Author Archives: MATT BRESCIANI - EC&I 830

ECI 830…That’s a Wrap

Wow! I can't believe how fast the past two months have gone...I guess the saying "time flies when you're having fun" really does hold some truth to it.  Not only have I enjoyed the conversations and awesome debates, but I feel so lucky to have taken this class with such amazing people who have helped me grow as an educator and as a person.  Being able to hear so many different perspectives on issues that are very relevant to the teaching profession, has allowed me to think outside my own bubble and see that there is far more to each side than I had initially thought. Thank you to everyone in this class for your excellent discussions, posts, debates and comments!  While I know many of you may be going different routes with your next class, I do hope to see many familiar faces when I'm back for EC&I 833 in the fall!

Here is a summary of what Trevor and I learned throughout this short (but sweet) semester:

Sharing and Openness in Schools

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Source: memegenerator.com
This week we were treated to another awesome debate surrounding an issue that has become far more prevalent in recent years, openness and sharing in school.  I think Brad hit the nail on the head during our first intermission when he explained that this was the first debate that he genuinely didn't know how to feel after listening to both opening arguments.  While I initially voted on the "Disagree" side during the pre-vote, after hearing compelling arguments from both sides, I was in the same boat as Brad as I had no idea where I was going to land on this issue.  So, as I've done in the past few posts, let's examine some of the key points from each side that really resonated with me.

The Agree

First I would like to commend Melinda and Altan on an absolutely wonderful video.  Not only did they have some excellent points to back up their arguments, but I really felt like the animation they utilized was great,  and also Altan might have one of the most relaxing voices ever.  Seriously, did anyone else find themselves instantly relaxed after listening to him? Is it just me, or could he have a second job recording mindfulness and meditation videos!? Great job you two!  Anyways, let's get back on topic - here are a few points that stood out from their stance on openness and sharing:
1. Understanding Privacy Forms for English Language Learners
Melinda made an excellent point when she talked about how many EAL families may not fully understand the privacy forms they are signing or the permissions they are giving school divisions. This is an ethical issue as families may have given consent to something without being fully aware of what they were agreeing to. As someone who has only taught in schools with very high EAL numbers, this is something that has come up in the past in regards to our Grade 8 Farewells. Typically in a Grade 8 Farewell, there are many slideshows shown with various pictures of each of the Grade 8 students. However, for this to take place, parents need to have permitted the school to share their child's image, and each year there seems to be a few students who have "no photo consent". In these situations, the school will contact these parents to inquire if they would like to change their consent for this event, and in most cases, these families switch because they weren't fully aware of what the form was asking and simply checked "No" just to be safe. As was also pointed out during the discussion period, even though many schools have access to the resources to help with new families (Newcomer Welcome Centre, SWISS Workers, Community Coordinators, etc.), schools may need to revisit this issue to ensure families are fully aware of what they are agreeing to when they sign all forms at the start of each school year.

2.  Digital Footprint of Students
Considering how many teachers have classroom Instagram and Twitter accounts, this issue has certainly become more relevant in the past decade. While most media consent forms include the use of social media, I do wonder how many teachers ask for consent from their students before posting a picture. While parents may have signed off on this, at what point should we also include our students in deciding what images we post of them? I know I am definitely guilty of this, and with each Instragam post I make, I am adding to their digital footprint. Especially knowing how image-conscious middle years students are, I believe I need to do a far better job of speaking with my students before posting - even though their parents have permitted me to do so.  ​

3. Openness Issues
Another point that Altan and Melinda touched on was the issues that can arise from openness such as plagiarism, unsupervised sharing of images, and potential cyberbullying during recess times and lunch. I completely agree that all of these are all issues that can (and do) occur in schools yearly, and have personally dealt with each of the issues above in my classroom. However, just as we discussed in our debate on cellphones last week, the key to this problem would be education. By educating our students in becoming responsible digital citizens, we help to deal with this potential issue proactively, rather than simply banning it. 

The Disagree

After the great opening arguement by Melinda and Altan and found myself siding with the agree side... just in time for an excellent video by Sherrie and Dean to pull me back to the unknown! I really enjoyed the engaging and creative way they delivered their arguments - especially that amazing Mercer inspired rant.  While this side certainly presented many great points, here a few that really stuck out to me:
1. Openness is part of our current reality.
The first point that Sherrie made in her rant was a doozy! As technology has advanced, the privacy of the members of society has certainly changed. As Alec mentioned in an earlier lecture, initially our identity was "Private by Default" and "Public with Effort". However, as time has passed this notion has shifted, and our identity is now "Public by Default" and "Private with Effort". Understanding that so many things in our world are instantly shared online, we need to recognize this as educators, and rather than hiding it from our students - we need to educate them on the current reality they'll face outside the walls of our classroom.  If we embrace this situation in a positive light and take the time to educate them on how to navigate this world, we are actually empowering them instead of leaving them in the dark.  

2. Openness allows for instant communication with our stakeholders.
As an educator who regularly utilizes a social media account, this point definitely resonated with me. When I first started teaching, I had created a classroom Twitter account, and my students and I would use it to share our learning with others (especially their parents). This was an awesome experience as parents would not only be able to experience what we were doing each week but also interact class. However as time went on, I started to notice that the engagement on our Twitter account was starting to dwindle and parents (and my students) were no longer commenting, liking, or even checking our Twitter account. After taking some time to chat with my students about this, it became apparent that sharing wasn't the issue, but rather the platform I was using. I was quickly informed that "no one uses Twitter anymore" (sorry Alec, the words of Grade 8's not me) and that if we wanted to have a platform to share our learning, Instagram was the way to go. So I ultimately shifted to Instagram and utilized that to share our learning and instantly found that the engagement and communication had shot up again. It turns out that many parents (and students) are active on Instagram and this actually became one of the primary ways I highlighted our Supplemental Learning the past few months.  
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Snapshot from our classroom Instagram account.
3. Openness allows for connectivity among participants.
I would argue that this might be the strongest point for the "disagree" side as it would be hard to refute the benefits that openness and sharing have in schools - especially considering the current climate of education during COVID-19. Providing students with tools like blogs, OneNote, Google Classroom, and SeeSaw creates a learning environment that fosters creativity, communication, and collaboration among all those involved. As I mentioned in the intermission, I strongly believe that we owe it to students to provide them with these opportunities, especially knowing that so many are already using other means to connect. By teaching them the appropriate use (and skills) to navigate openness and sharing in a classroom setting, we help to prepare them for the world outside the four walls of the school.

Final Thoughts

While both sides made excellent points for each of their respective sides, I did ultimately find myself siding with the "Disagree" side as I really do see value in utilizing an open environment in school. Not only does it prepare students for the "real world" but it also allows us to connect with stakeholders and provides students with a means to enhance the learning experience through collaboration with others. However, the "Agree" side also made some excellent points regarding the issues with privacy and digital footprints with students in our school that had me leaning towards their argument. As Dean mentioned at the end of the debate, I too agree that this topic might be better suited as two separate debates: one for privacy in school, and the second on openness and sharing. I think these are two very important issues, and it would be very interesting to see what discussions might arise if they are dealt with separately.  

Are Cell Phones Really the Problem?

Should we ban cell phones in schools? This is a conversation I've had many times over my 9 years of teaching and often relates to the entire BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) discussion - which I'm very passionate about. I'll be quite honest, out of all the debate topics so far, this was definitely the one that I had the strongest feeling and connection to - so it was going to be quite hard to change my mind regarding the use of cell phones in school. However, before I get into my personal feelings on the matter, let's recap the awesome debate between Jill and Tarina & Alyssa and Skyler.

The Agree

The debate started out with an awesome video created by Jill and Tarina, which did an excellent job of not only engaging their audience but presented some interesting arguments as to why cellphones should be banned in school. I was blown away at the creativity displayed in their video, as they utilized a combination of real-life stories, pop culture clips as well as facts to present their argument.  This use of media was just plain awesome, and I really wish Trevor and I had thought to include it in our own debate video - well done! I also commend them for selecting the agree side to this topic, as I feel that it is a difficult side to defend, but nonetheless had some interesting points to think about.

A few thoughts I had from the opening argument:

1)  Cellphones are a distraction in school.
This was a great point, and as someone who is very "pro-cellphone", I have to admit, it can definitely be a problem in classrooms. As was pointed out in the study from the news clip, 268 distractions occurred in a classroom over the span of a half-hour. This is an alarming number, and while I don't think it would be as high in a Grade 7/8 classroom, I'm sure the number of notifications would still be shocking if I were to complete the same experiment in my school. This is a reality of kids today being connected to their devices as well as one another. Part of me wonders if it all students were to turn off notifications, would this still be as big of a problem? Jill and Tarina also pointed out that while cellphone use could distract the user, it also has the potential to distract others as well. This was supported by the 2018 statistic that essentially found that students who had devices at school tested lower on exams, and so did fellow students in the class. However, I would like to read the full extent of this study as I'm curious how they could prove that the cellphone use was the result of the low scores, as there could be so many factors at play there.

2) School devices are safer.
When exploring this point, the main idea was that schools would do their due diligence to keep the students safe if they were forced to use school devices. This would occur because the school could monitor the use of the device, as well as internet activity. While I certainly agree that it is easier to police the use of school technology, especially using programs like LanSchool or VNS as opposed to personal devices. However, in many divisions, the internet filters are actually the same regardless of which device is being used. While this may not be the case everywhere, I know that in RCSD, students who would like to access the internet on a personal device need to sign-in to a special "student WIFI", that requires them to sign in using their school credentials. When accessing this WIFI, the division is not only is able to filter and block inappropriate content but can also have access to the internet activity for each student. In addition to this, our students are also required to sign the "Responsible Use Agreement" at the start of each year for both school devices as well as BYOT. Having students sign this agreement, puts greater responsibility on the students, and allows for appropriate consequences if students are using the devices inappropriately. So with this point, while I'm sure it would apply in many places around the world, I don't feel that it would apply in my own division due to the policies and planning that are already in place.

3) Cellphones increase negative behaviour.
With this point, I would certainly agree that cellphones provide a means for students to act negatively, but I really struggle with the notion that they are the cause of increased negative behaviour. When we think about many of the complaints and issues with cellphone use among teenagers, cheating, cyberbullying and sexting would certainly be at the top of the list. I absolutely agree that these are problems in our society today, and definitely find ways to manifest in a classroom setting. However, I do think it's hard to prove that cellphones have increased these behaviours, as cheating and bullying have always been an issue in schools; cellphones just happen to be the newest means that kids are utilizing for them. Sexting is also a problem, but I do remember this also being an issue with kids on messaging programs such as MSN Messenger in the early 2000s. So again, the argument could be made that this was already a problem, and cellphones just are the newest manifestation of it. As I'm sure I will mention again in the future, this problem really emphasizes the need for increased education and digital citizenship by parents and teachers alike. While these problems will never be eradicated completely, I believe we can certainly diminish the amount of these issues through the use of education, rather than banning.

The Disagree

Just as was the case with the first video, I was also quite impressed with how Alyssa and Skyler mashed existing news clips with stock footage to help make their video so engaging.  Well done! 
Here a few of points they made that stood out to me:
1) Medical & emergency use.
To be quite honest, the notion of using cellphones for medical use wasn't something that would have immediately come to mind, but after thinking about it, it makes perfect sense. If a student has diabetes, we now have the technology to utilize apps to sync with a body sensor to determine blood glucose levels. This is something that has become more popular, and a quick google search would show that there has been a big push for the development of more apps that can help with diabetes and other medical conditions. In addition, while I may not fully agree with parents or students contacting each other during the curricular time (I believe these issues should go through the office first), I definitely see the benefit of allowing these devices in the student's hands. As Michala pointed out, oftentimes students are walking home after school or after extra-curricular events, and if an emergency were to take place, having a way to contact emergency services or even their parents would be incredibly important. While I don't have kids of my own, I can definitely see the peace of mind it would give parents (and probably their kids too), if they were to have a cellphone in these situations.

2) Cellphones can alleviate the pressure of tech use in schools.
In my experience, this was the number one benefit of BYOT and cellphone use in schools. I distinctly remember in my first year of teaching we had one single laptop cart that was being shared by the entire middle years' block. This meant it was almost impossible to get your hands on these devices as they were the hot commodity in our end, and always seemed to be booked out. However, the following year our division adopted a BYOT policy, which completely changed everything. Now, instead of having to book the entire laptop cart, teachers only needed to book a certain number of computers for the students in their classes who did not bring a personal device to school. This enabled more teachers to access the laptop cart at the same time and thus allowing for more tech integration within classrooms. While cellphones couldn't be used for everything (word processing, powerpoints, etc.), they did drastically cut down on the number of devices teachers needed to borrow each day/week off the shared carts, which ultimately provided more use and access for all the students in the middle year's end of the school.​

3) Cellphones can be utilized for many educational purposes.
Whenever I've had the "should we bad cellphone" discussion with my colleagues or fellow teachers, this is the point that I really try to hammer home - cellphones provide many educational opportunities to the students that may not have been possible (or practical) on a school device. In my experience, when I've provided students with the opportunity to demonstrate their learning in the way that works best for them, oftentimes they utilize their personal devices in ways that I didn't even know were possible. Whether it's various video editing apps, stop motion creators, music editing software, or even games like Minecraft, I've been blown away by the products they produce using the devices they are the most familiar with. I think this is also an important learning experience for the students - as Dean pointed out - if we teach our students that these devices can be used for more than just social media and personal use at home, we open their eyes to the full potential these devices hold. 

Here's an example of a project that one of my students created this year when they were tasked with retelling the Creation Story. While many students could have simply created a PowerPoint, storybook, or poster, this student created the story on her phone in class and used her laptop simultaneously for tutorials on how to create different structures. (Audio is a little hard to hear)

Conclusion

Ultimately, while both sides made compelling arguments, I still found myself positioned on the "Disagree" side of the debate surrounding the ban of cellphones in schools. While I fully acknowledge that certain issues may arise in regards to cellphone use in school, I firmly believe that education is the key to solving these problems. As educators, if we put the time in to teach our students digital citizenship and responsible use (and reinforce these concepts throughout the year), the magnitude of these issues should decrease. It's unrealistic to expect zero issues with cellphones, as ultimately these are kids we're dealing with and they are bound to make mistakes. By banning the devices, we lose out on the opportunity to educate the students and only make these devices taboo (which could result in them using them behind our backs anyway). At the end of the day, an analogy I like to use in regards to this situation is the use of paper in schools. If students use paper inappropriately (passing notes, writing nasty letters, drawing offensive pictures, etc.), do we ban paper throughout the entire school? Or do we take the time as educators to teach our students appropriate behaviour and procedures, while dealing with the students who make the mistakes on an individual level? 
Just some food for thought...

Social Media & Childhood: Yay or Nay?

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Source: pixabay.com/lobostudiohamburg
On Tuesday night we were treated to another great debate which featured Laurie and Christina facing off against Amy and Dean in a battle to convince our class that Social Media is or isn't ruining childhood.  As has been the case each week, I was blown away by the awesome opening videos as well as the thought-provoking points and counter-points delivered by both teams throughout the course of the evening. Well done both sides! At the onset of the night, I'll admit that I was definitely leaning more to the Disagree side of the statement "Social Media is Ruining Childhood", and voted such in our pre-vote. As a "tech enthusiast" and Connected Educator in my school division, I have had my fair share of experience with utilizing Social Media for both personal and professional use, even going so far as to lead a Twitter Book Chat with Trevor last summer on Jennifer Casa-Todd's Social LEADia. In my role as a Grade 7/8 teacher, I've certainly witnessed the negative impact that social media can have on my students, but at the same time, I also have just as many (if not more) examples of positive experiences my students have had with it. As a result, Laurie and Christina certainly had their work cut out for them if they were hoping for me to change my mind on this issue

The Disagree

While in past posts I typically start with the "agree" side, I figured I would switch things up this week and explore the top three points from Amy and Dean that really resonated with me.  They did a great job presenting their points in a way that connected their audience to the issue through story-telling and human connection. 

1) Social Media Unites Others.
When thinking about this issue before the debate, this was one of the main points that came to mind when thinking about the positives of social media.  It definitely has the potential (when used appropriately) to unite people together. Some examples are ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Batkid, more current, the Black Lives Matter Movement.  While the hashtag #blacklivesmatter was overwhelmed on Tuesday, it has been a vital source for the spread of information and uniting others in protesting against racism and police brutality. 

As Amy and Dean also pointed out in their example of Connor, a High School student who started Instagram account to say positive things about his classmates, social media truly has the potential to spread kindness and goodness in our world.  Although this platform could easily be used to tear others down, it was used to build others up, which really demonstrates the power of education in social media.  Social media is just a platform, which makes me wonder if Digital Citizenship (or a lack thereof) could be the real culprit behind the negative experiences with social media.

2) Social Media Allows People to Connect.
This point is also an important one, and probably more relevant now than it ever was due to the CoVid Pandemic.  As Nancy highlighted in her segment, in times like this pandemic, kids could feel completely isolated and alone during their quarantine, however social media has allowed them to stay connected with another and maintain these important relationships. Amy also provided a very interesting stat regarding teens in today's world vs. the past: "Teens feel less isolated and have become more socially adept than past generations". 

3) Bullying and Body Image Issues.
One of the major points that anyone would have regarding the negative aspects of social media would certainly be Cyberbullying and Body Image Issues.  As Trevor pointed out in our discussion period,  the overconsumption of Instagram as well as the various filters available could potentially be causing body image issues among the younger generation.  While this is certainly a great point (and could very well be true), Amy expertly countered this point by explaining that body image issues (and bullying) have always been around - whether it was magazines, movies or TV shows, past generations experienced this - social media just happens to be the newest one. 

The Agree

Now that we've explored the defence of social media, it's time flashback to the very beginning of the debate and reviews the excellent stance that Laurie and Christina had. First of all, I would like to commend them on another very well done video, as I felt they did an excellent job of setting the tone and presenting key information through their creative "Fairy Tale" style video. As I mentioned earlier, at the start of the debate I was definitely leaning away from their side, however, they did make some strong arguments that really had me questioning where I sat on this issue. A few of the key points that really stuck out to me were:

1.  Social Media can Take a Toll on Mental Health.
I'm glad this was something that was mentioned, as I have wondered about this with my own students. As was mentioned by Christina, social media use can cause an "increase in depression, anxiety, self-esteem, and suicide in teens". This is certainly an alarming fact, and with the increase in childhood anxiety, I do wonder if there is a correlation between it and social media. It was also mentioned that social media can lead to an addiction, not to the device itself, but to the access to each other and the image of themselves, which can often be chalked up to the very real FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). They also made a great point linking social media use to body image issues due to the relatively easy access to social media and the validation many teens seek from the number of "likes" they get.

2.  Social Media Lends Itself to Cyberbullying.
As was defined in the video, Cyberbullying can be classified as "Repeatedly sending, posting or sharing negative, harmful or mean content about someone which may cause embarrassment or humiliation". While an argument can be (and was) made that bullying has always been around, cyberbullying definitely takes it to a whole new level. With most cyberbullying occurring on some form of social media, victims are exposed to "attacks" anywhere, as opposed to the past when victims were able to get some form of relief when they went home or were away from others. It could also be argued that social media makes bullying easier because teenagers are able to "remove themselves emotionally", which makes it far easier to say hurtful things from behind a keyboard that they may not necessarily have said to their victims in person.

3.  There are Definite Safety Concerns Surrounding Social Media.
This point also stuck out to me, as it's also something that I've experienced in my role as a classroom teacher due to the fact that many issues that take place outside of school, often filter back into the classroom. As Laurie and Christina explained due to the development of children's brains and the way they're wired, children are far more likely to act on impulse. I don't think anyone would disagree with this statement after looking at their own class, their own children, or heck, even themselves when they were younger! With this in mind, kids (specifically teenagers) are far more likely to succumb to outside pressure to share things they normally wouldn't, or participate in the alarming viral "challenges: that are meant to harm them - Tide Pod Challenge, Salt and Ice ChallengePenny Challenge, etc.

Conclusion

As I mentioned earlier, I was definitely on "Team Disagree" at the start of this debate as I've witnessed the positive attributes of social media in my classroom. However, Laurie and Christina also raised some good points that caused me to challenge the views that I previously held, as it seemed like many of the points I agreed with which supported social media, were expertly countered. This has led much reflection on the issue of social media and children, and while I haven't completely sided with them, they did a good enough job, that I am somewhere in the middle now and there are certainly cases that would support both sides of this debate. At the end of the day, I don't think social media can be "good or bad" - it's just a tool. I believe the more powerful idea at play is the importance of education and digital citizenship. I would bet that a large number of negative experiences with social media could be attributed to a lack of education or understanding. With increased effort and emphasis on this by educators and parents alike, I wonder what impact that would have on this issue?

To Google, or not to Google…That is the Question

What a ride we've been on for these debates so far! First, we were treated to an amazing debate last Tuesday, jam-packed full of suspense, thanks to some great arguments, as well as a thunderstorm delay. Not to be outdone by that, our next great debate unveiled a plot twist no one saw coming - both sides settled their differences ahead of time, and instead of a debate, we were treated to an awesome discussion surrounding the use of "Google" in education. It was a brilliant approach to the debate format as the topic itself is not (see what I did there) hard to agree with. The notion that schools should be embracing the use of search engines like Google, is something that I'm sure most educators would agree with, and was backed up by great points from both sides. 

Side One (A)

Up first, was Curtis and Lisa, who did an excellent job defending why schools shouldn't be afraid to focus on topics that can be easily googled.  A few points that stuck out to me from their opening video were:
1. The Six Skills to be Successful: Positivity, Bravery, Determination, Self-Belief, Creation & Sheer Energy
This was something that stood out to me, as they are such important skills for both students and adults alike. As educators, we can help foster (and grow) these skills in our students with our classroom environments as well as the meaningful learning opportunity we prepare and facilitate. 
2.  LoTi Framework
I'll admit, this one was rather embarrassing for me. As someone who is a major tech and inquiry advocate in education, and genuinely felt like I have a lot of knowledge in this area - I had to google this acronym because I forgot what it stood for (yikes). The Levels of Teaching Innovation shows the meaningful ways that technology can enhance learning and move away from the typical teacher-directed learning, and shift more into student-centered learning. As was mentioned in the opening statement, the LoTi Framework is also an excellent tool for building the six skills to be successful.

3. Focusing on the 4 C's: Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communcation & Creativity
This is an area that I've definitely spent lots of time focusing on as a Connected Educator in my division as we have spent many hours learning about these 4 C's (as well as Citizenship, Connecting & Curation). I understand the importance of these skills and actively try to incorporate them into my daily lessons, or special projects such as Genius Hour (but more on this later). ​

4. Teaching Students to Filter Between Good and Bad Knowledge
This really stuck out to me because I'm sure a counter-argument to using google, could be that the internet contains lots of misinformation that students could be accessing for their learning.  While this is certainly true, if we as educators take the time to teach and explore digital literacy with our students, we are actually enabling them to become critical thinkers as they navigate the online world for information.  This is a classic example of utilizing the power of education instead of banning technology for potential problems - which sadly seems to happen far too often in our education systems. 

Side One (B)

Next up, Daina and Jocelyn presented some great ideas that also supported why Google use could benefit students, but also raised some excellent points in regards to how and why we are using it.  Here are a few things from their opening video and discussion that stuck out to me:
1. We can use Google, but we need to ensure they don't do the thinking for us - It's a tool, not a teacher.
This was a great point as it's something that Trevor and I also thought about when we were preparing our debate. If all we ever used when thinking about information was google, we lose our ability to think critically - so it should never be utilized as a sole means of learning, but instead, as a way to enhance learning. In the end, learning without an educator would result in a shallow learning experience for all those involved. This is also where that human relationship and memorization debate could also come into play. ​Imagine you are having a discussion with a friend about sports fact (let's say the last time the Leafs won the Stanley Dup) and either of you is 100% sure about the answer (probably because it was so long ago). Typically this could lead to a lengthy debate, or conversation as you both think about the answer, however, one single search on google could erase lots of meaningful and enjoyable conversations between the two of you. While this is certainly an extreme example, it does highlight a concern that could arise if we become over-dependant on google for answers. 

2.  Students shouldn't be expected to use Google (or the internet) for curriculum, when many can't consistently access technology.
This was another great point that was also highlighted in our previous debate on the equity of technology. As we are all aware, the digital divide does exist and CoVid-19 has certainly exposed the gaps within our own province (and country). With this in mind, the point that Daina and Jocelyn made above, still rings true - we need to use it as a tool, not as a replacement. As I read this statement, I couldn't help but think of Doug Ford's brilliant idea to make online learning a requirement for graduation. How could this even be remotely possible, with the Digital Divide that exists? With many students who do not have access to this technology at home, what are they to do in order to fulfill their graduation requirements?

3. Google focuses more on "Useful Knowledge" vs. "Liberal Knowledge"
This thought also reminded me of the first point above in regards to how we use Google. The point was mentioned in the video that "Google is more about quick information instead of Critical Thinking". If we understand this point, then the answer to the statement for this week's debate should shift away from "Should Google be used?" to "How can we use it properly to enhance learning".  ​

Conclusion

Out of the three debate topics so far, this was the only one where I was leaning heavily to one side ahead of time and I was happy to hear that I wasn't the only one. As I mentioned earlier, while there are certainly some good arguments against the use of Google in education, I still believe this would have been a very difficult debate to win because the positives far outweigh the potential detractors. Personally, I've been a big advocate for the use of Google in my classroom as I found my students were benefitting for the exact reasons Curtis and Lisa mentioned. 

One project that I've been especially passionate about facilitating with my students is 
Genius Hour. Providing students with the opportunities to explore their passions and find answers to questions they have is such an amazing experience. With this being an inquiry-based activity, my students naturally need to research information using google, but it also opens the door to other connections that students may not have previously had - such as contacting experts via twitter or Skype in the Classroom. One point that Brad made on his blog that ties into Genius Hour are the discussion that always surrounds it - "How do I mark it?". As Brad explained, a better argument for this topic would be "Should we stop ASSESSING things that are easily google-able?", and I couldn't agree more. Honestly, when people hear that I do not mark my Genius Hour projects, I'm typically met with a lot of questions. But honestly, instead of marking the final project or the answers, the students get from the internet, why not assess the journey they took to get there? To me, this is the beauty of Genius Hour as the journey is far more important than the destination!


Technology…Is It Fair?

Before I get into the nitty-gritty details of our second debate, I want to take a moment to commend KalynNatalyVictoria, and Jasmine on a well prepared and thought-provoking debate. Both sides did an excellent job of defending their stances right from the amazing opening videos through the concluding statements. I was also very impressed with how focused and composed both sides were when they were hit with a surprise curveball (in the form of an impromptu thunderstorm) which could have easily rattled or derailed them, but instead, like true pro's, they took it in stride and continued their debate as to if nothing happened. Well done everyone!

I'll admit when it came to the topic of "Technology is a Force for Equity in Society", I wasn't sure which side to pick in the pre-vote as my experience as an educator has provided me with reasons that could potentially argue both sides. While I did initially select the disagree side, I looked forward to solidifying my stance on whichever side was able to persuade me the most.  

The Pros

While Kalyn and Nataly both made many strong points as to why Technology is a Force for Equity, there were a few thoughts that really resonated with me from their side of the debate:
1) Technology provides access to information
This was something that I hadn't considered before but really does make a strong case for their side. With the use of technology, we have unlimited access to information in our world. This was specifically the case in the example of the "
Digital School in a Box" that was highlighted in their video.  

2) Technology allows for more personal and individualized learning, while also helping students with disabilities.
This is something that I witness daily in my classroom as the use of technology has allowed me to provide students with the choice to demonstrate their learning in whatever way works best for them - whether that be in the form of a blog post, podcast, video, Adobe Spark, etc. - students have the option (and the means) to take more control of their learning. I have also witnessed the power of technology in supporting EAL (English as an Additional Language) students as it can not only provide them with a way to communicate with others through translation tools, but can also help with their comprehension through the use of Immersive Reader programs that are built into our OneNote, or on our Kidblog website.

3) The importance of Assistive Technology.
While the Immersive Reader tool that was mentioned above would definitely fit into this category, one example of assistive technology that has really opened my eyes as an educator is the speech-to-text or dictation tool. I've found this to be so beneficial for students, not only learning English but as a major help for students who struggle with spelling and writing. Sometimes students who struggle with spelling will often spell words phonetically, which may result in zero recommendations from the spell check software. Unless these students have a classmate or teacher review each of their assignments, they are unaware of spelling mistakes and unable to fix their mistakes as they write. However, the use of dictation software certainly comes in handy as students can speak and have the words displayed on the screen for them. While this software built into Microsoft Office has certainly been beneficial, I've found the speech-to-text tool on students' cell phones far more beneficial.  

Typically when students struggle with a word, they simply say the word into their phone and then write down the correct spelling on their assignment (digital or paper). I've found that this route for middle years students has been particularly helpful in helping students grow because they have to read and correctly spell the word for themselves, rather than having it inputted directly into their assignments. The benefits of using a mobile device for this purpose has also allowed students to access this tool wherever they go while using Microsoft Office is limited to when they have their laptops. Without this tool, these students would most likely fall further behind, but technology has allowed them to "level the playing field", and I can definitely see the argument as to why technology could be a force of equity.

The Against

Victoria and Jasmine also did an excellent job of defending their side, and really used some compellign arguements surrounding why technology is not a force for equity in society.  While listening to both their opening statement and rebuttal there were two key ideas that really stuck with me:
1) The Digital Divide.
At the start of this debate, the main reason why I was hesitant to side with the "Pro" side was largely due to the digital divide. This is something that many of us might want to believe is only a problem in developing countries, but Covid-19 has exposed this reality throughout our society. It became glaringly obvious that there was a gap in our province when teachers were tasked with delivering lessons remotely, there were a large number of families who would be unable to access this information. It's kind of scary that it took a global pandemic for the light to be shed on such a serious issue, that was seemingly swept under the rug in the past. 

​2) Techno-Colonialism.
While this term was relatively new to me, one thing that Victoria mentioned really stuck out to me - the idea that in some parts of the world technology was being presented to populations as the "fix-all", but in reality, they were facing issues that were far more pressing than the need to buy a $100 laptop. This also tied into Victoria's point later on when she talked about families a little closer to home, who could potentially be faced with the decision to sacrifice basic needs to be able to pay for devices and the internet.  

One thing that I really didn't think about during the debate, but that Trevor highlighted in his blog post was the notion of misinformation online. This is something that's really been picking up steam over the past few years but appears to be at an all-time high during the COVID Pandemic. As Trevor mentions, it's alarming to think that if people aren't properly prepared or educated in identifying misinformation or "fake news" online, the effects could be devastating.  

The Conclusion

While both sides made some great arguments that seemed to pull me in both directions, in the end though, I think my conclusion will be like the ending to LOST or the Soprano's - no real closure (Yes, I'm still bitter about LOST ten years later...Six Seasons and that's all we got...C'Mon!). While there are reasons to agree with both stances, ultimately I feel like the answer to this statement is complex, and much like the previous debate, there is probably more to it than a simple, "agree" or "disagree". When we look at the issue specifically, I think it all comes down to how the technology is being utilized, who is using it and what role education plays. For example, as we heard earlier, the advancement (and price) of technology can certainly cause a digital divide in our society and may force individuals and families to sacrifice so much, just to have access. This in itself, would really support the notion that technology is causing inequity in society. However, as we've witnessed with the CoVid crisis, many school divisions are providing technology to families who don't have access or enough devices at home in an effort to bridge that same gap. So...the argument could also be made that the use of technology has actually helped to provide equity to society.  

So, where does that leave me? The answer is simple...I really don't know. See simple! Overall my brain feels like it's in the midst of an intense tennis match - going back and forth. Ultimately, as I mentioned earlier, I don't feel like there is an exact answer to this statement as there seems to be so many factors that could play out that could make both sides right. Maybe I'm taking a cop-out here, but I really feel like there is no right answer. What do you think?

Does Tech Enhance Student Learning?

When Trevor and I were deciding on which debate topic we were the most interested in, we kept coming back to a topic that at our core we both strongly agreed with - Technology Enhances Learning. However, we thought it might be interesting and helpful for us to select the side of this debate that would contradict our personal beliefs, and help us look at the issue from a different perspective. I'll admit at the beginning it was it a little hard to wrap our heads around this as every time we thought of a good argument, we naturally thought of a counterpoint from our own experience that would discredit the negative side. Also understanding how smart and experienced Amanda and Nancy are, we knew we had to dig deep to create an argument that would be counter their strong points on the pro side...or at least make them work a little bit before they ultimately crushed us! 

The Key Points

​While initially we had many ideas of how we could come at this topic, we eventually narrowed it down to three key issues that we felt would give us the best chance to defend our side: Distraction, Pedagogy and Screen Time.  
1.  Technology is a Distraction:
  • It affords many opportunities and temptations for students to use technology for non-curricular means.  This includes the use of Social Media (such as Instagram or snapchat), Music (and switching songs), playing games, or viewing content on YouTube.
  • The commercialization of the internet – many advertisements, banners, and recommended videos are hosted on websites that are being utilized for educational purposes. Many students do not understand the impact these ads are having on them.   
  • Notifications and popups are created to take away your attention from tasks, which leads to less productivity and ultimately less learning in the classroom. 
  • Algorithms are being utilized to distract us from our learning and take us towards products to purchase.   
2. Sound Pedagogy is the Foundation for Enhancement, not Technology:
  • Technology can amplify the pedagogical methods of educators - it can make good teachers better but can make bad ones worse.  A good teacher with sound pedagogy will always find ways to enhance learning with or without technology. 
  • If technology is not being used in the right way, there are limited benefits to students (I.e. substitution on SAMR model) 
  • Cool "bells and whistles" are created as a hook for educators and students. This will often lead teachers to use resources or tools with minimal understanding of the pedagogy behind using them. 
3. School-Based Technology Overloads Students with Screen Time:
  • Many students are already using technology in their own time (Netflix, Social Media, Youtube etc.), making students use technology all day for educational purposes (Google Classroom, Kahoot, Research etc.) is too much screen time. 
  • Technology in schools is contributing to the technology addiction that exists among many of our young people.
  • With increased technology we may be contributing to a dehumanization of the profession. The relationships between students and teachers suffer due to the increased focus on technology.    

The Opening Statement

Trevor and I mulled a few different directions that we could go with our opening statement, but since we felt that we were playing on the losing team, we decided to go the route that many politicians take when they are desperate to garner public support - Attack Ads. While we tried very hard to dig up dirt on our competition, they were just too honest and nice and we can up empty-handed... so we resorted to creating fake tweets (thanks to Amanda and Nancy for being such great sports with this!) and creating a dark tone for our video. We even ended up finding a "How to make an Election Attack Ad" video for creating your own smear campaign that helped us in making our video. Ultimately Trevor and I were very happy with how our video turned out and we had a lot of fun using WeVideo to make it.  ​Check it out below:
Overall, this was such an amazing experience and a really engaging way to both learn more about an important issue in Education Technology and start a dialogue from all perspectives. I feel like I have a far better understanding of the side of parents and fellow teachers who may be resistant to increased technology in the classroom. While my stance on the issue hasn't changed (technology has the potential to enhance learning), it was very beneficial for me to learn more about the other side, as tech integration isn't perfect and issues such as distraction and screen time are worth exploring within education. 

Welcome to My Life…Matt Bresciani


​March 13th, 2020 - That was the day everything changed. 

It's funny to look back on this day now as I don't think I fully comprehended the severity of the situation we were facing in Saskatchewan (and around the world). I remember thinking that there was no way we would be out of school for very long and that our worst-case scenario would have the students returning at the end of April. Oh, how naive I was! Here we are, roughly six weeks into supplementary learning - and with the recently announced closure of schools until the end of June, this will be the new normal for my students and me until the end of the year (and most likely next year as well). While this situation is definitely not ideal, I've counted my blessings as my experience in remote teaching has been quite positive. Don't get me wrong, there have been hiccups and opportunities for growth along the way, but I've realized how lucky I am to have such a supportive school team and very understanding parents as we navigate these uncharted waters together.

​So...with that being said, what does a day in my life look like?
Rather than chronicle my day hour by hour and waste time telling you all about the awesome Netflix I watch on my lunch breaks and evenings (easily The Last Dance and Brooklyn Nine-Nine), I've instead summarized the Three C's of remote teaching experience: Connection, Content & Collaboration.

Connections/Communication

As I think most educators and parents would agree, this is probably one of the most important aspects of remote teaching as I need to ensure that I am keeping parents in the loop with their child's learning, and also continuing to make those important connections with my students. For parents (and students), I post our weekly plans for supplemental learning on my classroom website as well as a summary graphic on Instagram each Sunday evening. This provides parents and students time to explore what we will be learning throughout the week and also provides them with the opportunity to plan out device use - especially in households where multiple family members are sharing one device.  
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An example of the Instagram graphic
When it comes to communicating with my students, email is still one way that many of them choose to communicate with me as it's something that they were familiar with before shifting to this model of education. However, one tool that I've found very helpful for student communication has been Microsoft Teams. While I was hesitant to use this tool in the past, Microsoft has certainly done its part in beefing up this once inferior program to one that I feel confident in using with my students and recommending to other educators. The built-in chat function in Teams has been the primary way (outside of email) that my students and I have been able to communicate regarding questions about their supplemental learning. Typically if a student has a question about an assignment, they send me a quick message and I can provide an answer far quicker than before. I've also found that students respond far quicker than they would through email because many of them already using the app to complete their learning, rather than having to use a separate app to respond to emails.  When it comes to face-to-face (well kind of) interaction, my students and I utilize the video chat function in Teams three times a week - Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 1:00 - 2:00. The structure of these meetings vary depending on the day, but typically we do the following:

Monday: We usually start our week by sharing the High and Low points from the previous week, which allows students to share what's going on in their lives. After this, I share a brief PowerPoint that highlights previous assignments, reminders, and a brief overview of the key learning for the week. Once we've finished this, I open it up to any questions students may have about past or future assignments before we end our meeting with a trivia game on Quizizz with the theme selected by the winner from the previous week.  

Wednesday: This meeting is reserved for Grade 8 Math as I teach all the Grade 8's Math and my fellow 7/8 teacher handles the Grade 7 Math. These meetings are relatively simple as I spend about 5-10 minutes reviewing the Flipped Math lesson for the day before opening it up to questions. Students then spend the rest of the class working on their assignment and I more or less just hang out while students are working and answer questions as they come up. 
Friday: I initially planned for this meeting to be an additional content delivery period, but I quickly shifted to a different plan after some feedback from students - we needed more FUN! After playing our Quizizz game on Mondays, my students asked if we could have a whole meeting dedicated to playing games together, and the answer was an easy yes. As a fun way to end our week, we come together and I try to plan a fun activity for us to play each Friday. So far we've played multiple games of trivia, BINGO, "Where in the World is Mr. B?", with SINGO up next week!
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A slide from the "Where in the World is Mr. B?" game.

Content Delivery

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm very blessed to be a Connected Educator as it has allowed me to teach in a 1-1 environment. This has allowed me to incorporate the use of Microsoft OneNote into my daily instruction and has been a relatively seamless transition into our summative learning as students are already familiar with this program. Lots of the written content and assignments are distributed to students using this tool as it's easily curated in the different sections of their OneNote and students also can complete the assignments right in the OneNote app using the typing tool or draw tool if they have a stylus or a mouse. As Math is one of the main subjects being taught during supplemental learning, OneNote has been the primary tool I've used to provide students with their assignments. Below you can see two examples of how students have used this tool to complete and submit their work:
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Student used type & draw tool.
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Student took a picture and inserted into OneNote.
Speaking of Math, this has also been a relatively seamless transition into remote teaching for my students and thanks a younger version of Dean teaching the rookie version of me the "In's and Out's" of Flipped Math 7 years ago. With Flipped Math being the norm in my class before Covid-19 hit, I was very fortunate, as all of my lessons for Grade 8 Math had already been recorded and posted on my Flipped Math Website. This enabled me to continue teaching in a flipped environment, albeit without the same amount of one-on-one time we would have had in a physical classroom. With the lessons already recorded online, I typically assign two videos for students to watch each week, along with an accompanying assignment that they can work on. 

Although I already had lessons created for Math, I had to get a little more creative when it came to other subjects. While tools like FlipgridSocrative, and Kidblog have been very helpful in teaching ELA, I wanted to try something a little different as I began branching out to teaching some Science content last week. For these lessons, I decided to create short videos that either taught the content necessary for the lesson, or guided students through labs that they could complete at home. I also dabbled with EdPuzzle, and converted my lesson on Mixtures and Pure Substances into an EdPuzzle interactive video for students to engage in before exploring a short assignment in their OneNote. 

If you would like to view the two cringeworthy" videos that I edited using the finest software that my old iMac could offer, here they are for your viewing pleasure:

Collaboration

I'm very fortunate to work at a school with such a supportive and collaborative staff as each week my grade alike PLN meet on Teams and we share our learning experiences. My teaching partner and I also schedule a short meeting after each Wednesday's live Math class to discuss how the meeting went and bounce ideas off each other. I find these short collaboration sessions incredibly helpful as it's evident that no one is in this alone and the ideas and conversations I have with my colleagues are so helpful in planning my future supplemental learning opportunities.

Conclusion 

While Remote Teaching or Supplemental Learning is certainly not ideal, they're here (and maybe for a while) whether we like it or not. I've definitely had my fair share of struggles and moments of frustration over the past six weeks, but I finally feel like I'm at a point where I feel comfortable with the routine my students and I are in, and look forward to learning and growing more both professionally and personally as we navigate through the remainder of this school year. 

A Little About Me!

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Source: Pixabay.com/Anemone123
Hello and welcome to my blog for EC&I 830! My name is Matt Bresciani and I am a Middle Years Teacher at St. Kateri Tekakwitha in Regina, Saskatchewan.  While my primary assignment over the past eight years has been Grade 7/8, I've also had the opportunity to teach a variety of subjects in some of the lower grades as well. These experiences have allowed me to work outside my comfort zone and realize the curriculum connections that exist for students in primary to middle years. I enjoy learning new curriculums and discovering ways to creatively implement them in different classroom scenarios.

Technology has been a major part of my educational journey - which began with All the Right Type and Hot Dog Stand in my primary years, iMovie and Adobe Photoshop in High School, followed by the many educational apps that I learned about during my time in ECMP 355 at the University of Regina. As an educator, I understand that technology is an incredibly important tool that we can utilize to both engage our students and enhance their learning, but should never be used as a means to replace learning.  I've been very fortunate to be a part of the Connected Educator Project in Regina Catholic Schools since its inception four years ago.  Essentially as a participant in this project, my classroom is a one-to-one environment with each student having access to their own laptop supplied by the division. This project has provided so many opportunities for growth, not only for my students but for myself professionally, as I am continuously learning new ways to integrate technology into my pedagogy.   

I'm very excited for the format of this class, as it is so different than any of the classes I've taken before.  The notion of exploring both the positive and negative sides of educational technology is very intriguing and I'm excited of at the prospect of getting to participate in my first debate (well formal debate...I have another masters degree in arguing with others). I look forward to learning with all of you as we navigate this journey together!