Author Archives: Victoria Parisien

Summary of Learning

We made it people!

…and I am still working against my own self interest, even right down to the very last minute.

After input from many of my classmates, including Amy, Curtis, Jasmine and Dean I decided upon challenging myself to create a WeVideo for the first time hoping to really work that “innovative” part of our rubric by exploring the exciting new tools it had to offer. I created an outline (Thanks for the idea Curtis) and I began work on a simple video outlining my key learnings from the course.

I began animating, got lost for almost an entire week in stock pictures and footage, got back on track after some tough (self) love, finished my summary early – aaaaaaand hated it!

Although the key learnings from each debate were important to me, and valuable experiences, I felt as though reducing them to single sentences (after writing thoughtful blogs on each, and reading my classmates thoughtful examinations) just simply didn’t do the learning of this course justice.

Therefore I began again, and opted for a more personal but less impressive option of screen capturing my thoughts on the course over a presentation. I know it’s not exactly innovative, but I felt as though it were easier to simply speak to the content of this course that helped me to grow.

Check out the video below.

I am so grateful to all of my classmates for their contributions to my learning in a course where community is truly curriculum.

Until next time,

The Great EdTech Debate – CHAPTER SEVEN -Educators have a responsibility to use tech and social media to promote social justice.

Phew, what a fantastic way to end the debate portions of this class. When I think of what I wanted out of a course regarding Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology – our last debate topic (Educators have a responsibility to use tech and social media to promote social justice) would be top of mind.

As a participant who choose to argue a topic that I didn’t necessarily ideologically believe in, going into each topic I am always so curious regarding how the team that I picture having the more difficult argument to present – will structure their initial argument. I know that it was difficult for me, and required far more research than I anticipated to argue against my own predisposition.

In light of the current circumstances, and growing amount of educators I know who are using their social media channels to speak out – I (foolishly perhaps) assumed for this debate that Brad and Michala would have a more difficult stance to take. But as we would later find out, our class was very divided on this issue, with a 50/50 split in the initial debate vote. This division was helped along by their reasonable and measured arguments. It’s important to note however that they mostly argued not that teachers should remain completely neutral or silent on all manners of social justice, but that the use of technology and social media in such endeavors was not the correct route to take.

They put a voice to all of the matters I consider myself before pressing “tweet” or even publishing a blog, the concerns we as educators all have about being misunderstood or misrepresented by words on a page. Words void of your inflection, relevant context or your truest intentions.

When you post about a topic that is deeply personal, and you feel passionately about – how do you allow that connection and passion to come through in a limited amount of characters, AND remain professional to the high standards (rightly) applied to educators? That’s not a question I will pretend to have the answer to.

They also spoke to my own concerns in terms of my online engagement and my ability to follow that engagement up with real and meaningful action in terms of the Social Justice issues I consider important.

There is no time like the present as an educator to discuss social justice issues with your students.  The days of unbiased and neutral stances are a challenge and while I believe there is space for that so children can form their own opinions, there are other times when explaining your stance and acting upon it speaks much louder than any words on a post.

Michala Hegi

Although some of this concern was abated after giving one of my favourite journal articles on this topic another read.

While the link between technology and equity may not always be clear, there is evidence that technology is a powerful support for social justice causes. The research is clear: for Millennials, technology — specifically social media — has become a platform for civic engagement. A 2013 Pew study found, among other things, that in the year preceding, a full 67% of 18-24 year olds had taken part in a social media-related political activity, and 43% of all social network users had gone on to learn more about a particular issue after reading about it online (Smith, 2013). Additionally, even online “slacktivism” (less engaged activities such as retweeting and sharing posts) can have a positive effect: a 2015 study determined that “peripheral users in online protest networks may be as important in expanding the reach of messages as the highly committed minority at the core,” that is, the mobilization that is made possible by those outside of the core of the movement plays a key role in spreading and sustaining political movements (Barberá et al., 2015, para. 20).

Katia Hildebrandt (2018) in : Nurturing #TeacherVoice: Why educators’ online
presence matters to educational equity. Texas Education Review, 6(1), 34-38.

When considering the fact that teachers perhaps should not engage in Social Justice work in online spaces, I think that Michala herself sums up what I found to be their strongest and most thought provoking argument in her title of her blog post on the topic: “Teaching Social Justice in Schools Through Personal Connection”.

I do think that Brad and Michala were on to something with their point that difficult topics including discussions on systemic racism, injustice and inequality are a conversation and not a tweet or a post. I believe that Context, empathy, and connection and relationship are essential to the work of anti-racist education.

In terms of the argument in favour of the debate statement, I think it’s obvious that my opinion remains in agreement – despite the pause I was given by the aforementioned “disagree” team and my classmates in our honest and frank discussion.

I feel it’s easiest once again to refer to Katia’s eloquent writing to summarize my thoughts on the topic (especially since I read her words the first time and thought “YES!”).

So why does all of this matter? To be clear, there are many reasons why the nature of teachers’ online presence matters, but perhaps the most important is this: If we as educators are online, and we remain silent about issues of social justice, if we tweet only about educational resources and not about #BlackLivesMatter (which, I would argue, is deeply related to educational inequities and the school to prison pipeline), if we blog only about new tech tools and not the horrific conditions in many of America’s public schools, we are sending a clear message: These issues are not important. Indeed, silence speaks just as loudly as words — the absence of teacher engagement in discussions that relate to equitable education creates what Eisner (1985) described as a null curriculum: an absence or void in what is taught or discussed that carries with it a powerful lesson about what does and does not matter. As educators, we are modeling for our students (and the world) that it is fine to keep our mouths shut about important issues while we are online.

Katia Hildebrandt (2018) in : Nurturing #TeacherVoice: Why educators’ online
presence matters to educational equity. Texas Education Review, 6(1), 34-38.

Ditto.

Thanks for joining me in my musings over Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology.

Use your #TeacherVoice below to tell me how you feel about this topic.

The Great EdTech Debate – CHAPTER SIX – Openness and Sharing in Schools is not fair to our students.

Leading up to tonight’s debate I was mostly curious about how each team would interpret the topic. “Openness and Sharing” is quite the vague statement and I was anticipating that the debate teams would mostly discuss sharing when it comes to media, such as pictures or videos of students themselves and possibly their work.

Each of the teams went much more in depth than that, leading us into questions of whether or not sharing, openness and open education can lead to an increase in equitable outcomes for students or exploitation of our students, including the most vulnerable ones. So – it got deep, as usual with this group.

I will start off my sharing that both at the beginning of the debate and at the end of it I still disagreed with the debate statement. Beyond their intensely impressive showmanship in their video (who doesn’t love a good rant??) Sherrie and Dean spoke about everything from sharing student work online to celebrate student success, to educators use of social media in the classroom, and even dipped into an argument in favour of Open Education by bringing in expert Dr. Verena Roberts. (I watched their interview with her and it was fantastic – I suggest checking it out when you have an extra 44 minutes).

It was Sherrie’s opening line in her rant that had me convinced:

Is openness and sharing in schools unfair to our students?  Or is it unfair not to take the opportunity to teach students about positive online behaviours.  Schools are the best place for students to learn how to create and maintain a positive identity online.  

Sherrie Meredith, 2020

So rather than discuss the back and forth of the debate where my position did not change, I would like to discuss the points the opposing team brought up that truly caused me to pause and reflect.

Melinda and Altan had me thinking about:

  • If the media release documents are overwhelming or confusing to parent’s whose first language is is English – what do we have in place to ensure parents who may not be English readers understand what they are agreeing to?

This was interesting to consider when you heard their arguments in the context of the work that both Melinda and Altan do – and the families that they serve. Many others in class also expressed that as parents AND graduate students in an EdTech class they still aren’t sure what type of sharing they are agreeing to when they sign their forms at the beginning of the year. It got me really considering what that means for the partnerships we all describe between school and home in teaching Digital Citizenship. It had me considering other options for engaging parents in learning about the elements of DC for themselves and how I can support them beyond sending home a legal form at the beginning of the year.

  • Through “sharing” are we oversharing our students AND our own children’s lives before they can truly give consent?

It’s a thought provoking question and that is for sure. It was fascinating to hear my classmates share how they as parents take certain precautions when sharing their own children’s lives in online spaces. It had me reevaluating what I have shared when it comes to my nephew or my friends’ children.

I know that in my classroom beyond the parental consent that I obtain at the beginning of the year. I also ask my students for their assent more than once, as we learn about Digital Citizenship allowing them to reevaluate whether or not they would like their blogs to be visible to others in the class, or their faces and work visible on social media. If the parent has given consent, and the child has expressed they don’t give assent I still do not include them as a way to show the students that they have autonomy over their digital footprint, and that I will respect it. Although I do encourage the student then to go home and have that conversation with their parents about why they changed their mind. At grade five I feel my students are capable of having those conversations and somewhat thoughtfully coming to an autonomous conclusion – but I truly don’t know how I would approach this topic were I teaching a younger grade level.

Melinda and Altan had many other important points to consider, and I am still unpacking everything I learned from Dr. Verena Roberts, but this is a summary of what I have been considering this week so far.

ECI 830 – what did this debate have you thinking over?

The Great EdTech Debate – CHAPTER FIVE – Should cell phones be banned in the classroom?

Tonight’s debate featured two teams debating whether or not cell phones should be banned in the classroom. Each team made fantastic use of the fact that this topic is hotly debated in the media, by incorporating news reports and popular media clips in their opening arguments.

As the debate progressed, it felt as though really we were debating two different aspects of the same topic (cell phones).

  1. Whether or not students should have access to cell phones all the time during school.
  2. Whether or not students should be able to utilize their cell phones as EdTech.

Both teams had arguments that covered these points.

Skyler and Alyssa aimed to convince us that cell phones in the classroom are a positive addition to Educational Technology and teaching and learning in general. Plus, they had an extremely catchy slogan “Don’t Ban, Make a Plan!” and apparently political tactics work on me because I was thinking “Yeah!” as Skyler ended his debate rebuttal with it.

I found their argument fascinating for more than one reason – but what really interested me was they still took a middle ground approach. They did not argue that students should have their devices at all times, instead they favoured the wording of “restricted use” instead of an all out ban, such as the one instituted recently in Ontario. They advocated for clear guidelines in teaching digital citizenship and teacher and administrator determined restrictions.

Jill and Tarina argued that students should not have physical access to cell phones in school, and that they should in fact be banned from the classroom due to their ability to potentially cause distractions. They cited a news report that illustrated how a teacher and her students tracked the amount of notifications they collectively received in a time period – as a way to prove how often a phone could possibly distract a student. The results of this didn’t surprise me – I am an adult and I leave my cell phone in my bedroom during WFH hours because I know I cannot trust myself to not become distracted. (This might just be a symptom of my lack of respect for my own authority though…)

In terms of Cell Phones as educational technology they argued not that we should not have technology in classrooms, but rather school division laptops and tablets were the answer to this need, instead of student cell phones. They discussed the fact that school owned devices are equipped with firewalls and therefore provide certain amounts of protection to students and piece of mind to educators.

Since I know I began the debate firmly in line with Skyler and Alyssa – I was really torn halfway through. Overall this team was very convincing. I can’t disagree with most of their points – they were in fact true and the team came prepared with the research to back it up.

However, it is only because this is my second course focusing on Educational Technology that I also know that there is a growing body of research too – that would argue that most of these issues are caused by a lack of Digital Citizenship Education for students, both at home and at school.

After all, Mike Ribble describes Digital Citizenship as

“The continuously developing norms of appropriate, responsible, and empowered technology use.”

Mike Ribble, 2017

Although I do very much believe that phones can be distracting physically, as well as cause a great deal of social and emotional issues among students, which is the part that still troubles me, and I won’t pretend to have an answer for. That said, I can’t help but also believe that it is our duty to help students define and navigate the norms of technology use – starting in the classroom.

via The Saskatchewan Digital Citizenship Policy Planning Guide

If we expect students to become digital citizens, but don’t allow them the freedom and the space to navigate with their most commonly used pieces of technology – will their learning be authentic?

Let me know what you think! Check out my video from my last EC&I 832 Class Arguing what I think a School’s role in Teaching Digital Citizenship should be – and tell me your own thoughts in the comments below!

The Great EdTech Debate – CHAPTER FOUR – Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

It feels very strange to compose this blog regarding a contemporary issue in the world of EdTech – when the contemporary issues in the world right now are so intense. I wont lie – this was a hard post to write because I am tired. Tired of being plugged in, engaged and connected through Social Media. Therefore, debating it’s merits or challenges in regards to childhood feels as through it is hard not to be biased.

However, considering the set of feelings I am experiencing at the moment, that is probably exactly why this issue is an important one to consider.

Before I get started considering whether or not Social Media is ruining childhood altogether – I want to define Social Media.

A quick Google search (my apologies to the teams from last week) reveals that a common definition would be “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking” (Lexico, 2020).

Which, honestly to me does not clear up a whole lot. Instead I prefer the definition Nancy offered up in class – she said Social Media is “People connecting to others using technology [in a two way communication]”. Since that definition makes more sense to me (and since I consider Nancy a Social Media Guru) I am applying that definition to my thoughts on tonight’s topic.

The team arguing in AgreementChristina and Laurie

Some of this teams points that resonated most with me:

  • Studies have shown Social Media affects the mental health of young people in a negative manner. ie. The curating of feeds to only show lives in a positive light, receiving backlash for sharing feelings that are negative.
  • Social Media can be used as a tool for cyberbulling.
  • Social Media can act as a platform in which young people can be exploited by others including those seeking to prey on children (most children have a Social Media account prior to being of age to comply with the restrictions set out by the companies).
  • Digital Citizenship teaching during childhood may not be enough as many of these children are not developmentally capable of applying the strategies taught to them, and are still acting upon impulse.

Their first point reminded me of a lesson I found while conducting research for my last ECI 832 class : Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy. It was looking into the possible effects of social media on teenagers, and I came across Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship Lessons’ Data Base. This particular lesson wad called “Who are you Online?” the video that accompanied the lesson I think is some interesting food for thought in regards to this team’s argument.

Via Common Sense Education’s Official Youtube page
Also: If you’re interested in checking out the whole lesson click here. It includes a debate!!

The Team Arguing in Disagreement Amy and Dean

Some of this teams points that resonated most with me:

  • Social Media can improve the lives and potential outcomes for success in children and adults, specifically for those in small or remote communities looking for connection, community and belonging.
  • Social Media can be used to amplify the voices and messages of those in marginalized communities (they profiled changemakers and positive stories to drive this message home).
  • Teens today are less likely to report being lonely than those in previous decades.
  • Social Media can provide unique opportunities for Communication, Connections and Creativity which is especially important in light of current circumstances.

This last point was brought up my Nancy in her “Nancy’s Notions” portion of their video. It reminded me of perhaps one of the main reasons I agreed with this team in the first place – the ability of digital tools, including social media to foster skill building. Skills that Jasmine and I agrued in our debate are necessary for all people to build in order to have equity when it comes to technology and our society.

Via Common Sense Education’s Official Youtube page

In summary, once again each team brought up valuable and valid points – that lead to some fascinating discussion. I am starting to see that is the beauty of debates in the first place.

When it comes to this particular issue, I think I still believe that Social Media has the capacity to act for good in the lives of our children, you need not look further than youth activism we have seen arise of late – organized and spread through channels of social media. That being said I do think it’s important to critically examine and constantly re-evaluate the the role social media is playing the the average child’s life – knowing that most are using the platforms as an extension of their social lives, rather than a platform for societal change.

What are your thoughts?

The Great EdTech Debate – CHAPTER THREE – Schools and the Information Age.

Another Thursday, another round of the Great EdTech Debate! This weeks topic is “Schools should not focus on teaching things that can be easily googled”.

The Debaters : Curtis & Lisa vs. Daina & Jocelyn

Right away we had a humorous start to the debate – with the double negative in the title causing both teams to end up arguing the same side (Agreement – I think) of the issue! Interestingly enough – they each presented unique information despite taking the same viewpoint!

It was certainly a different experience because I feel as though in this debate we were able to take an issue, and really discuss the nuances of it rather than go back and forth presenting new information to take in. While I don’t know that I walked away from this one with a new fact or piece of information that broke my brain – I do feel as though I got to challenge my opinion more thoroughly.

So – without further ado : Should schools teach topics that can be easily googled? Are you ready for my absolutely groundbreaking, earth shattering response???

Well, yes. …but also, no.

If we are looking at the topic on it’s face – yes, we could pretty much always say we need a complete curriculum redesign, and of those reasons -educating children in the information age, would be just one of the many things needing a more thorough reflection upon in current curricula.

But as Amanda pointed out in the debate conversation – our current Saskatchewan Curriculum does allow the space for inquiry and creativity… at least beyond questions and responses so simplistic that you could plug them into any web browser and find an answer. It’s more about the implementation (or time you’re allowed to utilize to implement elements of the curriculum, ahem teacher-work-time, ahem.

In reflection, I am glad that we started with a video titled “Mindful Learning” because Curtis and Lisa truly did a fantastic job of summarizing my thoughts on the issue – but in much more succinct and research based terms than I ever could. They started off their video discussing the skills students will need for the future, they named:

  • Positivity
  • Bravery
  • Determination
  • Self Belief
  • Creativity
  • Sheer Energy

They then pointed out that none of those skills can be taught with a simple Google search. They then went on to argue (and they can correct me here if I am misinterpreting their message) that through the use of models of teaching such as LoTi – educators can work with, and not in spite of technology (Good old Google Search Engine included) to enrich student learning experiences and build those fundamental skills.

Graphic via Peace River School Division No. 60

This framework reminds me of my curriculum design course in which my classmates and I each took a survey to see where we fell in terms of curricula ideologies.

Many of us shared that we favoured (or thought we did) an ideology that was leaner centered – with teachers as facilitators. However, we each were hard pressed to explain how that ideology would look in a classroom in it’s truest form.

Reflecting on that with the information I have now, it is my belief that student centered learning could be best empowered through pedagogy informed technological integration in education, and frameworks like LoTi, SAMR or TIM.

This is not to say that is how technology is currently being used in every classroom. If our remote teaching experience has taught us anything, it’s probably that educators all fall in vastly different places in terms of their attitude towards, and utilization of technology. I am certain many of us (myself included) are still teaching in a way where we would be replaced by a keyword search every now and again.

That is why I enjoyed the article shared by Daina & Jocelyn, called “Memorising vs Googling: What does it mean to actually learn?” Which was one teacher’s examination of what information do students need to gleam from one on one in person facilitation, and what information is it okay to be left google-able? (Don’t @ me that’s a term now).

As Dr. Samuels writes,

At the University of NSW, Law exams are open book, while Medical Science exams aren’t. This makes sense. When lawyers are preparing advice for a client or even representing them in court, they have plenty of opportunities to check their notes or refer to other case decisions.The challenge for the lawyer is to make sense of the information available to them, rather than to remember it under pressure. For doctors confronted with life-and-death situations, there probably isn’t time to refer to a textbook. They have to rely on their ability to recall what they’ve learned.

(Samuels, 2019)

As I make choices about how to use technology (although for now much of that choice is gone) I will keep this new framework, and the words of Dr. Samuels in mind as I try to find my way in yet another issue of the the Great #EdTechDebate where I am saying… “it depends…”.

Is EdTech all shades of grey??? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The Great EdTech Debate – CHAPTER TWO – Is Technology a Force for Equity in Society?

Here I am, just a girl, standing in front of her computer asking it to PLEASE LOAD HER PROJECT ONTO THE INTERNET.

Rural connectivity issues aside, This Week’s first debate, “Is Technology a force for Equity in Society?” Happens to be my topic, and I am luck to be partnered with the wonderful (and multilingual) Justine! Whose ability to teach, parent, and function as a graduate student truly blew my mind. I was so lucky to be partnered with her.

Justine and I both decided to choose a topic for debate that not only interested us, but that we each also were not sure we believed in the argument we chose. We of course are representing the “disagreement” to the above statement.

Personally, I worry that in my tireless pursuit to not become a modern day Luddite I am developing a view that resembles Techno-Utopianism . I want to be reminded to be critical, of my own perceptions and biases, therefore I picked a topic that would force me to dig into research that might challenge my assumptions.

After last Tuesday’s incredible debate, I was pretty terrified to present tonight. Justine and I each read nearly 10-12 articles or research papers, created our own Wakelets and collaborated on a Google document to contain all of our information and game plan.

Therefore, it was not a lack of preparedness that worried me, rather a concern over our ability to really present with the same style that our colleagues prior did. Mostly- I just wanted our opponents, Kalyn and Nataly to be kind to us.

After Jasmine and I conducted our research we used our Zoom classroom to meet and decided that I would work on the video, and she would summarize our readings for me and draft a closing statement. I have a trial with VideoScribe that is coming to an end at the end of May and therefore I wanted to give the technology one last go before I started to have to truly pay for it. Our opening argument for the debate ended up with this:

I enjoy using this software, but when I examine the other free options I don’t know that I would pay to use it again.

Our overall arguments for why Technology is not a Force for Equity in Society were as follows:

·       The Digital Divide

·       Techno-Colonialism

·       Non-Neutrality of Technology

The Digital Divide

While the Digital divide was initially understood to recognize the inequities in physical access to information media and technologies, today we understand the digital divide to also refer to technology maintenance and the differences in skills among people.

For example the population of people who struggle not just to have access to devices but who struggle to connect those devices with reliable broadband – and keep them connected  in order to utilize the technology effectively and gain skills.

Reasons for the divide include:

Affordability – Many families can’t afford to buy devices to sufficiently accommodate their technological needs. This often results in families choosing to sacrifice basic needs in place of technology related costs.

Accessibility – Access to internet services aren’t available in many rural areas in Canada. To get these services, families have to pay extra for better broadband installations or supportive technology and still, the connection is unstable or inadequate for their needs. In fact, CIRA found that as little as 40% of rural Canadian homes have access to reliable internet.

Varying Ability – A study of Post-Secondary institutions in the state of Texas, revealed the lack of accessibility of the institutions web-pages and information pages for those with disabilities or English language learners – with the average reading level being grades 10-12. A similar study in the United Kingdom found that many web-pages were missing web readers that were adequately accessible for the blind, and often provided no access to free translation tools for English Language Learners.

Techno-Colonialism

Techno-colonialism is a term most likely coined by Randy Bush to describe the exploitation of poorer cultures by richer ones through technology.” (Bush, 2015)

Examples of this include Facebook’s 2017 Beta testing of a new algorithm in six test countries ― Bolivia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Serbia, Slovakia and Sri Lanka, that lead to NGO’s , and activists and other local companies seeing a sudden downtick in their traffic and engagement after Facebook split users feeds into two separate categories – without informing users or government agencies. While Facebook labelled this as an experiment in “encouraging meaningful conversations” Facebook did not beta test in other, wealthier nations.

Techno-colonialism can also be found in other well intended philanthropic endeavors such as One Laptop Per Child, which sought to arm children in developing countries with laptops that cost just $100 and could be powered by a turn crank. Which while well intended in nature, was also sharply criticized. At the conference in which founder Nicholas Negroponte unveiled the OLPC laptop, some delegates mentioned that their countries had higher priorities than laptops. “What is needed is clean water and real schools,” Cameroonian delegate Marthe Dansokho told CNN.

Our Technology is not Neutral

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Technology is just a tool”? It’s not an incorrect statement, and in fact I know that I have used this to justify the importance of quality teaching alongside technology. However, this way of thinking about technology tends to lead us to believe that our technologies are neutral instruments.

We should not ignore how technologies manifest within social contexts, and that social agendas, assumptions and typical ways of knowing and acting are not just reflected in their use but their very design.

As put in Technology for Equity and Social Justice in Education “Scissors are designed for right handed people, the keyboard on your laptop is likely to be English, the algorithmically driven news feed on your favourite social networking platform is designed to respond to your presumed interests, affinities and biases” (Papendieck, 2018, p. 4). 

Our opponents, had a wonderful video filled with points equally as difficult to argue. The point I found hardest to dispute (even though we did) was the importance of technology to those with different levels of ability, especially assistive technology and the opportunities it brings.

Additionally if you feel like some light, scholarly reading beyond the Wakelet linked above, check out our annotations of our most helpful article that we did not include in our weekly readings (out of love and compassion for our classmates).

The debate itself, was such an enlightening process. I was not at all expecting the discussion to be so in depth in terms of the ways in which technology in educational contexts may or may not become entangled with broader issues in society. I was so interested to hear the perspectives of others in similar classroom situations, and how these issues manifested completely differently for them.

Overall, I enjoyed this debate so so much more than I would have imagined. I highly recommend this format to ANY educators looking for a way to drive Online Engagement, and encourage constructive discourse. It’s fascinating to explore subjects that you and a group of likely like minded people may usually take for granted, through two opposing lenses.

The Great EdTech Debate – CHAPTER ONE – Does technology enhance learning?

Tonight we had our very first round of The Great Edtech Debate! The topic: Does Technology Enhance Learning?

First thoughts- wow oh wow.

Amanda and Nancy came out swinging with a thoughtful video that detailed a personal narrative. They were in charge of arguing in agreement with the topic. Throughout their narrative (the story of Amanda’s injury and her use of technology to continue her work) they introduced their main argument: technology enhances our ability to make connections, and connections help us to learn more authentically, and innovatively .

Next came Trevor and Matt’s opening argument in disagreement with the topic. It was a truly interesting experience to listen to two people I know to be proponents of technology in the classroom argue against the notion that it enhances learning. Their showmanship? Incredible. Their execution (right down to the matching zoom background and suits)? Flawless. Their points? Noteworthy. That being said I truly believe they were struggling to argue their own side, owing to the MEGA (Make Education Great Again) stance they took – fake tweets and all. It might just be my jaded 2020 opinion, but if you’re doctoring tweets- you might have a tough argument to present. Their main thesis regarding students’ use of technology in place of critical thinking was truly interesting.

At the beginning of class we voted, and it turns out our class was pretty convinced that technology does in fact enhance learning.

The breakdown at the beginning of class (Agree is Blue – Disagree is Red)

After the arguments, then rebuttals by both sides (which were amazingly succinct and only the slightest bit personal) we broke into a class discussion regarding the topic.

My biggest takeaways from the conversation:

  • Many of us are considering technology to mean individual applications or specific learning management systems. Of the two the biggest criticisms raised were troubleshooting problems inaccessibility for students of various age ranges and abilities.
  • We acknowledge technology to be a tool, not the what of learning but rather the how.
  • Even those arguing against technology’s ability to enhance learning admit that technology provides opportunities for those in vulnerable populations that did not exist in the past.

After some closing arguments, in which both sides readdressed their main points, we took another vote. The result? Surprising!

The breakdown at the end of class (Agree is Blue – Disagree is Red)

Several people voted that their minds had been changed by the discussion! While the arguments by the presenters were playful (and at times sensationalist) they each highlighted enough new and interesting information to cause us to reconsider our positions on this issue in contemporary education technology.

Personally, I still feel as though this is a “it depends” issue.

The team arguing in agreement of the topic and their readings reminded me:

  • Technology when implemented in an thoughtful way, as part of a technical pedagogical approach can be “transformative”.
  • Teaching digital citizenship to children is only possible with an element of role modelling and engagement with personal technology.

The team arguing in disagreement of the topic and their readings reminded me:

  • It’s important for educators not to develop a tech-utopian view of technology. To carefully assess and balance the risks and rewards or educational technology before diving straight into a strategy.
  • While Media literacy is an essential skill in the 21st century educational landscape- a balance with traditional literacy must be achieved.

I am so thankful for the experience my peers provided me with tonight, to question my own assumptions and biases and examine the complexities of issues so relevant to today’s teaching and learning.

A Day in the Life – Thriving or Surviving when it comes to Remote Teaching?

It would be an understatement to say that the current global Pandemic has changed things education – as COVID-19 has fundamentally changed our lives in most – if not every capacity. From the way that we shop, conduct ourselves in public, access basic services, relate to our friends and family – and for teachers, the way in which we deliver educational experiences.

Educational Technology was the first thing on my mind (as I am sure it was with many teachers) as I left my school during the second week of March. Driving away from my school’s parking lot with absolutely no idea what lay ahead was stressful and frightening, but as usual my teacher brain skipped way ahead – attempting to think of solutions and options should we not return to our building any time soon.

This of course was immediately overtaken by the reality that it was far more important to ensure that our students and their families were safe, secure, and cared for with access to the most basic necessities. Those first few weeks that consisted of the “educational pause” then our new work-from-home reality truly showed that our schools are far more than just a building where learning happens. Educational technology was pushed far from my mind because choosing the right learning management system does not seem important when you are spending 6-8 hours a day on the phone with families who are struggling to keep it together in the face of a public health crisis.

When the time came to connect with my students again for learning experiences, I was not immediately stressed. I am fortunate within my school division to be a Connected Educator. The Connected Educator Program at Regina Catholic Schools exists as a program in which participating teachers are encouraged to utilize educational technology in their classrooms in a way that is “transformative” by improving upon their pedagogy of teaching – and in order to do that teachers in this program and their students have access to technology in their classrooms everyday.

From Regina Catholic School Division’s “Vision and Background” portion of their Connected Educator Information page

As a part of this program my students each have access to a device in our classroom in which they use to log into our main learning management system: Seesaw. In our classroom we utilize Seesaw for our Daily Agenda (The Journal Function) learning opportunities and reflections (Activities) and writing for an audience (Blogs). Student’s are proficient at using it and I knew that it would be easiest for my kids to access from home.

I will be the first to admit that I jumped into remote teaching as though it were Online Learning. I had multi-layer, multi-step, app smashing, coding, virtual field trip type activities prepped and ready to go for that very first Monday. Then the reality of what teaching and learning remotely is truly like hit me full force. A reality check. The realization that this improvised system of supplemental learning is not Online Learning in it’s true sense. I have experienced online learning as a graduate student, and as an adult and I know that what my students are doing right now is not that – nor should I be expecting my students to be doing “transformative” types of things with the technology in their homes right now.

I have since adjusted, taking to meeting with my students synchronously a few times a week – not necessarily for live lessons but rather as a check in for maintaining those relationships I worked to tirelessly to build for the first six months of the school year. Discussing our learning topics, taking in their suggestions for the future, and just enjoying the opportunity to enjoy the feeling of togetherness that is so much more rare these days.

I have scaled down my lessons online, and below I have included all the applications I used in conjunction with Seesaw that I have found engage my students, and provide me with some measure of formative assessment from afar. These are the apps my students and I engage with daily that are helping us survive this remote learning experience – and practice the skills they already have.

Run your mouse over the slide and click the links if you want to check out any of the sites for yourself!

In addition to the educational technology that feels as though it has taken over my life these last 8 weeks, I have also noticed a marked difference in the amount of time I spend utilizing personal technology while at home. Although I am still using all of the same apps – my screen time is almost doubled. It turns out the time I previously might have spent driving, shopping, or socializing is easily dominated by TikTok, Pinterest and Instagram. This week Amanda tweeted about her app count for the day as her research for her blog – and when I read the following tweet I totally surprised and intrigued.

via Twitter @amandajbrace

I counted my apps and I was nearly at 20 also – and while I find my screen time to horrifying to share – let me tell you: it was something to behold. I wish that like my daily life with remote teaching that I have been learning new things, taking risks and using apps that challenge me – I’ll be honest it’s just a whole lot of social media and then podcasts as escapism.

Below is an interpretation of my daily app use – and also just another product of my technological procrastination.

What does a day in your life look like when it comes to technology in this “new normal”?

Major Project Update #4 – Social Activism in the Age of COVID-19

Ah, start a campaign on twitter they said. It will be fun they said! Teach your students all about Ribble’s element of Digital Communication and selecting a medium for sharing a message they said! (Okay, no one said the last one).

I began this class with the idea that because I was a Connected Educator with my school division, and because I have a genuine interest and belief in the ability to use technology in education as an agent of innovation – that I would not have a hard time choosing a project.

Don’t get me wrong. I am happy with my choice of a project that I could create with my students. As I said in my last post I truly believe that students need the freedom to create and communicate on Social Media as a part of school in order to develop authentic digital citizenship skills. While I had loftier goals that just that – If all my students got out of this project is that Social Media can be used to communicate a sincere and positive message, then that’s okay with me.

It seems that a global pandemic, and 90 percent of the world’s children being “out” of school can take over twitter, and very quickly overtake a message of language learning in an online community setting.

I wont lie, we didn’t really establish that “community” I was hoping for. I didn’t get my own students to participate in the challenges they themselves designed for the last few weeks of the project, so I feel that even our classroom community was a little fractured.

But given the events of the world at the moment, that’s not really anything to mourn.

So – I have AGAIN adapted (apologies to Alec who has to grade me now, and decide what on earth this project now is).

Although I went ahead and posted the tweets every #MichifMonday, and continued to respond to the engagement on twitter, I also have begun uploading everything I used to teach this project to my students to a shared google file that I will link in my final project blog post. If I am unable to create a community on twitter as a social activism project, I can contribute to a professional learning network of teachers – which is also a community, right???

If you are interested check out my “Major Project Final Product” page and there you will find an overview of our project, the (always growing) shared vocabulary slides as well as a mini-unit regarding Metis culture and history with Seesaw linked activities to correspond, and all of the shared resources I used (and have permission to share publicly). If you know (or are) a teacher interested in using twitter to teach effective Digital Communication skills and learn something in a new language along the way share it with them (or keep it for later)!

Maybe we can build a community a little bit at a time.