Author Archives: esthermaeers

Creative Practice

close up photography of leaves with droplets
Photo by sohail na on Pexels.com

At first, I thought I would drive to a spot next to the lake to find something I hadn’t noticed before. After reading this week’s articles about place and the significance of walking, I decided to walk the route that I usually drive to the university. Through walking I am able to slow down my experience and truly take in the details that I miss when in my car.

I have often felt disenchanted about living in this place. I often viewed living in Regina as only temporary until I was financially able to move elsewhere, but that has not happened. I need to look for the enchantments within this city. (Macdonald, 2017)

I have been trying to find moments when I can go wandering alone but this is difficult when you have young children. Instead I decided to complete this assignment alongside my two boys, who are three and half and eight years old. We took note books, pencils and cameras and began our trek down the busy street that we live on. What will we encounter? Will we be enchanted? Will we find nature?

image1-8
Photo Credit- Caius Shumay, age 3.5 years old

 

 

 

 

Reference:

Macdonald, J. (2017). Curriculum encounters through walking the city. JCACS 15(2), 20-33.

Summary of Learning

I can’t believe this course is already coming to an end. I have learned a lot and I have been introduced to many different perspectives on the use of technology in the classroom. Thank you Alec and thank you classmates. Below is my summary of learning…

Is technology an equalizing force in our world?

Before our class debate #5, I thought that yes technology could be an educational tool that brings with it equity and opportunity. Both debate teams did a wonderful job and were very convincing but my perspective shifted to the disagree side. Technology has the potential to be an equalizing force, however, people design and implement it and with that brings flaws.

Jen, Dawn and Sapna were on the agree side of the debate. Through their arguments they stated that technology is bridging the digital divide and providing opportunities for people who were excluded in the past. They explained that open education in the form of virtual classrooms and online educational resources are providing fair and inclusive opportunities for all people.

Rakan and Amy S. were on the disagree side of the debate. They argued that technology is designed in ways to promote gender inequality, racial inequality, digital colonialism and economic inequality. I guess I never took the time to really think about how technology can actually promote inequality! Thank you for the eye-opening facts Rakan and Amy S.!

Daphne Koller is the co-founder of Coursera, a free online university level education site. She explains in her Ted talk that to provide free accessible education to people around the world, will help to make the world a better place. It is so true that technology has the ability to provide equitable opportunities for all, however, as Amy S. and Rakan explain, tech is designed by people who have bias and racism embedded within them. I have personally taken a course through Coursera and although it was very informative it is not completely accessible to all. Upon completing the required assignments and quizzes you are then prompted to pay a fee in order to receive your certificate of completion. Again there is evidence of economic inequality at play. Koller also states that this format of education can provide opportunity to anyone who is motivated to learn. This statement does not take into account the many people who may be motivated but have barriers to even accessing free online education. Oppressed and abused women come to mind here. These women may desperately want an education however, they are unable to access it.

Layla Bonnet explains the effectiveness of Open Education Resources in remote villages in Alaska in her article Analysis: How OER is Boosting School Performance and Equity From the Suburbs of Alaska. She states that OER is allowing teachers in remote parts of Alaska to access resources that in turn help to elevate test scores and reading levels of students. Although it is wonderful that resources are now accessible when in the past they were not, I worry that these Indigenous children are still being taught what mainstream society deams important. The article states that budgets are being cut and high quality education is hard to come by but what about the teachings of the Elders and of the land? So yes westernized education is more accessible, however, Indigenous education has always been there but under utilized in mainstream schools.

Lizzie O’Shea writes about unraveling the idea that technology is neutral in her article Tech has become another way for men to oppress women. O’Shea explains that in “…Melvin Kranzberg’s first law of technology tells us that technology is neither inherently good nor bad, nor is it neutral. As a black mirror it reflects the problems that exist in society – including the oppression of women.” Again the idea that technology is not the problem but that society’s ideologies are being perpetuated through its use. Word association algorithyms inherently pair words in ways that keep women in oppressive positions. Through Facebook etc. abuse victims can even be put in danger, as O’Shea explains.

Digital colonialism in the form of Facebook’s Free Basics was described by Olivia Solon in her article ‘It’s digital colonialism’: how Facebook’s free internet service has failed its users. Facebook developers state that the goal was to bring the internet to people who were not connected before but as Solon writes that perhaps there are more sinister underlying purposes to its implementation. Digital colonialism is a new term for me so I did some research and found this interesting talk…

 

It is quite a lengthy discussion on digital colonialism. At about 8:08 Nanjira Sambuli states that it feels like social media etc. is being created for us and not with us and that its developers feel that we should all be grateful. The panel speakers also discuss the idea that now colonizers have no boundaries, they can impose their ideologies on a much wider scale.

On the one hand technology provides education to a much wider population but on the other hand colonization is able to reach global proportions. Again, we as parents and educators must guide our children and students to be critical of content and to use their voice to speak out against oppressive ideologies. Through education, activism, and intentional use perhaps technology can begin to reflect a more just society.

Image result for social justice gifs

I would love to hear your thoughts around digital colonialism? Is this new to you? Have you experienced digital oppression? How would you as an educator breech this subject in your classroom?

 

 

 

Children and Social Media- A good mix or a recipe for disaster?

We heard some great arguments from both sides of the debate this week on whether or not social media is ruining childhood.

In their opening statement video, Melinda, Alyssa and Lori explain that social media could be contributing to depression in children and causing risky behaviour online such as sexting. They also state that the pre-frontal cortex of the brain is not fully developed in children. This part of the brain is responsible for decision-making and social behaviour, therefore social media is not appropriate for children. Cyberbullying, negative and permanent digital footprints and online predators are all reasons why children should not be using social media.

On the disagree side, Erin, Brooke and Daniel have many great points in their opening statement video. They explain that social media in fact strengthens relationships and creates a sense of belonging because we are now able to interact with the world in ways we couldn’t in the past. Social media is described as a means of support for children dealing with challenges in their lives. They explain that social media can encourage learning by combining facts with reflections. Social media is also a means for children to make the world a better place. This team explains that social media is a tool that requires adults to educate youth on appropriate ways it can be used.

Upon further reading, I came across Helen Knauf’s article explaining the use of social media in a Kindergarten classroom. The teacher in this classroom uses social media as a way to connect classroom learning with the wider community. Social media is used as a communication and learning tool with parents and people throughout the world. The young children in this classroom are not left to use social media on their own, their teacher is directly supervising the use and the content that is going back and forth. In this sense, I feel that social media is benefiting the children’s learning and confidence.

In Michael Niehoff’s article, he points out 9 great ways that high school students are using social media to further their learning. Collecting data, projecting their digital portfolios and ideas, as well as collaborating with peers and seeking support from teachers and experts are all wonderful benefits for the use of social media in the classroom.

Children and teens using social media strictly for school purposes seems to be a positive tool. However, social media can creep into everyday personal lives and that is where there is a problem!

Gwen Schurgin O’Keeffe and Kathleen Clarke-Pearson discuss the benefits and risks to children and teens in their article, The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families. The risks are high for cyberbullying to occur on social media sites without the knowledge of parents. I love the idea put forth in their article, to have regular family meetings about social media rules and the topics that are being discussed online. Parents need to be proactive and talk to their children before challenges arise. However, if cyberbullying goes unchecked it can have dangerous consequences.

So where do I stand on this debate? I have included a vlog below with my personal thoughts. I would love to know where you stand! Comment below with your thoughts, ideas and experiences using social media with students and/or your children at home.

 

 

Should educators be sharing so much online?

I was part of the disagree team for this week’s debate topic: Is openness and sharing in schools unfair to our students? We took the stance that openness and sharing is not only fair to our students but it would in fact be an injustice to students if educators did not use this tool to promote their work. At first this angle was a stretch for me. I can see all of the negative aspects to this topic, such as the infliction on privacy and safety rights for our children. However upon researching the topic further I now agree that educators play an important role in modeling intentional posting for students. There’s always a but though…

As we demonstrated in our opening statement video, Kari, Shelly and I provided three main reasons to demonstrate that sharing online is fair to our students.

  1. Online sharing does not ruin childhood but enhances it.
  2. Sharing helps to connect schools, communities and families
  3. Educators can aid in the curation of positive digital footprints.

The agree team did a fantastic job! Thanks for a great discussion Dani, Joe and Amy R. Here is their opening statement video. They had some great and scary points about safety concerns surrounding over sharing of photos and info on social media. These facts create fear and caution surrounding this whole debate topic. No parent or educator ever wants to put their child or student into harms way. I keep thinking about the story that Alec told us, about how he found out that a ballet photo of his daughter ended up on a suspicious site. “50% of the images posted on paedophile sites were sourced from parents’ social media profiles“, yikes that’s scary! The agree team sure got me re-thinking my new stance on this topic. What’s a parent and educator to do?

 

Yes there are Dangers of Posting Online however, there are also dangers when travelling by plane, going to school, driving a car, eating anything etc.

Image result for funny choking gif

We need to respect the dangers and move forward using our smarts. Educators and parents can follow the STEP approach as outlined by Mike Ribble in the article Building and Keeping a Positive Digital Identity: A practical approach for educators, students and parents, to ensure that we are posting intentionally and respectfully.

In our debate group we chose to focus on the positives of posting online. Parents and educators have a responsibility to model the curation of positive digital footprints for the younger generation. Children/teens today are online and posting already, so in order to protect them we need to educate them and their families on the ways to promote their positive image, through highlighting their talents, interests and future goals. Through the curation of a positive digital footprint we are helping our children and students to become aware of the permanence of online posting and also the power of online posting. The younger generation have a lot to say and their voices can be heard globally through social media, and that’s a wonderful thing! Little Simon Link speaks out about recess and his speech is broadcasted through YouTube. This powerful message will be received by a wide global audience because it was shared online.

 

As a parent, I love seeing the pictures that my son’s teacher posts to her private Facebook group. These pictures help me to ask specific questions about what he is doing at school. School and home can be connected through sharing online. Parents can be a part of their child’s learning in a bigger way through this medium. Yes there can be situations which warrant zero online posting. Religious beliefs and legal cases must be respected by educators. Parents and children must always be consulted before anything is posted online. Consent must be given by all parties involved. Posting student photos on the Web: explains the legal complications of when and when not to post photos of students.

I think back to when I use to make scrapbooks for each of my students. I would collect all of their work throughout the year and once a month I would meet with each child and they would select their best work to go into their scrapbook. These books would be taken with me on home visits around report card time, as a way for my students to show their work to their parents. At the end of the year the scrapbooks would be sent home as a keep sake. Posting to a digital portfolio like Seesaw, is much the same. This is a fantastic way to document learning and highlight great student work and achievement to show parents. The difference with this new technology is that parents can give feedback and comments right away, instead of waiting until report card time. Seesaw and other technological tools must be used appropriately and respectfully. There is always a risk that a teacher or parent will use one of these online tools to demean or embarrass a child, as explained by Kari in her latest blog post and that is why I implore that educators and parents always receive consent before posting online. A child and his or her family should have a choice about how they are presented online.

In closing, it is important for educators to model positive posting etiquette for their students/ families because the benefits are huge! Connecting families, communities and global citizens should always be the goal. We do not learn in a bubble, we need to show our children that. We all need to be exposed to many world views and have the power and confidence to create change in the world.

Just had to add the full rap in here, cause it’s so awesome…

What should teachers be teaching?

Our class debate in EC&I 830 this week was centered around the question- Should teachers teach anything that can be Googled? After hearing both sides of the debate, reading through the recommended articles and watching the videos my thoughts are slowly formulating. Pavan Arora explains in his TED talk that 65% of our students will have jobs in the future that we have never heard of. Ackboff and Greenberg (2008) describe schools as places of incarceration and state that perhaps teachers are the ones learning and not the students. When these two modes of thought are put together we can see that schools are not doing their job. They are not empowering children to learn for themselves. Education has evolved a bit from the lecture style, teacher at the front form of teaching, however, we still need to do better! Can allowing students to goggle their learning really propel education into the future? Nicholas Carr asks the question Is Google Making us Stupid? in his article. He goes on to explain that he has noticed his reading and thinking skills have changed with the onset of online skimming. So on the one hand schools need to educate for the future and on the other hand what skills are we losing in the process and is that ok?

I am a low tech girl, I have only had an iPhone for about a year, I have just recently (like in the past month) started tweeting and blogging and I still can’t always figure out how to turn Netflix on (we have so many remotes!)

I tried to resist bringing more tech into my world because I see what it does to people, it seems to create disengagement in families and dissatisfaction with just being in the moment. I have just recently begun to see how tech can enhance learning and create new opportunities in early childhood settings.  Teachers have a responsibility to their students, to provide opportunities for children to learn the skills that they will need for their future. Intentionally using google and other technological tools to change their teaching content, pedagogy and role is vital.

So what does this change look like in a Prekindergarten classroom? Although changes are inevitable I feel that many of the components within this program can not and should not be replaced with technology, only enhanced.

During our debate in EC&I 830 this week, I heard the argument that children still need to memorize certain things and that they need to be given time to pause and be curious. I strongly feel that young children should be encouraged to discover answers to their questions, in the world around them, in nature, in art, in conversation. I would then use google etc. to enhance the learning experience of my students. I would use google to perhaps find answers to questions that have been explored with our class but need further information. Young children are not in a place in their development to have their learning solely online or solely in their own hands, however through uninterrupted play children can begin to build skills that will help them to navigate their world now and with the flexibility they will need in the future. Teachers in early childhood education have the responsibility to slowly step back and allow children the space to explore their own ideas and interests.

Image result for free images of children using ipads

Joe Ruhl talks about teaching methods that inspire. He demonstrates that teachers need to become a “guide on the side” that work to coach and inspire their students. Students need to be provided with choice for learning topics and learning tools. Students need to learn how to learn, how to find and gain knowledge in multiple ways, how to adapt and work with many personality types, how to critically think about content, in order to be flexible enough to succeed in an ever-changing world. We cannot predict what the future will hold for our students, for this reason we can never teach enough to keep up with the times. Instead we need to teach children how to become resourceful independent learners who can navigate technology but who can also navigate working outdoors, in offices, in teams, independently etc. We need to give children the freedom to explore interests, questions, and topics using many different tools so that when they leave school they know what they enjoy doing and can look for careers in those areas. Children need to be given space, freedom and tools to formulate their own ideas and opinions about the world around them and they need to have access to the ideas, opinions and work of people around the world through the use of technology.

I believe that we can not shy away from using technology in our classrooms. Children require these skills for the present and the future. Using google to provide am tool that children can use to explore their ideas and questions is vital. Educators need to become facilitator of knowledge instead of holder of knowledge as Shelly states in her blog. Children also require space and time to explore in many other forms. Google can not be the only form of learning but just one tool in the toolbox.

I like what Dani writes about in her blog when she states that it is important to add a unit in Health on digital citizenship. I think this type of unit could be adapted from Prekindergarten all the way up to grade 12. It is vital that children of all ages learn how to navigate the online world safely and intentionally. Also I agree with Wendy as she questions what form learning should take within our schools. Upon reading about this subject, it is very clear that education needs to be updated and pedagogy needs to be reviewed. Educators are vital and always will be. Our roles may be changing but we are as important as we have ever been. Although children need to be able to become independent learners, they still need a guide to ensure that they are accessing appropriate information and someone who will facilitate deeper thinking. So in conclusion, I do agree that teachers should be providing opportunities for their students to google their learning, but they should also be providing opportunities for many other forms of learning.

What do you think teachers should be teaching? I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

Is the use of technology in classrooms enhancing student learning?

I am on the fence. I come at this question from an early childhood educator perspective and a mom who has two young children. This generation of students have been born into a world that is obsessed with technology.

Image result for phones at school

Where as I grew up without computers, cell phones or the internet. Boy that makes me sound ancient! Technology was around it just wasn’t overtaking our homes and lives. There is definitely no escaping the fact that technology will be around for a while. That being said, in the last couple of years before I resigned from teaching, I noticed a worrisome trend. Young children were finding it hard to engage in play. Play is usually so innate within young children so why this change? Is it because of the overuse of technology or is it that there is a generation gap, a misunderstanding of the merits of online play? Perhaps the idea of what play consists of needs to be redefined? Could play include games and interactions online in virtual worlds?  Maybe there is a place for technology in the early childhood classroom.

Last Monday, we had our first debate in EC&I 830 on this question. I heard the argument that technology helps to equip children with skills that they will need for their future professions. This may be true, but imagination and exploration are essential skills to fully engaging in a world that is always in flux. Children need to develop a love for learning, a desire to create and collaborate, an inventor mind-set in order to be world changers. As Mark and his son Jack talk about in their TED talk, children can create change in the world by building on what they love and what they know. Play and experience are important ways that children create their stories by overcoming challenges and reaching out beyond themselves. Play is the way that children figure out what they love and what interests them. I define play as children interacting with the world around them in concrete and physical ways. So where does technology fit in the world of early childhood, in the world of future change makers?

As discussed in our first debate, technology is a tool to enhance learning, to go beyond the classroom walls and dig deeper into subjects and global interactions. The use of technology in the classroom has many benefits for both teachers and students. I am not against the use of technology, I am cautious about when and how to implement it. Many of my EC&I 830 classmates mentioned that it is about balance when using technology with their students. In the past, I have felt strongly that in an early childhood classroom, technology should be used very sparingly and that the focus needs to remain on play. Perhaps a sift of perspective needs to take place for me. Children today are growing up immersed in technology. Play and learning to them can take on different forms than what I knew growing up. They may play a sport with a gaming device but then talk about it with their friends at school. They may draw a picture on their iPad that they could never do with a pencil and paper. Their learning is enhanced! I still have my doubts though. What about their physical fitness and fine motor skills (in particular pencil and paper skills)? What about their verbal communication skills?

Image result for young kids saying i dont know gif

So I remain on the fence. I see the benefits to using technology in an early childhood classroom but I worry about the affects on the holistic development of the young child.

What are your thoughts and/or experiences using technology in the early childhood classroom? I would love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In over my head?

Just had my first EdTech class online tonight. Yikes! I am feeling like I am in over my head but that is exactly why I chose to take this course. This will be my eighth grad class and I felt that it was about time to delve into the world of technology. So here I am at the beginning of my journey. I guess I do have some skills, I am fully capable of scrolling Facebook for hours and sending emails and texts but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Next comes blogging, twitter, web conferencing and the list goes on. Although at the moment I am feeling pretty freaked out, I know that our world is full of useful tools that I will soon learn how to access. So for the technically uncoordinated, I’m one of you and I’m going to stumble my way through alongside you!