Author Archives: aranford

Technological Equity

To be honest, I did not know what to expect from this weeks debate: Technology is a force for equity in society.

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I had one immediate thought…. when everyone has technology, it can be a force of equity, but I quickly learned there were so many more details to this issue.

When the debate started, the agree side, Jen, Dawn, and Sapna presented three main points:

Technology removes barriers- they explained that technology can act like a bridge for learning, students can have a voice, and technology has features like assistive technology that help students who have issues reading and writing.


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Technology connects the world- the agree group explained that most people have access to technology and therefore it is the perfect tool to connect the world. It also provides fairness in regards to gender, socioeconomic status and ethnic background.

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Technology is accessible and can be affordable.


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A large part of the agree’s debate was the idea of the digital divide. The group wanted to ensure that the audience understood that this is an issue, but technology is not to blame. The divide comes from the corporate sector who decides the price of technology. Technology should be accessible to everyone because it has become essential to live.

Another great point made by the debaters was that online classes have opened the doors to many people. In the video What We’re Learning from Online Education, Daphne Koller explains that research has found that lecture based classes place half the class above average, and half the class below. When students were given personal tutors, 98% of the students were above average. Koller is acknowledging  that it is financially impossible to provide every student with a personal tutor, but we can afford to give everyone access to technology. Technology has many benefits such as personalized learning… and it doesn’t get tired of marking like a teacher.

This idea is also reiterated in the article How OER Is Boosting School Performance and Equity From the Suburbs to the Arctic: where they explain that OER, which is freely available high quality materials that can be downloaded and edited to support teaching and learning, has opened up so many worlds to students in the Arctic who do not have access to all of the classes they might need to be successful.

The agree group did a great job of explaining the benefits of social media, but was immediately challenged by Amy S. and Rakan. They explained that there are many reasons why technology is not a force for equity in society. Their four main points were:

Gender- the disagree side stated that the internet is a place where women encounter a lot of sexual harassment and they are often abused online. Technology perpetuates men’s dominance whether we notice it or not; for example: how most voices on recognition sotware are female, giving the idea that women are meant to be ordered around. Furthermore, most graduates going into the technology field are men.

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Racial-The second reason why technology does not promote equity is because AI has been found to be racist. The group quickly points out that humans are racist, not AI, but that AI is learning racism from humans.  Even the facial recognition software has been found to be racist. Darker skin is hard to recognize which is clearly racism.

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    1.  Technology and colonialism- In some places, free internet is available, but only certain sites are shown. This is seen as sites like Facebook controlling what information is put out there.
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      Inequality was the last point raised by the disagree group. They explain that no matter the country, English is the primary language seen and heard on the internet. Also, in Canada, only 62% of families with lower-income have access to technology. This directly affects them because without practise using these tools it is harder for them to get hired for jobs in this ever growing field.

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I was very interested in the Artificial Intelligence statistics. I did not know that the AI programs had so many issues regarding race. The article AI programs exhibit racial and gender biases, research reveals that AI is learning our racism.  No only that, but “the words “female” and “woman” were more closely associated with arts and humanities occupations and with the home, while “male” and “man” were closer to maths and engineering professions.” These facts are really disturbing and whether it be the testing pool or not, it should be the responsibility of the companies to fix this issue.

Another great point brought up this week was Regina Public School’s decision to reallocate technology last year. My school was directly affected by this, and to be honest, I was a little mad about it. I understood that they did it to be more fair, but I never really thought about the reasons before this weeks debate. During the debate it became clear that some schools have more technology than others. By reorganizing the computers/ laptops and tablets, they were trying to create a smaller divide. After tonight’s debate, I found myself, for the first time, sympathizing with the decision.

As in most of these debates, I found it hard to choose a side. It was the first week that I was actually unsure of what side I would pick at the beginning. I chose to go with agree because I honestly believe that technology has the ability to create opportunities for people including learning, reaching out and giving them a voice. But I have to admit that there are many inequalities with technology, even in Canada. The disagree group was so close to changing my mind. Their informationw was explained well and it really made me think about the divide that technology can create between people.

I really think we have a lot of work in order to ensure technology creates equity throughout the world, but  we cannot ignore that it has advanced the world, and opened up so many doors.

Is social media ruining childhood?!… a GREAT debate.

This week’s debate topic was the one I was most excited for.

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I think I was the most excited because I truly believe that social media has an impact on lives, not just during childhood, but at every age. Don’t get me wrong, I love my social media. If I look at my cell phone’s homepage right now, I have: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Pinterest, and my Google Classroom. ALL ON MY HOMEPAGE. They are just a click away anytime I open my phone, and most of the time I find myself checking them. I think there  can be so many negatives to social media. I think people are obsessed with showing how “great” their lives are, people worry about the amount of likes or views they get, how many followers they have,  and getting the”right”picture. It is exhausting.


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When I think about my childhood, I really love the idea that I was outside so much. I would either be at a campsite with my family, or at the park with my friends. I was out in the community, interacting, until probably grade 9. Then it started to slow down. At this point, if I wasn’t at a house hanging out, I would be driving around with my friends, but there still wasn’t too much social media use.


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Now when I think about my students, who are in grade 11 and 12, their whole life is surrounded by social media. I have to remind them, and sometimes fight with them to get off their social media apps. They feel a constant need to be connected to their friends. They do not think it is rude to tell me to “hold on, while the send this quick” and they can’t seem to pry themselves away, even to meet a deadline.

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Before this debate, I wondered if their constant technology use (mainly social media) was leading to the decrease in productivity. Are they so accustomed to sitting there, surfing the net (doing nothing) that they find it hard to complete anything else, such as assignments? I also wondered if it was having an effect on their emotional state. Many of my students do not cope well, cannot understand how to improve, or do not have the motivation to do so.

I was very interested to see what research both sides could come up with, and if I could be swayed.

Melinda, Alyssa and Lori came in hard with some great issues regarding mental health, sleep issues and digital health in general. I was very interested in their point about Facebook depression. They explained that this could occur in adolescences who used social media too much. When I read the article  The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families It was explained that “researchers have proposed a new phenomenon called “Facebook depression,” defined as depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.” It is disturbing to think that some depression may be triggered by social media use. Is there a correlation between maybe seeing someones perfect life compared to yours, or just the amount of media we take in daily? The article also explains that “According to a recent poll, 22% of teenagers log on to their favorite social media site more than 10 times a day, and more than half of adolescents log on to a social media site more than once a day.2 Seventy-five percent of teenagers now own cell phones, and 25% use them for social media, 54% use them for texting, and 24% use them for instant messaging.3 Thus, a large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on the Internet and on cell phones.” I already explained that I check my social media apps almost every time I open my phone. I do not know if I would be able to be as connected as my students are. They have a million more friends that are on their phones just as much as they are. The fact that they are so immersed is scary.

I  do worry about the negatives of social media. This particular article still defends the other side stating “Social media sites allow teens to accomplish online many of the tasks that are important to them offline: staying connected with friends and family, making new friends, sharing pictures, and exchanging ideas. Social media participation also can offer adolescents deeper benefits that extend into their view of self, community, and the world.” They point out that it is important to understand that it is not all bad, but my question still remains, is so much social media healthy?

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In their opening statement the agree group explained that students feel anxiety when they do not get enough likes, and that they thrive on the instant satisfaction that social media provides. One of my favorite parts of the debate was the example of tide pods. This was mind blowing for me. I never understood why people were completing the challenge but, as explained, the idea of risk taking behavior would get them likes; therefore it would make them feel good, like they belonged and that they were “cool.”

This was also reiterated in the article B.C. expert weighs in on why kids are eating Tide pods for fun.They explain that “An underdeveloped pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain that moderates social behaviour and decision making. Mix that with how quickly gratification can be gained on the internet – in the form of likes, shares and views – and it’s the perfect equation for a challenge that makes little sense but carries serious shock value to spread quickly.” The article goes onto explain how “Social media is simply a tool by which they can do this and gain gratification by other people. So it amplifies some of the effects of young people’s natural tendency towards risk but it’s not the actual cause of risky behaviour.” Young people just want to be accepted, that has been an issue in schools for years, now we have a tool that can receive likes from anyone, anywhere. When you think about wanting to be accepted, it is no surprise that social media is the “go to” for that feeling.

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One reason expressed, I never even thought about. In the article, Whatever Happened to Childhood? Rebecca Sweat explains how ” Children are under tremendous pressure to ‘be mature’ and to ‘grow up’ when they have not had the chance to develop emotional maturity. Children in the 8- to 12-year-old age bracket are becoming more like teenagers, leaning more and more toward teen styles, teen attitudes and teen behavior. It used to be that kids would have to go out of their way to find these sorts of materials, but now they just need to turn on their television or go to the Internet.” The fact that some children are overexposed to social media could be impacting how fast they group up. They are no longer experiencing childhood because they feel the need to be popular and look good at such a young age.


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This point was also supported in the article Kid Complicated: Childhood Isn’t What It Used To Be. They say that in “today’s children now live in three worlds: the real world, the imaginary world, and now, more increasingly, the virtual/mobile screen world. When used mindfully and sparingly, this third world can add a whole new dimension of creativity, education, and delight. But when used mindlessly or as a default, we run the risk of this new virtual world creeping into the time kids would have spent using their own imagination and creativity.”  But that great point was also backed up with “It’s easy to look back and say, “Gosh, things were so much better/easier/simpler when we were younger” or “Tech is ruining these kids’ lives” – but it’s time to change that thinking. Things are different for children growing up right now. They’ll be totally different again in another ten years.” and it was at this point in the debate that I started to see the good in social media.

To be honest, I was a little bothered that I fit into the article, Hey parents, stop romanticizing your 1970s summer so much. Although I was born far after the 70’s, I found myself in the same mindset. I just want children to be out playing, when in reality there are a lot of reasons why children might not be out so much. The article explains how “In contrast to our vision of the 70’s, parents today feel pressured to over-schedule their kids’ entire summer, with classes and activities galore. Worse, the story goes, we’re afraid to indulge those simple, iconic pleasures, like drinking from the hose or building a fort in the backyard.” They also explained that “Families now, are more fearful and would never allow a 9- or 10-year old to spend the day, unsupervised, at the pool. It’s tautological, she explains. Adults weren’t around as much in the 70’s, so they worried less; and they didn’t worry as much, so they were around less.” Both of these reasons are valid. I hear and think these reasons all the time. Maybe it is not so much our children’s fault, but the limitations and perimeters we put on them. Maybe we are forcing them to be on their devices more because we are so worried about them.

Erin, Brooke and Daniel argued that there were many positives to social media. They said that social media had the power to strengthen relationships through a sense of belonging, it could encourage them, inspire them and make them feel like they were not alone. This can all be accomplished by staying in touch with friends and finding people with similar interests. By participating in social media, the group explained that this increases confidence because they make new friends, and are able to find genuine support groups… who could argue with that? It also allows students to stay anonymous about their thought and feelings…. This is huge for teenagers. They hate expressing themselves, but feel good when they do it, so being on social media has helped many students have an outlet that they wouldn’t normally have.

This was also studied in the article 5 Reasons You Don’t Need to Worry About Kids and Social Media They explain that “As kids begin to use tools such as InstagramSnapchatTwitterand even YouTube in earnest, they’re learning the responsibility that comes with the power to broadcast to the world. You can help nurture the positive aspects by accepting how important social media is for kids and helping them find ways for it to add real value to their lives. It lets them do good. It strengthens friendships. It can offer a sense of belonging. It provides genuine support. It helps them express themselves.”

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Not only that, but it is allowing student to decide how they want to be portrayed, what they want to post which gives them a choice. It encourages learning and creates a better world because they are given a voice. The article How Social Media Helps Teens Cope With Anxiety, Depression, and Self-Harm  emphasizes that although there are stigmas to social media, “Most youth are interacting responsibly, productively, and in meaningful ways” For example “YouTube remains an innovative way for youth to reflect on their emotional and mental health against the backdrop of others who share similar experiences through the videos they upload.” While listening and reading, I found myself understanding their point of view. If students felt that they could be open, use social media for good and gain a voice, then maybe there was something important about what these children are going through and experiencing.

With ALL of this information, I wish there was an undecided choice because now that I have heard both sides, I do not know what the answer is. I still think there are so many negatives that come with social media, but there are so many positives as well.

What I have decided to do is teach digital citizenship every chance I get. Why? Well, because I feel like I need to embrace technology and social media. It is part of my student’s lives. I cannot just preach that it is bad, and expect them to listen… no teenager has really every listened no matter the topic, so why fight it? I should just teach them proper and improper use and they reasoning behind it. Allow them to learn about digital health and the impact social media can have, then allow them to lead their lives with the correct information. I really feel like this is the best option for me and my students because I can allow them to be aware and allow them to participate.

I want to thank both groups for presenting great research. I do not know where I fall, but I do know what I have to do in my classroom!

 

IS SCHOOL PUTTING YOUR KIDS AT RISK?!

This week was my debate!

And to be honest, I was really scared to be on the agree side of Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids. I have found nothing but success when using tools like Google Classroom, or the odd Facebook page. I think it is so easy to connect with parents because, like our students, they are always on social media! Along with that, I think it is great for schools to appeal to the interests of their students, and to be honest, they are mostly interested in their social media accounts. 


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Kari, Esther, and Shelly had great points in their debate. I think their biggest point is that social media and technology is the reality of our children. We need to stop telling students how to live, but instead empower them to make the correct decisions regarding technology. We want students who use their powers for good, we do not want passive students.  Teachers can have an influence.

Students often view the online world as less stressful because they are comfortable using it. We need to remember that our students are capable of using these tools. In the article, Exploring the Potential Benefits of Using Social Media in Education they explain that “Social media can also be used to promote students’ engagement. Students who often complain of being intimidated or bored in the classroom may feel comfortable to express their creativity and voice their opinion on a social network website. Another finding of this study is that social media applications foster collaboration as they allow students to work together to achieve a common goal.” It is our job to teach them how to use it correctly. As long as teachers are sharing with consideration, including the desires of the guardians we should be in the clear… right?

The disagree side also argued that it is the best way to stay connected. I think this was their best point. In the same article it “it has been shown that social media enhance communication and interaction among students and between teachers and students. Thanks to these platforms, instructors and students are now able to communicate with each other within or between classes.”  Many of my students find it hard to communicate in “real life”.  By using online tools we are allowing them to communicate in a space where they feel comfortable, and they have experience using.

Having guardians in the loop is another great benefit. It really is the best way to ensure student success in the higher grades. By keeping my guardians informed, I am creating a positive learning environment, and I cannot lie, it makes my job a lot easier. I give them a tool to use to see everything their student is expected to do. It keeps them informed and allows students to access assignments at their home schools, or home.  I also find myself sending a lot less emails with attached assignments!

The last point the group made was that we need to teach students how to create a positive digital footprint. Students are not born knowing what to post and what not to, what the rules are, or the ramifications. It is the teachers job (because if we don’t do it, there is no guarantee anyone else will) to help guide our students through this lesson. We need to create lifelong habits with our students. They explained that avoidance is unrealistic and we need to be proactive.

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The article Post no photos, leave no trace: Children’s digital footprint management strategies explains that “the last two years of primary school (when children are approximately 10–12 years of age) would be an appropriate time to educate tweens about good practices for the development of positive digital footprints” The go on to explain that “Children at this stage are clearly agentic and are demonstratively managing their digital footprint in strategic ways.”

The only negative the article mentioned was that “In some cases, however, it would appear that children’s agency to make decisions about their digital footprint is in tension with the actions of parents and carers who are posting about their children online, in ways that are not always seen as positive by children themselves.” Which was a large part of our debate!

I honestly think the disagree side did a great job of outlining the importance of using social media tools and essentially sharing students work and photos… and if I wasn’t forced to do research on the agree side, I wouldn’t be so educated about the risks!

I think the largest concern I have is privacy. We can have all the privacy rules we want. We can get all the forms signed, but when it comes down to it, once we post those pictures anyone can screenshot and share the photo. My mother does it all the time on Instagram with my niece. In the article Dangers Of Posting Pictures Online | Is Your Child At Risk? they really delve into the issue. They explain that “It does not matter how innocent the photo is, if your child has got what a predator is looking for, they will take that photo.” The really disturbing part, is what is going on with those photos after we have shared them, whose hands are on them, and what are they doing with them? It was stated over and over again that guardians really enjoy sharing photos and knowing what their student is doing on a daily basis, but we are not really thinking about the long term effects?

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This leads directly into the safety aspect of oversharing in our schools. The disagree group stated that using technology is less stressful, but although it may be less stressful for completing work, or parents staying in touch, the long term effects of social media use has not been studied. This generation is the first generation to be fully immersed in technology. Recent studies, such as Social Media Use, Social Media Stress, and Sleep: Examining Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Relationships in Adolescents have stated that there is a negative influence of Social Media on sleep. The bright screens cause arousal in our youth and they have trouble falling asleep. This has proven to lessen melatonin, a sleep agent in our body. This in turn, causes high levels of stress because the students are tired during the day. They become stressed because they cannot focus and have poor coping skills. The fact is that students use social media and technology in every aspect of their life, do schools need to be part of this as well? Are the positives really out weighing the negatives? The true answer: We don’t know yet! But maybe it is important to be mindful now so we do not have so many consequences later in life. 

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Another important questions debated tonight was if the use of technology in our classrooms even effective? Social media for learning: A mixed methods study on high school students’ technology affordances and perspectives found that only 23% [of students] think social media helps them learn, 22% think its meaningful, and 13%  believes it deepens understanding. With such low numbers are teachers ignoring the facts and doing what they think is best for students?

Often times, teachers are unfamiliar with technology and can hinder students learning because they are not using it properly, or the sites they are using are outdated. The worst is when the school board blocks a website we need. I think a large argument is also that technology is often a distraction. No matter how hard I preach, I catch my students using their cell phones are laptops inappropriately. They are either chatting with friends, watching videos or playing games.

I remember being young and that I hated when my parents or teachers would compliment me. In the article Dangers Of Posting Pictures Online | Is Your Child At Risk? More than 1 in 4 children admit to feeling worried, embarrassed, or anxious when their parents post photos of them on social media. As a youth, I wasn’t prepared to hear any compliments because I did not believe them. The idea that my successes would be posted online would be so embarrassing. Even if I was okay with my photo being posted for the world to see, I think about the competition that this could create in a class. If you are celebrating some students,  but not others, this could be seen as unfair and damaging. I think a huge component of the agree side was that we are creating student’s digital footprint. We are choosing what it looks like, instead of them having a choice. We need to pick a side, either have students empowered and active, or for safety reasons, leave it in the hands of teachers.

Another great topic that was discussed tonight was the idea of consent. Do students really understand what they are giving consent to? I think some of my students pay attention, but many click boxes and sign forms without really taking the time to read and understand. I even think about their parents and how little some of them understand about technology. Are they aware of the dangers of posting or consenting?

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One thing that annoys me is the constant changing of rules regarding sharing. I feel like I will learn one thing, and someone will tell me it is changing. I do understand that some of it is safety, but things like sharing assignments should not be an issue. If the board supports using Google Docs, then we should be able to use it freely. Instead, earlier this year, we were told our students could no longer share assignments through email because their names were attached. I think many teachers revert back to old ways when so many changes are being implemented. It would be nice if new policies and databases were researched effectively and properly by experts.

The best part of tonight’s debate is that I was forced to choose the opposite of what I believed, and it taught me so much. I love using technology and social media in my classroom, but it is important that I am fully aware of the dangers that are ahead of me. I need to be mindful of the way I share information about my class for the safety and well being of my students, but that being said, I DEFINITELY see the benefit of using technology and sharing. I need that connection with home to ensure my students are supported!

Great debate everyone!

Is Google Ruining Society?

This week’s debate topic was very interesting: Schools should not focus on teaching things that can be Googled. I feel like Google is very important to my classroom, but when I think about the impacts Google could be having on people, it worries me a bit… if schools are focusing on answers we can immediately find on Google, are we helping students grow into well developed people?

I often worry if school is even a challenge anymore. Implementing initiatives like credit completion is allowing our students to become lazier, they often do not need to hand in homework on-time because they know we will mark it whenever, and the students who normally hand in homework have learned that they don’t have to either. I think a lot of this stems from disengaged students. When they do not see the relevance of an assignment, or when they are not interested they do not want to complete the task.

I wonder if a large part of this because school has become a game of fact finding? Are we constantly creating assignments that encourage students look to look for the “correct” answers instead of think deeper?

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This past week, my auto students were given a “history” lesson on carburetors. Most of the content they know, but sometimes my students had to think about what they were saying in the text to get an answer: reading between the lines or deeper thinking... as I tried to explain to them. They were struggling a lot with this, and I was perplexed. Why were they having such a hard time with this? Then it clicked. A lot of their assignments are too easy. The question will read: What colour are pigs? And the text will read: Pigs are the color pink. My students needed to work a little harder, and it was killing them. I told them that they needed to think about the why and explain what the problems were. I cannot lie… it crossed my mind: Is Google killing critical thinking?

In the article, Is Google Making Us Stupid? Carr explains that his “mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy….Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”

I wonder if this is because we are so bombarded with media and information on a daily basis. Is this killing our ability to sit down and concentrate, think about issues and develop thoughts and ideas of our own. Does anyone wonder anymore?

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I find this with myself! My attention span is not what it used to be. I say I want to read, but then I don’t. I find it hard to pay attention to one single task, or to be present in the moment. It is strange to think that our daily habits such as surfing the net and Googling everything has made an impact on my life.

On the other side, I think about my specific teaching job. I do not have novels or text books. My classroom is mostly dependent on Google.  If I didn’t have the internet, I don’t think my assignments would be as interesting, engaging, and worst off, they wouldn’t be as relevant to my auto students. I love the fact that my classroom is relevant to students lives. I teach them real life skills; skills they need for their future.


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In the article, Challenges to learning and schooling in the digital networked world of the 21st century They describe a set of skills: “The new competencies are often referred to as ‘21st century skills’, a term more familiar in North America, or ‘21st century competencies’, a term more common in Europe… to address the knowledge skills and attitudes that are needed for living and working in the 21st century.”

I loved this idea. The idea that we are moving away from traditional education and making school relevant is very important for me. I think that almost every job will need some form of technology. Although some teachers may not like that we are moving away from the gate keepers of knowledge, we are also proving a service to our students. We are preparing them for the world they are growing up in. I love that we are teaching students skills that they will need in the future. I think that was always the intention of school, to give students information about their futures and help them achieve what they want to do.

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Although I loved school, I think traditional schooling is boring to a lot of students. In this article they also explain that “The emphasis has shifted from reproducing information and content to content creation and sharing in virtual environments, which some describe as a remixing culture (Lessig, 2008).” New skills like “Digital literacy should not be regarded as a separate set of skills but embedded within and across the other 21st century competencies and core subjects.” It does take a lot of effort on the behalf of a teacher to learn all of these new skills, and master them enough to teach them. But that is our job. During the debate I commented that teachers need to do what is best for students, not what is best for teachers and I think this is something all teachers need to think about. We are supposed to be life long learners and promote it… and as we know, modelling is a great form of teaching!

I also really liked when the article ‘The Objective of Education Is Learning, Not Teaching states that “Schools are upside down: Students should be teaching and faculty learning, The objective of education is learning, not teaching.” I think by allowing students to be in charge of their learning and moving to a more inquiry based education system is beneficial to everyone involved. The article went on to explain that “In most schools, memorization is mistaken for learning. Most of what is remembered is remembered only for a short time, but then is quickly forgotten” I experienced this all the time in school. I would spend so much time memorizing for a test and walk out and not know a thing. As an adult, I only remember the times where I had to develop a project about something I cared about, and when I put effort into assignments I enjoyed, and I think this is the same for most people. As stated in the debates tonight, it should be more about the process than the answer, but I really feel like Google helps us get there.

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I think in the end, by implementing tools like Google into our classrooms we are not only preparing students for the future, but we are allowing them to “wonder” in their day and age. Google is a way of life. It is how they investigate what they want to know. I complained before about not wondering, but maybe Google is the new wonder. It is just a way shorter time of wonder. Instead of taking this away from students, we need to utilize it. Teach them how to use it properly because students can find information about anything at any moment. It is really about teaching them what to do with this information. How to analyze it, think about it critically and decipher what is good information.

Does Technology Enhance or Harm?

I have used technology since I was in elementary school and I have owned a cell phone since I was 16. So on one hand I feel like I understand why students use their phone so much. But I have been teaching for seven years, and I really do understand the pain technology can cause in the classroom.

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For the majority of my teaching career I would fight students about their use of technology. I would constantly tell them to get on task, off their phones, off Facebook. Almost every semester I debated taking cell phones away all together. In the article Attention, Students: Put Your Laptops Away. They explain that “research shows that laptops and tablets have a tendency to be distracting — it’s so easy to click over to Facebook in that dull lecture.”


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I know this is true because I see my students do it everyday, mostly with Snapchat, but it still happening. Furthermore, I know it is true because I am guilty of this! The article states that students learn more when they write information out. We have been hearing this for years. I often make my students write out important definitions because I think the retain the information more. They do not like writing, but we spend so much time on the computer that it changes our lessons up a bit, and I think they benefit.

The article Research: College Students More Distracted Than Ever  claims” in 2013 30 percent of students self-reported that they used a digital device more than 10 times for non-learning reasons during class-time, in 2015 the count rose to 34 percent.” Students are constantly using devices for texting, social networking, or gaming. When students receive poor grades or they don’t hand in work the students in my classroom say the same things as in the study: they “don’t pay attention” and 80.5 percent listed “miss instruction.” They know what they are doing will negatively impact their learning, but do it anyway.

When I moved to Campus Regina Public, my position on technology really changed. We are core classes (ELA, Math, Social etc.) combined with electives (Auto, Welding) so we no longer had text books. We 100% had to rely on technology, and as you know there is not an abundance of technology in any high school right now. Incorporating cell phones and computers into my daily lessons was mandatory in order to get anything done.

Our first debate, Does technology in the classroom enhance learning, is a debate I have been having with myself and colleagues for years. While expressing my frustrations with technology with other staff members I was always met  with one of two sides:

  1. They totally agreed with me and often told me the method they used to reduce technology misuse in their classrooms
  2. They explained: students need to understand time and place with cell phones. They need to be taught when to use them and how to use them properly, and if they still misuse technology, then that’s not your fault and maybe they need to learn that lesson.

And I chose the second approach!

My class is partnered with Capital Auto Mall, and at work, the employers have a zero tolerance for cell phones. It is a safety issue as well as an employability issue. So I am lucky that we get to back up our thoughts about technology misuse with our corporate partners. In the shop, students are not allowed to be on their cell phones, and when they come to ELA they are taught time and place. We constantly ask them, should you be on that website or app right now? Are you being employable? How much money would you have wasted your boss? And for most students it actually works.

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When we were speaking in class yesterday, I was going to chime in about how CRP does receive backlash from students about our cell phone policies in the shop. Some students really buy into the idea, and understand the employability aspect, but some students have a hard time with it. I find that students are defensive over their technology. They think it is a right to use it when they want. When the students hear our rules, they are defiant at first, express that they have a right to have it or use it, or that their parents are calling them and they must have it out. It does take time, but eventually most do understand that we are trying to teach them proper use of their devices.

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I was surprised to find that many of the reasons why I felt like technology was detrimental to learning were the thoughts expressed in our debate. As Amy, Wendy and Kyla explained there are many disadvantages to technology in the classroom. One of the largest reasons was cost. Not every classroom has access to technology and this is frustrating to teachers and students. When we do have access to the technology, it does not work properly or the sites do not work. They explain that technology is just a tool and that in a way it is killing creativity and they do not prepare students for jobs without technology.

I think it is important to note that although I see their side about technology being a distraction in school,  I also see the value in teaching the students time and place. I think that this is the most important lesson we can teach students right now. I really believe that this is not a lesson they just learn as they grow older. They need to practice this behavior so it does not effect their futures.

I also liked that they talked about how the teachers role is important, that technology can be a distraction and that it is up to the teacher to implement the lesson in a way that engages students. I love teaching lessons that I am involved in, that the students are participating in and we have great discussions… but I think this can be done in conjunction with technology.

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In the article Technology can close achievement gaps, improve learning they explain how it needs to be “the right blend of teachers and technology.” It needs to be a team effort. Students need a teacher to explain the lesson, the importance of the lesson and model for them.  This is the teacher’s role. Then teachers should use the technology to further that lesson and demonstrate that lesson so students are prepared for real life. As the debate went on I realized that I was much more on the agree side of technology enhancing learning then the disagree side.

Katie, Jana and Kirsten explain that the most important part of using technology in the classroom was making sure teachers use technology effectively. We need to prepare students for the future. It ensures our students are up to date with information, can access information anywhere and also helps teachers get to students who need one on one attention. I agreed wholeheartedly about this. The fact that our students are training with programs that will help them later in life is very important. It is also imperative that my students get immediate feedback on their writing. I use Google Docs and make edits right on their page. I have never had more success with editing and rough drafts. The students get it back quickly enough that they haven’t forgotten in and their writing tends to improve. I really liked how they used the SAMR model. I like this because at first I was just using Google Docs as a substitute. But as I researched it, I found that I could comment, it auto saved for students and that they could access their work anywhere. Learning how to use the technology properly was essential to enhancing my students learning.

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In the article Technology can close achievement gaps, improve learning they also explain that “technology – when implemented properly -can produce significant gains in student achievement and boost engagement, particularly among students most at risk.” I think this has been proven in my class. Having the students constantly improve their writing in real time has improved their writing skills. Many of my students have never written a full essay, but with guidance and editing they get there.

I think that I have finally found that perfect balance of using technology in my classroom, and teaching students how to properly use their technology. I think our debaters hit the topic perfectly. We discussed the impact technology has had positively and negatively and now it is our choice on how we approach the situation! I do not think technology is going away anytime soon. And it is important for our students to learn how to use it properly.

Summary of Learning

Whoa! I cannot believe it is time to hand in our Summary of Learning.

EC&I 832 has opened my mind to the idea of digital citizenship and media literacy. I feel like I knew about these terms, but I did not critically think about them. While learning about these topics, it became apparent that I should be teaching my students about these topics as well.

In my two PowToon Videos I explain my favourite articles, topics, discussions and really how this class made me push my boundaries and become more knowledgeable about technology. It in the end, this class actually made me use the technology we learnt about which was scary for me.

Please feel free to check it out! I am pretty proud of my little PowToon!

One topic I did not touch on in my video was my PLN.  As I mention in my PowToon videos, blogging was my absolute favourite this semester. I found I could speak about the readings in a comfortable environment and then interact with my peers about those topics. I feel like I have developed a lot of connections in this class. I really appreciate how everyone was so willing to help me, even when I contacted them directly. I liked that we had the Google+ community because we could share articles and get help as soon as possible.

One of the aspects of the semester that I need to work on improving is Twitter. I have really worked hard to go on Twitter everyday, and read the feed, but I am really bad at posting. I am the creeper and not the active participant. I am signed up for a couple more classes with Alec, and if possible, Twitter will be one of my goals.

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I want to thank everyone for their help this semester! I really had a great time and look forward to seeing you in future classes!

Help! I am illiterate in fake news…

I think I get the majority of my information from colleges and friends. We will have discussions about news stories, or send each other news links, but other than that, I get my news from social media. It’s not a “better” social media site like Twitter; it is usually Facebook or Instagram. I tried to replace it with different news apps, but quickly found myself not using them. The only excuse I have is laziness.

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All day I take information in. I know that I am constantly processing something whether it be planning an event, thinking about a new assignment, evaluating the credibility of my student’s work or the numerous social media pages I look at. Although this information is going into my brain, and I am thinking about it, I do not know how much I am processing or understanding.

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When I think about my  personal strategies for analyzing and validating information (e.g. fake news or other information)… I can’t think of one! I rely on myself and my hunches, which is not good! Last week, when we spoke about fake news being emotional, I thought about how I would totally read those types of stories. I always question whether or not they are real depending on the grammar, and the appearance of the article or website, but I don’t really go beyond this. The only defense I have is that I try not to share something if I don’t know if it is true. I don’t want to spread misinformation and I do not want to offend anyone.

I know that this is an important topic for my students. I know they are flooded with fake news daily. I know that if I don’t teach them, no one will. I was appreciative that in class there were many sites shared that could help me determine whether something was fake like factscan.ca, canadafactcheck.ca and factcheck.org.

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I feel like this topic is something that I need to include into my major project. It wasn’t something I originally planned,  but media literacy is very important. In today’s world, being critical of media is even more important. I am actually excited about planning this resource. I feel like it is something that is useful for my students, and I can make it relevant to their interests in auto.

I don’t have a lot of insight for you guy this week. I do not have any strategies and it is definitely something I need to work on. I guess the question I have left for myself this week is: If I don’t have any strategies to determine whether something is credible, how can my students? 

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wut does it mean 2 b literate?

I used to think that being literate only meant being able to read and write. As I learn more about literacy, I am starting to realize that it is really about understanding different types of information. For instance, when we think about fake news, the idea of fully understanding how to interpret what is fake news is a literacy. More and more, it is becoming important for people to understand the information available to us.

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In the article The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News: they explain that “It seems to be pretty clear [from our study] that false information outperforms true information. . .  “And that is not just because of bots. It might have something to do with human nature.” Carter video also touches on this. He mentioned that fake news is shared more because it evokes more emotion. I thought this was very interesting. I think that the majority of information shared on my Facebook feed are posts that make people mad, sad, frustrated or happy. It is not very often that you see someone share something that is just everyday news. It is often something that they are passionate about.

In most of the videos this week, they stated that “80% of students cannot id real from fake” when it comes to the news they are reading. They do not know how to distinguish what is real, nor do they check to see if it is real. In the article Fact or Fiction: Fake News and its Impact on Education there are examples of how people have acted out based on fake news such as the Comet Pizza Story.

More than ever, it is important for teachers to take the time to teach students how to determine what is fake so we can prevent incidents like this from happening again. The article claims that recent events have “shed light on the problem that most students are not taught media literacy in current curriculums,” I really appreciated that this article gave tips to help teachers teach about media literacy such as: incorporate news-related key terms into the curriculum like credibility and bias, discussing news, and providing different types of news so students can distinguish between the two.

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Another good resource we were given was the video The Problem with Fake News (and how our students can solve it) they give us a five C’s of critical consuming: context, credibility, construction, corroboration,  and compare. I feel like students should watch this video and then students should use this with an article of their choice!

Based on this week’s readings, I would say a large part of being literate is understanding information. It is important to understand what information we are taking in and interpret that information, how to properly use the web, what to post, and what to share. Most importantly, it is important to understand what fake news is. It should not be a teacher’s job alone though. Everyone should ban together to understand this new form of literacy including teachers, parents, communities and social media sites.

 

Digital Literacy: understanding a teacher’s role

This week I spent a lot of time thinking about digital literacy and my identity online as a professional.

In the article Digital Literacy: What does it mean to you The article describes how “in order for students to be digitally literate, they not only need to learn how to use technology, but to be critical of the information they gather. Students are exposed to information digitally—articles, statistics, videos. They require explicit instruction that information might be old, biased, fake, illegal, or discriminatory.” I think it is common to think that students understand these concepts naturally. That they are exposed to these images daily, and therefore they should just know how to decode them, but this is not true.


Photo Credit: City of Seattle Community Tech Flickr via Compfight cc

In the article Media Literacy: A National Priority for a Changing World, they explain that “If our children are to be able to navigate their lives through this multi-media culture, they need to be fluent in “reading” and “writing” the language of images and sounds just as we have always taught them to “read” and “write” the language of printed communications. Just because students are exposed to books, does not mean they know how to read.” Taking that further, we need to teach students to think critically about the texts they are reading in class. We need to tell them to dig deeper and understand the bigger idea and picture. These skills were taught and it is necessary for teachers to provide these students with these skills.

I think that students are lacking skills in digital literacy, but they are also lacking basic reading and writing skills.

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It is a common discussion among people that students are not prepared for real life, or university, and the authors in this article backed up these discussions. They say that “Their research indicates that high school students are poorly prepared for college and the job market, and that employers and post-secondary institutions “all but ignore the diploma, knowing that it often serves as little more than a certificate of attendance,” because “what it takes to earn one is disconnected from what it takes for graduates to compete successfully beyond high school.”

To be honest, this made me a little worried about our school systems. I know that these dis

cussions happen, but the fact that they think the job I do in my classroom is somehow not credible is concerning. I know that many teachers feel that students need to be held more accountable, but when we are held down by the rules, what do we do as professionals? Are we really preparing students for the world, and if not, how can we?

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The article also provides “Five Key Questions [that] provide a “short-cut” and an on-ramp to acquiring and applying information process skills in a practical, replicable, consistent and attainable way”

These questions are:

Key Question #1: Who created this message?

Key Question #2: What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

Key Question #3: How might different people understand this message differently from me?

Key Question #4: What lifestyles, values and points of view are represented in — or omitted from — this message?

Key Question #5: Why is this message being sent?

I think these are great questions to ask your students. By using these in our classroom, we can begin teaching our students to be deeper thinkers about the information they are taking in.

I think I need to do a better job of making my students think critically about the information they see online.  I need to stop just preaching information and teach them how to think beyond the information, to dissect it, and understand how to interpret what they are seeing.  As Dani and Staci both mention in their videos this week: digital literacy is important because it helps us make decisions… and I think we can all agree that is one thing that students need help with!

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This week Patrick Maze spoke to our class about our online identities… and to be honest, at the beginning of the class I was not really happy about what he was saying. I am very careful about what I post online. I was particularly annoyed that he told me it could be seen as unprofessional to post a picture of me holding a drink. I don’t know why this bothered me, but I felt like something so simple shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Patrick suggested we ask ourselves if we really needed to share a picture, story, or comment online, but I always ask myself this. I never want my students, parents of students, or colleagues to think differently of me, but I also think that I have a pretty open mind and would never actually do this.

But, as Patrick went on I realized he made a lot of great points. He said that teachers are always in the spotlight, that we need to ensure that we have the public’s confidence to teach their youth, that we are held to a higher standard and need to be careful of what we put online.

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All of these points made a lot of sense to me. When I have this conversation with other people, they often do not understand why holding a drink is such a big deal, but I do. I know why I became a teacher. I know that it is important to have the respect of the community… and I want to have that.

I am not so keen on having my life censored, but I know that I think teaching is more important to me. We can still have an opinion, and I think we can express these opinions in our classroom, but we need to do it safely. We need to ensure we talk about all sides and include everyone. I think this applies a lot to digital literacy. Not only is it important to have an understanding of how to decode and interpret messages, but also an understanding that as teachers, what we write, and post online hold messages about who we are as people.

 

I created a digital identity without realizing it…

My digital identity started in grade 12. My parents had left for Mexico and I wanted to invite my classmates to my birthday party. The easiest way to do this: Facebook.

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For months I had sworn I would not get Facebook. I did not need it, and thought it was weird to have a page dedicated to myself; it seemed rather vain. Nonetheless, it was the easiest way to invite as many people to my party, so I signed up.

When I look back on my posts, it is a string of updates on what I was doing (like cleaning my house???), pictures of me with my friends (selfies), and posting about the exciting things I was doing. Although some of them are great memories, some of them make me cringe.

At the time, I didn’t even know I was creating my digital identity, now it is too late to change it, and honestly, as each year goes on, I add more and more to my digital identity.

As I got older, I joined other social media sites including Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. I love each one of these sites, but each time the idea of a new one came around it was met with resistance. I didn’t like giving myself to another social media app, but as more of my friends were on them I felt like I was missing out.

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Of all the social media apps I have, I think Instagram and Snapchat are my favourites. Why? Because they are the apps where people share the least personal information about themselves. I do not like the negativity or oversharing Facebook holds. I like that Instagram and Snapchat are usually only photos. You can scroll through easily and it is less stressful. I have been told many times that I would enjoy Twitter the most, but I need to get into it more. I like factual information, and I think Twitter can provide that. I can also mix in some comedy, but again, I tend to be resistant towards new apps, so I will need to take the time to become more familiar with Twitter.

In university we were warned quickly about our online profiles. I do not believe they were preaching words like digital citizenship, or identity, but it was the first time I had thought about my online profile. I went through posts and pictures and deleted anything that would look bad. I would warn my friends on what to post of me. I was going to be a teacher and I did not want anything out there that would jeopardize my position. I have always made sure my privacy settings are the most private they can be, and I review posts before allowing others to see them. I think I was taught about digital identity using scare tactics, and to be honest, it is hard sometimes not to use them with my own students. They are very back and white and I like to tell them how they can be affected  by what they put online.

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I think I am a pretty safe internet user. I think that I know the most about digital identity right now. Especially after taking this class. I not only understand the concept more clearly, but understand the importance of teaching digital identity and citizenship. As Jennifer Scheffer says, “Digital citizenship is not just about teaching students what not to do, but also what they should be doing, to create a positive online impression.” We need to have our students think about it as a tattoo rather than a footprint. I love this analogy, and I think it is something my students will understand. The resources we have gained access to from Alec, and from our peers are beyond useful and I know I will use them in my future, and my classroom. The Digital Citizenship Education
in Saskatchewan Schools package is a great resource teachers should be aware of. I love the posters and the continuum. I feel like all teachers should use this. We need to follow the continuum and teach the correct information which I find to be grade appropriate. I know that I will focus on the topics outlined for my grade 11 and 12 students because the are relevant to their lives and futures.