Author Archives: Kari

My school looks different.

I tried something different and did this blog as a podcast on WeVideo that I then uploaded to my Google Drive. I hope it works.

Here is the link.

P.S. I realize after listening to it that I say ‘umm’ a lot. Something to work on, however, I think I did better in the end. 🙂

Debate 8 – Online education is detrimental to the social and academic development of children.

Where are my footsteps leading me?

I found this video while doing some research and although simple, it made an impression on me. I had never really thought about my digital footprint or that of my kids.

As I mentioned above I have not thought about myself or my family having a digital footprint and quite honestly I am not sure I fully understood what it was until this class.  I have to admit it is a bit unnerving that I leave a trail everywhere I go and everywhere I post. it made me wonder if my students or my children knew what it was, so I asked them.  80% had not heard it before or had heard the term but didn’t understand what it meant.  I am not sure if I should be surprised by that or a little worried.  I know I am a little worried that I didn’t understand it fully. 

The agree side had some strong arguments about why educators should be responsible for helping students create a positive digital footprint. Most of which were focused on teaching skills and helping them choose what is considered favourable for a digital footprint and what is not. As mentioned in the ‘Teaching Students about Their Digital Footprints’ by McGukin (2018) one thing that is a no-no is having an email address like ‘beerguy10’ as your primary email. It made me think back to some of the email addresses I have seen and thought, “Oh my, you should change that.” I think it is important to teach them these things.

I don’t disagree with educating them about being safe and pointing out how negative or inappropriate interactions can effet them but I want to add our parents and teachers into that mix. I am a fairly techie person and I had not thought of our considering my digital footprint so I assume many others haven’t either. I am a firm believer in educating both our students and parents on social media and technology and that will now include digital footprints. We all need to work together to help our students become positive citizens who will work towards making our future brighter. This now includes working together to keep them safe and positive online. I equate it to the literacy and numeracy nights we often plan in elementary schools. it is time for a Digital Citizenship night, and yes, that includes our littles in the building. As I mentioned in our breakout room, we are always playing catch-up in the middle years because we are not starting this learning early enough.

The disagree side also brought up some valid points.  As noted in ‘The Digital Well-Being of Canadian Families’, kids already had a digital footprint before even getting to school.  My first thought was OMG, I totally did that to my children.  My second thought about it was shoot, there’s another thing I messed up on as a parent. Ugh. The list keeps getting longer.

I also questioned whether or not we have the right to create a digital footprint for students. I appreciated the article,’ It’s Not Ok to Share Student Photos Online. And Here’s Why… ‘and plan on keeping it for future discussions on my school. It also brings into question the media forms we send out. Do they give us the right to post about our students?  I think that if we educated parents that by signing the media release form their child was creating a digital footprint that leaves a trail for life I’m not sure they would sign. I am not sure I want to leave my own children’s media forms as a yes.

Let’s collaborate!

It was a great debate that had me questioning my own parenting decisions as well as my teaching. At the end of the night I know this, I will be adding digital footprints to my digital citizenship unit. Does anyone have some lessons or units they like for elementary schools?

Debate 7 – Educators and schools have a responsibility to help their students develop a digital footprint.

Bye, Bye Younger Days

Off to my cousin’s house to play.

My childhood was before cell phones and iPods. Shocking, I know. We played outside, in the barn and rode bikes over to our nieces and cousins’ houses when we were bored. When I look at my kid’s childhood there are definite differences. I call them differences because I am not sure if the changes are ruining their childhood or not.

The agree side brought up great points about why many people think that social media is ruining childhood. There is no doubt that social media has many negative influences on children and that things they see can scar them for life.  There are many instances of cyberbullying and stories about online predators contacting children.  This is terrifying for both parents and teachers.  We care for our students and want the best for them in all cases.  However, we also know that we can not protect them from everything.  Like most things we have talked about it comes down to teaching, teaching them how to be safe, treat others kindly, and how to use social media wisely. 

They also talked about marketing within the social media network. We all see it, and sometimes we don’t want to. It’s the same for our kids. Sweat talks about Elkind’s concerns, the types of clothing, entertainment, and other products being marketed today to young children. Our kids are getting to the ‘teen’ years faster than before, in the way they act, behave and dress. I feel this every time I try to shop for my child that is 10.  I struggle to find clothes that are still designed for a child and not a teenager.  It is hard!  I also see it in the way our students behave in the younger grades. The attitude and the way they speak to each other are often based on what they are seeing and hearing and what they are seeing and hearing these days is not as limited as it used to be. Our kids are exposed to so many things at younger ages now. It is right at their fingertips and I have yet to find software that blocks it all no matter what you set the content rating to.

On the flip side of the challenges of social media, there are also so many great things that students are doing with social media. The list in the article, 18 Teens using Social Media to do Good was enlightening and encouraging. When researching my debate topic we saw how social media can be used for social justice issues by both students and teachers and this list has some great examples. I agree that we often tend to focus on all the troubling aspects of social media and forget the good that it can do. The start of the pandemic highlighted some of the more positive aspects of social media.

During covid, my kids’ only way to socialize was through social media and technology.  My kids used Facebook Kids messenger and discord to communicate with their friends.  I think that part was positive for my kids because they were able to stay connected and play online games together and just hang out. It was the same for the adults in our lives. We would have virtual get-togethers to stay connected. We all needed it. As the disagree side pointed out online socializing can improve social interactions and connections with people, especially for those underrepresented or those who have trouble getting out of the home.

I think we can all agree that our students and children need parental guidance and supervision when exploring social media. We need to educate them about all of the terrible things they can experience and come across when on social media. I have started a list of what I need to include in my digital literacy unit for my grade 8s. I am adding, teaching about the troubling aspects as well as highlighting all the good that can be done using social media. As the disagree side pointed out, we shouldn’t limit all of the kid’s experiences because something can harm them.  If we limit everything we aren’t allowing them to grow and discover things. As we have heard many times in the past month, devices and social media are not going away, we need to adapt, teach and embrace the fast-paced changes in technology and social media.

Cell Phone Jails, Yay or Nay?

There were so many great points on both sides of this debate and I have used the same ones in my head as I constantly go back and forth on what I think is right for the students and for our classroom.

There are many points about why banning cell phones is a good idea in the classroom. This list is not comprehensive but are the main issues brought up in the debate and some I tend to dwell on.

  • Cell phones distract students
  • Cyberbullying
  • Social media can be dangerous and cause issues in class
  • Tech can be addicting
  • Students may lose communication skills
  • Can casue social anxiety
  • Mental health issues
  • Students record or take photos of classmates and teachers
  • Creates more classroom managment for the teacher

There are many good points here and I have to say some of them are scary, as a teacher and a parent. I can see how it is easy for those of us who didn’t grow up in a time where devices were everywhere to just say BAN THEM! However, we don’t live in that time or society here in Regina. We live in a time where almost everyone has some sort of device, even some of my students from low socioeconomic homes have phones. So, I looked at the disagree side and the points brought up.

Casa-Todd brings up some very valid points for not banning cell phones in her article, Banning Cell Phones: Ongoing Tension. She takes many of our fears about allowing cell phones in the classroom and gives us the flip side of what could happen. One of the biggest worries is kids will ‘check out’ which she responds with, “if students are going to be distracted, they don’t need their phones to check out.” Valid point! She also has a great list of questions schools and teachers should be asking before making the decision. (taken directly from the article linked above)

These are the questions I would ask a school that is considering a ban on cellphones:

  • Do you teachers and students see the devices in their hands as powerful tools for learning or a distraction? If the latter, who might support teachers to help them to use them differently?
  • How might students contribute to this conversation?
  • Are we creating a policy that would stifle the creativity and innovation of some teachers for the sake of appeasing others? Can there be a happy medium?
  • Is the decision motivated out of control, what’s  best for teachers or what’s best for learning?
  • Are there any schools in your District or area who might also be facing this challenge? What are they doing?

  • A final question I would personally is, “Do you, as the teacher, have the skills or learning resources needed to help make this successful for both you and your students?”

One of the points brought up was increased student engagement. Every teacher looks for ways to keep their students engaged in learning. If tech can help with this then I am all in. I have purposefully used phones and iPads as cameras for certain projects as well as calculators and research but I think I need to look further at what they have to offer and integrate them into lessons more. Perhaps that is part of teaching the students to use them appropriately during the school day.

 I think it is time to switch my mindset and teach my students how to use the tech we have appropriatly, just as we teach them to read and write.  In the Maclean’s article they state, “a growing number of boards say they’ve had more success once deciding to stop fighting the technological tide and find ways to incorporate cellphones into schools.” This was in 2017 within Canada so I would think it is still fairly accurate. I know that here it is left up to the individual teachers/schools within our board. I hope with the proper boundaries and education I can stop worrying about my decision every year.

So, does anyone have some good teaching resources for integrating devices and teaching the students proper etiquette in the classroom and school?

Not My Top 3 Pick

This topic was not a top pick for me. Who would have thought I would find myself so passionate about it? Perhaps it is because I never really thought of my role in social justice issues. This topic, Educators Have a Responsibility to Use Technology and Social Media to Promote Social Justice, was a hot one for some. This included me and I thought long about why that ended up being so.

First and foremost I am an Indigenous woman who relies on social activism to make positive change for my future, and the future of my children and my students. I can not stay silent in my personal life nor my professional life. I don’t have that privilege. Sharing on Social Media, and participating in walks for Orange shirt day, MMIW (Red Dress), Pride Day, and wearing a ribbon skirt to support a little girl in our province who was discriminted against for being Indigenous are how I am supporting and calling for change to issues for Indigneous people and all disempowered people. Why? Because these are my family members, my band members and people in my community who are marginalized on a daily basis. I teach about and participate in these things with my own children and with my students. Guess where I see all of these events? That’s right, social media. Then I share them and ask others to join me if they wish to.

The article Genuine Social Media Activism: A Guide for Going Beyond the Hashtag, mentions how the death of George Floyd at police hands was a catalyst for many people to examine their neutrality in the face of police brutality and systemic racism and many turned to social media to express their support. Social media activism started well before this but it was a boost in using social media and it connected people from around the globe. The same article goes on to talk about ‘slactivism’ and that, “Genuine social media activism is supported by concrete actions, donations, and measurable commitments to change.” I agree that social media isn’t the be-all end-all but it is where we can share with others and it is changing how social justice grows and evolves. It is one of those cultural changes that I talked about in Topic 3. Social media extends what we are exposed to and can help us connect with like-minded people and causes.

  • Angela Watson had some great points in her podcast. She does not believe teachers can be neutral. When she shared her stories it becomes clear that we need to respond.

Her words, “So for us to say our role is to be neutral is to operate from a place of privilege. Not privilege as in wealth — that’s just one of many types of privilege, and one that most educators don’t have. Our place of privilege is choosing not to pay attention to these stories or take a position on them because we are not personally impacted. None of us should be neutral about that.” There are so many times in history that teachers were not neutral and have participated in and used social media in one form or another, whether it be newpapers or Twitter. How do you think teaching treaties in the classroom became important? It wasn’t because teachers remained neutral. It was because educators spoke up. Indigenous knowledge was the same way. Woman’s rights, same thing. Modeling is how our students learn.

As I spoke about in our opening I was inspired by the article “Using Social Justice to Promote Student Voice” by Lorena German, she talks about a course she has created called Middle School Social Justice where she focuses on giving students’ voices. I can see all of the benefits of teaching students to research social justice issues and learn how to create arguments to gain valuable communication skills and over time the confidence and knowledge to speak out.  We always try to teach our students these skills anyway so why not tie it to content that can help make a difference in their society.

June 11, 12:00 pm

When the Regina pride parade poster showed up in my Twitter feed I shared it and showed my students and now I will share it with you.

Where is my calculator?

These are the words I hear every day during grade 8 math class. We scramble to find enough calculators or discarded times tables I have printed in colour and laminated. Yes, I actually laminated them!

There are very few in my classroom that know their basic facts and need either a calculator or multiplication sheet. It’s not that I mind them using a calculator but I will admit that when they have to use the calculator for the simple steps in the math it takes longer and adds to the already many steps in some formulas. This can cause confusion and errors. When I first started teaching grade 8 a few years ago I really struggled with letting the students use calculators all of the time but was encouraged to do so in order to continue on with the grade 8 curriculum. My comprimise was to include basic math fact games in my math rotations to help improve their skills. I do believe if they knew tha basic skills it would be much easier for them to succeed in math as the steps get increasingly longer and they can also get to the higher level thinking rather that taking the time to struggle with the basic facts.

Why do students struggle in Math?

I appreciated the article by Paul W. Bennett. I enjoy math and teaching it and often wonder and discuss why my students struggle so much in Math. There are varying reasons depending on who you talk to or read. According to Bennett’s article, one of the main reasons is our shift from making sure students know their basic facts and relying on calculator use. As he mentions private math tutors like Kumon Math take the focus back to the basics to improve math knowledge in their clients. Is this why? Perhaps or perhaps it is a longer list of issues but I am leaning towards making those skills a priority in September.

Cursive or Not?

This topic is one where I don’t agree with it all or disagree with it all. Take cursive writing, other than a signature I didn’t see that handwriting was a skill that people needed. There are other ways to gain fine motor skills. My favourite is LEGO. We have a LEGO room and the fine motor skills that come from building with LEGO are astounding. However, I did rethink my position a bit on this when hearing how teaching cursive writing helps with writing as fast as people can think. I imagine if some people are like me they may still want to take notes using cursive writing and if I had to print it all I am not sure I’d keep up. I was also drawn to the article by  Berger, T. (2017), who talked about the evidence of cognitive and academic benefits of cursive writing. He said, “Brain scans reveal neural circuitry lighting up when young children first print letters and then read them. The same effect is not apparent when the letters are typed or traced. ” Perhaps this is why I still write things down more often than not.

Technology Fails

As we learned this past week we need to remember that technology is not always reliable and when it isn’t working we need to be able to adapt and have the skills to work without it. There was a teacher who was convinced they couldn’t teach their math class because his lessons were online and he couldn’t access them due to the cyber attack. No, I am not making this up. This is a great example of not relying on technology for everything and learning that there are other ways to do things. Obviously a good lesson for both teachers and students.

Culture change is hard!

I think as Mason, J., Shaw, G., & Zhang, D. (2019) talk about ,” the greatest impediment to teachers adopting or adapting digital technologies for student learning is the significant inertia that exists in trying to bring about a cultural change, particularly changes in entrenched practices.” I find that even as I was thinking about the topic I heard myself saying but this is how it’s done, and I am a teacher who has adopted many technological aspects in the classroom, both for myslef and my students. Who knew when we started talking about digital technology for learning, and for future learning, we are indeed talking about bringing about cultural change in the very nature of teaching and learning. As we have seen over the last hundred years this is hard for people in education. There are many aspects of the one classroom school houses that still exist today, even though so much in society has changed and technology has advanced.

As I said I do not agree or disagree on this topic. I see the benefits of teaching some of the skills that could be done with technology today but also see the benefits of using the technology when available. What I don’t want society to do is become so reliant on technology that we lose the skills we may need again some day. Our school divisions issue with technology right now is a great example of this. Some teachers and students were really thrown for a loop when they showed up to school and there was no internet and many of the platforms we use daily were unavailable. I think we still need to be able to do simple tasks without using technology.

I Can be Independent!!

Communication device for kids with cerebral palsy

My niece was born with cerebral palsy and without the technological advancements, her life would be more restricted.  Since birth, she has needed many different types of technology from machines to help her breathe to special wheelchairs that help her move around without relying on others.  Her parents have also benefited from a special van that helps load her into the vehicle without lifting her all the time. She also uses a communication device to speak with others. Without that tech, she would not be able to express her opinions and interact with others.  Both examples have helped her become more independent and see herself as a contributing citizen.  Tech made her personal and school life better in every way possible.

What if you don’t have access to technology?

The flip side of this is those people born into a family with a different socioeconomic status or in a country that does not have access to those devices.  While the tech is available it is not always accessible.  Similar, to computers and devices here in Regina for all families.  A case of the haves and have-nots.  Socioeconomic status is very important in the equity of technology.  Low socioeconomic status affects technology and equity.  No internet and no devices.  We sent computers home during the pandemic, but it doesn’t matter if there is no internet in the home. It was hard for some students who have one device at home and have several siblings and parents who need to use it as well.  Some of my parents had to use their own devices to work from home so my students couldn’t join us during the day for our lessons. This is a societal problem.  There should be equal access to all.   

“The shift to remote learning was a blow to many students who were already vulnerable, particularly students of color and low-income children and youth.”

Amundson and Ko (2021)

We need the funding to provide this if we really want all our students to have access to tech because tech provides an opportunity to those who have it and leaves behind those who don’t have access to it. 

Students learning in Camaroon.

When the tech and devices are available to all you can see an increase in student engagement levels within our education system.  Some students achieve at a greater level when they can use tech in class. Literacy can improve and when implemented properly it can support learners. According to Jenner (2021), with tech more of the world’s population has access to education. This is exactly what we want to see.  We want youth from around the world to have access to information and knowledge that they can’t access in their homes.

Internet in Canada

I have personal experience with a statement from the disagree side from Weeden & Kelly (2021), “Canada will not realize its full potential until rural communities are fully included in identifying and responding to our most pressing social and economic challenges, including digital policy.”  Growing up on the reserve during the digital boom wasn’t really as impressive for me as I am sure it was for those living in urban centers.  Even today in 2022 the internet connection on the reserve and on my current acreage is nowhere near what high speed is for those living in the city.  Heck, we can’t even provide clean drinking water to some northern communities in our country, how can we expect high internet speeds. The digital divide does create inequality between those who have access to technology and that knowledge from around the world with just a few clicks and those who don’t and have to search and visit libraries ect. to find information. 

What contributes to the Digital Divide?

  • Income
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Location

The question I leave you with is, how do we bridge the gap of digital divide?

Let’s build a fire?

How to Build a Campfire

How many of us know how to build a fire and cook on it?  Can you wash your clothes and bathe without hot water and lights?  In today’s society, we may be able to do these things, but we surely wouldn’t want to day after day.  Just like we wouldn’t want to have to write everything out daily for our students.  How many times do you visit the printer in a day? Go for a coffee in the staff room or use the projector?  Chances are if you are like me that this is a daily occurrence and sometimes more than once.  We have all adapted well to the technologies we have in our classrooms and I haven’t even touched on the computers we use daily, both as teachers and students. As stated in McKnight et al (2016), “technology improved access for teachers as well as for students, to more up-to-date learning resources and materials at any time and anywhere.”  Technology has simplified tasks such as planning, marking, and communication with others including parents. We can collaborate with others and have access to millions of lessons and materials to use in our daily teaching. I must also mention the numerous online websites that provide extra practice and learning opportunities for ourselves and our students, Razkids, Mathletics, Knowledgehook, SORA and so many more.  Let’s use our technology and share more on Discord. 🙂

Phone hotel –

I also see how distracting and damaging some of our technology can be to ourselves and our students.  I teach grades 7&8 and struggle with teaching my students to use their computers and phones appropriately in class.  There are often times I feel we need a break and lock them in the cupboard.  Luckily for me, they do so without too much complaining, but this is a problem.  Our students often cannot put them down or need to check them just in case something has changed in the last few minutes.  We, teachers and parents, need training on how to teach our kids to balance their online usage and how to be ok with putting our technology or devices away.  I think we need to really take stock of what tech each student needs and what will enhance their learning.  This is different for every individual.

Speaking of putting away our devices away, we got the news that our internet and systems are down in our school division and we do not have access to our printers, email, or anything else that requires Wi-Fi.  What!? I am sitting here writing my day plan on paper and downloading some content for tomorrows lessons wondering how it will go.

As I am getting to my classroom, I am making sure I take note of how everyone handles this. So far, teachers are adapting quickly and making changes to their days. I refuse to use my own data so we are making do.  The students enter and K is panicking, he can’t connect to the school internet and listen to music.  This sets him off for the first hour and half.  Everyone else is fine and goes about their day.  And no, I have not checked my email out of habit yet but have thought about it a few times. 😊 

Debate 1 – Technology Enhances Learning

My Techie Day

It was surprising for me to actually write everything out like this in terms of tech used throughout my day. I have said in the past that I am not techie yet as I write this I realize just how much technology I use for both work and home life.

My day with technology starts with checking Twitter, the weather, and Facebook, yes, I am old. 🙂 I communicate with my family and friends via text on and off during the day.  With my kids, we use discord and Kid Messenger to send messages.  I also have various games I play on my phone, word and strategy games are my favourite. 

At work, I am on the computer checking emails, doing attendance, marking, and checking my online daybook for what comes first. I have been using PlanBoard for my daybook for 4 years now and absolutely love it. I do most of my planning for lessons and units online nowadays.  It has been a very long time since I bought a teaching book.  Almost everything comes from the web. Most communication and booking of events happen online at my school.  There are no paper sign-ups for anything anymore.  All system-wide communication is also done online.  Needless to say, I am online a lot during the day.

My class uses Google Classroom and Google chat every day.  I find some students are more open to sending me messages rather than coming up to ask a question.  Some use it all of the time and others just once in a while.  Many of our assignments are on Google Classroom and the students and I do research on our laptops daily.  I like Google Classroom because there is no need to print and waste paper.  I assign, mark, and return online.  When students are away they can access our assignments without having to come in for homework.  This was a game-changer during Covid.  It was so much easier to get work to the students.  Having said that there were students we needed to lend laptops to.  There were also a couple of students who didn’t have internet and so they needed things printed for them.  Tech is great when you have access to it. 

In the evenings my use of tech is FaceTime with my sister and even white noise for the night and my alarm clock for the morning.  Tech is used throughout the day in my home and at work.