pretty good idea about which side of the argument I stood on. Granted, I knew there would be arguments from the opposing side of my own personal beliefs that could sway me, but I was pretty confident that my overall stance would not change.  Before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s take a look at how the debate went down!

Technology IS a Force for Equity in Society

Kalyn and Nataly took on the side of arguing that technology is a force for equity in society.

Their video, shown above, highlighted the following arguments:

  1. Technology allows for greater access to information
  2. Technology levels the playing field for students by allowing for personalized learning
  3. Technology helps people with disabilities

Kalyn and Nataly also outlined how initiatives, such as the Digital School in a Box are working to ensure children in marginalized communities have access to technology.

They also stated that it is believed that smart phones will be an important factor in increasing literacy. This was probably my favourite argument!

Technology is NOT a Force for Equity in Society

Victoria and Jasmine took on the opposing side, arguing that technology was not a force for equity in society.

Their argument focused around:

  1. The Digital Divide
  2. Techno-Colonialism
  3. The Non-Neutrality of Technology

My Thoughts and Take-Aways

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I was pretty certain where I stood on this argument. Entering into this debate I would have told you, without hesitation, that I stood strongly on the disagree side. That’s not to say that I cannot see the positives, but my own experiences have pushed me further onto one side of the fence.

WHY I DISAGREE

One of the arguments that Victoria and Jasmine outlined was the idea that what the digital divide once meant has evolved. It is no longer simply HAVING the technology itself, but now includes aspects such as affordability and accessibility to reliable connections/networks. I work in a borderline community school, and I have witnessed firsthand the struggles families can go through when it comes to these aspects.

One article that Victoria and Jasmine posted spoke about the struggles of teaching remotely, now that schools are closed. The article spoke about how online classrooms are not equitable for all students, and this is a scenario that has been very true for me for several reasons.

The school I work in has a wide range of socio-economic statuses, and I have students who have had a cell phone for years while other families struggle to keep their power on. Technology is not always a priority for my families, or even an option. This has become more apparent in the new times we are living in. When teaching went online, there were dozens of students at my school that did not have the technology at home to participate. Our school division did hand out tech to those families in need; however, by the time that process went through, those students had lost weeks of their education.

Even when students did have tech, it was still not an easy transition for many of them. Most of my students went to rural communities when schools shut down, and there is little to no access to the internet (or the best they get is an unreliable connection). These students are also missing out on their education simply because they don’t have the accessibility to join our virtual classroom. I know there is no way to change the situation currently going on in our world, but it has opened my eyes even more to just how much inequality there is. In our debate discussion, I believe it was Matt that mentioned the idea that the more we force the use of technology, the greater the divide can become for those who do not have it. This has become much clearer to me in the last 8 weeks.

The last argument presented by Victoria and Jasmine that really struck a chord for me was the idea of Techno-Colonialism, particularly the One Laptop Per Child initiative they spoke about. As they mentioned in their video, many countries criticized the initiative as they believed they needed other necessities, such as clean drinking water, before they needed laptops. Teaching in the type of school I am in, I can completely agree with this criticism. I know there are many families in my school that have such HIGHER needs than technology, such as food or basic necessities. I know technology is a large part of our world, but, for many families, it is not a priority, or an option, in their lives.

Reasons to Sway the Other Way

Now, I know I sound pretty set in my ways, but I have to give credit to Kalyn and Nataly.  They had several points that made me stop and think, and contemplate my own thinking.

1.) The idea that smart phones will be an important factor for increasing literacy

I am a primary teacher, so anything that helps with literacy peaks my interest! Now, some may think this is a crazy notion; however, I have actually had a conversation with a student that helps prove this point!

I had a grade 1 boy who was constantly hiding books in his desk. Now, being his teacher, I knew he was unable to read yet, but I was curious…. so I asked him, “A, why do you hide your books in your desk?”  To which he replied, “Ms. McDonald, I need to practice my reading so I know how to chat with my friends when I play my games online!!”

It sounded a little silly, but also made perfect sense. This child wanted to read so he can send texts and chat with his friend. Granted, I would have liked him to want to read just for the enjoyment, but, hey, he wanted to learn how to read, so I couldn’t ask for much more!

2.) Individualized Learning and Assistive Technology

This was another key point from the opposing side that really peaked my interest. I have seen first hand what assistive technology can do, and how it can help so many individuals. Working at the Autism Resource Summer Camp, there were several kids that used various forms of technology, and it melted my heart to see them smile as they felt included in the group, or were able to express themselves. Anything that offers options for students to feel more heard or welcomed is a positive in my books. The disagree side did bring up the idea of cost and accessibility to such tools, but, nowadays, there seems to be a cost for everything! Some things are just worth the money and time it takes to get them (in my opinion).

Overall, I think I still stand more strongly on the disagree side, but I appreciate the strong and valid points that the agree team presented to make me rethink some of my beliefs. There are definitely some ways that technology helps equity, especially when it comes to personalizing learning and as a motivation to read (even if it is just to chat online); however, I still believe that there are bigger issues causing inequality in our world, and, sometimes, forcing technology can make that divide even bigger.

Technology in the Classroom: Enhancement, NOT Replacement

Tuesday evening brought the first edition of The Great Ed Tech Debate, and what a debate it was! The topic at hand was whether or not technology in the classroom enhances learning, and it was presented by Amanda, Nancy, Trevor, and Matt. Before watching the debate, I have to admit that I knew this was a topic I was very much on the fence about. I could ultimately argue for both sides, but could not really determine which side of the fence I stood more strongly on. I’d like to say that this debate changed me, and that after the debate was over I had an epiphany and jumped to a side of the fence; however, that was not the case.  Before I get too far into my own thoughts, lets take a look at how the debate went down! 

PROS

Amanda and Nancy took on the task of arguing FOR the idea that technology enhances learning in the classroom. Their video was an emotional story that tugged on your heart strings, and outlined several reasons why they believe technology in the classroom enhances learning.

Some of their key arguments were:

  • The 4 Cs (Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity), in addition to a 5th C (Connection)
  • Technology transcends the classroom
  • Technology allows the ability to engage students and deepen learning
  • Helps develop digital literacy/digital citizenship

 

CONS

Trevor and Matt took on the AGAINST position in the debate, arguing that technology does not enhance learning in the classroom.  Their video was witty, tongue and cheek, and even offered a slightly Trump-like slogan!

Some of their key arguments were:

  • Technology is a distraction
  • Technology doesn’t mean good pedagogy
  • IT use while learning causes shallow information processing
  • Bombards students with screen time

MY THOUGHTS

I have to give kudos to both debate teams, as they presented great arguments for both sides. So much so, that I did not come away any clearer on my position than when I started!

Pros. . . 

When I think about the argument presented by Amanda and Nancy, I appreciate their push for the connections piece. Especially in this time, connections through technology are crucial. Without tools such as Google Meet and SeeSaw, I would have no way of connecting with my students. Technology has allowed me to continue working with my students, even though we are not in the same physical space. Amanda and Nancy’s use of The Born Friends video drove this idea home even more. Real stories, from real people, demonstrating just how powerful technology can be to maintain connections through physical distance barriers. Without the use of technology, my job would be near impossible during this time.

Another key point I took away from the pro side of this argument is the idea of balance. Technology should be used as a tool, not the only tool. This may be the biggest idea I took away from the entire debate. Technology should be there to ENHANCE learning, not REPLACE the teacher. Technology should not take away the role of a teacher, but rather aid in the teachings. If there is no balance there could be serious consequences, such as losing that teacher/student human connection.

The use of technology also needs to be meaningful and purposeful, not just something you use because you feel that you should, or need to. George Couros, in his post that speaks to The Myths of Technology, talks about EMPOWERMENT over simply trying to engage students. We need to use technology to empower students to want to do something meaningful, or do more, rather than simply engaging them with something flashy on a screen.

Cons. . . 

With all of the pros I agree with, there are also some points on the con side of the argument that definitely sway me.

One of the main ideas that Trevor and Matt presented that stood out to me was the pressure teachers can feel to use technology. Technology is all around us, and it will be an important component in our students’ futures; however, that doesn’t necessarily mean you just use technology because you feel you should be.  Trevor and Matt argued that using technology can make a bad teacher worse, and that statement really resonated with me. I have seen teachers use technology just to keep students busy, or to pass the time. There is no real purpose to why technology is being used, and no deeper learning taking place. Technology is simply being used as a form of distraction or “busy work” tool.

Another key point that sways me to the con side is the idea of screen time overload. As I mentioned above, technology is everywhere.  You wake up and check a cellphone, turn on the television while you eat breakfast to watch the news (or cartoons), go on a computer or tablet to check e-mails, etc.  And this is no different for kids. Children and teens are surrounded by screens, so having them constantly look at a screen during school may not be the best thing for them. Trevor and Matt presented an article about The Digital Gap Between Between Rich Kids and Poor Kids, and it outlined how parents in Silicon Valley are also showing concerns about screen time, and even ensuring their kids are going to schools without technology. It talks about the fears the parents have that their children are part of a huge social experiment, and their increase in screen time is detrimental to their well-being. I understand the need to teach children about technology, and digital literacy, but it is also important that they know how to socialize and converse with people off of a screen. Human relationships should not get lost to screen friendships.

As I’m writing this post, it still remains the same: I am so unsure of what side of the fence I am on.  What I have learned , and what I am taking away from the debate, is this:

  1. Technology can be extremely beneficial in the teaching profession – In the times we’re in, I would have no way of connecting to my students without technology (unless I wanted to go back to good old fashioned snail mail, but that’s not overly practical!) Technology truly does allow for the 5th C Amanda and Nancy spoke to.
  2. BALANCE – I have come to the conclusion that there may not be a right answer. Just like everything else in the world, it requires balance.  There needs to be purpose and meaning when using technology, but there is also no need to completely cut technology from your classroom.
  3. ENHANCE not replace – Above all, technology needs to be there to enhance the learning of students. That teacher/student connection is so crucial, and no screen can replace that.  Technology needs to aid in the teachings going on in the classroom, not become the new teacher.

Overall, like everything else, I can see both sides. Done correctly, I definitely see the advantages to technology in the classroom, and the potential it has to enhance learning. I can also see technology being abused, or misused, and being a deficit to learning.

BALANCE and ENHANCEMENT NOT REPLACEMENT, that’s what I am taking away from this, rather than a definite right or wrong. Either way, I guess it’s safe to say I am still walking the middle of the fence!

Goodbye Classroom, Hello Remote Teaching

Disused school building“Disused school building” by David Chatterton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Okay, so I’ll admit that the above photo is a bit of an overreaction! I am fully aware that the school I work at, or any school for that matter, does not look like an abandoned ghost town; however, there are days I feel like it has been years since I’ve walked into my classroom. Walking in that classroom door first thing in the morning was my favourite part of each and every day. The room was BURSTING with energy, and the excitement from my students was contagious. Then, in the blink of an eye, it all disappeared.

Pandemic. COVID 19. Social Distancing. These terms rang through the empty hallways as schools closed. Fear and uncertainty now filled my classroom that was once filled with joy and laughter. Teaching, as I had known it for 9 years, would be forever changed (even if I didn’t know it, or want to acknowledge it, at the time).

It has been almost 8 weeks since I last walked into my school, and I still feel like I am learning and adjusting to this new way of teaching (and living). I have never claimed to be a “techie” person; however, with COVID 19, and remote teaching, I am pushing myself to try new things and expand my knowledge and skills. I have traded a white board for a keyboard, and face to face interactions with video chats.

SeeSaw has been a lifesaver for me! It is now the space I call my classroom. Teaching grade one, I have found SeeSaw to be a user friendly platform for my littles to use. There are tons of activities to choose from, as well as the capability to create your own activities. I also really enjoy the fact that it allows me to comment on my students’ work, and send messages to families.

Google Meet has been another tool I have become familiar with.  Now, the thought of meeting with 20+ grade one students TERRIFIED me in the beginning. I will be the first to admit that the first meet was a complete disaster. I went from feeling like a professional educator to a zookeeper trying to keep the attention of 21 chimpanzees in about 2.5 seconds!

Zookeeper 8805 Lego Minifigures Series 5“Zookeeper 8805 Lego Minifigures Series 5” by brickdisplaycase.com is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 However, with some practice, and constant reinforcement about proper Google Meet behaviour with my littles, I think I finally got the hang of it!  We meet once a week, for about half an hour, and each meeting has a different theme. So far, we have done Show and Tell, a virtual art show, and invited a couple special guests (fellow teachers) to do read alouds.

Although it may not be seamless, I enjoy the more personal aspect that comes with a Google Meet. It brightens my day to see my littles’ faces light up as they watch their classmates pop into the meeting. We feel like a family again, and, suddenly, the distance between us doesn’t seem so massive.

As I had mentioned earlier, I am not super comfortable with technology, so these are really the only 2 tools I have relied on this far. That being said, being in EC&I 830 has already started to introduce me to so many amazing other tools and platforms that I am excited to dive into, and attempt to implement with my students in the future.

I’m not sure when our “normal” will come back, whatever normal was, but I am also trying to look on the positive side of this somewhat-scary new world we are in. This pandemic may be keeping me away from my students physically, but it has allowed me to use technology to stay connected with them, and, for that, I am grateful!

Old Dog, New Tricks!

Hello, and welcome to my blog! It is crazy to think that this is my first blog post since 2012! I feel so behind the times. . .

I took one course in my undergraduate degree that focused on technology, unfortunately, I did not keep up with the process. Silly me! So, please bear with me as I get reacquainted with this whole blogging world, and set out on my adventures with technology!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com