Author Archives: Victoria Parisien

Moral, Legal and Ethical issues when Integrating (social) Media in the Classroom.

Image via flaticon.com

You know that moment, the moment right before you hit “send” on a Media post of some sort? Where you pause – scanning to make sure your message is clear, what you have communicated is appropriate for the medium and the context? That moment, of extra consideration? Well now I have more on my mind in that moment.

When teaching students digital citizenship I won’t lie I spend most of my time discussing digital Etiquette, Access, Communication, Literacy and Safety & Security.

Digital Law seems to be one of the areas I avoid – admittedly with the mindset that it’s too complicated for my students to understand.

However, after tonight’s class it seems that the reality is that perhaps because there is so much complexity and nuance to moral, ethical and legal issues in our digital participation that I myself am not familiar enough to feel I can teach it competently.

To begin with, the legal issues that are to be considered when posting and creating online feel for some reason less clear and understandable to me than those that guide our everyday lives. Which I know is a silly thought – but as someone who grew up in the dawning age of the internet – I feel as a child I participated in much more of an online free-for-all.

One resource that I located that as a teacher that has made this topic a whole lot more understandable it the Fair Dealing Canada Website.

Fair dealing is for everyone.  You probably make use of fair dealing every day without even realizing it, whether emailing a news article to a friend, using a clip from a song, using a copyrighted image on social media, or quoting passages from a book when writing an essay.  Activities such as these are not considered to be copyright infringement – in fact, the ability for users to make copies for specific purposes is an integral part of the Canadian Copyright Act.

Canadian Association of Research Libraries 

If there is anything I have learned from this class it’s that it’s okay to not know all of the answers when navigating the digital world, so long as you possess the skills to go looking for them. So while Fair Dealing seems to make copyright law pretty straightforward in your everyday life – I feel more wary as a professional.

One of the most helpful tools in understanding copyright and the guidelines therein (in regards to teaching) was suggested by my classmate Curtis.

During our class discussion tonight, he shared with us CMEC’s Fair Dealing Decision Tool.

This is an awesome reference point to help teachers air on the side of caution when selecting materials and information to share digitally, especially now as we all attempt to navigate the tricky and somewhat unknown world of Remote Teaching.

I plan to use this tool to help guide the choices I make when it comes to teaching the remainder of the year at a distance. That being said, I think as long as you have a solid understanding of both Fair Dealing in Canada, and the guidelines in the attached picture, you can come to an informed decision on your own accord, with your purpose and intent in mind.

Now onto the scarier part. Moral, and Ethical issues surrounding teaching in the digital age.

I really enjoyed the reading my classmate Krysta shared from Henderson, Auld & Johnson, where they discuss ethical issues through the lenses of consent (concerning a students public and private data) confidentiality (in regards to our ability to ensure a student and their work is shared with appropriate audiences), and boundaries (teaching students to conduct an online presence that is responsible). Krysta suggests that when issues in these areas arise, teachers fall back not only on their professional judgement – but also on the advise and opinions of other professions to navigate these tricky waters.

Krysta’s last point is what caught my attention (the pause and rewind to hear it again kind of attention) where she said, the most effective strategy for dealing with issues that are moral and ethical in nature is having a proactive approach to begin with. Just as I wrote about the importance of school’s developing a proactive Digital Citizenship Education Policy rather than dealing with issues on a case by case basis – dealing with issues that concern a students consent (and assent) and right to privacy are best approached from a solid foundation of existing good citizenship skills. Phew.

To further this point in Curtis’ video he mention’s the work of Jennifer Casa-Todd specifically her thoughts on the prevalent idea that I have heard come from many parents and teachers alike: that social media is bad.

I agree with Curtis’ assertion that not only is social media like all things, a mix of good and bad with a whole lot of grey area.

What we need are students to be allowed the freedom to become leaders, and positive role models in online spaces. Something we would be able to do, if we do not allow students to utilize social media to share and create within the classroom in order to navigate potential moral issues under the guidance of a teacher.

I am not going to lie, I still feel there are elements of digital citizenship that I feel like I need to grasp better and understand more thoroughly before I “press send” (too corny??) on that content with my students, but as our class comes to an end I am feeling reassured that I know how to continue pursuing this knowledge in the genuine belief that tackling the grey areas will benefit our students as they grow.

What Moral, Legal, and Ethical issues surrounding digital citizenship concern you?

Major Project Update #3 – We are live people!

I have returned from the deep dark hole in the Twitterverse where I have found myself lost for the last couple days, living in the land of the novel coronavirus and worrying about the complexities of Distance Education for my students.

Yesterday was meant to be my Major Project’s second Monday of our #MichifMonday language learning for my Social Justice themed Social Media project. Early in the morning I logged into Tweetdeck and cancelled all of my scheduled tweets. Before I get to why – here’s a little rundown of how the project has been going thus far.

While I am happy with where this project ended up, in the creating of an Indigenous Language Resource that is shared over social media (and encourages others to participate in a way that promotes social justice), I do not know if I would still call this a social justice project.

Although, it has been turning out to be awareness raising for my students – and that’s not nothing. One thing I have noticed is that students seem to have a food grasp on First Nation’s Culture, and 100 Days of Cree in my classroom is always a hit. I also am usually able to find reliable sources of additional information to accompany the 100 Days of Cree project.

A project on the official language of the Métis however, is another story. It is DIFFICULT to find reliable sources, which I only realize because my entire undergraduate degree was devoted to developing an understanding of Métis culture and history. It seems the sources to accompany the language we are learning are either out-dated, factually incorrect, or non-existent. Another reason I have begun to develop a teacher resource to accompany this project. Also for this reason my students and I have been heavily relying upon Elder ​Marian Desjarlais to help us ensure that the words and pronunciation are correct, as well as which words she believes are important to represent Métis values.

After A LOT and I mean A LOOOT of behind the scenes work using the Gabriel Dumont Institute Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture website to locate words, then checking them with the Elder Marian, then having the students learn the words, and complete the learning activity – we have compiled two weeks worth of resource!

Last week my students and I launched our first twitter challenge along with the first set of five Michif words.

They excitedly watched all our notifications pop up in my browser while we worked all day – they were content to simply to see other’s liking, sharing, and praising their work across twitter.

We had two classrooms send us private messages (one email) trying out our challenges which the students loved, but because of privacy – sharing these on twitter to a wider audience outside our school wasn’t an option. While this was still exciting – it sort of deflated the purpose of the public challenges – public participation for awareness raising!

Now to this week – since our #MichifMonday fell just one day prior to Saint Patrick’s Day we worked to create words under the theme of “Celebration”.

I know, bad choice.

I realized pretty quickly over the weekend this was not a timely choice in light of current global circumstances. I strive to be culturally responsive in my classroom, therefore my students and I spent Monday (was that seriously just yesterday??) brainstorming a better and more relevant topic.

This is what we came up with:

I worked pretty quickly yesterday evening to reschedule these tweets instead. On the advice of one of my students “You have to explain why we picked these words!” I tried to write some captions to accompany this week’s words that challenged people to learn from home and add a hopeful post to the overwhelming tide of frightening content currently overtaking our timelines.

Since my students have been so involved in the creation of this project thus far – I do not know what the rest of the project will look like moving forward. I truly believe it is from the work of many that special things are created so I am, worried. But I also acknowledge that we are all currently worried over something, and therefore perhaps working on this project during my time away from my students will prove to be special in a different way.

This week’s goal: engage online on my students’ behalf to encourage participation!

Until next time,

What does it mean to be literate today?

During this week’s class we discussed what being “literate” in the 21st century truly means.

In his presentation Daniel started off by referencing a traditional definition of literacy, which for me is the one that most often comes to mind when I hear the word “literate”.

Daniel says that according to UNESCO literacy “Is the ability understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts”. I took time to stop his video and jot down this definition because to me it seemed that was a fitting definition for many types of literacy if you removed the ending.

“Literacy is the ability understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts”.

It seems to me you could add “any form of communication” to the end to reference media literacy, or “mathematical equations” here for mathematical literacy, and the definition still works.

It’s worth noting that on their website UNESCO has since updated their definition of literacy to add “Beyond its conventional concept as a set of reading, writing and counting skills, literacy is now understood as a means of identification, understanding, interpretation, creation, and communication in an increasingly digital, text-mediated, information-rich and fast-changing world” (USESCO, 2019).

This was an idea that was elaborated on by, Shelby and Brad in their video where they went on to discuss literacy specifically through the lens of media literacy. They in turn borrowed a definition from the National Association for Media Literacy “Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create and act using all forms of communication. Media literacy builds upon the foundation of traditional literacy and offers new forms of reading and writing” (NAMLE, 2020).

Therefore, if I have learned anything it is that there are many definitions of literacy in today’s world, and all of them seem to revolve around the ability to comprehend and create information.

Image via Medium

In this understanding of literacy it makes sense why most would equate being literate in the 21st century to having sensible, responsible and and fluent digital skills. After all the 21st century is marked by it’s innovations in technology and they way they have impacted our daily life therefore a mastery of the technical and cognitive skills necessary to understand, evaluate and create digital media are increasingly valued in our new definitions of what it means to be literate.

While I have decided Digital and Media Literacy is important for literacy today, of all the definitions I have explored this week it is perhaps the most simple one I came across that I prefer. The Oxford Dictionary (2018) states that literacy is both, “The ability to read and write, but also competence or knowledge in a specified area”. I prefer this definition because it suggests that there are many areas a person can be literate in, either fully or partially. This seems more true to my own experiences, and abilities as well as those of my students.

What do you think it means to be literate in today’s world?

What is a School’s Role in Teaching Digital Identity?

This week was my topic for the Content Catalyst Presentations. I chose this particular topic because I feel very strongly that schools and parents should be partners in teaching Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy to youth, and therefore I wanted to express that opinion in my work.

I realized quickly that of course in order to engage in educated discourse on the topic I needed to better inform myself with a wider range of information on the topic – including the opinions of other educators. To do this I created a Flipgrid and invited my classmates, colleagues and friends in the Educational Field to contribute their thoughts as a starting place for my video and the research to accompany it.

You can find that Flipgrid here.

From there I took the suggestions of many of my classmates and began to compile information, specifically that of educators in the EdTech world, and the opinions that they held regarding the Teaching of Digital Citizenship Education in Schools. Too keep all of this organized I tried out a new tool I noticed that Alec had recommended to Sarah on her blog – Wakelet. I found this particularly helpful in creating the video since I had many pages of notes and quotes to include and wanted to make sure to include references in the video itself. which made it easier to copy and paste the correct information into the project and credit the authors of each work.

You can gain access to my (still growing) Wakelet on the topic of Digital Citizenship Education here.

The general consensus I gathered from this was that among those in the field of Educational Technology, Not only should Schools teach Digital Citizenship Education in schools, they should develop proactive and comprehensive policies for it’s implementation.

For example in Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools (Pgs. 6-12): Authors Couros and  Hildebrandt (2015), make the case for not if Digital Citizenship Education should be addressed by schools but rather why Digital Citizenship Education is necessary in today’s “increasingly digital society” (p.6). Based upon research that indicates the prevalence of internet usage in young people today, the document’s authors assert that just as schools play a role in preparing students to be responsible citizens in a traditional sense, educators must now intentionally work to prepare students to be responsible participants in digital society. The document takes care to point out (similar to our previous class discussion) that we are doing students a disservice to assume that due to their status as “digital natives” they are tech-savvy. Stating that this is infact a false perception of a student’s digital skills, again impressing the importance of acquiring digital citizenship skills in the classroom. By guiding students in developing transferable skills and competencies online rather than restricting internet usage, educational professionals can respond to student needs and fulfill their responsibility to address skills students will need to be successful in future life and work. 

I tried to take these viewpoints into consideration into my final work that I think summarizes my thoughts on Digital Citizenship education in Schools better than I could summarize in a blog post. These are my ideas for how I envision Digital Citizenship Education in the future.

Please take a look and comment your own thoughts below!

My Digital Identity

This week’s class brought a lot of reflection over my own practices when it comes to the identity I have built for myself online.

I started thinking about this topic last week when I watched my classmates Daina and Allison’s video Identity in a Digital World . In their video they reference the five types of online identities as proposed by the Cyber Intern Academy. This intrigued me because firstly I had not heard of this type of identity breakdown, but also because one of the descriptions fit my online usage so well. This was the as described “Identity #3 – Audience“. According to Daina and Allison “The Audience Identity is the most common identity used throughout the Internet.  One will use different social media platforms for different purposes.  For example, one will use Facebook to update about family news, upload photos, and provide status.  LinkedIn will be used to authorize one’s professional career, where he or she works, and what kind of professional experience or education they have.”

Personally, since I became employed as a teacher I scaled down my usage of Social Media entirely, and turned nearly all of my privacy settings to the most protected possible settings.

In terms of my professional life, I direct that content to my classroom’s Twitter account or my LinkedIn. Both of which I share publicly on my professional resume and therefore I keep all the content I post to either platform strictly professional. In fact up until this year when I began to use the Twitter personally for my Master’s Studies -the Twitter account served as a place that students and I co-curated as a class and even wrote in student voice on all the posts (in order to attempt to encourage parent engagement on the site).

Personally, other types platforms that I use I have either removed almost all personal information, pictures, and tagging or I have increased the privacy and only use the 24 hour posting features. I found this interesting to reflect on as we have mentioned time and time again in class how we believe that we should not use fear based tactics to teach students how to navigate digital spaces. Yet, though I know nothing I post is offensive, insensitive or unkind – yet I hide much of my digital identity behind privacy settings due to my cautiousness over the high standard teachers are held to in terms of the digital identity we cultivate.

After watching Dean’s Video I pulled up all of my websites and platforms where I have some sort of digital presence and tried to piece together an identity from there.

Reoccurring themes:

Auntie Life:

Education/Technology:

Indigenous Language Education:

I can live with this being the picture I paint of myself for now.

That being said, I was examining my digital identity through the lens of what I know I want to project – I have no clue as to what story our online sleuthing activity would tell of me and that concerns me. While I take great care to curate the information I create online, I do not know what pockets of my personal information and data I have allowed to be spread across the internet based on the websites and applications I use.

I have decided a goal moving forward would be to more closely examine the access I have granted to my personal information, and how that reflects on my digital identity.

Major Project Update #2 – Through the lens of Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship

In this week’s class we took a closer look  at Mike Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship. I have summarized my learning below:

  1. Digital Access – This element refers to who has equitable access to technology, and the possibilities for removing barriers to access to technology.
  2. Digital Commerce – This element involves understanding the benefits and risks to buying and selling online goods.
  3.  Digital Communication and Collaboration – This element includes the digital exchange or sharing of information. Specifically having students understand the messages that are being communicated to them, and evaluating their own communication and collaboration.
  4.  Digital Etiquette – A Set of standards for communication and conduct in online spaces.
  5.  Digital Fluency/ Literacy – It is most often assumed that as so called “Digital Natives” students are digitally literate simply because they can interact with technology easily. Digital Literacy involves Media Literacy and the practiced capacity to discern legitimate sources from false or misleading ones.
  6. Digital Health and Welfare – This element refers to a person’s physical and psychological well being as citizen of a digital world. For example for our students’ ability to balance the media messaging they receive while tending to their own identity formation.
  7. Digital Law – This element refers to both an understanding of sharing and crediting online content correctly, as well as adherence to the rules of online participation in a way that does not put others at risk of harm.
  8. Digital Rights and Responsibility – The rights and freedoms all participants in digital technology are entitled to, as well as a student’s responsibility to flag or report conduct that infringes on other’s rights.
  9. Digital Security and Privacy – Taking the proper precautions to protect oneself online including the protection of private information and data.

From here Ribble’s Elements are often categorized into three themes, Respect, Educate, Protect.

Image via Digital Citizenship Education for Saskatchewan Schools

I feel as though my project would primarily fall under the “Educate” Area. Most specifically the Digital Communication and Digital Literacy Elements.

Digital Communication – Since the main goal of the project is to raise awareness for the Michif Language in general, communicating a clear, and positive message regarding Métis culture and language is essential. If the idea is to reach and educate an audience beyond the classroom, then the communication must also include a participatory component.

Digital Fluency/Literacy – This project aims to raise awareness and educate, therefore all of the information I share via twitter and my final resource will need to be accurate.

Since I have found in my own experience there to be a lack of resources regarding the Métis culture I have struggled to find supplemental resources to use in the creation of this project that were reliable, and most importantly – that I have been able to verify. Thus far, I have relied upon the Gabriel Dumont Institute Michif Dictionary – and a local Métis Elder to then cross reference the words or make changes. This process has taken far longer to verify everything before I post than I had imagined, however it is only underscored the importance of this element for me when it comes to all teaching I do regarding Digital Citizenship.

PS: Check out the Wakelet I am currently building in conjunction with this project!

Which elements have been an important consideration for you in your projects?

Major Project Update #1 -Social Activism, Easier said than Done?

After much preliminary research, and a whole lot of falling down the digital rabbit hole of social media campaigns it has turned out that a social activism project is easier said than it is done.

That is to say, an authentic, and meaningful campaign seems to require more than good intentions, and a strong belief that the work is important.

I would be lying to say I am not at all worried that my project choice was too idealistic.

What I have discovered has led me to make some changes to my plan. Firstly, when talking about Social Media Activism it’s important to note that is a term of course deriving from Social Activism which is:

“Social activism refers to a broad range of activities which are beneficial to society or particular interest groups. Social activists operate in groups to voice, educate and agitate for change, targeting global crises”.

Shahla Ghobadi

In a world that is more connected than ever, it is of course only natural that people of traditionally marginalized groups are turning to social media platforms as a medium of expressing their agency and advocacy. In many places, the approach is working to affect change or at very least, cause a conversation.

“From #Metoo, #TimesUp and #WeStrike to #NeverAgain and #BlackLivesMatter, social activists wield the power of the internet to pressure powerful organizations.”

Shahla Ghobadi

 While it’s true that social media can generate a high level of engagement with a topic, it’s also proven a useful tool in the anonymity it provides. This anonymity can sometimes act as a cover for individuals to voice opinions they might otherwise stay silent about. For instance as the 2019 Protests in Hong Kong demonstrate, even in societies in which a government controls much of the media narrative – social media and networking sites, as well as apps traditionally meant for another purpose can be useful tools in expressing dissent. The Hong Kong protesters most notably using the dating app Tinder or the popular game Pokémon Go to organize, gather and exchange tips on how to evade the police.

On the other side of the research is of course the two largest concerns with Social Media Activism.

-The ability to disengage with issues more easily by creating the illusion of activism

-The unintended consequences of Social Activism

To the first point, I will be the first to admit that when it comes to Social Media I am happy to throw out a like, or even repost something I see that relates to a social justice issue I care about. Occasionally for me this even translates to a donation, like to the Onaman Collective or actual volunteer hours like those that I do with the Cosmopolitan Learning Center here in Regina. But the vast majority of my online presence includes support in the form of a click.

“In the land of social media, the position of “armchair activist” is open to all. You can change your profile picture to raise awareness, share videos and articles and keep in touch with charities by liking their pages. Making a difference seems pretty easy in the digital age. But is your contribution any deeper than a click? It’s easy to click, but just as easy to disengage.”

Rosalie Tostevin

So while the Twitter based portion of my Social Activism Project focused on the TRC would account for the “awareness raising” aspect of Social Activism, there is a relatively good chance it would only mostly likely amplify the voices of those who are already engaged and not do much to tug others out of their metaphorical armchairs.

For this reason I have decided to work on something more unique to my interests and my purpose.

While my students and I have already started our journey into 100 Days of Cree (we are on Day 36), I have noticed that generally my tweets and shares do not usually echo beyond the community already taking part in the project. This could be because such comprehensive resources already exist when it comes to the project, including the book and PowerPoint mentioned in my previous post.

Therefore I have begun work on creating a Month of Michif resource that can accompany the Cree language program, while targeting a different marginalized community (the Métis ) and creating a resource for a language I find more difficult to find accurate teaching materials for. My hope is by specifying my focus on a different culture the initiative will stand apart, as well as I will have (as a Métis person myself) a more authentic approach to the project. You’ll find weekly updates on this each Monday on my Twitter or by following the #MichifMondays hashtag.

To the second issue with Online Activism, research conducted by The Conversation UK states that most of the Social Media Activism based messaging was largely reactive and emotive with the intent of virality to reach and mobilize as many people as possible.

While the information may still well be true and vital, the emotive response of those it reaches does little beyond invoking an outraged share or like. Shahla Ghobadi suggests that those seeking to take part in social media based activism instead spend more time creating and sharing information that helps to educate people on the underlying causes of a problem.

“Instead of focusing on the problem and the need for change, activists can share information that explains why and how the current situation has been created and what can be learned for the future. Online activism in such manner can gradually lead to the development of people who are capable of generating new knowledge and wisdom to respond to changing social environments.”

Shahla Ghobadi

It was this last quote that caused me to feel the first small sense of relief I have had in a while.

I do believe that meaningful social strategies that are reconciliatory in nature are urgent and important for many reasons, I believe that any awareness raising campaign that involves Indigenous Language Learning will eventually lend itself to building the capacity of both marginalized and non-marginalized groups to advocate for change in our current social environments.

Since intentional and explanatory information sharing seem to be the key to Online Activism that is meant to have an effect beyond emotional and reactionary responses, I have arrived at component number 2 to my major project – resource creation and sharing.

To accompany each week with the language sharing component on Social Media I will also share lesson plans with curricular connections here on the website that will eventually form a “Month of Michif” shareable PowerPoint, much like the “100 Days of Cree”.

Please follow along on this journey at #MichifMondays! Until next time,

Technology and the Generation Gap – Challenging the Notions of Digital Native and Digital Immigrant

In our most recent class we discussed the generational and social changes that could lie ahead for those of us in education, and the implications of those changes.

After feeling slightly triggered by the ease of which our class could come up with stereotypes for millennials , I decided to dig into our perceived differences when it comes to technology proficiency and what that means for education (our differences when it comes to avocado toast will have to wait for another blog).

I say perceived differences because it seems to me that some commonly held ideas regarding the correlation between those who most regularly use technology and their deep understanding of it may not necessarily be based in fact.

In Prensky’s 2001 Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants he asserted that people fall into categories of either digital natives or digital immigrants based upon when they are born. Generations born pre 1980 defined as “Digital Immigrants” and those following as “Digital Natives”.

“The model was aimed at an educational audience, and asserted that early exposure to technology fundamentally changes the way people learn. The implication was that digital immigrants could never be naturally fluent in their digital abilities, that digital natives were automatically gifted, and that educators need to adapt the way they teach depending on which of these groups they are teaching. “

-Alison Kaye (for the University of York’s Becoming a Digital Citizen: an Introduction to the Digital Society)

I’ll be honest when I read Prensky’s original work I was almost convinced he had sound logic. If I weren’t a teacher, (one who frequently uses technology in her classroom) I would perhaps hold the belief that because my students have also have been raised in a media rich culture and immersed in technology all their lives, they MUST be highly skilled at utilizing it. However this has not been my experience. Students can certainly interact with and navigate technology. They are always eager to create and collaborate, or socialize using a new platform. I do not know though, that this always amounts to what Prensky described as “Native” since I feel my students are not always critically interacting with technology. Nor for that matter – do I (even in all my millennial glory).

I really wish I could word the following better than Allison Kaye, but alas I cannot:

Viewing exposure to digital technology as synonymous with mastery of those digital tools can lead educators, policy-makers, businesses, and even citizens themselves to underestimate the support, education and practice required to develop the critical capabilities that constitute skillful digital citizens.

For many children and young people, the use of technology is less expansive and empowering than the rhetoric of the digital native would lead us to believe (Selwyn, 2009, p.372), tending towards passive and uncritical consumption rather than active and collaborative content creation. The abilities to use technologies in professional and academic contexts, to be critical with information and technology, to manage and synthesise information from a wide range of sources, and to be safe and ethical online are not innate abilities automatically bestowed upon anyone who happens to have been born after 1980. These practices require a deeper understanding and a critical approach to technology and information. Being immersed in the digital world cannot, in itself, build these capabilities.”

So, with that in mind: Do schools really need to change? What sort of education or education system will be needed to adequately prepare students for the world ahead?

Like everything in education, I believe the answer to this question is complicated. Yes, I think schools should change. But I am also of the personal opinion that schools exist for more than readying the workforce of the future.

I believe as an educator I have an equal responsibility to teach students to be citizens, in addition to workers.

So while a complete curricular overhaul with a focus on STEAM, and Coding and Computer Graphics may be far in the future – I do not believe that the skills students need to critically “manage and synthesize information” are any less 21st Century Skills than the former.

While I did find one of the drivers of change in 2020 Future Work Skills, Our “Globally Interconnected World” very intriguing, and the skills that accompany that driver of change (Virtual Collaboration, New Media Literacy) undeniably important – I could not help but focus on the other skills laid out in that document. Are things like, Computational Thinking, Social Intelligence, or Cross Cultural Competency all that new and novel?

I won’t pretend to know what type of educational system we will need in the future. But it is my humble opinion that for the present we can continue to teach these valuable skills in new contexts, through new lenses and with more innovative ways of approaching traditional content.

Check out this video I found interesting on the above topic, what are your thoughts on Soft skills and “Vintage Innovation”?


Digital and Media Literacy – A Conversation with Mary Beth Hertz

This past week our EC & I 832 class was joined by guest speaker Mary Beth Hertz . The author and current technology coordinator at SLA Beeber spoke with us on the topic of Digital and Media Literacy, which happens to be the topic of her new book: Digital and Media Literacy in the Age of the Internet.

I was excited to learn that her school had taken an approach where barriers in regards to access to technology are subverted through providing every student with access to a personal device for their duration of high school.

According to Mary, her book was written because of her position teaching “Intro to Technology” to ninth grade students who have just had the technology placed in their hands. Within her course she covers topics that will prove necessary to support students who will have the access to technology for the next four years of their academic lives. This includes everything from Digital Literacy (how to understand and utilize the technology), Digital Citizenship, to Media Literacy (Investigation of who owns a domain or web page, how their device connects to larger networks).

Her take on educating students, including taking some deep dives into how the internet works, as well as what that means for the privacy and security of both educators and students – was fascinating to me. It interested me specifically, because I am in a somewhat similar position as part of the Connected Educator Program with Regina Catholic Schools (if you are unfamiliar with the program you can read more about Dean’s experience here – thanks Dean!). While, in an ideal world the device my students use would continue to follow them after they left my classroom (as it does at Mary Beth’s School) I know that is not currently possible. Therefore I feel a real urgency in my need to educate both myself and my students on what real Digital and Media Literacy means while I have the opportunity to do so, as my students interact with internet based technology on a daily basis inn my educational environment. As Mary Beth pointed out in our discussion, part of being “literate” growing up right now is understanding the implications behind different technological mediums, even as she says if you don’t fully understand the functionality of it.

In reflection I have two main takeaways from our conversation:

Retrieved from Common Sense Media, 2019

To be perfectly honest before EC&I 832 I would have not drawn a line between Media Literacy, which according to this very helpful article is a critical engagement with Mass media, and Digital Literacy, which again according to Common Sense Media is personal, technological and intellectual skills for living in a digital society. I understand now that the work I have been doing falls more along the skills of Digital Literacy. For example, in my classroom I discuss and practice online safety, healthy online relationships and the capabilities of online collaboration regularly in the process of familiarizing the students with their personal devices.

What I do not do however is spend time on topics such as constructing a students Visual Literacy, that is to say how to make sense of the messages they receive via images. As Mary Beth pointed out this is such an important skill as students are living in an age where the digital divide has taken on a new meaning and both children and adults alike are facing the highest ever degree of exposure to media messaging.

Since the intersections of these two types of literacy have become intertwined I am beginning to see the need for a more balanced approach in my educational practice.

We shouldn’t be teaching kids to be afraid of social media, or that technology is bad for them. We should treat these tools like any influence in their life and help them manage the responsibilities connected to these tools effectively and ethically. 

Mary Beth Hertz, 2019

Finally, my last takeaway from my time listening to Mary Beth share was her mentioning of an article titled Forget “digital natives.” Here’s how kids are really using the Internet. Which, for transparency sake is an opinion piece that is based on some very interesting research regarding students and their tech use. Specifically the writer argues (and I do not disagree) that the “era of the digital native is over, and instead a child’s parents have the most profound effect on the type of tech user a student may be, falling into one of three categories.

  • Digital Orphans – “Digital orphans have grown up with a great deal of tech access — but very little guidance. They’ve been raised by parents who’ve given them near-unlimited access to technology, yet their mothers and fathers have had few conversations with them about what they’re learning, seeing and experiencing and why it matters.”
  • Digital Exiles – “Digital exiles are at the opposite extreme — they’ve been raised with minimal technology. Their parents’ goal has been to limit their children’s access in order to delay their entry into the digital world until their teens … Many exiles will throw themselves into their online lives with a vengeance, and they may struggle with finding a balanced approach to technology.”
  • Digital Heirs – “Digital heirs have impressive tech skills, thanks largely to their parents and teachers. Their adult mentors have encouraged and directed their tech education, enrolling them in classes and having conversations with them about being a responsible Internet user.”

Alexandra Samuel (2017).

As educators it is obvious that our goal is to guide children to becoming the “Digital Heir” as that group is described as fully participatory digital citizens with media literate skills. However my final takeaway from the class was a musing on how we as teachers can facilitate this, when this is not necessarily an agreed upon stance for those who work with and alongside us in education. I am very envious of Mary Beth’s position and school’s approach to Educational Technology as simply “Education” but I cannot help to wonder how far off that is for me. What can I do to validate the need for real, in depth Digital and Media literacy education in elementary schools right now?

Until next time, please share your thoughts below!