Category Archives: Community

Learning, Technology & Equity – It Can Work!

Technology is a force for equity in society – yes or no?

This week the two sides of the debate were challenged with the task of debating a question that can easily have a strong argument on either side but has left me feeling like Kari described in her post, dazed and confused! This is a first for me this semester! In all of the other debates, I have strongly sided with one of the arguments and never really wavered. Then this week came along and much like Shelly described in her post, I am sitting on the fence and after reading her post I wanted to post the link here and say ‘ditto’ because she about summed it all up too!

I think it would be fairly easy to relate this weeks debate topic to a variety of different social justice initiatives and conversations. After all, social justice typically deals with tackling an issue that has placed an individual or group of individuals at a disadvantage. I decided to tackle the definition of equity in relation to social justice and searched for a way to help me best understand just exactly what equity might look like and came across this explanation:

Equity has to do with everyone having access to fair and equal treatment under the law, regardless of race, social class or gender. Social Justice extends the concept of equity to include human rights as part of the social contract. – Shoreline Community College

Though I like this explanation I think it is important to understand that there is a difference between fair and equal. What fair and equal looks like in schools, specifically, can be very different dependant on student experiences, teacher reactions and school atmosphere.

If we break down this weeks debate topic and talk specifically about how technology can help to create equity in education we need to remember that it can’t be just about the technology. There is a human element to education that we can not do without. We need compassion, intuition, conversations and relationships established in order to work towards creating environments that provide students with equitable opportunities for learning. Without these pieces in place, I don’t agree that technology can help to create equity in education.

Perhaps I have simplified it too much but I think that the conversation this week is about how we as teachers implement technology into our classrooms, not the technology itself.

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Both sides of the argument this week brought up the idea of accessibility and affordability and both made great points. In society, we have schools that have parent councils that are able to provide their schools with more access to technology and then we have schools on the opposite end of the spectrum.  Though there may be frustrations and learning curves along the way, I think school divisions working towards creating equitable access across all schools in their division is a move in the right direction. I may ruffle a few feathers with this one but I really don’t think we need to have a classroom of 27 students, with 27 devices in order to be able to use technology in our classrooms. In fact, I think if that is how we are using technology, we are missing the mark.  I believe all it takes is a little bit of creativity, some thought out planning, trial and error and a willingness to adapt and change in order to see how we can create equitable opportunities for our students.

It may be because it is June and I always have a hard time letting go of the students that I have spent the last ten months with but this video really hit home and reminded me of the power we hold as teachers.

I think the key word here is flexibility! If we let go of our need for all students doing things in the same way, we open ourselves up to an endless world of possibilities. If we have a student who has access to technology at home and the support to work on a project at home, great! Have a student that doesn’t? That’s fine too, learning looks different for everyone and it can be shared and communicated in many ways.

 

 

The Kids Are Confused!

“…there is a time and a place for tech – there are so many wonderful tools out there to stay connected to family members, to learn and grow, and to explore new concepts and ideas. But we need to make sure it doesn’t come at the expense of the blanket fort.” – Kid Complicated: Childhood Isn’t What It Used To Be

Photographer: Markus Spiske

As a kid growing up I feel like my life outside of school was pretty much a mirror for how things went at school. Things were pretty mainstreamed and many people followed a pretty similar pattern in their day-to-day lives. I remember ‘way back’ when you had to go to the store to buy groceries, get your photos printed – then physically go to a family gathering so everyone could see your pictures, the local newspaper took pictures at school/community events and printed them in the next weeks issue, you had to walk in to another room and pick up the phone to call someone, you checked the monthly calendar to see who was having a birthday that day and opened the fridge to see what was inside.

 

Photo Credit
Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/2Ho8jiV

Kids today are living life, outside of school, in a society that is completely consumed by technology and the rate at which that is increasing is exponential. You can order your groceries online and pick them up a few hours later without stepping foot in the store, be at a community event where your picture is snapped and be seen online in a matter of seconds – some call this news, check Facebook to ‘remember’ which family member or friend has a birthday today, pay for your child’s school hot lunch on your phone – never mind take your phone with you everywhere you go, pay all your bills online, print pictures, put them in ‘the cloud’ or AirDrop them to a friend, ask Siri to call someone for you and then get her to help you with your kids math homework!

So, if our society is being consumed by technology, what happens when technology isn’t present in today’s classrooms? Confused kids… that’s what happens!

Now before you go and hit that comment button to tell me that it can’t all be about technology all the time, check out my thoughts on balance from last weeks post – Meet Me In The Middle?.

Since we’ve got that out-of-the-way, let’s dig a little deeper into why I agree with Channing and wholeheartedly disagree with the debate topic from class this week: Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids.

“…as is always the case with digital technologies, the affordances are not necessarily realized and learning is by no means guaranteed. After all, not all uses of social media are educational or of sufficient quality to contribute to knowledge building.” – Professional Online Presence and Learning Networks: Educating for Ethical Use of Social Media by Dianne Forbes

I’ve said it many times before but I believe that as teachers, it is our job to prepare our students for their future, by giving them the skills they will need to be productive members of society. These preparations have to be purposeful and not done on a whim. When I was a kid growing up in a small town Saskatchewan classroom, my teachers didn’t just hand out the papers to us and say figure it out. They gave us the tools for what we needed in order to understand and complete the task at hand. There were projects that we had to be worked on and problems to solve. Sound familiar? If you’re involved in education, I believe it should, as this is what teaching and learning look like.

Teaching and learning really are no different today. However, the options for creating learning opportunities are endless! The tools for learning, that we now have, are greater and more wide-reaching. When we know that social media can, as shared in Exploring the Potential Benefits of Using Social Media in Education, provide our students with opportunities to create, collaborate, communicate and engage in the learning process – why wouldn’t we teach them how to do that?

If we aren’t bringing technology into our classrooms, how are our students supposed to know how to navigate the world outside of school? They need opportunities to explore social media in a safe and guided environment so they can make informed decisions when they walk out of the school doors.

The question this week was whether or not it is unfair to openly share our students work and pictures online. I believe there are a few things we can do that ensure we are being fair to our students when sharing online:

  1. We need to have division-wide procedures in place that teachers can clearly access/understand and be able to follow.
  2. As a teacher  – get informed. Learn about your division’s policies and ask for clarification if you do not understand.
  3. Involve students and their families in the choice to post online and honour their personal preferences.
  4. Educate students and their families on how to appropriately and safely navigate the social media world

When we share without a purpose or specific intent, then we fall into the unfair category. Scott McLeod offers some insight into how school divisions, schools and families can approach the sharing of student photos. I feel it is important to mention that I think if we are sharing things without due process and specific intent, I think it is our teaching practices that we need to question, not whether the sharing is or is not fair.

 

When Learning Happens in Layers

Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/nUKGz1

There is something about learning that I find interesting. When I began this semester I wasn’t sure if I had made the right choice in choosing another class based on educational technology. I am passionate about #edtech but understand that there is so much to be learned through taking a masters program and maybe I should ‘spread my wings’ a little. I found myself wondering if I might be learning some of the same things over. The thing about learning is that it comes in layers and when we have one piece we are able to take that and build. There were times in the class when I felt I already understood some of the topics but the conversations, blogs and class discussions are what added that next piece for me. I realized it even more as I put together my summary of learning, the pieces I had before were a framework for what I gained from this class.

I now feel more knowledgeable about how to discuss ways to incorporate digital citizenship and media literacy into my own classroom as well as in conversations with colleagues. I feel I can continue to lead by example and that can be a powerful thing!

I had been hoping to try something new and come up with an original idea this semester for my Summary of Learning and google pulled through for me! I came across Brackify one afternoon over the Spring break and decided to go for it. I really like how this turned out and although I am not much of a March Madness girl, I thought it was fitting for the time of year! Thank you to those of you in EC&I 832 who took a few minutes out of your time off to help me out with the results of the bracket! I had reached out on Twitter in hopes of a couple responses and received more than I thought I would! Check out the link to the bracket and results in the tweet below! What I found most interesting and encouraging was that many of the choices were the same ones that I chose and the overall winner was the one that I anticipated to be the winner!

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So without further ado here is my Summary of Learning for EC&I 832!

Ohh and I should add that not only do I believe in learning as a lifelong endeavour but I also believe in following your passions so… see you in #eci830 next semester Alec!

Building Digital Literacy with Seesaw & WeVideo – Project Update

In the past couple of weeks, I have been able to see the preliminary work for my major project begin to come together through the work my classroom students and tech team have produced along with the conversations we are having!

A little update on my WeVideo post When Technology Beats the Techy for you:

  1. I’ve now figured out and solved the problem of being able to get everyone access to WeVideo in the correct way.
  2. Everyone is registered and part of our Tech Team group on WeVideo
  3. We have watched the Screencast together
  4. Groups are working on their screencast
  5. I need to work out how I can help the team understand and work with the collaboration feature within WeVideo (stay tuned for a post about that one)

As I’ve mentioned before, my project took on a bit of a twofold approach. I have been focusing on and talking about both media literacy and digital citizenship with my grade 2 class and my tech team but the focus for each has been a little different. With the tech team, we are focusing on media literacy through the use of GAFE and now WeVideo. With my grade 2 class, we are focusing on understanding Digital Citizenship through Seesaw.

This past week my grade 2 students and I had an opportunity to check out the new activities feature with Seesaw. My class had been working on a Social/ELA project where they interviewed an adult in their life about what it was like for them to live as a child. We talked about differences between now and then as a comparison and to build an understanding of community differences. The students created a poster and then presented that poster to the class. I recorded those presentations on Seesaw with the plan of using those presentation videos as an opportunity to integrate a lesson on digital citizenship into social studies. It really can fit anywhere!

To set up the activity I created a video, using Screencastify, describing and modelling the expectations along with actually putting the activity on Seesaw. I really liked that I could create the Seesaw activity on the weekend and wait to post it on the day of the activity. Here is a picture of the activity I posted on each students journal along with the video.

What I realized today while putting this post together was that in part, I misunderstood the activity feature. I did not teach the students to go to the activities tab and add their responses there. However, I did like having the activities tab as a place for them to go and check on what they were expected to do. We also went over it together before they began their commenting. We will try another activity using the student responses portion!

Their responses to classmates presentations really were fantastic and I feel like many of them are beginning to understand their role as digital citizens! I appreciate that their comments are on topic and supportive. Some perhaps missed the mark a little on talking about what they learned (this is a conversation we will have next week) but they stayed true to our conversation around making sure to use the THINK model before posting!

As part of our conversation around digital citizenship in grade 2 we have also been talking about how the way we represent our thoughts is important. When we are posting something to explain what we know it is important to include as much information as you can. This month in science we have been talking about air and how it moves. Throughout the week students created a plan for how they could use our classroom STEM corner to create a tool that would measure wind. Check out a couple of their posts after they had created and tested their tool. These are two completely different creations and two different approaches to using their words to share understanding!

How Do I Know if I am Literate in 2018?

“…media literacy is a very important tool for reinvigorating teachers.” – Assignment: Media Literacy 

Photo Credit: DigitalMajority Flickr via Compfight cc

Both media and literacy have been part of society for longer than any of us alive today have been around to see. The World in Data website tells us that in 1820 only 12% of the world’s population could read and write while today, only 17% of the world’s population cannot read and write. The conversation about what it means to be literate is not new but the context that we apply to that conversation has changed drastically with the addition of media. When discussing literacy in today’s society, as opposed to 1820, we must also remember to consider what is classified as media.  Media is defined as “the means of communication” and literate is defined as “able to read and write.” We live in a media-rich society and the ways in which we are able to communicate our intended messages change on a daily basis.

So in 2018, what does it mean to be media literate?

Trying to keep up to date with the ways in which our world is able to communicate messages is almost impossible. At times it feels like there is a new tool, trend or format for communicating introduced every day. I would venture to guess this likely isn’t just a feeling, this probably does happen! In order to classify ourselves as fully literate individuals, I believe we need to place value on all forms of media. Whether it be a book, digital book, website, podcast, magazine (digital or paper), app, social media or advertisement, we need a set of skills that allows us to safely and critically navigate all forms of media.  If this is the case how do we prepare ourselves and our students to be able to critically understand these means of communication and determine what is valuable and what is not? Jaque shared that the Ontario Ministry of Education suggests that being media literate does not mean we should teach students to avoid the media but rather teach them how to, “watch carefully [and] think critically.”

Media Smarts provides educators with tools and strategies for teaching students how to be a critical consumer of media literacy. In the Media Literacy Fundamentals section of the website they highlight the 5 key concepts for media literacy:

  1. Media are constructions
  2. Audiences negotiate meaning
  3. Media have commercial implications
  4. Media have social and political implications
  5. Each media has a unique aesthetic form

As a teacher, I would look at this resource thinking it most certainly would be helpful for my own knowledge but I would also be wondering where I can find the tools and resources to use this with my students. They have you covered for this too! Right in the introduction to the 5 key concepts section, there is a link to their Media Minutes program that has videos and lessons ready to go and use in the classroom! The very first video asks students to think about imagining a day in their life and all the different media that they encounter. I think it would be interesting to then have students take the media that they see/experience each day and then categorize them into areas such as advertisements, commercials, public information, educational, etc. I wonder what that sorting activity would look like?

We can provide our students with the tools to be critical consumers but we also need to give them the opportunity to practice what it means to be critical. This needs to be done in a way that is relevant to their everyday lives.  As teachers, we know that when we engage students with material that they have a vested interest in, their engagement can skyrocket! In my reading and research for this weeks post, I found a video that one, made me feel a little nostalgic for my high school days (see the video quality) and secondly made me realize that when we take what we know about student engagement and apply that to media literacy education we can truly create authentic learning opportunities for our students. I also found it interesting that the video below is from ten years ago, yet it applies in many ways to our current conversation in class.

 

The Brain, Teens & the Internet – Where Should We Start?

For students to be digitally literate, they not only need to learn how to use technology, but to be critical of the information they gather. Students are exposed to information digitally—articles, statistics, videos. They require explicit instruction that information might be old, biased, fake, illegal, or discriminatory. – Digital Literacy: What Does It Mean To You?

Photo Credit: Matthew Dahlitz 

When we think about our role as educators, within the context of helping our students become media literate digital citizens, we need to consider the many factors that apply. Media is everywhere and they are growing up in a digital world. We can’t deny this and if we choose to do so, then we are providing a disservice to our students and not truly preparing them for their futures. Our job as educators is to work towards building an understanding of the individuals who walk through our doors on a daily basis. Understanding who they are as an individual is critical to engagement and building relations. Just as important is our understanding of how their brain develops.  The teenage brain goes through a period of neuromaturation in which the brain essentially pieces together lower level thinking skills to help in the development of higher level thinking skills.  The area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex is what controls the regulation of complex cognitive, emotional, and behavioural functioning. Due to the fact that this area of the brain may not be fully developed until the age of 25, it can be hard for parents and teachers to understand why teens make some of the choices that they do.  Understanding that teenage brains are still developing is critical to how we approach teaching about digital citizenship and media literacy. Many teens are often described as fearless thrill seekers. These videos might help you understand just why that is!

When we understand that our student’s brains are in a constant state of growth we are provided we an opportunity to embrace their inherent desire to learn about and try new things. We have the chance to guide them towards experiences that foster good decision making, critical thinking skills and for them to be knowledge seekers.

This week Staci shared the TedX Talk  Creating critical thinkers through media literacy: Andrea Quijada at TEDxABQED where we are encouraged to create opportunities that allow each student we engage with to connect what happens at school with what happens in their real lives. In order to do this, we must open ourselves to the idea that digital citizenship and media literacy NEED to be part of our daily classroom lives. Not taught in isolation but rather integrated into the lessons we teach and the conversations we are having. This is not something that will happen overnight but I would suggest that it is something every teacher CAN do.

The first thing we need to do is work together, collaborate, seek our professional development opportunities and most importantly: talk to our students about what they already know about the digital world and engage in conversations with them. Perhaps we can take a little bit of insight from Keegan Korf’s TedxTalk on just how to do that! 

 

 

Identity is Not Formed Through a Post- It’s Who You Are!

“Digital identity is thus not a separate aspect of “identity,” but “identity” itself.  – Paul Gordon Brown

Photo Credit: SeanJCorrigan Flickr via Compfight cc

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll say it again, I believe that committing to a life as an educator means that I have also committed to a life of influence, whether I always like it or not, I have and that is a powerful thing. How I choose to conduct myself in the online or face to face world can influence my students, their families and how I am viewed as an educator. Now, do I let this deter me from making my own decisions? No, certainly not but I believe that the characteristics that make me a good teacher are also the things that make me a good person, I don’t believe they are two separate things. I might wear different hats from time to time but I am always me.

I can remember sitting in class in university and feeling almost terrified to do anything online because “something bad” might happen if I posted the wrong picture or said the wrong thing. Back then, if you wanted to find me on Facebook you would have had to look for Nicole Janine because it couldn’t possibly be appropriate to use my last name! I don’t think that my professors had the intent of instilling fear but I think sometimes we over analyze and become way too critical of things that we haven’t taken the time to truly understand.

Social Media, no matter the platform holds an overwhelming amount of power. How one harnesses their power speaks more about their identity (digital or not) more than the power itself. My perspective of online identity and how I might be perceived has certainly changed since my undergrad days. No longer will you need to look for me under a pseudonym but you will need to be:

1) a real person
2) a friend or family member
3) likely an adult
4) responsible
5) considerate of others
6) someone I trust with my ideas and images

I don’t think that the criteria listed above is too much to ask of someone wanting a view into my personal life. I also wouldn’t/don’t have a problem with sharing who I am with my students and their families but I do feel I am allowed to and should set some boundaries. As a professional I am aware of the influence that I have and that again, whether I like it or not, I live under a bit of a lense because of  my job but what I think is important to note is that I don’t filter my life because of that lense.

Creating an identity that we are proud of is something that takes time. This means hitting bumps along the way, learning life’s lessons and receiving responsibility on a gradual basis. We wouldn’t hand the keys of our car over to a 5 year old but we would teach them, guide them, drive them around and when they are ready (at 15 or so) we begin to slowly allow them to fully experience the real thing behind the wheel. Eventually they take control and become responsible for their own actions but under the watchful eye of an adult, or so we hope. As the adults in kids lives, we are responsible for the process. We need to show them what is appropriate, the impact of ones actions and how to handle responsibility. This goes for both the on and offline world.

Someone along the way has had a powerful and impacting conversation about online identity with the 14 year old in this video!

“I like being treated as an intelligent, rational, thinking human being!”

In order to create a positive identity we must be willing to do the work, educate ourselves and model positivity. When we do this, we emote a positive self image and allow those who look up to us to do the same!

 

 

Keep Track of Your Conversations in One Place

Today, we’re introducing Conversations: a tool in the Reader that makes it easier for you to monitor and participate in the discussions you care about the most.

Let’s face it: it can be hard to keep track of all the conversations you take part in online. When your favorite posts generate an active discussion, you might miss out on some meaningful exchanges. To find out if a post has new comments, you would have to manually search for it in your stream, or enable comment emails, which would then fill your inbox with every single comment coming from that post.

With the new Conversations page, new comments on your followed posts on any WordPress.com or Jetpack-connected sites will all appear in a single stream, including for sites you don’t follow. You’ll now be able to read and add your replies without having to leave the Reader!

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You can also view earlier comments by expanding the row of avatars under a post.

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Which posts will appear in Conversations? Any post you’ve Liked or commented on will show up there. You may also manually add a post by choosing the Follow Conversation option when you view the full post in the Reader…

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…or directly from your stream.

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If you decide to leave a conversation, just unfollow it to remove it from your Conversations stream.

By making it easier for people to monitor and participate in conversations they care about, we can encourage more interaction and allow everyone to easily join the discussions happening on your site.

Give Reader Conversations a try and let us know what you think in the comments below! Thank you, once again, for being part of the WordPress.com community.