Welcome to my summary of learning. This is the first EdTech class I have ever taken, and it felt important to me that I take it. I teach middle years students and we use technology regularly in the classroom, and because of that I’d like to make sure that we are using it appropriately and effectively for learning. I also recognize that the world is swiftly moving into a technological age, and as a teacher, this is something that I would like to help my students be prepared for. Please take a moment to watch the video below for a summary of the topics covered, and my subsequent learning from this class.
After taking this class I have a greater sense of curiosity and accomplishment when it comes to technology. Throughout the course I have been given plenty of food for thought, and ideas for new directions to take with technology for both myself and my students moving forward. I have learned how to blog, podcast and make videos, which I can now incorporate into my lesson delivery, as well as pass on to my students. The insights I have gained will help me to embrace technology more excitedly and purposefully in my teaching. I can now move farther down the continuum of EdTech from digital citizenship and online safety, to exploring different technologies with my students like 3D design and printing, robotics, coding and Digital Leadership. We can also examine what the future holds for technology, how it can benefit society, and examine technology based skills and careers.
Maarsii for joining me on my summary of learning for EC&I 830.
Is online learning detrimental to the social and academic development of children? This is a quite the loaded question to pose to educators that have recently been forced to abandon ship and convert to online teaching at the drop of a hat, due to the covid-19 pandemic. Yet that is just what the brave debate teams from my last EC&I 830 class did. Many of us, especially those of us who are also parents, may face some PTSD when recalling this point in time. It is this perspective that led me to choose in favour of this argument initially. I struggled to adapt like everyone else, my daughter with an ADHD and LD diagnoses particularly struggled which was hard to watch. Britney S, Kayla and Colton from the agree team addressed digital access, which became an issue for many of my students during the pandemic. Many did not have access to technology and it was impossible to connect with them. My own family had to purchase an iPad so we had enough technology for both children. It was not an ideal situation, and our students and children are still recovering emotionally and academically from pandemic online learning.
However, partway through debate I began to feel conflicted. Arkin, Kat, and Chris of the disagree team made a crucial distinction between reactive online pandemic learning, and learning that has been specifically created for delivery online, such as this course for example. I began to wonder if perhaps I wasn’t giving online learning fair consideration. I have had the experience in my graduate studies of attending more than one class that was online because of the pandemic, versus one that was designed specifically to be online, namely this one, and I must say I am a fan. Well that is if they are all designed similarly to this one.
I know what you’re thinking, that woman sure knows how to suck up to the professor! In all seriousness, this is the only course I have taken that was designed specifically to be online, by someone who has the knowledge to deliver it effectively. I’m sure the pandemic has crated a steep learning curve for some profs too. What I appreciate about this course is that expectations are clearly laid out, the documents are neatly organized and accessible via hyperlinks, and when in a pinch, help is just a Dischord message away. These things have made my life easier in many ways, especially when working on my assignments. Not only that but the classes have been interactive and engaging. I’m totally inspired to try debate with my students next year.
Although online learning may not be the best fit for everyone, especially in an emergency situation with unprepared teachers, it can be the best or even the only choice for other students. It can provide a flexibility that brick and mortar school cannot, and allow access to students who may struggle in a “regular” institution. Online learning during the pandemic was far from ideal, but as Kat mentioned during the debate discussion, it was “better than nothing”. With that being said, I ended up switching sides in the final vote. I wouldn’t recommend online learning for everyone, but it is certainly a viable option for some without being of detriment.
Now it’s your turn to chime in. How did your teaching fare during the pandemic? How did your students or children fare? Do you think there is a place for online learning? What things do you think are important to consider and include in online course delivery? Do you have an edtech background that has allowed you to consider this on a deeper level? I’d love to hear your thoughts. C’mon, spill the tea!
This week debaters in my EC&I 830 class asked us to decide whether it is the job of educators to help students craft their online footprint. Before weighing in, it’s important to examine what a digital footprint is. Rae and Funmilola from the agree side of the debate addressed this in their opening video explaining that it is “a trail left by all of your interactions online”. They further explain that this could include things like what you watch on television, your browser history, what you shop for, what you do on your smartphone, and the comments you post online. They argue that educators have a responsibility to provide students with the background knowledge needed to create and protect their online identity. As part of their argument, they explain that what students do and post online can have either a positive or negative impact on them and their future, as described in this video from The EdTech Show with Dan Spada. The argument being that formal education has a role in preparing students for their future and how they may be perceived online.
On the other hand, Gertrude and Kim of the disagree side have a different opinion on the matter altogether. Although they agree that having a positive digital footprint is a growing concern facing our youth, they believe this is an issue that is much too large to be placed on the laps of teachers and the education system. They explain that many students have already developed a digital footprint by the time they enter school, in their opening video here. Kim and Gertrude assert that as a society we need to hold “big tech” accountable in this situation. They provide this article for support written by Peter Lewis in The Guardian, which explains some of the ways “big tech” take advantage of their users by mining and selling their data without reproach.
So where do I side? Initially before the debate took place I sided with Rae and Funmilola on the agree side, but some excellent points were made by my peers during the debate and the ensuing discussion that made me reconsider this. During the breakout discussion, Colton explained that although he agreed with educators having a responsibility to pursue online safety and citizenship, but he questioned whether it was up to us to help them create their online identity. Upon reflection, Colton’s statement made sense to me. I think that presumably if we teach proper online etiquette, safety, and citizenship, students will have the tools and knowledge they need to create their own positive digital footprint.
The lack of resources and teacher education in the area was also brought up during discussion, and this is indeed a distinct reality. Kari explained that we are just playing catch-up at the moment with our digital education, and I would certainly agree. I have often felt that I am floundering around on my own when trying to figure out what to teach for digital literacy, and unsure what resources to use. Additionally, as addressed in the discussion, the curriculum does not accurately reflect or support today’s use of technology. However, the point made by the disagree side that carried the most weight for me that teachers have the responsibility for far too much placed on them already, and this is an issue that is so vast and unexplored, that it simply cannot be the teacher’s responsibility.
Enquiring minds want to know. Are you mindful of what your digital footprint looks like? Who do you think has responsibility in this matter? Do you agree with Kim that there needs to be a reckoning for “big-tech”? What do you think about the fact that there are no online privacy regulations that address children? Do you think that by providing instruction in digital literacy, digital citizenship, and digital leadership, that students will learn to be mindful and purposeful with their digital footprints? C’mon, spill the tea!
The debate teams in my class last week asked us to consider whether social media is ruining childhood. My first inclination was to agree with this statement. I mean working with middle school students for a number of years has given me a front row seat to the bullying, inappropriate behaviour, and drama that can be channelled through social media.
Then I thought about my own daughters, aged 11 and 8. My husband and I limit the time our girls spend on technology. We also try to monitor what they watch on tv so that it is appropriate for children. Instead we encourage them to play outside, create things, learn to cook, play games and spend time with the family. My husband and I are both Métis, so spending time with family, especially outdoors, is something we both value deeply. Neither of my children have a phone, but my 11 year old would really like, or so she tells me daily.
Now don’t get me wrong, my kids sometimes get screen time, and much more frequently tv time. Every parent needs a break, especially one who is a teacher and is taking graduate studies classes to boot! I certainly don’t judge, but I do understand that with all things in life there must be balance. The agree side made some good points about the harms of social media, yet my children don’t spend time on it. So is social media ruining their childhood? No, I don’t think so.
However, this brings up a different issue entirely, and that is one of adult control of and involvement in a child’s use of technology. The digital realm can be somewhat like the wild west, it lacks law and order. This is why children need adult support and supervision, digital literacy instruction, and time limits set on their technology time. The problem is that these things don’t always happen, and this is when children can be put at risk of the many issues brought up by the agree team including addiction, isolation, and poor self-esteem . Yet is this the fault of social media or the adults in charge of the children? I think that overall, for both adults and children, there needs to be more awareness of online etiquette, online safety, how technology can negatively affect you, and how to manage what your child can access and do online.
In the end, I agree that social media has inherent dangers for youth and must be limited and supervised, but I cannot say that it is necessarily ruining childhood. The disagree team brought up a good point, we don’t expect our youth to hop in a car and start driving without instruction, supervision and practice. Why? Because cars are dangerous and we wouldn’t expect them to just know how to safely use them. Does that mean we should just ban them from using cars? No, cars are helpful and serve a purpose, they can make our lives easier. The same thing could be said for technology and social media. There are many ways that they could be used as a tool for education, teaching them how to become not only digital citizens, but also digital leaders. Perhaps not with very young children, but certainly for middle years children and older. I think the question here is not whether social media is ruining childhood, but whether children are being taught about it properly, and to that I would argue the answer in most cases is no.
Ah the cellphone, what a modern delight. I am of an age that allows me to appreciate how far cellphone technology has come, from the old school bag phones of the 90’s to the smart phone of today. To be quite honest, I often wonder why we still call them phones, since that is only one of the multitude of functions they serve. Even though I was initially a hold-out to jumping on the cellphone bandwagon once they became more widely available I eventually caved in and got myself a Samsung A800 “flip-phone”. Honestly I haven’t looked back since then, and like many other people, my cell has become my constant companion because I use it to do so much. Yet although cellphones are a blessing in all that they can do for us, they can often serve as distraction, and waste our time. I know that I can spend hours scrolling through social media feeds, or playing word games when I should be doing other things. I guess the point is that when using our phones balance is key. Cellphones are neither good or evil, but have the potential to bring us both.
Just as adults are susceptible to the lure of the cellphone, so too are kids and teens. This is of course why students need to be receiving messages about healthy technology use from home, school, and the media. It is because of the issues that cellphones can cause with students that many schools have implemented cellphone bans. Despite this, I don’t think cell phones should be necessarily be banned in schools, for two reasons. One is because they are a necessary tool that students use to communicate with their parents before and after school. The second reason is because of their potential to be used as learning tools, and backup technology when there is not enough.
These reasons also happen to be points brought up by the disagree side during a recent debate I witnessed on whether cellphones should be banned in the classroom. Both sides in the debate made excellent points. The agree group explained some of the psychological damages that can be caused by social media, how cyberbullying increases when phones are present, and the constant distraction cellphones provide. Although I do believe that cellphones should not be banned, there is a caveat. The points that the agree side brought up are spot on, so with this in mind, I do not think students should have free reign with their phones, or even have access to them when they are not needed. As a middle school teacher I can attest to the distraction and drama that cell phones bring with them, which is why they need to be managed properly by the school or teacher. Many teachers including myself address this by locking up the students phones in a caddy or filing cabinet until they are either needed, or to send them home at the end of the day.
I can only surmise that my opinion might be otherwise if I didn’t work with middle school aged children, and use technology with them in some form each day. As it stands, I do not think we should necessarily rely on using student cellphones in class, but I also think we should not rule it out entirely, when appropriate. Ask yourself this, If we banned cellphones at school would students no longer face phone addiction and cyberbullying?
Schools should no longer teach skills that can be easily carried out by technology. What a controversial statement to pose to a bunch of teachers! This statement became part of a debate assignment in the EC&I 830 Contemporary Issues in EdTech class I am taking currently. When I read the topic initially, I immediately saw terrible dystopian visions of robots at the front of classrooms carrying out instruction because it can easily be done with technology. Meanwhile the students are at their desks, enslaved by tech, needing it to carry out even the simplest tasks because they don’t know how to. I then wondered what if there was no power, or internet, or access to technology?
Alright, I admit, I’m being rather dramatic. Honestly, those visions were quickly replaced with visions of all the ways that I use tech with my middle school students and encourage them to use it to help meet outcomes. Many of my math students over the years have come to grade six without a firm comprehension of basic operations. I regularly let these students use calculators, or at the very least multiplication charts, so they can still participate in the math concepts we are exploring without getting hung up on their multiplication and division. However, I find that the same students who lack these skills coming into middle years, are also often the ones who struggle with many math concepts, regardless of if they are using technology to help them or not.
As with any of these debate topics there clearly is no cut and dry answer, or else there would be nothing to debate. While I think that technology certainly has a role to play in providing equity in the classroom, I am not sure that it should replace the learning of basic skills. As with all things in life, there must be balance. I am genuinely in favour of using technology in the classroom because I know that this is where the world is going, and students will need those skills to navigate it. I have also seen first-hand the authentic, fun and exciting, hands on learning students can be a part of using technology. Yet at the end of the day I think we still have a role in teaching students how to use basic skills which become the building blocks of comprehension. It is at this point that we can integrate technology to help them along. Both the agree team and the disagree team made excellent and valid points during the debate, and I thank them for their hard work.
Recently I participated in a debate assignment for my EC&I 830 – Contemporary Issues in Edtech class. The debate topic was: Educators Have a Responsibility to use Social Media and Technology to Explore Social Justice. My team represented the agree side, and though we worked hard and fought valiantly, we were ultimately bested by the disagree side. There were three distinct arguments that were repeatedly brought up by, and in favour of the disagree side during class discussion. These points were:
Social media and technology are not prerequisites for learning about or participating in social justice.
Teachers should remain neutral so as not to sway their students.
Teachers must always consider their profession, for they may risk getting in trouble for posting their opinions online.
Yet the more I think about the debate statement, and the more angles I examine it from, the more I believe it to be true. In light of that, I would like to give a shout out to Nicole W. who made an excellent point in her blog post titled, “The Teacher That Takes Pride in Never Revealing (Their) Opinions to Students Models for Them Moral Apathy”. Nicole writes, “What I took issue with in the debate is the focus on social media. The debate topic clearly states “to use technology and social media to promote social justice”. I will address Nicole’s statement by saying that my team felt we would have the most difficulty proving the social media aspect of the debate, and we felt it would be what our opponents would focus on, and it would seem we were right. Yet Nicole’s comment made me wonder if we may have had more success by centring the role of technology in social justice. As an aside, Nicole also shares how she has used technology herself to pursue social justice here. Way to go Nicole!
I’ve been told that I hate to lose an argument and perhaps that’s true because I’d like to make one last attempt at convincing you that teachers do have a responsibility to use technology and social media to explore social justice. In doing so I will address the three points I mentioned earlier brought forward by the disagree side. However, I’d like to start off by sharing some statements that I believe to be true. While you read them, please think about whether you agree with them or not.
Nearly all teachers in North America use technology daily in their classrooms for various reasons. As Common Sense Media explains in their 2019 Census on technology in the classroom, “Educational technologies continue to be integrated and embedded into school districts, changing how teachers and students work and learn”.
It is the responsibility of educators to teach students how to use technology and social media effectively and appropriately at school. This of course applies not only safety reasons, but to explore the potential for improving their lives and that of others.
Technology and social media play a daily role in the lives of most Canadians. Meaning both students and teachers are likely very familiar with them, and make use of them frequently.
Exploring social justice issues is a responsibility of educators here in Saskatchewan as per the Saskatchewan curriculum. The curriculum has outcomes that address social justice for just about every grade, like this one in the grade six social studies curriculum.
Advocating for the equity of marginalized citizens is everyone’s MORAL responsibility. Yes teachers, that includes you.
Whether you agree with these statements or not, the point I am trying to make is that teachers have a responsibility both to explore social justice, as well as to use technology in the classroom. According to the disagree team, the two need not be connected in any way. However, I contend that exploring social justice is actually linked to technology and social media. Perhaps this was not true decades ago, but certainly not in this day and age. This is because making use of them allows social justice movements to gain traction quickly and widely, to share their messages, provide awareness and education, and to organize events. Social media tare the most current and effective tools teachers can use to learn about, teach about, and explore social justice. If we wish to explore social justice ourselves, and teach our students how to do so, then we must use “the tools of the trade”, which in this case are technology and social media.
Most people in Canadian society already integrate technology and social media into their daily lives. Additionally most schools in Canada are equipped with technology that is used daily by both teachers and students. Lastly many classrooms, schools, and even school divisions have social media accounts. For example Regina Public Schools has both Facebook and Twitter accounts, that they have been using to promote and support Pride Month, a social justice cause. If teachers use their technology daily for planning and instruction, and their school boards are using social media to promote social justice, and social justice is best explored through social media and technology, then it barely makes sense to become a luddite when teaching about or engaging in social justice. For example, it was suggested during the debate that you could write a letter to the editor as an alternative to using technology and social media. However, unless you’re an octogenarian, your letter will likely be sent by email, or at the very least be typed up via computer and word processing program. So with these in mind, I believe that if you wish to properly and effectively teach about social justice, as required per curriculum, or wish to participate in it yourself for moral reasons, you are required to use technology and social media.
The last two debate points I mentioned were somewhat problematic for me and I would like to address them. There was plenty of discussion around the idea that teachers should remain neutral, so as not to “indoctrinate” their students. I will admit to being surprised that so many educators believe neutrality is a possibility. You see because of what I have witnessed in my personal life as a member of a Métis family, from my indigenous worldview, from working in community school schools for the past twelve years, and from what I have learned in my post-secondary degrees about things like colonialism, racism, systemic racism, anti-racist education, as well as the numerous human rights violations which founded and continue to shape our country, I have an intrinsic understanding that neutrality is a fallacy. I guess forget that not everyone else does. The idea of neutrality is one that is intended to keep the balance of power in favour of those who can claim to be neutral because they are not hindered by oppression. In reality, neutrality does NOT exist, so if you are teaching to the status quo – aka the colonial based school system and curriculum, then you are already indoctrinating students. Well known Canadian scholar Henry Giroux refers to this indoctrination as the “hidden curriculum”.
The last point that I would like to address is the notion that teacher professionalism will be harmed by exploring social justice through technology and social media. I must admit that I find this argument confusing for two reasons. The first that puzzles me is how the notion of social justice in this debate somehow came to represent one expressing unpopular or controversial opinions publicly on social media, so as to risk one’s career. I am equally as confused as to how social justice movements became equated in this argument with anti-vax sentiments and the Freedom Convoy. Let me be very clear, neither of those things constitute as social justice. If the movement you support is backed by white supremacists you can be pretty sure that it’s not a social justice movement. You see, social justice is required when people who are continually and systemically oppressed cannot reach parity within society. To participate in social justice means to educate yourself and others, it means showing up, showing your support, speaking out when you witness discrimination, and connecting with like-minded people to work together for the betterment of others. It does NOT mean climbing atop your Facebook soapbox to spout your political views, especially if they align with those of racists. Here is a list of great ways you can participate in social justice authentically that don’t involve risking your career.
Honestly, I left this debate feeling deflated not so much by the loss, but by some of the messages I felt that came across in the discussion. It came across to me, that many who may have the luxury of remaining neutral as members of the “dominant culture“, feel no compulsion to engage in social justice because “at the end of a long day of teaching, it is not their responsibility”. Yet ironically, and perhaps unfortunately, it is those with privilege especially who need to be engaging in social justice if any ground is to be made towards a more equitable society.
The issue at debate here is whether technology has led to a more equitable society. Before delving in, it is important to understand that equity is not the same thing as equality. Equality means that everyone gets the same thing, and equity means that people get what they need to be on equal footing with others. So, in terms of technology providing equity, it must mean that marginalized people can access the technologies necessary to place themselves within a more equitable position in society. It is such a lovely and well-intentioned idea, but it is simply not the case.
You see, in theory technology definitely has the potential to help to level the playing field for many people, but in reality it falls short. I recently listened to a debate on this topic in my EC&I 830: Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology (#ECI830) classtitled, Technology has led to a more equitable society. Although both sides of the debate made convincing arguments, my opinion on the matter remains unchanged, technology does not necessarily bring about equity, and can even create greater disparities . During the debate, the “agree” side pointing out how advances in medical technology have provided a greater quality of life for many people. Technology has certainly helped to advance medicine. Whereas the against side chose to highlight how different socio-economic status determines access to technology, thus creating what has been referred to as “The Digital Divide”.
Technology is often limited to those who can afford it, and those who are familiar with it. This leaves out a significant portion of society. When schooling went online during the pandemic, those who were fortunate enough to have access to technology could still participate in class and gain instruction via Zoom or Google Meet. Those students who did not have access to technology, and there were many at the school where I work, were sent home paper work packets to complete on their own. I don’t think I need to explain the disparity in quality of education here.
As far as medicine goes, I will agree that advances in medical technology have allowed people to live longer lives, and for some to live a better quality of life than they may have prior to technology, but only if they have the access to that technology. Assistive technology like glasses, wheel chairs, hearing aids and scooters can be expensive, or hard to obtain. Not only that, but I have to ask, does having a better quality of life than you would without technology actually constitute equity? I’m not inclined to think so. My niece has a rare disease called IgA Nephropathy, she is still alive, and has some quality of life thanks to advancements in medicine, like dialysis, which do the work of her kidney. So whether she gets a transplant, or whether bio-artificial kidneys become a reality, it will be thanks to technology.
Yet, my niece was diagnosed when she was ten, she is now twenty-one. She has spent the last decade feeling sick daily, spending time at doctors and specialist appointments, having medical tests done, taking a cocktail of pills each day, having multiple operations, hospital visits, emergency room visits, and ambulance rides. Has her life experience been equitable with her peers? No. My niece has been granted a life, but she’s also had to watch her friends from the sidelines doing all the things that children and teens normally do like sleepovers with friends, participating in school plays and sports, and going to dances and parties. I am so grateful for the technology that has allowed her to be here with us, but I do wish with all my heart that she could have had a “normal” childhood and continued to do all the things she enjoyed before she got sick. No amount of technology will or can change that, just like no amount of technology will erase systemic racism.
So, in the end, while technology has the potential to bring equity to society, it falls rather flat.
If the students know how to use it effectively and appropriately.
If the internet works.
If the teachers are digitally literate, or are willing to learn.
If there is professional development around it.
If digital literacy is woven throughout the curriculum.
The idea of technology in the classroom is grand, but let’s be honest the reality of it is often very different. With that being said, technology is only a thing, it is not inherently good or bad. The power it has comes from those who utilize it, and to what end. It has the potential to change lives for the better, as in the case of medicine. I know that my family is eagerly watching the Kidney Project, which is developing a bioartificial kidney to treat kidney failure. This could be a potential solution for my niece who is in end stage renal failure, and unlikely to get a transplant from a living donor.
On the other hand, it also has the potential to provide psychological damage, as in the case of cyberbullying, online predators, or even for those who are addicted to scrolling ceaselessly on their smart phones. In conclusion, technology use in the classroom has incredible potential, but there are a whole pile of ifs that get in the way. A crucial facet of embracing technology in the classroom is educating students about the dangers of technology and social media, but also teaching them the effective use, and potential, of technology. When the stars are in alignment, and everything goes well, technology truly can enhance classroom learning.
I am of a generation that saw a technological boom grow up just behind my youth (GenX). I remember when I was in grade 8 my class got one of those old school IBM PCs with the green screen. Nobody really knew what to do with it, so it mostly sat there collecting dust. In high school we took typing, not keyboarding skills. In my late teens my family got dial-up internet but I didn’t have much to do with it, it was mostly used by my younger brother. I may be a little behind the rise of tech, and although I don’t perceive myself to be particularly technologically savvy, I have certainly embraced it. I realize that a good deal of my time is spent using technology in one aspect or another. The advent of smart phones has made this true to some degree for just about everyone.
I find that my technology use can be categorized into three groups; personal use, professional use, and graduate studies, or student use.
In my personal life I use various platforms to provide entertainment like Apple Music, Audible, Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. I typically access these platforms from my phone, but also from my MacBook or my Apple TV. I also use technology to communicate with people via text, Zoom, Messenger, and Facetime. I would say that the way I most frequently connect with others outside of my family is through Facebook or Messenger. This is because I am old, just ask my students who wouldn’t be caught dead on Facebook.
Technology definitely permeates my professional life. For example I take attendance, keep track of assignments, enter marks, and do student report cards on Edsby. I put assignments, handouts, and communications into our online Google Classroom. I use Planboard to create my timetables and day plans, and Outlook to communicate with colleagues and parents. Conferences have been held by Zoom the last few years as have many staff meetings. It is daily that I use a laptop and projector, and sometimes a document camera to project work, videos, and demonstrations on the white board. I use technology as a teaching tool as well. Students use laptops to research, and create assignments. They use platforms like Prodigy, Scratch Jr, and YouTube often. Along with this we explore digital citizenship and learn skills like how to use Google effectively for research, or how to create different types of documents for example. In it would indeed seem that I rely quite heavily on technology in my teaching practice.
I use technology in my graduate studies in the expected ways: attending class through Zoom, meeting with group partners on Zoom, accessing library materials through the John Archer Library, using URCourses to access class materials and submit assignments, researching using Google, and for creating assignments in various applications. My MacBook is my trusted partner in this endeavour.
The moral of this story is that whether you consider yourself to be a “techie” or not, you likely rely heavily on technology every day. Oh, and also that Facebook is for “old people”.