Author Archives: rakanalghaiber

Take Hold of Social Media to Protect Childhood

Our debate topic for this week was “social media is ruining childhood”. Before the debate, when I first saw this statement, my first response was “of course”.

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After reading my classmate Shelby’s post, I understood more why my response was like that. I actually realized that I am one of those who see the enjoyable memories before technology took its place. we, who’s social media was chatting in the backyards and playgrounds, consider technology destructive to the creativity we enjoyed when we were children.

The agree and disagree teams brought very important ideas. the agree team highlighted, for example, how social media causes depression and enhances unhealthy behaviors. At

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the same time, the disagree team focused on how social media strengthens relationships, forms the digital identity and encourages learning. After listening to both of them, my mind switched from the “of course” to the ” now what?”. Looking back to my experience and from this debate, I can say that we should admit social media’s advantages in terms of inclusion and authenticity if it is used in balance.

While it is true I agreed with the topic at first, the disagree team was so convincing to the extent that they were an eyeopener to see how inclusive social media is. Thinking deeply, what if we try to use social media effectively? The first advantage is that it keeps students connected. In other words, students can use social media to have instant access to the information, tasks and assignments they have. No more excuses like absent pupils or sick students. Also, updates can reach all the students while using social media groups. Whatever teachers want to let their students know, they can use do that easily with social media tools. Another advantage is it keeps students collaborative with each other. During group homework and assignments, students can keep in touch to share ideas for better work. That is found in “9 ways real students use social media for good” which used in the debate. Michael Niehoff used this article to show how good for students if they use social media. The author indicates to 9 ways:

1-  Sharing tools and resources. 2-  Gathering survey data. 3- Collaborating with peers. 4- giphy (3)Participating in group work. 5- Communicating with teachers. 6- Researching careers. 7- Meeting with mentors and experts. 8- Showcasing student work. 9- Creating digital portfolios.

As an educator, I really want to apply all of these in my class using social media to make sure everything is covered by all the students.

Furthermore, social media is like a snowball. It is an unstoppable trend. Nowadays, we can not ban our children from using it because it permeates almost every aspect of their lives. Unlike my childhood, children use social media now to play, read, watch, communicate…. . I think it is smart to use it as an authentic material in the class. I used to teach English for grade 5 and 6 students. After noticing that most of the students were spending their time on their cellphones, two other teachers and me tried to give students group homework where they should use one of the social media messengers, upon their choice, as a tool for communication. We, the teachers, told the students that they can communicate only in English. The teachers were the admins of the groups. Observing the discussions, me and the other teachers noticed that was very helpful for learning English as a second language. Students wrote and read each other’s paragraphs, recorded and listened to each other’s recorded voice messages. It was very interactive and nontraditional especially when it came to practicing a new language. They could use what they daily and most use in learning purposes.

After talking about its benefits, back to the topic, is social media still ruining childhood? Yes, it does if it is used excessively. Although children have it widely in their lives, they should have time without it. Truth to be said, I am still affected by the creativity I had when was young without social media. Therefore, I still believe that many people consider social media is a destructive invention but, again, answering whether social media is ruining childhood or not depends on us. In other words, as it is a huge trend, we can contextualize its usage the way we want to make the best out of it so that it supports childhood instead of ruining it.

Posting Students’ Lives

Our third topic in the EC&I 830 class was about posting students’ moments during their academic career. There was a debate between people who agreed with that and those who disagreed. Both groups demonstrated convincing attitudes and brought strong arguments. The agree group generally depended on the idea that posting a child’s life helps in forming his/her identity. However, from my own experience, instructors should consider the religious, cultural, and private aspects before sharing their students’ academic moments.

Some people may argue that is not serious to the cultural and religious extent.giphy (2)

By Giphy

But yes, when you, as a teacher, have students from diverse backgrounds and different religions in your class, that is what you should look at before posting online. That is serious.

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By Giphy

Indeed, children who grow in religious families are sensitive about posting their moments when they get older. For instance, some girls might feel offended when they realize, according to their religious standards, that their photos or videos should not to be posted on internet “even if that was when they were young”. So, in this case, whom do they blame?

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Yes it is the teacher at the first place. Not only some religious students are offended but also their parents are when they figure out that something happens against their beliefs. For example, a father of a girl student felt offended when he saw his daughter’s photo on the wall of honor in the school I taught at. He asked the teacher who posted the student’s photo to remove it immediately and to be respectful to their religious standards even though the girl was happy seeing her photo on that wall. We, her coworkers, really understand that her intention was not out of disrespect.

Another aspect is the cultural one. It is not only the religious standards. Some people think that they belong to a group of people in which sharing moments or photos is not decent; consequently, they apply that as a part of their traditions. Again, in my classroom, there many students with tribal backgrounds. They were avoiding showing up in any photo or video. When I asked them why they disliked sharing moments, most of them answered that they would not disobey their tribal standards. Technically, it is because of their conservative backgrounds.

Furthermore, averting posting online could also be because of privacy issues. Some students do not trust the school online platform or any other platform in which their memories posted on. they think that it is almost public and accessible by everybody no matter what the security level of the platform is. As a result, those photos or videos can be easily haunted by hackers. Moreover, Myra Hamilton argues in Posting a child’s life for the world to see is a privacy issue that children might not be consent with that when they are adults for many reasons, “In addition to expecting their privacy as children to be protected, there’s also the issue of their privacy as future adults. What about when the child grows up? If the information is available on social media when the child reaches adolescence and adulthood, there’s a reserve of fodder for potential bullies at school, for potential employers, and for the media if they become prominent.” .

The reader might judge that I am not with celebrating the special moments in students’ lives. On the contrary, I believe that having our children’s achievements and embarrassing moments posted in a safe place is a must. It is their right to go back to those memories and achievements during life. Also, I am with the idea of posting online and sharing photos and videos but not before the consent of both children and their parents and caring  about their religion, background, and privacy.

 

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Areas that teaching should focus on

Do we need Shakespeare? That is one of many questions one is asked when talking about whether we should teach things that can be googled or not, whether teachers should focus on the knowledge existed in the school standard textbooks or focus on the critical skills and individual attitudes.

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by Giphy

To begin with, I studied English literature for four-undergraduate years in Damascus University. The system of teaching was extremely traditional with about two hours lecturing for every class. As students, we did not have the chance to even speak to the professors before and after lectures. Such traditional educational systems do not even focus on the learner; I doubt that instructors notice if all the learners are in the class or not!

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Jusoor, the educational organization that I worked at as a teacher, was open to development and modern education so that it brought educational advisers and consultants from many countries such as America and Canada. It also corporated with many other non-profit educational organizations. The advisers and trainers focused on student-centered education. They took into their consideration the traumas that students have been through. For example, RightToPlay is one of the organizations which trained me on how to implement playing, as a right for children, in the educational process. Keeping away the standard school knowledge, I extremely adopted the student-centered teaching methodology as an overreaction to a) the traditional undergraduate learning system I had, b) the students who psychologically suffered from an old schooling system and displacement effects, c) the fascinating practices of the interactive methodologies that many international organizations used to teach. Assessing the results, I would curb my enthusiasm towards focusing on individual attitudes and interpersonal skills only (critical thinking, solving problems, communication). Instead of focusing only on the individual attitudes and interpersonal skills adaptability, I would rather make a balance between them and the knowledge of standard school subjects, which can be googled.

In the last two decades, many educators emphasized on the cognitive skills and how students need to improve them for successful education to fit the 21st century. During my work as a teacher of English, I was teaching the Lebanese curriculum for Syrian students. It was intense for them to deal with, especially after a period of disruption. Keeping that in mind, I worked on enhancing their cognitive skills and responsible behaviors despite how much they achieved in the school subjects. What was the result? They improved skills on how to deal with varied communicative situations, but most of them failed to achieve in their pure academic tasks. For instance, once I taught them how to pronounce a set of words without requiring to memorize them. Correspondingly, they missed how to use that set of words in the appropriate context and form.

My point of view is that we, as educators, should look carefully at how to combine between the foundation and the structure. The foundation is the store of information that we need to resort to as experiments, resources, and proofs, and the structure is the set of skills in how to deal with those previous experiences. Every student learns more successfully if his/her learning is based on previous knowledge and experiences. That, in a way or another, is actually mentioned in Marc Smith’s article Why memorizing facts can bey a keystone to learning, “Memorising facts can build the foundations for higher thinking and problem solving. Constant recitation of times tables might not help children understand mathematical concepts but it may allow them to draw on what they have memorised in order succeed in more complex mental arithmetic.”

I am not saying that educators should prioritize standard knowledge on cognitive skills. On the contrary, it is safe to focus on the store of knowledge even if it can be easily googled as long as there are varied subjects where students can access information and interpret them at the same time. Indeed, do not we need novels and poems to analyze? Do not we need facts for science to apply on?

 

 

 

Debate #1

The topic is “Does technology enhance education in the class?”. Before talking about that, I have to mention that my experience in teaching was in a school for refugees and children who suffered from displacement and war traumas so that even having basics technological devices like computers and projectors for the school was a privilege.  That being said, my first expression to the topic above is simply

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I have never dig that much into studying how technology and how passively and/or positively affect education. However,  after listening to many points of views and reading about many opinions specifically in that field, judging whether technology enhances education or not becomes a sensitive topic. During both the debate and the discussion, I listened to classmates who are with and those who are against. their arguments were as an eye opener to go further with the advantages and disadvantages of technology in the class. After all, no one could deny what technology has brought to education and its improvement, but with a certain limitation.

After the debate, comments, and articles we had in our first session, I can see now how technology saves much time in education. Indeed, I really remember how the teachers in the school complained about dealing with any feedback. they depended only on the results of the quizzes and exams to assess their students’ statuses. With technology, my ESL instructors used to display a padlet for our (as students) reflection on every topic. With few minutes, each one of us expressed his/her understanding in each class. After that, the teacher had all of them labelled with our names so that she can analyse our feedback easily. Yes, the feedback can be fast like that. To go further, the authors of Applying an eBook Tool with Lecturing Function and a Game-based Student Response System in Flipped Classroom for a Seminar Course explains how different technological apps such as Kahoot, flipped classroom, and the EBLEF can be used in the class to save time and have more flexibility.  For instance, flipped classroom gives online accessibility to the class’ materials; consequently, more time to ask questions and discuss the teacher in the class. No spending more hours on sorting papers or on preparing materials for every class!

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Another question raised between the lines of the debate is that whether students are attracted more or not to the learning process. No more traditional paced lessons after having more space for variety and creativity. Jo Debens, a geography teacher, explains to Emma Drury, a contributing editor on Guardian Teacher Network, in Mobile phones in the classroom: teachers share their tips how varied is using cellphones for the class, “Some of the examples of where we use mobile devices range from simply taking photos and videos to share in class or recording homework, to creating revision podcasts or animations.“. I believe that students pay more attention when they use their devices for educational purposes in and out of the class when they are told to do so by the teacher.

 

On the other hand, being a teacher in a very low-tech school does not mean I agree with excessive use of technology in the class. First, I felt jealous in each time I see teachers having unlimited access to IPads and laptops with students who (all of them) have cellphones. I was imagining how creative and enjoyable the class would be if it had all of that and how successful my class would be if each one of my students had his/her smartphone. With more  focus on other dimensions, I found that technology might affect students’ negatively. For instance, students are easily distracted by other applications such as Snapchat and Instagram; I was one of those students when we had a classroom cellphone-based activity.

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I never expected to read that technology might decrease some core skills. The Guardian mentioned in Is technology in the class good for children that the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reported that the results of math, Science, and reading noticeably declined because of using computers in classrooms. Furthermore, in the same article, there is a hint of how Ipads are harmful for handwriting skills. No more first impression after looking at statistics and reports.

 

All in all, I still believe that education is the most important field in our life, and it should embrace technology as the last permeates in all our life aspects. What matters for me is controlling how to use technology in the class to keep student-teacher and student-student interaction, to make the learning process enjoyable, and to have a space for creativity.