Author Archives: The Teacher With Purple Hair - EC&I 830

Is social Media Really Ruining CHildhood?

If you had asked me this question before class last Monday night, my answer would have been that I absolutely think that social media is ruining childhood.  Children are spending way too much time on devices these days. According to the article, Teen Cyberbullying and Social Media Use on the Rise, "80% of teens use a smart phone regularly, 92% of teens report going online at least once a day, and 56% go online several times a day."  That is a lot of screen time that provides a lot of opportunity for our children to misuse the many new apps and social media platforms within their reach.  Some of these mismanaged scenarios include sexting, cyberbullying, participating in dangerous trends, and the constant need for gratification from others.  Cyberbullying is defined on PREVNet as the following:
  • Sending mean and sometimes threatening emails or text messages.
  • Spreading gossip, secrets or rumours about another person that will damage that person’s reputation.
  • Breaking into an email account and sending hurtful materials to others under an assumed identity.
  • Creating blogs or websites that have stories, cartoons, pictures or jokes ridiculing others.
  • Creating polling websites where visitors are asked to rate individuals’ attributes in a negative manner.
  • Taking an embarrassing photo of someone with a digital camera and emailing that photo to others.
  • Engaging someone in instant messaging, tricking them into revealing personal information and then forwarding that information to others.
  • Using someone else’s password in order to change their profile to reflect sexual, racist and other content that may offend others.
  • Posting false or hurtful messages on online bulletin boards or in chat rooms.
  • Deliberately excluding others from instant messaging and email contact lists.
After reading all of the ways that a person can harass someone through technology, I was feeling extremely overwhelmed!
Cyberbullying and social media has many serious repercussions for our youth.  I may even be as bold to say that it affects our mental state in negative ways too as adults.  The Dangers of Social Media on Your Mental Health states that social media can cause mental health problems and addiction.  Symptoms to be aware of include low or decreased self-esteem during or after using social media, negatively comparing yourself to others via social media content, repetively focusing on your own shortcomings, frequently feeling envious of others while engaged with social media, decrease in ability to concentrate, increased or unusual social anxiety when interacting with people offline, and feeling a need to share everything you're doing offline on social media, The rest of the list of symptoms can be found in the document.  I'm sure we've all witnessed first hand other adults getting harassed on social media platforms.  Technology has evolved so much in our lifetime and we ourselves as adults are trying to become more literate when it comes to social media.  If we are experiencing these kinds of online situations and concerns, imagine what our children are dealing with!

According to the article from Rawhide, 41% of teens say that cyberbullying has made them feel depressed and helpless and 26% of teens said that it made them feel completely alone.  This has led to an increase in depression which leads our youth on the path of other issues and suicide.  According to healthychildren.org, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for teens in the United States.  Suicide rates for teens have grown  According to The Annual Bullying Survery 2017, 1 in 4 cyberbullied teens consider suicide and the Cyberbullying Infographic states that 1 in 10 cyberbullied teens attempt suicide.  

Now you're probably asking why our youth isn't talking about this or asking for help aren't you?  From the data that Rawhide shared in their article, 32% of teens didn't report it because they felt ashamed, 40% were scared that parents would get involved, and 36% were afraid of what parents might do when they found out about it.  Now, there were some brave enough to tell someone what was happening to them.  90% of those youth who did report cyberbullying told a teacher or a family and 77% told a trusted friend.  

Melinda, Allysa, and Lori (team agree) shared a lot of important statistics and educational information with us in their presentation and I applaud them for that! They definitely made a very strong argument.

After all of the statistics and information I have shared in this post, are you left wondering how in the world my mind changed about this topic?
 
Like any other type of object or idea that causes issues for our youth in society - alcohol, drugs, driving, sex - we've learned to teach our children how to make better decisions and try to openly discuss the risks of such activities.  On the first day of driver's education I learned that I had a very high risk of dying in an accident.  Did that stop me from learning how to drive?  No!  Do students still participate in partying and sex? Of course they do.  Instead of "scaring" them into being sober and abstinent, we need to educate them about the risks and what they should be doing to stay safe in these situations.  Like these other issues, technology and social media are not going away.  Therefore, I am left with looking at this situation with a glass that's half empty or a glass that's half full.  I would rather look at it from a perspective of social media being a positive opportunity for our society.  

Erin, Brooke, and Daniel (team disagree) shared some excellent resources that share tips about how social media helps with mental health, how our children can use social media for good,  and about how these social platforms can aid our youth to influence positive change for our world.  

First off, we need to teach our children how to use social media appropriately.  This ties in with my previous posts about creating a positive digital footprint.  Our children need to know that once they post anything - whether it be positive or negative - that it cannot be deleted from the internet universe.  Creating this strong foundation will aid in successful use of social media. 


​Some platforms allow people to participate in safe conversations about their mental health and personal well-being.  The article How Social Media Helps Teens Cope with Anxiety, Depression, and Self-Harm, shares a variety of technological tools that teens are using to connect with others who can encourage them, mentor them, inspire them, and show them that they are not all alone.  Youtube is one of the tools a lot of creators (myself included) use to share personal experiences and offer strategies or suggestions to help with personal stresses and struggles.  Tumblr has been used to connect with each other about personal topics such as anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide. There are even anonymous counseling and crisis intervention sites such as 7 Cups of Tea andIMAlive that can be accessed at anytime to help guide those struggling to long-term support options when needed.  BoosterBuddy is an app created as a type of game to help support children and teens dealing with anxiety and depression.  With all of these tools out there to help people have difficult conversations and share strategies to cope with the challenges they may be having, it sounds like social media does in fact seem to be offering a positive opportunity for these individuals to thrive.  

Students are also using social media for good!  They use it to share resources, gather data, collaborate with peers from around the world, participate in group work, communicate with teachers, to research career paths, meet mentors and experts, showcase their work, and create digital portfolios.  All of these scenarios help a teen create a positive digital footprint and shows them how to be a good digital citizen.  

Social media even has the power to help our teens to become advocates for social change! The students from a high school in Florida this year started the movement #neveragain after their school sadly went through the traumatic incident of a school shooting.  These students have used the power of social media to start the tough conversation about gun laws in the United States.  There are even specific retailers who are supporting this movement and refusing to sell certain guns to the public.  Learning to use these networks for social change can lead our youth to become the adult generation that will come up with hashtags that create a huge impact like the following movements: 

Technology isn't going anywhere.  It's going to continue to grow and change and evolve. I choose to teach my students how to use social media to do good.  I choose to embrace what social media has to offer our youth and our future.  Do you?  

Are We Oversharing and doing an injustice to our children?

EdTech Debate #3 took place this past week and I must say that it was my favourite topic so far!  This week's topic was openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids.  Agree or disagree? Both teams did a wonderful job giving us a variety of resources to present their point of view.   One of the teams did say that they were arguing for a side that went against their personal beliefs about how to share learning in the classroom, but came in strong to sway us to agree with their side.  They did an excellent job reminding us to be critical about what we are posting and how we are posting it.  ​I really enjoy the following video that explains in a child friendly way what a digital footprint is and what types of information we should not post online.  

I am going to begin with the disagreement argument.  I have used a variety of technological tools over the past six years to share what we are learning with parents.  For four years I used a blog to share photos and videos of our learning.  This past year I have been using Bloomz to share what we are completing in our classroom and keeping parents up to date on upcoming events.  I feel that sharing what my students are learning with their families is important and has a positive impact for the following reasons:
1) It helps instill a sense of accomplishment and joy when students are able to share what they have successfully completed.  Feeling proud of ones work helps nurture engagement in what one is learning.  

2) It aids in keeping parents aware of what their children are doing in school and keeps communication open.  I have gotten a lot of positive feedback, especially from parents who have demanding occupations and are unable to come into our classroom to help or come chaperone field trips.  I love this, because it makes them feel involved.  It also provides an opportunity for parents to ask their children specific questions about what they have been learning instead of asking what they did in school with the follow up reply being "I don't know".  

3) It helps me stay accountable for what I am teaching.  I share what outcomes we are meeting when I post pictures of specific projects or field trips.  This helps me stay on top of what I am supposed to be doing in my classroom on a curricular level.  I also like to use it as a friendly reminder of what students really enjoyed doing throughout the year so I can tweak my year plan for the following  school year. 

4)  It creates memories for those students to look back on.  I like the idea of it being used as a digital yearbook keepsake. I am very big into making my classroom feel like a comfortable space.  I always tell my students at the beginning of the year that we are one big family for the next ten months and I feel that using these technological tools build a learning environment that focuses on being a team.  

5) I use it as a digital professional portfolio.  That being said, I only share with appropriate audiences (my students families, my colleagues, my administrators, and myself).

6) It helps show students how to develop a positive digital footprint and share appropriately on social media.  This will help them with future technological use and gives me the opportunity to teach students the dos and don'ts when using the internet and social networks. 
I really enjoyed reading the article Building and Keeping a Positive Digital Identity: A Practical Approach for Educators, Students, and Parents.  ​It was a short piece that gave important information about what types of questions you should keep in mind when creating a digital identity and shared some fantastic ideas that educators can use to model how to create a positive digital footprint in their classrooms.  

Now, I feel that Amy, Dani, and Joe did a fantastic job reminding us as educators that tech policies at school and online policies are changing.  We need to be aware of what is "okay" for us to share and which tools meet the varying policies that seem to be adapted frequently in our school divisions.  Thank you for reminding me that I need to be aware of which students I cannot post about.  Thank you for reminding me that I need to be aware of which tech tools are considered "private" and "safe" and which tech tools I should avoid using in my classroom.  I always try to make appropriate choices about which photos are not going to embarrass any of my students and only post things that my students have done well.  I also try to ask them for permission to take their picture and ask them if I can share it with our families. I don't want their mistakes to follow them around for the rest of their lives.  I don't want to cause my students more anxiety or stress because they are afraid that I'll post something that they don't like.  Growing up with social media, as dominant as it is in our society, is enough for our children to deal with as it is. The article Rethinking Sharing Back To School Photos really does show us how mindful we need to be when we are sharing information about our most vulnerable people: our children. 

Thank you for reminding me that I need to be more mindful about not only what I share about my students, but also about what I share on my own personal networks.  When used appropriately, sharing about yourself on social media outlets and creating a positive digital footprint can be helpful for your professional life too.  This video talks about the worthwhile outcomes of having a positive ​digital footprint, but also discusses some of the struggles youth are facing when sharing about their lives online:


​Technology has advanced so much in the past decade and it isn't going anywhere.  I feel like it's only going to continue to be revamped and become more influential as time progresses.  We're stuck with it:
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I would rather focus my attention on teaching my students about positive digital citizenship and to THINK about what they are posting.  I can imagine that the little boy above is wishing someone taught him what would happen if he licked the metal post in the winter.  If he'd known, it is more likely he would have made a better choice.  

I also love this video that Kari, Esther, and Shelly shared in their presentation.  Let's arm our kids with the tools necessary to help them make good decisions when posting and sharing online.
​ 

To Google Or Not To Google… That Is The QUESTION

EdTech Debate #2 launched last week and the topic wording was a little confusing to say the least.  I was on one of the two teams that faced off last week and feel that the topic "schools should not focus on teaching things that can be Googled" was a little problematic due to the double negative in the topic sentence.  This led to both teams being stuck in the middle and giving pros and cons to Google.  Though it may have been a little confusing, both teams made excellent points about the importance of critical thinking skills when it comes to accessing the unlimited amount of information on the internet.   
Our teams stance was that Google is a good thing and can be an important and beneficial tech tool if used appropriately in a classroom.  Take a look at our full length argument below:
Before diving deep into our research (which I will get to in a second), I was curious what my fellow colleagues at my school would think about this topic and was interested to get more perspective going into the conversation.  What I noticed, was that a lot of my colleagues were also confused with the topics wording.    

After having a chance to decipher some of my responses, I realized only a few of my colleagues posted that they agreed that Google is in fact a good thing when it comes to school.  Four out of twelve responses agreed with some of our argument.  A lot of the data received was focused on the pros and cons about Google.  Here is one response that I think perfectly demonstrates why Google is a good thing if used correctly: 

Response #1: Absolutely any topic or information could be found, somewhere on Google.  If we were to limit to what was not on Google, there would be nothing left but personal, hands-on experiences. Students need to learn a variety of information, some of which they have easy access to on the internet.  They also need to learn that not everything needs to be found on the internet.  Most often, experiencing it yourself, or doing your own research, provides a much more enriched learning experience than learning about someone else's experiences.  I honestly feel that students struggle with thinking (their own, original ideas) and experiencing for themselves because of Google.  It's too easy and too accessible.

​This reminds me of our first Ed Tech debate in May and about finding a balance when it comes to incorporating technology.  Yes, without Google we would have nothing left to teach.  But, that being said, I feel that you need to teach students that not all information on the internet is true and help them build a strong foundation of critical thinking skills.  I think this also plays into our opponents point of how students we are teaching are going to be heading into a world of jobs that we don't know exist yet.  Teaching children how to collaborate, communicate, and critically think is going to help instill the skills needed for them to head into the world on the right footing.  These skills can be taught through the variety of Google Apps that Google offers to its users.  

Response #2: There are certain life skills - like adding and subtracting- that you can Google, but which are good to know to be able to live with some degree of freedom from technology (and because we can do them faster in our heads).  If we are noticing now that an addiction to technology is impacting the well-being of children, why would we promote that further by only teaching skills that cannot be Googled?  Additionally, there is some degree of base facts that we should all have (like the food groups) that we should just know in order to function competently and easily in our daily lives without technology.  Also, have you had a conversation with someone that only Googles things? They don't make eye contact...
This response fits perfectly into our argument that though it is important for students to be able to think about what they are researching, it is also important for students to have information that they intrinsically know and use on a daily basis and that teaching memorization skills is still an important skill to have to build stronger connections in the brain.  
Lastly, an interesting conversation began in my grade two classroom about Google.  We just started talking about animals in science and we are going to be doing an inquiry research project.  When I mentioned that I wasn't sure about something, one of my students yelled out "Google It!". 
I then asked my kids if they thought Google was a good thing or a bad thing and they were split 50/50.  The half that thought Google was a good tool said "What if you don't know the answer?  How would we find it out?".  The half that disagreed, brought up that "Not everything on Google is correct and sometimes it can be wrong".  This discussion led to a wonderful way for me to model how to research for information properly.  I showed them ​https://www.kiddle.co/ and explained how it gives us access to kid friendly information.  We talked about how to check to make sure that information is correct and that we should check more than one source.  I modeled what a "smart question" was so that we could get to the information we were looking for.  In the end, it was the perfect way to show my students how to utilize these tools in the proper way.  They then set out to find their research with their learning buddies and the majority of them were successful.  Making students aware that they need to continue to think for themselves and having them think critically early on in their education will help them later in the technological world they head into as adults.  Teaching them how to use the internet properly (going incognito on Google to help limit algorithms, finding information from scholar sources, using sites that are designed by the government, an organization, or other reputable source) will help them use Google the proper way.  

So do I think we should Google?  Absolutely, but it needs to be used properly and only in situations where it is actually 100% needed. 

Finding That Perfect Balance When It Comes To Technology Enhancing The Classroom

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The EdTech Debates have officially begun in EC&I 830!  The first topic for us to focus on was does technology in the classroom enhance student learning?  After a very informative discussion that dissected both sides of the argument, I feel that though I agree that there are some cons to having technology in the classroom, I am left feeling like I agree more that when used properly, technology does support the quality of learning a child will receive in my classroom.  

Looking at the article Six Pros And Cons of Technology In The Classroom In 2018 supports why I feel that technology does play a role in successful learning environments. The article first explains that technology in a classroom does not solely mean devices in the classroom.  Rather, it can be "anything that facilitates an interaction between teacher and student." I believe that I should use a balanced approach when incorporating technology into my classroom routines and activities.  I try to spice up some of my lessons in my grade two class by using hands-on activities that incorporate school iPads.  I frequently use videos on my data projector as a visual reference for my students that learn best that way. These videos create discussions that engage an interaction between myself and my students.  I use specific resources such as  Brain Pop Jr. and Go Noodle to make some of my lessons more interactive, as a way for my students to collaborate with others in our classroom, and to meet the variety of learning needs my students possess. 

I believe that engagement with families is crucial to my success in teaching my students. I use Bloomz as a form of technology to facilitate an interaction between myself and my students families.  It  provides a safe space to share what we are learning in our classroom, while creating an easy and convenient way to stay connected with the teacher if any questions or concerns arise.  I know that one of the arguments that came up was about how technology means that teachers are now always "on call".  It is so important to set up boundaries and expectations with the technology you choose to utilize in this career.  For instance, I send out a weekly email with all of the important events taking place that week.  I also use the messenger piece on Bloomz so that I can quickly 'text' a parent if I need to or vice versa.  That being said, at the beginning of the year, I set up boundaries with my families: I only check my email before and after school and I only reply to messages before 6:00 PM on weeknights that may come in on my Bloomz messenger.  Evenings and weekends are my time. I finally realized this past summer that I had not set up those crucial boundaries in previous years, and it was draining me rapidly.  
I also feel that you need to balance the technology pieces you incorporate into your classroom.
Technology is all about choice.  It does not need to be involved in every lesson if you do not want it to.  You'll be on the path of success if you use it the way you are comfortable with.  Technology enhances the environment when it is used as a tool rather than a crutch.  You need to know how to use it properly so that students get the most benefit out of it.  You do not need to try a million different types of technology at once.  Try one thing at a time and incorporate it in a way that works best for how you teach. 

​Throughout my career I have tried out a variety of technology (some I liked and some I didn't) and kept the tools that worked best for me and my students. 
The teacher should still be the one facilitating and should use the technology to help support students in the way they see fit to strengthen the learning that is going to take place.