Author Archives: Jill McLeod

Approaching the Finish Line

We have one class remaining for this course and with it comes our summary of learning assignment.  I decided to choose a format that really speaks the the current time that I’ve been going through with remote teaching.  At the end of April I started seeing these Bitmoji virtual classrooms popping up all over the primary teacher groups and people that I follow.  I watched a couple of YouTube videos and I learned how to make my own.  I’ve been using it with my class periodically for the last few weeks.  So, when it came time to begin working on summarizing my learning for EC&I 830, I thought why not show my learning as a representation through a virtual classroom.  It will slightly differ from the WeVideo presentations that many of my classmates are doing, but like I said this is an artefact that will not only summarize my learning, but will also encapsulate a trend of remote teaching during the covid-19 pandemic.

I thought this course would teach me different tech ideas to use in my classroom, however it opened my eyes to the plethora of issues that come along with tech in schools.  I now think about things relating to tech that I hadn’t even considered before.  As stated in my summary of learning, I feel more tech-informed.  I feel equipped to empower students through using tech and I am more comfortable having conversations around tech with colleagues and parents.  With living in the digital age, this is absolutely vital.

Please enjoy my summary of learning here

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The Community is the Curriculum

When Alec first made that statement early in our course, I thought, oh that’s so nice.  However as we worked through the course, the true meaning of this statement really showed.  I wanted to write an additional blog post to thank each of you for your contributions to my learning, especially since this is the final course of my Ed Leadership Degree.

Altan

Thanks so much for for sharing some personal experiences. You brought some unique perspectives to our class. My cat also liked your cat picture!

bella

Alyssa

A great debate opponent! I will never forget the slogan “have a plan, not a ban!” Thanks for a fun debate! You did awesome!

Amanda

You have great knowledge of tech and several instructional topics. I enjoy listening to your podcast and thank you for the ant-racism resources.

Amy

While this is our first class together, we are both at the end of our Master’s journey. Congrats to you! I have enjoyed reading your Tweets!

Brad

I always enjoyed hearing your thoughts when you shared them during or discussion. You speak from experience. You are a great actor/impersonator!

Christina

You shared a lot of excellent resources in your blog and on Twitter that I have found very useful and can see myself using in the future.  Your blog comments prompted me to reflect on my own situation. I also really enjoyed your debate video.

Curtis

I really appreciate your contributions to the Slack forums. You helped me in a few different situations.

Daina

I agreed with so much that you said in your debate video and blog post relating to your debate. It really related to my current teaching role and affirmed some of my instructional beliefs.

Dean

You have an abundance of knowledge relating to tech. I’ll admit I’m a little envious of how comfortable you are with using such a variety of platforms. You always added great insight to our class conversations via Zoom, Twitter, and Slack.

Jacquie

The closing statement of your debate blew me away. You are an excellent speaker and spoke with such emotion that you brought me to tears!

Jasmine

You are very good at Tweeting valuable resources that I found useful. Your blog post titles are also original and engaging.

Jocelyn

Since you were Daina’s debate partner, I will repeat how your debate impacted me. I   agreed with so much that you said in your debate video and blog post relating to your debate. It really related to my current teaching role and affirmed some of my instructional beliefs.

Kalyn

You never hesitated to share your thoughts during our class discussions.  I always enjoyed hearing what you had to say.  You prompted me to think of things in a different way sometimes.

Laurie

I greatly enjoyed your video for your debate.  It was a topic that related greatly to my current teaching assignment. I enjoyed your take on this topic and gave me a lot to think about.

Lisa

We were in two classes together this spring term. I enjoyed getting to know you in both settings. You always added valuable thoughts to our discussions.

Matt

We were in a breakout room together early on in this course and your contributions were relevant and and practical. You helped keep our discussion on track and focused on real scenarios.

Melinda

You have a talent for being honest and open in your experiences and thoughts relating to tech and other social issues through our class discussions and your blog posts.

Michael

You had lots to contribute during class discussions.  You were supportive on Twitter and Slack. Your debate has left a lasting impression on me.

Michala

Excellent debate video with Brad.  You two did a fantastic job throughout your debate.  You shared some very helpful thoughts that gave me a lot to think about.

Nancy

Your background in digital platforms and relating issues really added to my learning in this course. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience. I look forward to continuing to follow you on Twitter.

Nataly

I enjoyed reading your blog posts. You balanced your experiential input as an educator and as a parent. Your debate offered me a glimpse into an area that I hadn’t given much thought to.

Sherrie

Your “Sharing with Sherrie” feature was unbelievable! Very impressive and really helped drive your point.  Great work!

Skyler

A great debate opponent! I will never forget the slogan “have a plan, not a ban!” Thanks for a fun debate! You are very good at it!

Tarina

My debate partner, my Master’s mate, my colleague. For those of you who don’t know, Tarina and I work in the same school and began our Master’s at the same time. Our course schedule has differed slightly so she has a couple more courses to go. Thanks for helping me figure out how to use WeVideo for this course!

Trevor

You set the bar high with a strong first debate. Your argument really shifted my mindset early on in the course.

Victoria

You shared lots of resources and insightful material on Twitter that I have enjoyed reading. I also appreciated your response to my question on Slack.

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Heavy.

Debate #7 – The Finale

I don’t think it was planned but I feel the topic for tonight’s debate, which was our last one, was the most intense one of all.  This could be in light of the current global situation.  The topic was, “educators have a responsibility to use tech and social media to promote social justice.”  The presenters did a superb job.  The conversation was emotional and impactful.

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Agree Side

Jacquie and Mike supported the idea that educators need to be using tech and social media to promote social justice.  From the beginning, their video presented a serious tone.  It wasn’t flashy, catchy, or funny like many of the other debate videos.  It was filled with definitions, framework, real life examples, and powerful images and videos that brought their argument to life and helped us understand the seriousness of social justice.  They began by sharing the thoughts and work of a teacher of the year recipient from the United States, named Sydney Chaffee.  Social justice is the foundation of her instruction.  She defines social justice as “all people in society deserve fair and equitable rights, opportunities, and access to resources.”  Jacquie and Mike went on to discuss the four elements of teaching social justice.  They said it can challenge, disrupt, and confronts, it provides students with resources, it draws on student talents and strengths, and it promotes critical thinking.  Through this, students can develop problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, perseverance, and historical context.  Finally, the video clip they used to conclude their opening argument was powerful for highlighting the need to take action against injustices.

Disagree Side 

Brad and Michala had a tough act to follow, however their video was also impressive.  Although they chose a humorous approach including guest appearances of funny characters and an impersonation of President Trump – well done Brad!  The main points from this team included, remain impartial, present both sides of an argument, promote the human factor, and the importance of face-to-face connections.  They also had a slogan at the end of their video, like we’ve seen from some other debate teams.  This was “be informed – don’t be a troll.”

My Takeaways

Brad and Michala brought up an excellent point about the importance of face-to-face communication.  They related it to many things we do at school which helped me understand it better.  They mentioned that when we want to talk about something serious with a parent, we call them in for a face-to-face meeting.  This could be a meeting about an incident, parent conferences, or SST meetings.  Very true!  We can see facial expressions, hear tone, and make stronger personal connections and mutual understanding during face-to-face meetings.  A couple points from Mike and Jacquie stood out to me.  They stated that social issues aren’t fixed after one presentation or one protest, but rather daily focus, and a journey of self-growth is more effective.  They also shared that school can and should occur beyond the four walls of the classroom/building.  This point has come up in a few of my Master’s classes and it is something that I want to do a better job of when we’re back at school.  Another poignant moment during our discussion was two personal accounts from Melinda and Altan about fears of speaking their minds in the countries they grew up in due to dictatorship.  Tonight’s debate was heavy.  It was a heavy topic that brought heavy emotions and has left me with heavy thoughts.

General Thoughts

This is something that I greatly struggle with.  To be honest, I had a very difficult time navigating Twitter during the early days after George Floyd’s death.  I am very much afraid of posting the wrong thing.  I also go on social media to ‘escape’ and unwind.  I don’t like seeing all of the negative, partisan comments.  I have “unfollowed” people, not because I don’t think their opinion is important, or because their opinions don’t align with mine, but because their abundance of strong, negative, postings caused me stress.  I also feel that there are 2 parts to teachers promoting social justice.  There’s what we teach in the classroom to students, and what we post on our personal accounts.  I am a strong supporter of teaching social justice at school.  These are often the topics that can’t be easily Googled.  I believe it was Michala who pointed out that her daughter was online and had no idea what was true and how to feel about everything she was seeing.  Kids need to be exposed to these topics in school and work to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills in relation to these areas.  With being in rural Saskatchewan, I’ve often heard that we shouldn’t be teaching about racial groups, or marginalized people because we don’t encounter a lot of that in our communities.  We live in a global world.  We are closer to everyone in the world now than ever before.  With increased accessibility of international travel, and the internet bringing things from all over the world into our homes, it is necessary that we educate today’s youth so they are knowledgeable.  I don’t believe in pushing an agenda, but as mentioned in the debate conversation, presenting all sides and then letting students make their decisions, is a good way to inform.  I will admit I am still hesitant to push social justice issues on my personal account, or get involved with polarizing issues outside of school.  As educators, we are contracted to uphold the values of our sector and to represent our school, division, and profession positively.  Teachers have lost their jobs for inappropriate social media posts and pictures, or from inappropriate social conduct say while at a bar on the weekend, etc.  We are in a different situation than some other people and we do need to be careful.  I like the expression that came up in our discussion about the hill you’re prepared to die on.  Social justice is not something to be taken lightly.

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Is Openness and Sharing Unfair?

Debate #6

I wasn’t really sure what to expect with tonight’s debate.  The debate topic, “openness and sharing is unfair to our kids” was rather ambiguous to me.

Agree Side

Melinda and Altan tackled the pro side.  They did a phenomenal job kicking things off and setting the tone for this topic.  They examined three main areas relating to this topic, privacy, challenges of openness, and the use cellphones.  In relation to privacy, they addressed the barriers that many of our EAL families face when filling out media release forms.  They also offered good reminders not to post or share anything that contains personal information.  Another perspective relating to privacy is that when adults decide what to post about youth, the individuals themselves don’t always have a say in this.  Essentially, it’s adults who are beginning to form the digital footprint for children.  The challenges to openness can include filtering through accurate information, dealing with plagiarism, and trying to balance safe sharing and openness while teaching digital citizenship.  Finally, their third point of using cellphones reviewed some common issues that keep coming up in our debates such as cyberbullying, sexting, and taking pictures and videos of unconsenting parties.

no cellphone

Disagree Side 

Sherrie and Dean argued that openness and sharing is not unfair to kids and that it is an important part of their education.  Sherrie did an amazing rendition of “Rick’s Rant” of the Mercer Report.  This team discussed that openness and sharing can create deeper learning environments for students.  It allows for learning first, learning on your own terms, and learning with relevance.  Teacher’s are in a unique position to empower young people through tech and with tech, safely, enjoyably, purposefully.

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Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

My Takeaways 

I was on the disagree side of this topic from the beginning, but as I previously mentioned, I wasn’t exactly sure what the topic fully included.  I presumed it covered the sharing of information between doctors, outside agencies, and schools.  I also believed it encompassed posting pictures and other school/class content online and in print publications.  Additionally, I thought it included electronic student files and report cards.  I do feel that each of these are necessary aspects of school and that they can potentially enhance the learning environment.  While I still feel that these are a part of openness and sharing, the teams tonight broadened my view of this topic.  I had never thought about the idea that when school staff make the decision of what to post, they are in part contributing to the student’s digital footprint.  Everything posted should be done purposefully.  The idea of teachers posting things for self-promotion is real.  I do think that schools have an obligation to be accountable to all stakeholders and posting activities, events, and classroom work is important for this.  I had also not thought about the sharing of ideas among students both from within the classroom and with students from around the world being included in this topic.  These groups have definitely made me reconsider what I post and why I’m posting it.  Sherrie made a comment with will stick with me; openness and sharing in schools doesn’t have to be unfair to our kids, it depends on who’s posting.  The rest of the class also thinks that openness and sharing is not unfair as the results of the pre-vote were 26.9% agree and 73.1% disagree; the post-vote results were 16% agree and 64% disagree.

General Thoughts 

I have always enjoyed seeing what other classrooms are doing.  As educators we need to move beyond the four walls of our classroom and share our ideas and be open to accepting ideas from teachers.  Posting and viewing online content is a great way to do this.  I have come to realize however that this can be done without using pictures that include student faces, names, or other personal information.  Just as I see the benefits of sharing for teacher collaboration, I can see this with our students too.  In recent years, I have had parents complete their media release and responsible use of technology forms at school during the kindergarten “unpack the backpack” session.  I have encountered issues with parents completing this form in the past so I switched to this format so that I can go over it with families and ensure they understand what everything means.  I have found this to be helpful.  I am definitely still on the side of sharing and being open, but to stop and think about the purpose and impact before doing so.

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Banning Cellphones – Our Turn

Debate #5

The topic for last Thursday’s debate was “cellphones should be banned in the classroom.”  This was my turn to do my debate presentation.  My partner Tarina and I had never done a debate ever in our lives, and we were both brand new to WeVideo.  A whole lot of firsts for us!  Tarina was an awesome partner and it was convenient that we work in the same school so we could get together to work on this assignment.  From the time that the topic list was revealed, Tarina knew she wanted to tackle the cellphone in class issue, and preferably the side in favour of banning.  As a grade 6 teacher, and a mother of 2 teenage daughters, this has been something she has a lot of experience.  Myself being a kindergarten teacher, I don’t see the need for cellphones to be in the classroom, so I was happy to join her side.

Agree Side

This was the side that Tarina and I took.  The points came very easy for us as this is something we believe in.  We were also able to easily find a plethora of research to support our points.  Our main points were, cellphones are distracting to the individual using them as well as others, school devices are safer, using cellphones at school increases negative behaviours such as cyberbullying, cheating, sexting, and using photos/videos inappropriately, and youth just need a break from their personal cellphones.

Disagree Side

Our opponents for this evening were Alyssa and Skyler.  They had an excellent video and were great partners to debate with.  They argued that cellphones shouldn’t be banned in the classroom and used a very creative and catchy, campaign-style slogan to gather support.  Their main points for using cellphones in the classroom were, that the Ontario cellphone ban isn’t actually a ban, cellphones should be allowed for medical and emergency use, cellphones can be educational tools, and that using cellphones in class allows teachers to teach digital citizenship.

My Takeaways  

We had a very thorough class discussion on this topic.  Generally speaking in our class, it appeared that whether someone was for cellphones in class or against, everyone agreed that there should be guidelines around using them.  So essentially, cellphones are allowed BUT…..then schools or teachers set the parameters.  Alec shared an excellent visual that teachers could use to inform students of appropriate times to use cellphones in class.

Cellphone Stoplight

 

General Thoughts

There is absolutely a place for tech in the classrooms.  Maybe I’m fortunate enough to work in a school with a good student to tech ratio of 1:3, or maybe I’m sheltered as I am a kindergarten teacher, but I feel that encouraging the use of cellphones in classroom is opening a can of worms.  Our K-8 school has a ban of cellphones for students anywhere on school property – teachers need to use phones in the staff room or in classrooms when students are not around.  I know I don’t teach older students but I do supervise them at break times as well as coach multiple middle years sports teams, and I have never had to deal with a cellphone issue or a complaint of not being able to use them.  Nor have I heard of any major issues relating to cellphone use in staff meetings or emails.  Our ECI830 classmates have shown a general consensus on having a plan, making sure that students are informed of this, and being clear and consistent; this is the same for whether the plan is to use cellphones or not use cellphones.  In preparation for this debate, I had a chance to talk to 3 friends who teach in Ontario, 1 elementary, 1 secondary, 1 vp of an elementary school.  All three agreed that their schools already had cellphone policies in place that aligned with provincial directives and that nothing changed when the provincial “ban” came into effect in Nov. 2019.

Overall, I enjoyed the debate, although I think I prefer being a part of the group discussion more so than leading the presentation!  Skyler and Alyssa were fun opponents and and Alec and the rest of the class sparked a great, well-rounded discussion that raised many key issues relating to this topic.

 

Childhood vs. Social Media

Debate #4

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The topic of tonight’s debate was “social media is ruining childhood.”  There was a lot of discussion around this topic.  As a class, we probably could have talked for hours on this matter.  As a kindergarten teacher, I have a strong opinion on this topic that I’ll get to later.  In regards to the debate, Christina and Laurie argued on the agree side, and Dean and Amy took the disagree side.  A very lively debate from both sides.  Their opening videos were very well done and it was apparent they had fun throughout the process.

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Agree Side

Christina and Laurie raised three main points.  These were: increase in mental health issues, increase in bullying, especially in the form of cyber bullying, and safety concerns.  In the area of mental health, they spoke about the rise in rates of depression and self-image issues in teens.  They also added a parent perspective to this point.  More parents are using social media around their children and are actually missing out spending time and making connections with their children which could impact both parent and child mental health.  In relation to bullying, the discussed how youth today are more open to saying hurtful and negative things behind a screen because they feel more protected and don’t see the reaction of the other person.  In regards to safety, they talked about the increase risk in youth accessing inappropriate information and others having easier access to children and teens.  They talked about how social media is a powerful tool that many people don’t take seriously.

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Disagree Side

Dean and Amy explored a variety of ideas related to the positives of social media for today’s youth.  They discussed how it can be a platform for youth to express themselves, share their voice and stories.  Many talented youth are being discovered through social media and many positive acts are now getting noticed.  They stated that important skills such as communication, connection, and creativity can be developed by using social media.  Additional ideas hared involved the notion that when youth use social media they can develop digital citizenship, and that it can be a tool to seek representation – finding other people who look, sound, and act like you, and to find others who share similar interests.

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My Takeaways

I learned the term sad-fishing from the agree side, which is when people post sad stories/situations on social media to seek attention and sympathy.  However some youth do this literally as a cry for help that just gets brushed off as “sad-fishing.”  Laurie and Christina also brought up the idea of parents spending too much time on social media and ignoring their children.  As a kindergarten teacher, this is something I’ve encountered several times.  It’s difficult to suggest this to parents, and in many cases I address it in an indirect way.  I also have friends who after having kids, have disconnected their social media accounts because they realized they were spending too much time on them and it was interfering with their parenting.  Another thing that stuck with me from the agree side was a statement they made about safety.  They stated, “most parents wouldn’t allow kids to wander around the city lone, but on their devices they’re allowed to wander the word.”  In many cases, youth are not supervised when using their devices.  Who knows what they’re up to?

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General Thoughts

There was some gray area around the term childhood.  I was actually surprised that much of the focus of this debate was on teens.  I was anticipating it to relate to children.  Laurie and Christina’s opening video started off talking a lot about childhood, and children being innocent and carefree, but then both groups focused more on the 8-17 year range throughout the presentation.  Because I was expecting the focus to be on children, I thought there’d be a focus on the idea of play.  So here are my thoughts specifically in relation to true childhood which I would deem to be age 3-12.  Children must have ample opportunity to play and this play must not be with technology, online, virtual, etc.  It must be hands-on, exploratory, imaginative, and authentic.  Children of this age are constructing meaning of the world around them and what they see and hear greatly influences their development.  I would also add, what they actively participate in also influences their development.  Each year I see 4 and 5 year olds starting school with inadequate gross and fine motor skills.  I have had students who struggle to keep themselves balanced and upright when sitting on the floor because of poor core strength.  I can easily notice students who have used scissors, glue, and colouring materials.  Holding a crayon shouldn’t “hurt” a child’s hand, which is a comment I hear more and more.  I also have students tell me that they can’t wait until they get home so they can play games on their phone/tablet.  I am not against children using technology however it needs to be balanced because what they develop through play is vital and irreplaceable.  Obesity and mental health issues in young children are increasing and I do believe that technology (through child use and parent use) does play a role in this.  In direct relation to social media (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, TikTok) I really don’t see why a child aged 3-12 would need to access and use these.  Perhaps around age 9-12 would be a good time for parents to start transitioning into their kids accessing social media and to begin teaching digital citizenship.

Just Google it…

Debate #3

This week’s debate topic is “schools should not teach things that can be easily Googled.” Wait, what?  Let’s read that again.  If you’re confused by the wording, don’t worry, so were this week’s presenters.  Apparently the “not” tripped up the presenters this week and after they each presented their opening video arguments, we realized they were arguing for the same side!  Like the good educators we are, we adapted, and had a good general discussion rather than a debate.  The two groups this week consisted of, Curtis and Lisa versus Daina and Jocelyn.  Both teams had engaging opening videos, and although were on the same side of the topic, did present different material.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Curtis and Lisa

This group presented about mindful learning.  They introduced that there are many skills that students need to be successful in the future that don’t relate to knowledge such as positivity, bravery, determination, and creativity.  they also introduced the Levels of Teaching Innovation (LoTi) Framework.  Curtis and Lisa discussed that students need to create their own understanding  and learning moments in order to be fully empowered and that students should not leave school simply regurgitating teacher’s thoughts, feelings, and facts.  One final point included in their opening video was that when students are in experiences where they can practice, fail, adjust, and repeat, they are more likely to actually learn those skills.

Daina and Jocelyn

In their opening video, this group discussed how “Googling” things limits one’s ability to think critically, reduces the motivation to remember things, and that Google should not be the teacher.  They spoke to the need to have hands-on engaging lessons in schools.  Despite these reminders, they are not against ever using Google, rather, they explained that there is a time and a place to use it.  Through their resources, they shared a Black Eyed Peas song that I hadn’t heard before.  While it’s already dated (shows how quickly technology moves), I thought the line they highlight was relevant to their presentation, and overall, the song was nostalgic for me.  The line goes:

Google is my professor

Wikipedia the checker

Checking my account

Logging in and logging out

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Photo by PhotoMIX Company on Pexels.com

My Takeaways

I think we all learned the value in writing careful statements so they are easily understood to those reading!  I definitely still gained new information and perspective from tonight’s class.  One big thing that I’ll discuss in my next section, is the reaffirmation of something that I’m very passionate about as a teacher.  As for this ‘debate,’ we still did a pre-vote and a post-vote, although we’re not sure how accurate it is given everyone’s misunderstanding.  Regardless, here are the results.  In the pre-vote, 37% agreed with the statement, while 63% disagreed.  In the post-vote, 56% agreed and 44% disagreed.  Our group discussion focused on what is considered basic facts and processes that everyone should know versus what doesn’t need to be learned, and where to draw the line.  One thing that has stuck with me was an idea that when some students use Google to research an assignment, and they do a lot of cutting and pasting, they actually cannot tell the teacher what they learned through a post-discussion.  One quote that came up that I will take with me was “if you can explain it, you’ve learned it.”  I grew up in an education system without Google, As a student, I worked hard to learn and memorize educational content, and I’m now a kindergarten teacher where the focus is on learning basic knowledge and processes, so I’m probably biased when it comes to using Google in the classroom.

General Thoughts

I saw a t-shirt a couple of years ago that read, “I don’t need Google, my wife knows everything.”  This has been an ongoing joke between my husband and I.  I fully admit I don’t know everything (don’t tell my husband I just said that).  I am well-known to be a “Googler” in my own life.  Despite how I use it in my personal life, I agree with some of the key points made by the presenters tonight.  They indirectly stated that, students use understanding to create their own learning moments, and addressed the use of hands-on experiences and land-based learning.  YES YES YES!  These are things that I try to incorporate into my classroom.  I also grow frustrated when I see other teachers not using these instructional practices.  I know there can be variety in learning and that not all classrooms should be doing the same thing, but to see classrooms that still rely heavily on textbook read and answer, worksheets, every student doing the same thing, and teacher regurgitation, saddens me.  I truly see how empowered our youngest learners become through hands-on, student-led experiences and know that this doesn’t need to end when kindergarten expires.  This doesn’t mean that older grades can’t use technology, rather it means that teachers need to be thinking of how they incorporate tech and related tools through the SAMR model and LoTi Framework to inspire students to take charge of their learning.

Is Technology a Force for Equity?

Debate #2

To be honest, this isn’t something I’ve given a whole lot of thought to.  In light of the Covid-19 pandemic shifting learning to remote locations, it has become more prevalent.  The two groups for this topic presented a variety of perspectives relating to this topic that really got me thinking.  Both groups did a super job, despite the power outages that occurred due to a thunderstorm.  Each group shared knowledge that was completely new to me!  Kalyn and Nataly presented on the agree side, while Victoria and Jasmine argued against.

The Agree Side

Kalyn and Nataly presented 3 main points to explain how technology can be a force for equity.  These points were: it provides greater access to education, it creates personalized learning, and technology can assist people with disabilities.  Although they did touch on some more global matters outside of the school, the most significant parts of their argument were made in relation to schools or educational settings.  They stated that “education is an equalizer.”  They spoke a lot about tech in schools to support personalized learning and assisting students with disabilities and learning challenges.  In relation to outside of school, they mentioned that 57% of the world’s population as internet access and that there are several organizations that are working with remote and poorer communities to help access digital education.

In the resources the shared, the Digital Promise article expands on many of the ideas presented by Kalyn and Nataly, and provides many other points about technology equalizing learning within schools.  As I am an educator, some of these were of interest to me.  According to this article, technology helps create equity through, using tech to input and track data to meet student needs, tech needs to be used powerfully in schools to truly enhance pedagogy and address student learning issues, and providing sufficient professional development for teachers so they can utilize the technology to the maximum potential and actually have it positively impact student learning.

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Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

The Disagree Side 

Victoria and Jasmine believe that technology is not a force for equity.  Their points focused more on global situations, outside of the classroom.  They explored three main ideas: the digital divide, techno-colonialism, and non-neutrality of technology.  I had not heard of any of these terms prior to tonight class!  The digital divide refers to the division created by technology rather than it bringing people together and making them more equal.  Some examples of this include the different skill levels and abilities of tech users and access to technology as barriers such as affordability and internet coverage limits some people from using tech.  Techno-colonialism means “the exploitation of poorer cultures by richer cultures through technology.”  The presenters referenced a Facebook Beta Test to illustrate this point.  The third point about non-neutrality of technology argues that tech does not in fact remain a neutral, passive, tool, but rather it does make an impact and influence those people and situations that use technology.

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Photo by Tatiana from Pexels

 

My Takeaways

I think that technology CAN be a force for equity but it can also not be at the same time.  I’m beginning to see a theme with our debate topics.  Just as this second topic is sort of a “depends” issue, so was the first topic.  Has Alec done this on purpose?  Will we continue to see this in upcoming topics?  I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.  Judging from the results of the debate voting, there were some close thoughts on this topic from others as well.  In the pre-vote, 48.3% agreed that technology is a force for equity, while 51% disagreed.  Very close numbers indeed!  After the debate, there was more disparity between the numbers.  30.8% agreed, whereas 69.2% disagreed.  Both sides did an excellent job presenting their sides, and as Alec says, there aren’t any winners in this debate, but it would appear that the disagree side of Victoria and Jasmine were more convincing in this case.  I’ve encountered the accessibility issue firsthand recently.  In light of the current Covid-19 situation, I have had to create a variety of lesson and material formats to accommodate my students’ accessibility to tech.  I have also had to make several phone calls while sitting in my kitchen sink, as that is the one sure spot where I won’t lose cell reception.  As I previously mentioned, I learned many new concepts this week.  I plan to explore the Universal Design for Learning Guidelines further.

General Thoughts

This issue prompted me to think of an experience that I encountered in middle school.  Around 1996, many of my friends and relatives began getting computers at home.  If my memory serves me correctly, I think a typical home computer system cost around $2000.  In my family situation, spending that much money on a computer was not feasible.  During this time, teachers were expecting more and more assignments to be completed on computer.  We were given time to use the few computers in the computer lab at school, but much of the work had to be done outside of school hours.  I remember trying to make arrangements to go to friends’ and relatives’ houses to use their computers.  It was inconvenient for me and for them.  I also remember that although I would try to complete assignments on the computer, there were still lots that I had to do without a computer.  On these assignments, I was deducted marks for neatness compared to assignments completed on the computer.  At the time, I didn’t think this was fair, but there wasn’t much I could do.  We ended up getting a computer in our house in 2000.  As an educator now, I realize that this was unequal.  I know that the content should be where the marks come from in all assignments.  I also now realize the importance in understanding students’ different situations, including learning abilities, when preparing assignments and allowing for different ways to show learning.  Connecting back to the debate topic, in schools, I think technology can be an equalizing force among students.  I’ve encountered students with disabilities that use technology to help them achieve new things, I’ve seen tech used to show students things from all around the world, and I know that technology has the capacity to do powerful things to advance student knowledge and abilities within schools.  I do however believe there are still many inequities when it comes to accessing and using technology around the world.

Tech in Classrooms?

Debate #1

Our first debate took place Tuesday May 19 and the topic was “technology in the classroom enhances learning.”  Both groups did a fantastic job and modeled excellent debate formats.

The agree side – Nancy and Amanda, began with a video that was meant to pull on our heartstrings and emotionally connect us to the topic.  A great strategy!  The premise was that technology can connect teachers and students (and others) through times when they can’t physically be together.  In the video, the teacher had a broken leg and was working from home, but many of us can relate to this in our current situation.  Their main arguments for using technology to enhance learning were the 5 cs – critical thinking skills, collaboration, communication, creativity, and connection.  They really focused on connection.  I think this was an easy point to push right now given that we’re remote teaching.  They kept coming back to the idea that technology connects students to their lessons, to each other, and to the teacher.  They stated, “technology helps us bring meaning and that’s what helps enhance learning.”20200521_102850

The disagree side – Trevor and Matt took a different approach to introducing their arguments.  Their intro video was designed to be an attack ad against Nancy and Amanda and their side of the argument.  It made them appear inferior, like they can’t be trusted, right down to the fake Tweets and the sketchy music.  Very effective – and humorous in this setting.  Their reasons for stating that technology does not enhance student learning were, that it causes unnecessary distractions, there is a lack of pedagogical understanding, and it creates an overload of screen time.

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My Takeaways

As I mentioned earlier, both groups did a great job.  If I had to choose an official winner of the debate, it would be Trevor and Matt on the disagree side.  I feel that their points were stronger and presented in a more affirmative manner.  I think Nancy and Amanda made a good case for using technology right now for remote learning, however they didn’t make a strong enough connection to general classroom learning.  This was also backed-up by our pre-vote and post-vote.  In the pre-vote, 89.3% of students in the class thought that technology enhances classroom learning.  In the post-vote this number dropped to 58.3%.  I thank both sides for prompting me to think of this topic from different perspectives.  I like how Nancy and Amanda spoke about using tech to foster student engagement by building interest and purpose.  Matt and Trevor shed some new insight into the distractability of tech and the commercialization elements involved.  Each side also shared their research with us.  There was a variety of articles, websites, and videos on each topic.  Noteworthy sources include George Couros’ “The Myths of Technology” series, and this article that examines negative side effects of technology in classrooms.

General Thoughts on this Topic

I admit that as an educator, I go back and forth on this topic.  I agree with points from both sides.  I teach kindergarten and specifically chose not to have a set of Chromebooks in our classroom.  There are a few reasons why I made this decision.  One reason, which also came up in the debate, is that many students use devices frequently outside of school and I wanted them to have some screen-free time.  Also, so much of a child’s development at kindergarten age is hands-on, experiential learning.  Children need to hold concrete things and actively participate in enriching experiences.  They need to hold pencils, read real books, paint, build things, etc.  We have a SMARTBoard, and as a class we watch music and dance videos, we watch animal information videos, play alphabet games, do directed drawing, and look things up that we’re wondering.  So it’s not as though we don’t use technology, however I try to balance what we do on the SMARTBoard as a class that has a direct link to our learning and those valuable hands-on experiential learning moments.  I always wondered about using tech for student engagement, and when students first start school they are in awe of the “giant T.V.” in our classroom, they are just as much, if not more engaged, with playing, creating, and building – especially if I’m there doing it with them.  I also find offering choice of activities is highly engaging.  This would align with the George Couros stance that technology does not always automatically ensure engagement, and that true engagement and purpose comes through empowering students.

P.S.

One idea that came up from the disagree side during the debate was that technology does not equal good pedagogy.  This reminded me of something discussed in another course (EDL 825 – Learning and Assessment Leadership).  We watched a video, “Our Journey to Awesome” and a quote from this stated, “adding technology to old pedagogy doesn’t make it better.”  Just something else to think about.

 

About Me

This blog has been created for a graduate course that I’m currently enrolled in at the University of Regina. The course is called Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology EC&I 830. It is instructed by Alec Couros. This is also the final course of my Master’s Degree!

I am a kindergarten teacher with the Chinook School Division in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. This is my 11th year of teaching.