Category Archives: Blog

EXTRA EXTRA read all about it… details about my LMS that is

Hi Friends, This week I wanted to give you a bit of a run down on how I intend to facilitate my Blended Course.  These are just my preliminary ideas and are possibly subject to changes, as I find I am learning more as I go. Sarah has some fabulous ideas in her blog this week in terms of establishing boundaries and participating for her older students.  Although, I think that working with young grade 3 students there is only a need for pre-teaching about “Netiquette” and digital citizenship

how to start a blog in 4 stepsI think for student/student-instructor interactions I will implement a blog. This form will be used so that students can publish their assignments and respond to readings or video’s. I think that once students get the hang of commenting on each others posts they will quite enjoy it. Although I believe that it may be difficult to create a community, this is something that the students have to do for themselves. Elizabeth had a great point when she said “we can try to foster a welcoming, open environment in which students feel a sense of community, but we can’t ensure this in all of our classes”. Image Source 

Choosing this form of student interaction is beneficial because grade 3 students are smart and full of great ideas and they will be able to share their thoughts with their peers online. Perhaps there is a way to moderate as the facilitator so that student blogs and comments can be reviewed before being posted. I also like the idea of commenting on students post, they will see that the teacher has read and thought critically about their post.

Cute small kid girl thinking holding the head. Isolated closeup potrait on whiteWhen facilitating an Blended Classroom I will make sure interactions between students and teacher are genuine.  I believe that awarding marks for participation is a starting point for students.  By encouraging participation with marks, students will begin to explore using blogs and commenting on their peers work and do so in a appropriate manner. This is the first step in meaningful interactions. Students will gain confidence by having fellow students reading and responding to their blogs. I think that both peer assessment and self assessment have value in a blended classroom. Elizabeth mentions the importance of teaching students to use pingbacks in their blogs as it “further encourages them to read other people’s blogs at their leisure and quote them in their own. It is important for students to read other people’s work, and to know that their work will also be read. This will help them see the value and importance of blogging, and the importance of reading something over before submitting it.” Image Source

I thought that I would check out the hyperlinks that were found in the document  Mastering Online Discussion Board Facilitation for some assessment ideas.  I was very disappointed to find out that all the hyperlinks that I tried were broken.  I think that it is very important when setting up a Blended Classroom for students 3-500x254to make sure that all links are working.  By not checking for dead links an educator can run into a lot of wasted time in terms of having students refer to a link provided.

Well this is my starting point, oh yeah and rubrics.  Have you ever used a blog platform in your classroom, which one?


Is technology your crutch?

Our final Great Debate has come and gone and now I left to reflect on the final topic…

We have become too dependent on technology and what we really need is to unplug. Agree or disagree?

Several persuading points were made by both teams, which again led to a close finish.

26569582074_e7354bfd5b
Photo Credit: schiiiinken via Compfight cc

Our agree team argued that technology is actually making us more lonely than ever before.  They also explained how society is too reliant on devices and we are much too dependent on technology.  Finally, they argued that technology is ruining relationships.

The disagree team then made their case as to why we do not need to unplug.  They argued that technology connects people, bringing them closer together.  Marginalized groups are able to seek out communities in which to receive support.  They suggested that technology isn’t the source of our busyness provided many examples of apps that can support mindfulness and manage over-indulgence of tech.  Finally, this team also argued that the digital and physical worlds are not separate.  This augmented reality explain the digital and physical, the on and off line spaces as meshed together.

Throughout the debate and while doing the readings, a few key phrases/passages stuck with me…

“We are no longer content with our own minds.”
-Alec Couros

“Until we learn how to be okay with solitude, we are not going to be able to connect deeply with others.”
-Sherry Turkle

I feel that society is becoming more and more uncomfortable with silence and solitude.  We are never really alone, even when we are, as long as we have a device within arm’s reach.  In one sense, this is extremely useful and necessary to our health and well-being.  I mean, who doesn’t want to have constant access to emergency services?  But on the other hand, every feeling of loneliness must not be erased by connecting with someone online.  Margie Warrell explains how “human beings crave intimacy”.  We achieve intimacy through vulnerability and part of vulnerability is taking the risk and experiencing solitude.  Tech appeals to us most where we are vulnerable, but if we let these feelings of vulnerability soak in, we can begin to connect authentically with others.

The other thought that stuck with me within this week’s discussion period was a question posed by Stephanie:

“Is technology my crutch?”

27001686241_0f2b9cb612Photo Credit: MTSOfan via Compfight cc

As a self proclaimed introvert, I do have to admit that I use technology as a crutch.  I know that I’m much too dependent on my Iphone.  I don’t think I can plead otherwise as there have been multiple times this year that I have forgotten my phone at home in the morning and have driven all the way back to get it.  I have a laptop at school and yes there is a land line where I could have been reached in the case of an emergency, yet I felt the need to have my device with me at all times.  A device that I probably only used to send a few texts, check a few unimportant emails, and watch a couple snapchat stories with.

And when I really stop and think about this, it concerns me.  I’m modelling to my students that I need to be constantly connected.  Maybe I am the one who is no longer content with my own mind and avoids solitude?  I want to show them the value in being connected but also the importance of disconnecting from a screen and maintaining face-to-face interactions.  I want them to feel comfortable taking risks but also understand the feeling of vulnerability and that it leads to growth.

With that in mind, and because EC&830 has now nearly come to an end,  I would like to set some tangible goals in terms of personal tech use.  I suppose I agree and disagree with this week’s debate topic.

We have become too dependent on technology.=AGREE (well at least in my case!)

What we really need is to unplug.=DISAGREE

I don’t feel that unplugging is the answer.  I truly feel that we are living in an augmented reality.  Our digital and physical words co-construct each other and there are so many benefits to learning while being connected.  What we DO need to do, is build in unplugged time.  Unlike Steve, who manages to do a month long digital detox with his students, my goals are much smaller.  I do, however, feel they will aid in my overall well-being.

  • buy an actual alarm clock and charge my iPhone in another room over night
  • leave my phone at home/car while spending time outside
  • keep date nights with my husband and time with friends phone free (become a better listener as this article suggests!)
  • silence my phone and keep it in another room for at least 2 hours upon getting home from work

Rather than view it as a plug or unplug debate, maybe we need to revisit the issue and contemplate what we are missing out on by constantly being plugged in.  You won’t see me giving up my iPhone anytime soon but I hope to more mindful of my actions with tech use.

 

14989912903_96208e99de
Photo Credit: transit wireless via Compfight cc

That’s a Wrap! My EC&I830 Summary of Learning

This short semester has flown by and I’ve managed to complete our Great Debate, readings, blog posts, and this summary of learning….not without some “avoidance behaviours”. Luckily, since this is an ed tech course, I felt it was appropriate to put these “avoidance behaviours” to good use. I present to you, my summary of learning…

Debate #1: Does technology in the classroom enhance learning?

I had the pleasure of working alongside Kyle and Jeremy in the first debate of the semester. Our broad debate topic introduced many of the more specific issues argued later within the semester.

My initial response was “Of course, it enhances learning…it decreases the gap for students with disabilities, increases engagement, supports personalized learning, and transforms students from consumers to producers of knowledge.  Oh…did I have a lot to learn this semester!

Although there is truth to all of my original assumptions, the debates within this semester have allowed me to view these issues in ed tech with a more critical eye. Tech has the ability to enhance learning, but also increases distraction, comes at a high financial cost, and there is a severe lack of training associated with implanting tech into the classroom.

Debate #1 helped me understand that yes, technology does enhance learning…

if there is proper training provided to teachers,
if there is access.
if students are challenged to use technology to communicate, collaborate, and create.

Debate#2  Schools should not be teaching anything that can’t be googled.

To google…or not to google…this week we examined whether schools should be teaching content that is “google-able”. The required video this week, How the Internet is Changing Your Brain, stated that “google is becoming today’s external hard drive”.  The video explained how college students are remembering less of what they know because they know it can be retrieved later.

Looking back at this debate, I question whether “knowing content” is valuable in today’s age? The reality is, children and youth are online and engaged with technology.  A study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation states that today, “8-18 year olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media across a typical day”. Children are now wired to navigate, retrieve, and create content. I question though, are today’s children wired to memorize content? Does memorization have a place in today’s schools?

Quick recall of basic math facts and learning to read are undoubtedly essential life skills, so yes, it some ways, memorization should be taught. However, students also need personal strategies to know their basic facts, learn to read, AS WELL as utilize google effectively. Teachers must elicit passion and excitement from the learning process and guide students in using google to access, asses, and apply knowledge, but strictly as a search engine to find the answers. Education needs to shift towards seeking answers and further questions, not finding the answer.

Debate #3: Technology is making our kids unhealthy.

Depression, anxiety, headaches, loneliness, sleep difficulties, eye strain, obesity, withdrawal, and cyberbully….all are reasons to argue that technology is, in fact, making us unhealthy. Going into this week and even for weeks since this debate, I feel quite confidently that technology isn’t making us unhealthy, rather the choices we are making about technology are making us unhealthy. The problem here is that children and youth are engaged with technology but have yet to develop all of the decision making skills and abilities needed to navigate the vast, unpredictable, and often cruel internet.

Conversations about digital citizenship need to start in primary school as a preventative measure. It no longer makes sense to leave these conversations until middle school or high school, where all young people have a device within their pocket. If we begin to model these positive behaviours much earlier, maybe we can also show students how tech can be used to enhance our health. Debate #3 allowed me to see my role, even as a grade 2 teacher, in ensuring my students use tech to help, not hurt others.

Debate #4: Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids.

We live in a time where we are public by default and private by effort. Although I do feel that it is absolutely each parent’s choice to make when choosing whether to post about his/her child, I do think that openness and sharing in schools is beneficial.

My take-away from this debate is to help parents and students understand that their digital footprints are more like digital tattoos. Tattoos are permanent. For some, they represent poor choices and can be looked at negatively for a lifetime. But for others, with can tell and important story, a story about who we are and who we choose to be. A digital tattoo can be something to look back upon fondly and this is why we should be cognizant of what we are sharing and what we want revealed about ourselves and our children.

Debate #5: Technology is a force for equity in society.

The medical robots which have “led to a 60-per-cent reduction in medical evacuations” in remote communities, and the free, university level courses provided through coursera make it difficult to argue that technology isn’t a force for equity in society. This week’s debaters helped shine light on the fact that society if FULL of inequities. The most persuasive argument and the one that lead me to believe that technology truly doesn’t create equity in society was the argument pertaining to the Digital Matthew Effect. This helped me to understand that technology can actually be increasing the gap between the rich and the poor.  Both groups can benefit from technology, but it seems the rich, privileged demographic is being set up for greater success.  They are benefiting more from technology, widening the digital divide.  Rich children engage with technology differently than poor children do, so even if students were given the same devices to use, their knowledge and experiences with technology differs greatly.

This debate helped me understand that although technology can provide equitable opportunities for some, the inequities within our society run so deeply and tech isn’t the quick fix so solve these problems.

Debate #6: Social media is ruining childhood.

Social media both positively and negatively impacts young people. I don’t agree that social media is ruining childhood, but young people’s lives are definitely being affected negatively by CHOICES made or shared online. Once again, there is importance in having these conversations from a young age, working hard at preventing the cyberbullying but also teaching students the skills for when they find themselves in compromised situations online. Let’s take classmate Jeremy Black’s suggestion and “teach children how to use this technology responsibly, in a controlled and monitored fashion, through gradual release.”

Debate #7: Public education has sold its soul to corporate interests, in what amounts to a Faustian bargain.

Has education sold its soul to corporate interest? No. Is there potential to do so in the years ahead? I fear that there is. Along with our debaters this week, Dean Shareski and Audrey Watters helped me consider what it means to have “critical friends” investing in education. I think we need to be wary when partnering with corporations but it is naïve to think that there can be no corporate interest in education.

We need to look critically at the partnerships that we are a part of and ask ourselves, especially in terms of corporate interest in testing,

Why do we test?
Why do we measure?
Whose interests are served by testing? 

If the interests of corporations are trumping our students, we’re one step closer to selling that soul.

 

Thanks to Alec, Katia, and all of my EC&I830 classmates this semester.  You’ve given me much to think about this semester and I hope to encounter you all again down the road!  Have a great summer!

A Critical Friend Catch 22

Public education has sold its soul to corporate interests in what amounts to a Faustian bargain. Agree or disagree?

I found this debate topic the most challenging one thus far.  At times throughout the debate, I felt a bit overwhelmed and maybe it’s just the end of June exhaustion kicking in…but I didn’t feel like I was quite keeping up with all of the great arguments!  Regardless, I want to commend both sides for delivering very persuasive sides.  Special shout out to Tyler and Justine for doing an impressive job facing off against our first guest, Dean Shareski, Community Manager of Discover Education.

I’m sure many of my classmates would agree that we could blog for days about all of the intricacies of this week’s debate.  I’m sure these thoughts we be thrown around frequently over the next while, especially with talks of “transformational change” by the provincial government, but for now, here are my thoughts on a couple areas in particular: critical friends and testing.

Critical Friends
I feel that private sectors have always had relationships with schools, and always will in a sense.  I agree with Logan Petlak in that I have a hard time “trusting corporations or people in power”.  To keep it simple, corporations have a main goal of making money, and well…we know teachers aren’t invested in education for the same reason.  The point that really stuck with my within this debate was when David Fisher suggested that within education, we only have a certain amount of funding to provide a certain amount of services.  We’re seeing this clearly right now as just yesterday, it was announced that the Sask government has plans to pay only 0.5% of 1.9% teacher wage increase and has asked school divisions to make up the other $9M through various cuts.

Clearly we only have a certain amount of government funding, and now that’s being reduced even further.  Yes, maybe it’s selling our soul to corporate interest, but I’m not sure we have an alternative at this point.  Unless the amount funding for education is going to change (which I think it should, let me make clear!), I think partnerships with corporation have to exist.

But…will our government then say “Well, we don’t have to fund education more because donors or corporations will support them?”

We’re at a bit of a catch 22, aren’t we?

We’re in a sticky situation.  If we engage in corporate support, we’re sending the message that we don’t need more funding, but if we don’t engage with corporate interest, our students could be missing out on valuable resources.  Like Tayler Cameron, I send home monthly Scholastic books orders with my students and had never considered it as an act of selling my soul to corporate interest.  I am supporting this corporation, but do so to build a classroom library and enrich the learning of my students, which I don’t see as such a bad thing!

scholasticbookordersyayImage credit

I think Dean’s message of critical friends was an important one.  Corporate interest in education isn’t going anywhere…at least not anytime soon.  I think the onus needs to be on forming partnerships founded on shared goals.  Relationships need to be made and both parties need to examine together what the desired outcome is.  Obviously the private sector is looking to make money but I like Dean’s suggestion of “we do good by doing good“.  Maybe I’m a little naive, but I want to believe that there are companies that do have students interests in mind and see the importance of relationships.

It is the job of our school divisions to hold companies responsible to uphold their end of these partnerships.  It is their job to ensure that the critical friendships that are made are valuable, reciprocal, and transparent.

Testing
Now where things get really messy are around testing.  Audrey Watters mentioned that “we can’t talk about corporate interests and ed tech without talking about testing”.  Watters explained that the majority of technology that is bought is used for testing and this raises the questions:

Why do we test?
Why do we measure?
Whose interests are served by testing? 

Rather than reading me ramble about the dangers of standardized testing, watch John Oliver’s witty explanation instead!

In one sense, I think education is never going to be fully funded and that we’ll always rely on some corporate funding.  But in doing so, I fear that we’ll receive less funding, rely more on corporate interest and therefore, follow in the footsteps of our US neighbours, and become trapped further in the world of standardized testing.  Larry Cuban speaks of the dangers of standardized testing and data walls in his blog post This Ed-reform Trend is Supposed to Motivate Students; Instead, It Shames Them.

This is what I fear regarding selling our souls to corporate interest.  Does it lead to unethical choices where student are left feeling shamed?

In that case, maybe we are selling our soul.

“Social media works as an amplifier”

Social media…is it ruining childhood or not?

Well we had another fantastic Great Debate this past week contemplating this issue.  Logan, Amy, and Carter strongly argued that yes, social media IS ruining childhood, while Ellen and Elizabeth argued the contrary.  It was a very close race, with the agree side edging out the win.  This has been the first debate that I really haven’t been able to choose a side…and it’s the debate that has made me waver most often.

27505546012_f436c1ae22
Photo Credit: wayman2011 via Compfight cc

I feel like I’m swinging back and forth between the two, so you can quit reading now if you’re looking for a definitive opinion.  This June-level-tired, caffeine-dependent-teacher, is committing to being a fence sitter this week.  Ask me in a few weeks…maybe I’ll have a firm opinion by then.

21657030631_e6ac4b70e9
Photo Credit: Sarah Eller Wake County via Compfight cc

On the one hand, we can argue that social media leads to:

On the other hand, we can argue that:

Now, I’m usually the first one to defend technology because I often see firsthand how much it can benefit and enhance learning.  As I am not a parent, I usually view things like social media through only a teacher’s perspective.  This week, however, I tried to view some of these issues from that of a parent’s perspective and I found myself scared of the deep dark internet!

5961869390_07a3ce6ea9
Photo Credit: arthurtheking via Compfight cc

I want to believe that social media does not ruin childhood, and I guess if I view childhood as a social construction, maybe I can convince myself that this is true.  But the truth is, social media does seem to ruin some children.  No, not all…but victims of extreme cases of cyberbullying, like Amanda Todd, clearly have had their childhoods ruined by social media.

The anonymity of the internet, social media in particular, means that people can post comments and troll others without foreseeable consequences.  It’s also so easy to piggyback on negative comments online.  Students who once could escape the bullying that occurred within a school are now facing cruel comments 24/7 online.

Amy made an interesting point in last week’s class that Heather also spoke of in her blog post this week.  They mentioned how forms of technology have evolved and made a reference to playing quite a bit of Nintendo and not having that be detrimental to their lives.  I can relate to this…I mean, who didn’t enjoy a good game of duck hunt?  What I struggle with is comparing these forms of technology.  Social media are connections through people and the human experience.  It is about people sharing, communicating, and engaging.  Children who engage with social media are both consumers and producers of content.  They have the power to create and share words, and we know how powerful words can be.  I feel that a young person behind a social media account has much different potential power than one behind an original Nintendo controller.  Nintendo didn’t have the communicative powers that social media does today.

And yes, these young people have the ability to create and share words for good, but what I fear, is that they choose to share poorly, resulting in cyberbulling.  Cyberbullying that has an impact on the mental health of young people

Regardless, I fully understand that social media isn’t going anywhere, nor do I necessarily think it should.  Luke Braun wrote the following in his blog post this week:

“Growing up in the 21st century means that childhood is defined by, and inextricably linked to, social media.  Children as young as grade 2 or 3 now have personal devices.  Children in elementary and middle school have multiple social media accounts even though many of these require minimum ages of 13 or 14.  It has become a way to connect, to chat, to post our thoughts, feelings and emotions.”

Social media provides people, even young one, with a voice.  As Jan Rezab says in his TedTalk, “social media works as an amplifier”.  Whether we think social media should be a part of childhood or not, I’m not so sure we have a choice.  I suppose as parents, you do have the choice to limit your child’s SM involvement, but as Luke said, social media is now linked to childhood.

So why don’t we take a huge step and start discussing social media in early elementary grades and not wait until middle school when there are already a myriad of cyberbullying issues?  I mean, some of my grade 2 students use snapchat.  Maybe I need to recognize that social media is a part of childhood now and not scoff at the idea and respond with a crotchety “kids these days”!  Let’s be vigilant and ensure the mental health of our students and children by recognizing social media likely isn’t going anywhere, but can be used to promote rather than hurt.  Let’s lead them, from an early age, to use social media to amplify positive relationships.

How can you argue with Dr. Robot?

Technology absolutely creates equity in society…

I mean, how can you argue this when we have robots…yes, ROBOTS now ensuring patient care, providing patients in remote locations such as Nain and Pelican Narrows with prenatal ultrasounds, brain scans to detect hemorrhages, and mental health counseling services.

You see a TED Talk like this and chalk it up as a win for the “agree” side of this debate, right?

Of course!  In this case, it seems like an impossible task to argue that “Rosie” isn’t “narrowing the gap of inequality in health care” (Dr. Ivar Mendez).  We have a community in Labrador, equipped with this “robot doctor” which has “led to a 60-per-cent reduction in medical evacuations”.

Similarly, assistive technology improves achievement of students with learning disabilities.  Sider and Maich suggest that assistive technology “can enhance literacy acquisition, flexible and differentiated learning experiences, and student engagement and independence.”  I’m sure most, if not all teachers, can think of a specific student who utilities assistive tech to support his/her learning.  With this student in mind, I am tempted to pronounce that yes, technology creates equity for him!  It increases his motivation and independence, therefore increasing his academic output.

Also mentioned by the agree time, was the fact that technology increases access.  Katherine argued that sites like coursera offer online education, from some of the most prestigious universities, free of cost.  Because of the incredible increases in tuition costs, she argued that people are no longer getting value for their money by going to university.  Taking courses through coursera, however, provide these opportunities to those who many not have them otherwise, due to geographical or financial reasons.

Pretty strong arguments…robots, assistive tech, and FREE university level education.  Equity in society…check!

19398092734_4546190586

Photo Credit: vestidetalno via Compfight cc

…or maybe not.

I think that possibly, in a perfect world, technology could create equity in society.  But we all know life isn’t perfect, and more specifically, life is full of inequalities.  Think back to the student from above, the student who thrives with the support of assistive technology.  Are his opportunities for success and the reason he even has the assistive tech due to privilege? His privilege has lead him to the assistive tech, the home support to best use this tech, which then leads to equitable opportunities throughout his life.  But this does not mean technology creates equity in society. 

Team disagree made many interesting arguments to sway me to the opposite side.  They argued that only those who have access to technology are benefited and that many schools, rural and reserve schools in particular, have poor bandwidth.  They suggested that assistive technology does not make education inclusive for all students with disabilities, but only those who are privileged to acquire the technology.  The most persuasive argument and the one that lead me to believe that technology truly doesn’t create equity in society was the argument pertaining to the Digital Matthew Effect.

The Matthew Effect is “the tendency for early advantages to multiply over time”.  Psychologists Keith E. Stanovich and Anne E. Cunningham applied these ideas to reading.  Students who get a head start on reading acquire a more extensive vocabulary which leads them to a greater background knowledge.  This results in enjoyment of reading and continued success in further reading opportunities.  On the other hand, children who struggle learning to read don’t acquire the vocabulary, therefore lack the background knowledge, and have a decreased sense of enjoyment with reading.  They find reading difficult, doing it less, which only increases their struggles as readers and learners.

27211182142_ee378f6c20
Photo Credit: madisonpubliclibrary via Compfight cc

This Matthew Effect has started to be applied digitally.  Researchers are finding that “the already advantaged gain more from technology than do the less fortunate”.  In this sense, technology can actually be increasing the gap between the rich and the poor.  Both groups can benefit from technology, but it seems the rich, privileged demographic is being set up for greater success.  They are benefiting more from technology, widening the digital divide.  Rich children engage with technology differently than poor children do, so even if students were given the same devices to use, their knowledge and experiences with technology differs greatly.

So overall, I think that technology has some potential to make society more equitable, but the inequalities that exist within society run so deeply, that technology is not the saving grace.  Tech can support and diminish some inequalities but it cannot erase them. 

As for solutions…I’m at a bit of a loss this week.  I’m realizing that the student I teach, who are heavily privileged in the same ways I am, will benefit more from technology than other children within our city…and I’m not sure I can do anything about it.  I know it’s not right, but how can we address these larger societal issues?

25537272693_cff328e47b
Photo Credit: markjoefersuson via Compfight cc

“A computer in the hands of a disadvantaged child is in an important sense not the same thing as a computer in the hands of a child of privilege”-Annie Murphy Paul

What DO we do?  Is it within our power to address these inequalities?

No Risk, No Reward-Why I think openness and sharing is best for our students!

This week’s debate topic, openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids, is of particular interest to me. Last semester within EC&I831, I made a conscious effort to support my grade 2 students in developing their digital footprints. I spent a lot of time last semester considering my own digital presence. I learned the importance of googling yourself, (or duckduckgo-ing yourself…thanks for that tip Amy!) and realized quickly how tiny my digital presence is. Because I was married last summer and changed my name, the digital presence I had worked on building seemed to be blown away into the wind.

27047598190_c8796ab5a0
Photo Credit: ralfkai41 via Compfight cc

Trying to be the glass-half-full type, I do see this as an opportunity to rebuild a positive digital identity. I created an about.me page in an effort to brand myself, rather than hide my digital presence. I realized that it was silly to try to ignore and hide my digital presence from students and their families, as I don’t have content worth hiding.

Like our debaters this week, Kelsie, Shannon, and Danielle (agree side), and Lisa, Haiming, and Stephanie (disagree side), I spent significant time last semester contemplating the pros and cons of openness and sharing in schools. Both sides delivered strong arguments this week and all participants provided us with much to think about. The openness and sharing within schools is a risk towards violating our students’ privacy. It can result in unwanted digital footprints, those of which are initiated by adults, not necessarily the students themselves.

On the other side, Lisa, Haiming, and Stephanie helped us understand that in today’s society we are public by default and private by effort. Students are born into a digital presence, one that is usually created not by their choosing, but created by their parents. A child’s digital identity often begins even before birth!

20609871404_9eb056aae4
Photo Credit: blinkgirl182x via Compfight cc

This article also helped me understand that society is shifting and employers are much more inclined to turn to social media when considering job applicants. Paper resumes are potentially becoming obsolete, and online-portfolios may become more advantageous for Generation Z’ers to land jobs. “According to the online recruitment site Career Builder, around a fifth of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates, and close to 59% say they would be influenced by a candidate’s online presence. University admissions tutors are also rumoured to Google candidates, although the extent to which this occurs is unknown.”

This understanding and seeing various examples of positive tech use by primary teachers, like Kathy Cassidy, had me jump in to my major digital project, an e-portfolio project.

I decided to start Seesaw e-portfolios with my students as a way to document and share their learning, while applying their understanding of digital citizenship. Check out my project summary video for a look at what this project entailed.

Taking on this task definitely persuaded me to the AGREE side of this week’s debate topic. Through documenting and sharing learning on seesaw my students were able to apply their understanding of digital citizenship. I taught a set of lessons on digital citizenship (adapted from the Common Sense Media Curriculum) to my students throughout the project, but it was the authentic opportunities I had to model digital citizenship that was so meaningful. My students learned to comment on each other’s work which lead to a great experience considering whether we were writing highway comments or dead end comments.

I found that the moderation comment feature on seesaw allowed my students to begin building their digital footprint in a controlled environment. I was able to model positive digital etiquette and then students applied this as they posted on Seesaw. Did they make some mistakes? Of course, but I think that this lead to really great conversations and they were mistakes in a CONTROLLED environment, where I have the ability to moderate the content. My students learned that it’s not appropriate to include 114 emoticons in a one sentence comment! Maybe I’m an idealist, but I hope that if teachers willingly start teaching digital citizenship in grade 1, 2, and 3, then maybe we’ll have less issues regarding digital etiquette and citizenship when students are in grade 6, 7, 8 and they all have their own devices.

I also received a lot of positive feedback from parents throughout this project. Initially, I held a Digital Citizenship parent night, to introduce parents to Seesaw and Twitter, to explain my purpose in incorporating this tech into our learning, and to discuss digital citizenship. I had parents complete a pre and post assessment of their own feelings towards technology and social media as well as their feelings of their child’s involvements with tech and social media. There were several hesitations initially, but when I shared our purpose of connecting…to document and share our learning, to build positive digital footprints, and to expand our worldview, parents were much more supportive of this project. A couple of months into the project I had one mother express her gratitude to me. She said that her son came home discussing some of the things he learned about digital citizenship. They also had a preteen daughter who had been asking to have an Instagram account for quite some time. The lessons that the son was coming home with lead to further conversations with the daughter about digital citizenship, which eventually led to her getting the Instagram account.

Jeremy makes a great suggestion in saying that teacher’s could “hold a quick run through of digital citizenship” at a meet-the-teacher evening in September.  I think this would be a really useful way to inform parents of the purpose for sharing student photos and work and help parents feel more comfortable with this process.

There are definitely risks to sharing student photos, videos, and work online but I feel that due to being in a digital age, it’s imperative that we take this opportunity to model safe practices. To summarize, here are the reasons why I support students in developing a digital identity:

None of this, however, can be done without careful consideration of privacy and the students’ well-being. The Peel District School Board’s Social Media Guidelines for Staff document provides many great suggestions for teachers who plan to integrate tech with learning.  I feel that any teacher who is sharing student work, photos, videos, etc. should read this article and reflect on their own practice.  I know that when reflecting upon this document, I found the following 2 items that I plan to work on further into the 2016-2017 school year.

  • Create a social media consent form (in addition to our division media release form) to hand out at meet the teacher night
  • Establish “professional use hours” and share them with students and parents so they know when questions will and will not be responded to

So…are there risks to openness and sharing in schools?  Absolutely…but no risk, no reward.  And the potential rewards are just too high to not take the risk…with caution of course!

15014231596_f786a77a0d

 Photo Credit: shooghkirk via Compfight cc

Our Decisions Make Us Unhealthy, Not Technology

This week’s second debate topic was of great interest to me.

Technology is making our kids unhealthy.  Agree or disagree? 

I find this issue particularly interesting because I often consider the ways that technology makes myself unhealthy.  Taking classes, online ones in particular, I spend a lot of hours in front of a screen.  Teaching grade 2 full time and being a bit of a perfectionist in my career, I spend too many days still at school into the evening.  That means my readings and assignments get pushed into the later evening hours.  I have found last semester with EC&I831 and this semester with EC&I830 that I am having a much harder time falling asleep and having restful sleeps. After reading Lindsay Holme’s article, I now question if this is due to my increased screen time, especially right before bed.

I am also a very restless sleeper who frequently sleep talks (like multiple times a week) and I often jolt up in bed quite frantically.  My husband has a whole repertoire of my sleep talking stories that he likes to share with our friends, family, and even his grade 7/8 students!  These occurrences definitely increase during busy and stressful times of my life so I am interested to see if the frequency decreases once July hits and my school/grad studies schedule greatly decreases.  My screen time also changes drastically during the summer, something that I am grateful for.

I also find that I spend much less time outside when I am busy with school and taking classes.  I am inside staring at a screen rather than walking around the lake, going for a run, or even just sitting outside for a rest or to read a good book.

So there are many ways that technology is making my own life unhealthy but there are a myriad of ways that technology is making our kids unhealthy. Social media use has been linked to depression and anxiety and many students are experiencing cyberbullying.  Some children experience eye strain, headaches, feelings of loneliness, and even feelings of withdrawal. An increase in use of technology is also linked directly to a decrease in physical activity which has played a role in about one-third of American children and teenagers being obese or overweight.

But considered all of these factors, I still don’t think we can confidently say that technology is making our kids unhealthy.  What’s making our kids unhealthy are our decisions about technology. 

If as a parent, you choose to hand over your Iphone every time your toddler becomes unruly, then yes, maybe technology will make your child unhealthy.

If as a teacher, you choose to plunk laptops without purpose in front of your students, rather than take them outside to explore real life science, then yes, maybe technology will make your child unhealthy.

If you choose to let your child sit in front of a screen for an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes a day, rather than the recommended 1-2 hours, then yes, maybe technology will make your child unhealthy.

Our decisions about technology are making us unhealthy.  I am choosing to stay at school too late and then do my readings/assignments too late into the evening.  I am choosing to spend my last half hour before bed watching junk reality TV rather than turning off the screens that I know are bad for my sleeping patterns.  I am choosing to multitask, which I have already learned I am really poor at, and doing so ineffectively, am wasting even more time.

But in recognizing this, I would like to make a change and start living through intention.  In some ways, I have the ability to choose how technology impacts my life.  It’s amazing how quickly this blog post was written when I make the choice to silence my cell phone and set it here, out of reach…

IMG_3358

A good choice, and now I’m nearly done this post and can go enjoy some beautiful weather!

So, I feel that we can choose to allow technology to make ourselves and our children unhealthy or we can choose to be mindful of our tech use and make decisions with intention.  So let’s choose to engage with technology positively.  I encourage you to choose even one suggestion from Heather, Andres, and Roxanne‘s intro video and allow technology to improve your own health.

Alright children, hide from google!

I’ve pondered this week’s first debate topic for several days now…

Should schools not be teaching anything that can be googled? 

Both sides of debate brought forth very persuasive arguments, which has only lead me to more confusion regarding the issue.  Luke, Ashley, and Andrew began the agree arguments by suggesting that people rely too heavily on google and students are therefore, losing their innate curiosity.  They explained that students are becoming contrived to look for the answer as opposed to seeking answers.  Their required video this week, How the Internet is Changing Your Brain, stated that “google is becoming today’s external hard drive”.  The video explained how college students are remembering less of what they know because they know it can be retrieved later.  Within his TED Talk, chemistry teacher Ramsey Musallam explains that questions and curiosity “transcend all technology and buzzwords in education”.  He suggests that teachers needs to be “cultivators of curiosity” and the agree side of this week’s debate argued that googling kills the creativity and robs students of critical thinking opportunities.

Amy and Heidi, the disagree team, were then persuasive in explaining that there is a place in our world for memorization and that there is value in still teaching things that can be googled.  They argued that in order to reach the highest orders of thinking on Bloom’s Taxonomy, evaluating and creating, students need to have the “knowledge, facts, data, or information in their brains to combine into something new, or with which to judge relative importance or value”.  Essentially, in order to be critical thinkers, evaluators, and creators, students need memorized information to build upon.

As a primary teacher, I have engaged in many “old math vs new math” conversations with colleagues and parents in which my response is, “there is no old math and new math, there is just math”.

mathPhoto credit

Unlike many others, I do see a lot of value in the Math Makes Sense program.  I think it allows my students to learn to explain their reasoning and understand the processes involved in solving problems.  That being said, I use a lot of supplementary material, especially in the areas of basic addition and subtraction.  Grade 2 math outcomes involve mastering basic addition and subtraction facts with quick recall as well as adding and subtracting 2 digit numbers.  Can Google answer my 7+8= and 53-24= problems? Of course it can, but I still see value in teaching students this content and ensuring they are proficient heading into grade 3.

Undoubtedly, having quick recall of basic facts is an important lifelong skill.  I suppose a student could google a basic addition fact, but I would hope that they have confidence in answering it timely, without relying on Google.  That being said, I don’t necessarily agree that memorization and rote learning results in learners understanding their basic facts.  Yes, they may be able to recite confidently what 9+5 is, but do they understand the process of adding these two numbers.  Students need quick recall of facts, but they need to have strategies to solve these questions quickly.  Learning these basic strategies and having students assess what strategies work best for them is essential.  David Staples states that “children should develop their own multiple strategies to discover the best ways to solve math problems, and that this will lead to a deeper understanding of math.”  Guiding students to understand their methods shifts math education towards understanding the process and not solely focusing on the end product.  You can google a product, but I’m not convinced that you can google an understanding process.

Because of my position in early learning, I feel that I have the ability to shelter my students from certain aspects of technology.  Is this right?  Maybe not, but I do agree that the innate curiosity that children have at ages 3, 4, and 5 quickly disintegrates as they enter school and turn 6, 7, and 8.  Don’t get me wrong, I am an encourager of technology within the classroom.  We document and share our learning through e-portfolios, engage with other classrooms and experts via Twitter and our class blog, and we frequent many interactive sites that greatly enhance our understanding.  My students, at 7 and 8 years old, don’t however, understand the power of almighty Google….or at least I think that’s the case.

I feel that they’re unaware that Google can answer any question they may have, and I want to hold on to this innocence for as long as possible.  Am I just naive?  Quite possibly, but I agree that “googling is easier than thinking” and I want my students to stay curious and creative thinkers.  I know it’s only a matter of years or mere months before they realize practically everything can be answered through Google…but for now, it’s a secret I will keep a bit longer.

3963119235_af9788bc10
Photo Credit: Ricardo Carreon via Compfight cc

So how do we lead students to remain curious, creative, and critical thinkers past their early ages?  They will discover that Google can be the fast track to answer all of their questions so how can we lead them to be more reflective and ask questions that require more than a basic Google search?  Dean Benko suggested in his blog this week this week that experiential learning can move past the early learning years through projects like Genius Hour or Passion Projects.

“Genius Hour is not only about students exploring their own questions and projects, but asking questions then discovering their own answers. As students research, experiment, create, inquire and be innovative, they are engaged in time for reflection about their own progress and how they are will find the answers. By having students research, explore then reflect on their learning in a blog post, they are also engaging metacognition or thinking about their thinking. By sharing in this platform, they are inviting others to also examine their journey, the questions and ask further questions, thereby encouraging students to dig deeper with their learning.” –RCSD Genius Hour Edtech Page

Jane Davis-Seaver, a grade 3 teacher, says “a critical thinker never loses the joy of learning, never experiences the sadness of not caring or not wondering about the world”.  Students who are engaged in self-directed Genius Hour projects are given an opportunity to explore, research, and question on a deeper level.  They are invested in the process of looking for answers, not the answer.

6072513354_597f61cdcb
Photo Credit: OceanBlues22 via Compfight cc

So…do we teach content that can be Googled?  Well, I think yes, we have to.  My students need to learn their basic facts and need to learn to read to confidently progress throughout life.  Could they technically acquire this knowledge through Google? Yes, I suppose so, but I don’t feel that turning to Google is practical within their daily lives.  But at the same time, I know that I need to learn to encourage creative questioning amongst my students.  I need to take a step back from being a deliverer of knowledge and allow my students share their curiosity, discuss their wondering, and question each other.  I want them to see value in thinking deeply and not typing their immediate thought into a search bar.

So…I leave you with a thought provoking question, one from a very wise 6 year old I know…

“Who is more important to us…racoons or teachers?”

Now THAT cannot be googled (believe me, I checked!), but it definitely lead to some interesting conversation amongst those involved!

I can only hope his curiosity continues.

 

Another Whirlwind Begins

Another semester is upon us and I’m really looking forward to another edtech course with Alec and Katia.  This is course #2 for me in my pursuit of completing the curriculum and instruction master’s program.  Check out my twitter handle and my about.me page!

I am in my fourth year of teaching at Dr. A.E. Perry School.  My teaching experience has been in the grade 1-3 range and I am currently teaching a wonderful group of grade 2s!  I am blessed to work alongside some wonderful colleagues, many of which are open to new crazy edtech ideas I rant and rave about after a Tuesday night Zoom class!

Taking #eci831 last semester increased my confidence with incorporating edtech with my students.  My students share their learning through Seesaw e-portfolios and have a class Twitter page.  My students also collaborate globally with other grade 2 classrooms through a #seesawlinkup.  Taking ec&i831 last semester allowed me to model and encourage good digital citizenship from a young age.  I am interested in diving into the “Great EdTech Debate” topics this semester to help formulate responses for the edtech naysayers of the world!

When not teaching and taking classes I enjoy spending time with my fantasy football loving/distance runner husband Eric, playing ultimate frisbee, reading, and Netflix binge watching…any other OITNB fans taking this class?  Get your assignments done well in advance of the June 17th premiere!

I’m looking forward to the whirlwind that I’m sure this semester will be!

4850367211_2c12c79bac

Photo Credit: dogfaceboy via Compfight cc