Time has come for the final debate. This class has really flown by. Part of that is likely because of interesting work/life balance all of us have had to adapt to these last few weeks. Early this week, our staff found out that a student had passed away. This was an incredibly emotional week already. The Thursday debate was very emotional, as well.
I decided to do this week in an audio format, but I first want to highlight my partner Jacquie’s closing argument, because it was so powerful. I tried my best to transcribe it:
“I just want to commend our competitors and their wonderful points. I came in here pretty steadfast in certain about what I thought and the purpose of social justice in the classroom and using our platforms to voice that, but you moved me. The personal story is my heart is racing with empathy and compassion and I think that’s the point. When we lean into uncomfortable conversations the magic that can happen, the opportunities the connection, and the growth, and social media provides that platform.
As Dean pointed out, maybe we don’t need to go for the home run of fixing the world through one tweet, perhaps if those little things and those little moments of leaning into what breaks your heart and creating ways and places that we can act in service, and kindness, and in compassion As Nancy pointed, out maybe it’s what dissecting social media and looking at it critically and saying, “Hey, when was there push back? Why was there push back? What is the lesson learned? How can we grow and evolve? What do you need to be careful of when you’re posting on social media? What kind of resistance is there and who surrounds you in your community?
Alec spoke tonight about the taxing thing that social justice takes and to be around community for mental, spiritual, and physical well-being is essential, let alone to support each other through that and we saw that support when all can shared today as Alton shared his very incredibly moving and personal account.
So thank you for all. Thank you for all your truths, for pushing me to be better, and to consider the other side, because I think that’s what this class is done. It constantly allowed us to see both sides, the dichotomy of the world, and realizing that nothing is binary– there is the middle ground all the time and this once again shows the importance of understanding that middle.”
Prompt: Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids.
This was a great debate, and one that I was personally torn on. Melinda and Althan cited the digital divide and resources stating that students/children do not want us (adults) posting about them online.
To me, the essential questions to be answered are first, what is it exactly that we’re sharing and second, why are we sharing this? Are we sharing student learning? Are we sharing resources for other teachers? Are we sharing things that are relevant to things happening in the world right now?
The motivation behind this sharing is just as important. Are we doing it to improve learning? To inform parents? To inform teachers? Are we simply doing it as a way to shamelessly self-promote ourselves as educators?
I can absolutely agree with the points that Melinda and Altan raised. I love that they took an EAL perspective and highlighted the digital divide, that in forcing sharing of learning we may be setting up already disadvantaged students for embarrassment and we try to widen their audience beyond the classroom walls. Online privacy and opening students up trolls or online predators are another concern. Again, equity was mentioned as the opportunity gap between students came up. Equal access is something that has been mentioned in many of these debates, and as the debates are coming to close, it’s interesting to analyze some of these common themes.
Dean and Sherrie, on the counterargument, suggested that having an open classroom and teaching students how to navigate this environment can be much more beneficial than having a classroom that is is entirely closed. They assert that this open model can lead to deeper learning and that it can prepared them more for online environments that they’ll encounter in their future learning or in the workplace.
It was tough after the debate to decide exactly where I stand on this. I rarely share student learning on social media. It comes off and a bit braggy to me, and I don’t really use Twitter for self-promotion. I think there is a benefit to having a wider audience, and I think that there’s great potential in having cross-school collaboration on progress. Prior to COVID, I was planning on having my photography class collaborate with the drama class to do live recordings of their performances. That opened up the classroom in a sense. From there, those videos could potentially go on YouTube for students to re-watch their performances for self-evaluation, or could be sent to parents. I think that in a post-pandemic world, these types of things will be explored a lot. Pep rallies of the past, where a whole school sits together in a gymnasium, may be a thing of the past. Can we use technology to bridge the gap somehow?
I have no problem with students sharing their work online. Many of my courses have a digital portfolio component. This portfolio, in theory, could be added to each year or shared with parents to show a student’s progress in the course. I use it as more of a way to teach web development and organizational skills that can be vital to work on computers.
I do like to use Twitter to share articles and resources that I think me be of interest to people that follow me. I don’t do this as often as I should, as I tend to use Twitter more for social commentary, but it is something that I hope to do more in the future, particularly with the challenges that many educators will face in gearing up for the Fall.
Overall, I think that openness and sharing can be very beneficial to education. Like many topics in this class, though, a critical lens and a purposeful implementation are key. If we’re not examining what and why we’re sharing in the first place, I think we’re setting ourselves up for failure and potentially putting students at risk, and Altan and Melinda had cited in their work.
Great job to all.
I did some Googling and found most of the cell phones I’ve owned through the years. The first cell phone I got was in grade 12. It was a free prize that I won by donating blood at part of the O’Neill High School blood donation drive. The year was 2006.
“The Motorola Brick”
What a beauty. I remember being on a pay-as-you-go plan. My cell phone was never really a distraction in class. In those days, texting was a lot more primitive. Data plans weren’t really a thing yet. You were a big deal if you had a Blackberry. Oh, how times have changed.
Some of the phones I’ve had over the last fifteen years, in no particular order at all. Phones used to have a lot more personality.
My pre and post-vote were identical for this one. For the courses I teach, I appreciate students being able to utilize their phone as a second screen. I have had students that abuse this, but I very rarely have any issues. On the flip side of things, many teachers in my department have banned cellphones altogether in their classrooms (math, accounting, shop classes) and they have nothing but positive things to say about that decision.
At the end of the day, it comes down to how the teacher is going to use cellphones to make learning better and more accessible. If a teacher runs a very teacher-centered course where the majority of the information is coming from them, maybe cellphones would be seen as nothing more than a distraction. I love having students use their devices in my Social Studies classes for things like Kahoot reviews or to look up questions that they have about ancient civilizations that I can’t answer. I am comfortable in knowing that I don’t know everything, and if I student can “Google It” quickly and share with the class, that is a learning opportunity that I do not want to miss.
The banning side’s first article is We Should Ban Cellphones in Classrooms. The Research Backs That Up. Very interesting with student productivity going up nearly 15% in the UK after a cell phone ban. From teachers I have heard from that have instituted a ban, they would likely have similar results. They note that students are much more focused and productive– so much so that a “Tech Break” half way through class or the last few minutes of class is enough of a carrot for students to be particularly productive.
The second article, There’s a Cellphone in your Student’s Head, is a neat little psychological experiment. The results are that student perform better in math when their device is out of the room altogether. Out of sight, out of mind? I imagine I would be more productive in a typical day if I left my phone in my bedroom. Makes perfect sense to me.
The team that was against banning cellphones focused on apps with educational value and digital citizenship. While I think digital citizenship is very important, as many of my classmates do, it’s difficult to navigate exactly where this “fits in.” In a high school setting, for instance, we try to focus on this in ELA class, because it has so much to do with effective communication, Catholic Studies, because being a good person and living in a Christ-like way is just as important online as offline, and in Social Studies, because being a citizen means being an effective navigator of online information in order to become an informed citizen.
Overall, I side with not banning cellphones. If however students are not going to implement cellphone use in a meaningful way in their classrooms, maybe an all-out ban would be more effective. As mentioned in the last debate, I think the mental health impact can potentially be significant. Self-regulation would definitely be preferential to having students turn cellphones in. Maybe it’s my pandemic mindset talking, but I think a little bit of disconnecting every so often may be a lot more beneficial than keeping up that snap streak.
Link to Laurie and Christina’s Video (Social media is ruining childhood)
Link to Amy & Dean’s Video (Social media is not ruining childhood)
Laurie and Christina’s video is a bit of a doom and gloom piece that pines for what childhood used to be: less anxious, more carefree, and more enjoyable. They point to mental health concerns, FOMO and a bunch of other issues with social media use. As someone with young children, I find myself agreeing more and more with points regarding child exploitation that occurs as a result of social media use. Their article is an important one as it details how social media sites are designed so that we become addicted to them. As someone who has in the past deativated his Facebook account, the thing that I identify with most is the idea of FOMO (fear of missing out). Without Facebook, I found that I would not be aware of many social events (through Facebook calendar), and that I felt disconnected from people because I didn’t have as much of a sense about milestones that were happening in their lives.
In the chat I referenced a TED talk that I like showing to my grade 9 students. It talks about a lot of the points that Laurie and Christine cover. At the end of the day, I think that it is far better to be a critical and careful user of social media than to avoid it altogether.
For the record, my pre-vote was that social media IS ruining childhood. Purely based on the mental health and addiction that I see in students every day, I went with the option without hesitation. I have on occasion met students that have no social media presence. They seem more focus, more present, and more mindful of the world around them then students that are constantly on their phones or wishing they were. They seem more carefree, less anxious, and just… happier.
Amy and Dean’s video argues that social media is not ruining childhood. They paint social media as the new scapegoat for ruining childhood, just as video games and television have been blamed for ruining childhood in the past. Guest Daniel Dion opened with, and perhaps misspoke that, “Social media is definitely not changing society…” Statements like this take some credibility away from Amy and Dean’s argument. What is nice is that Amy and Dean highlight some students that have used social media to make a positive difference in the world. It is tough to argue social media’s ability to give young people a voice, and it allows all people to fight for social justice like never before.
My favourite part of Amy and Dean’s approach is that Dean actually went above and beyond and checked out some of the opposing side’s literature. Up until now this hasn’t really happened in our debates, and least not in such an in-your-face way. Dean used this literature against them and argued that the literature actually helped to prove his and Amy’s point.
Though both sides did a great job arguing, in the post-vote I stuck to my guns and voted again that social media is ruining childhood. While social media certainly has its benefits, as I would consider myself a moderate to heavy user, the impact that I think these interactions are having on our children, and as such an early age, it something that we should be concerned about as a society. It would be very interesting to do a long-term study of students who are heavy users, moderate users, and non-users of social media to study the impact on things like their mental health, their social skills, and their overall sense of belonging.
This week we had a lesson in adaptability. Both sides ended up arguing the same thing. This week’s prompt was, “Schools should not focus on teaching things that can easily be Googled.”
The trick with this one is that I’m not sure there are many people, at least in our class, who would be willing to argue that we should focus on teaching things that can be easily Googled. In our discussion, it seems like most agreed that there is a time and place in learning for memorizing. Jacquie mentioned sight words. Others mentioned multiplication tables. Some of those foundational things are building blocks, and indeed it is preferable for students to have sound fundamentals so that they can attack higher-level learning with similar prerequisite knowledge as their peers.
The thing about focusing on knowledge that can be Googled is that it’s easy for that teacher. It’s safe. The teacher is in control, giving information to students, even though it’s stuff that can be Googled. I guess there’s a comfort in knowing that as a teacher you’ve curated that information and, to the best of your ability, have made sure that the information that you are providing to students is factual. Then, assuming that all students learn the information well, the idea is that this information can be scaffolded off of so that students attain a deeper understanding.
This was mentioned in another blog by Jocelyn and Daina. Google might provide a one-dimensional, surface-level understanding, but it is up to the teacher and students to elevate that and make it relevant within our context in Saskatchewan in 2020.
What if teachers choose not to focus on information that can be easily Googled? Suddenly we’re experiencing the benefits of critical thinking. This would likely be less teacher-focused learning, which may be out of the comfort zone of some teachers. Answers would not be as black or white, instead inviting a wider spectrum of answers. This could potentially make evaluation more difficult. These kinds of questions could mean that teachers could re-use a test without having to worry as much about students cheats. One thing that came up in our discussion was how teachers who focus more on memorization closely guard their exams because if the exam was seen ahead of time, the answers would be easy to produce.
Overall, I am probably a lot more anti-memorization than most of my colleagues. My courses lend themselves to a more practical and applied form of assessments versus rote memorization. That does not mean that courses that traditionally focus on memorization of someone’s “facts” cannot be shifted to have more a practical assessment. Classmate Dean Vendramin, for example, incorporates a lot of Minecraft into his Social Studies 9 course on various ancient civilizations. I feel badly for students that have to obsess over dozens of study cards containing definitions of words they will probably never hear again in their lives. Maybe this memorization serves a purpose. Maybe its value is that is exercises the brain. I don’t know many that would argue in favour of memorization over practical application, though.
This Tuesday’s debate statement was “Technology is a force for equity in society.”
This is a great topic with good arguments on both sides. My twin sister has cerebral palsy and I have seen in her life how technology has given her opportunities and a voice that she otherwise would not have had.
The “agree” opening statement. (Kalyn & Nataly)
Their first article, How Access to Technology Can Create Equity in Schools, speaks of how technology can help in creating equity but that it won’t necessarily get rid of pre-existing issues like that of access to technology or income inequality. It fact, use of technology in the classroom can actually put even more of a spotlight on income inequality. During the discussion part of the night, one class member mused that perhaps technology being used to much in the classroom is putting students at even more of a disadvantage when they can home and are unable to do classroom work either because they lack the hardware or because they do not have internet access. Another discussion participant suggested that this is not a good argument to avoid technology in the classroom. If they cannot learn these skills as home, he contended, we must be learning them at school, otherwise will else will that learning take place?
Their second article, “Navigating the Digital Shift 2019: Equitable Opportunities for All Learners” is a report that highlights using technology as a means to provide individualized instruction to students. One cannot deny the appeal of more individualized student instruction, and the ability for students to go at their own pace would have an appeal for both exceptional students and students who struggle to keep pace with their peers’ learning. Individualized content, instruction, and assessment is something that is much more possible using edtech than it would be without the use of technology.
I really appreciate that part of the group’s argument focused on assistive technology and how it can benefit those with physical or learning disabilities. Microsoft, as an example, is trying to expand its xbox userbase to those with physical disabilities with its adaptive controller. I think that the educational opportunities combining accessibility tools like this with the gamification of content has great potential.
The “disagree” opening statement. (Jasmine & Victoria)
The article I want to focus on for this side of the argument is the second article presented, Technology for Equity and Social Justice in Education: A Critical Issue Overview (Papendieck, A. (2018). It’s interesting that we often see change as good or as progress and that therefore more technology use in the classroom has been equated with progress and seen as a positive overall. Papendieck invites us to look critically at the use of this technology, who it benefits, and which groups are still being marginalized as a result.
Again, the issue of equitable access comes up. While Kalyn and Nataly make a strong argument that access is expanding (citing the explosion of cellphone use and broadband access, as an example), our professor noted that even things like a country’s definition of what high speed internet is can vary greatly, so highspeed internet penetration numbers may be inaccurate.
Overall, my pre and post-vote with this one were consistent. Based particularly on what I have seen recently with the pandemic, I would say that technology tends to highlight other inequities in society and opposed to actually solving them. While technology has certainly given a voice to those that may not have had one prior, the same people that are typically privileged in “real life” are just as privileged, if not more so, in the digital world.
Before I dive into the literature that each team provided, I quickly want to talk about how much I enjoyed this format. Nancy and Amanda argued that technology in the classroom enhances learning while Trevor and Matt countered that argument.
After an initial pre-vote where everyone votes on what side of this topic they were aligned with, the debates opened with pre-recorded opening statements. Both entries were strong, with Nancy and Amanda taking the narrative approach while Trevor and Matt had a format that was similar to an attack ad and hate a lot of statements refuting possible points that Nancy and Amanda made in their opening statement. There was some time to prepare rebuttals after that, and both teams used their maximum of three minutes to rebut. Then, the class opened into a group discussion and questions for the two debate teams. Once more both sides went into breakout rooms and finally delivered their closing arguments.
This was all facilitated nicely in Zoom. I like the functionality that breakout rooms can provide in something like this.
I should state that my prevote was that I disagreed with the statement that “Technology Enhances Learning.” It is simply too broad a statement. Technology had the potential to enhance learning, absolutely, but it also has the potential to be detrimental to learning.
Matt and Trevor’s arguments were good ones. They addressed risks and side effects of technology use. This study, based in China, noted that student memorization was adversely impacted because of technology use and that students were also beginning to develop addictions to this technology. The study also suggested that it was IT companies and policymakers that were leading the push for technology in classrooms, not educators. In the debate itself, Trevor and Matt suggested that perhaps Big Data has motive to get as much technology into the classroom as possible. Trevor and Matt other article was “The Digital Gap Between Rich and Poor Kids Is Not What We Expected” — This is an interesting one in that some Silicon Valley-types are attempting to get their children away from screen time in schools and are instead showing a preference for play-based schools. Matt referenced that idea that because using technology reduces that cognitive load on a person’s brain that learning is perhaps worse when we rely on technology.
I really enjoy Trevor and Matt’s unique presentation style, and for guys that are quite heavily invested in educational technology, both as members of the Regina Catholic School Division’s Connected Educator program, they did an excellent job refuting points and keeping in character during the debate.
Nancy and Amanda’s presentation was narrative, and took cues from Mike Wesch’s Teaching like a YouTuber: Off-Camera Online Teaching Options. Their literature an article challenging myths about technology use by George Couros, an article that was a bit of a rebuttal to Matt and Trevor’s Silicon Valley point, and a couple of worthwhile videos to check out.
Nancy and Amanda’s main point was that technology can keep teachers and students connected. They mentioned how technology can give a voice to those who are shy or who can feel marginalized in a traditional classroom. They also highlighted how technology can deepen understanding and can push the classroom and students’ audiences beyond the walls of a school building.
Though my overall opinion on this topic did not change purely because of how broad the statement was, both groups did an excellent job. I think that overall we can be too eager to embrace tech. There are equity issues, troubleshooting issues, the issue of adequate training for staff and students. All of these issues can up during our discussion on Tuesday night, and as a result many of my classmates changed their opinion from the pre-vote. Many that first agreed with the prompt had changed to the disagree side.
This format and the quality of the content on Tuesday night has me very excited for the next round of debates.
Describe your current “day in the life” related to technology, teaching, and learning. What tools do you use? How do you connect with others? Describe your interactions with others, including your students, if applicable.
My EdTech Suite is looking a little bit different now with COVID-19. I traditionally have used WordPress to post course material daily for all of my courses. I have used this for seven or eight years now. It is familiar enough to me that I can post content quickly and easily. I continue to do that, but have now created new pages specifically for the supplemental material provided during the pandemic.
For contacting my colleagues, it’s a mix of email (Microsoft Exchange email via Outlook) and either Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom for video conferences. Our school division does not want us using Zoom for student communication, so I have only used it for department meetings. Prior to COVID-19, I had never used video conferencing for work.
I typically post the three hour of supplementary material per course on Monday and Tuesday of each week. Though assignment examples and instructions are typically found on my WordPress, the assignments and more detail can be found on Schoolantis. Schoolantis has similar functionality as Google Classroom in that I can assign work, due dates, and attach templates or other materials that would be relevant to students. While I probably won’t get rid of my WordPress any time soon, the advantage of using Schoolantis is in the collecting of assignments. I can see at a glance which students have drafts of assignments and which have complete submissions. I can then give feedback directly on Schoolantis. This “at a glance” functionality is very time-saving because of low participation in supplemental assignments. I typically have shared folders via Microsoft OneDrive that students would submit work to. Checking student completion, however, requirements me to navigate between various subfolders. The Schoolantis implementation is a lot more streamlined, and I find that copying templates to students makes it easier for them to complete supplemental work.
I also like the discussion forum functionality of Schoolantis, and use it on occasion when I’m not using Flipgrid to get responses from students.
Lessons use a variety of software. I typically use Camtasia to do screen recording of tutorials. In my courses we often use Adobe products like Photoshop or Premiere, but because of device limitations, students can use other image manipulation and video editing software like that found on their personal devices.
I have not had student interactions outside of the occasional email. Student questions have typically been things that have already been covered via my WordPress or a tutorial video. I held office hours on Wednesday for an hour or two, but have not had any students take advantage of this.
On your blog discuss the following:
It’s time to end things on a positive note. We’ve provided you a longer-term look at a an edtech story (iPads in Los Angeles schools) that has a lot of lessons to be learned from what didn’t work. Now we want you to share some ed tech stories or products from around the world, specifically things that did work and that have lessons to learn about how to do things right. It could be about how a functionality of a technology works pedagogically. It could be a story about how someone somewhere implemented a technology. It could be about a leader who is inspiring others. It could be about making do with what you have and doing it well or intentionally not using technology and doing it well. Use your blog to explore how one of these stories inspires you or interests you or leaves you with questions. Please make sure your post includes a link to the article/story/post.
As I think critically about the way ed tech is being used, I often that of the students that are disadvantaged because they do not have access to technology. One Laptop per Child, or OLPC, is a group that is focusing on cheap, durable tech in order to get technology to those who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it. Here’s a TED Talk outlining the project.
I remember reading about this project back when I was in high school. A non-profit trying to get usable laptops around the $100 range so that students in third-world countries would have access to technology. Their mission statement reads, “To create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning. When children have access to this type of tool they get engaged in their own education. They learn, share, create, and collaborate. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.” (source)
As I research this group now, things have come a long way. OLPC now offers a $35 tablet for students. It is remarkable that costs have gone down so much. What is more, OLPC seems to be championing responsible use of ed tech. They’re not simply throwing the laptops at students and hoping for the best. This letter highlights some of the intention with the devices.
(source) This open letter to India was written in response to a proposal by India’s HRD Minister Kapil Sibal to make a $35 tabletavailable to all Indian students. A version was published in the Times of India. It is also available in Spanish, French, and German.
One Laptop per Child applauds Minister Kapil Sibal for promoting a $35 tablet. Education is the primary solution to eliminating poverty, saving the environment and creating world peace. Access to a connected laptop or tablet is the fastest way to enable universal learning. We agree with you completely.
Please consider this open letter OLPC’s pledge to provide India with free and open access to all of our technology, and our experience with 2 million laptops, in over 40 countries, in over 25 languages. As a humanitarian and charitable organization, we do not compete. We collaborate, and invite you to do so, too.
In the meantime, let me offer the following six suggestions:
1. Focus on children 6 to 12 years old. They are your nation’s most precious natural resource. For primary school children, the tablet is not about computing or school, it is about hope. It makes passion the primary tool for learning.
2. Your tablet should be the death of rote learning, not the tool of it. A creative society is built not on memorizing facts, but by learning learning itself. Drill and practice is a mechanism of the industrial age, when repetition and uniformity were systemic. The digital age is one of personalization, collaboration and appropriation. OLPC’s approach to learning is called constructionism. We hope you adopt it too.
3. Tablets are indeed the future. OLPC announced its own eight months ago. However, caution is needed with regard to one aspect of tablets: learning is not media consumption. It is about making things. The iPad is a consumptive tool by design. OLPC urges that you not make this mistake.
4. Hardware is simple. Less obvious is ruggedness, sunlight readability and low power. We use solar power because our laptop is by far the lowest power laptop on the planet. But do not overlook human power – hand cranking and other things that kids can do at night or when it rains. Just solar would be a mistake. Rugged means water resistant and droppable from 10 feet onto a stone floor.
5. Software is harder. Linux is obvious, but whatever you do, do not make it a special purpose device with only a handful of functions. It must be a general purpose computer upon which the whole world can build software, invent applications and do programming. We know that when children program they come the closest to thinking about thinking. When they debug, they are learning about learning. This is key.
6. More than anything, of all the unsolicited advice I have to offer, the most important and most likely to be overlooked is good industrial design. Make an inexpensive tablet, not a cheap one. Make it desirable, lovable and fun to own. Take a page from Apple on this, maybe from OLPC too. Throw the best design teams in India behind it.
India is so big that you risk being satisfied with your internal market. Don’t. The world needs your device and leadership. Your tablet is not an “answer” or “competitor” to OLPC’s XO laptop. It is a member of a family dedicated to creating peace and prosperity through the transformation of education. In closing, I repeat my offer: full access to all of our technology, cost free. I urge you to send a team to MIT and OLPC at your earliest convenience so we can share our results with you.
Founder and Chairman
One Laptop per Child Foundation
(insert additional thoughts about OLPC here)