Category Archives: #connectedschools

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.

 

 

When Social Media Gets a Bad Rap … What Should We Do?

“Because of their limited capacity for self-regulation and susceptibility to peer pressure, children and adolescents are at some risk as they navigate and experiment with social media.” – The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families

For the purpose of this week’s post, we are talking about social media and whether or not it is ruining childhood. The need to make that clear is important because the conversation around social media can often lead into one about technology as a whole and they are most certainly two different things.

I’ll start right off the hop by telling you I do not agree that social media is ruining childhood but I do believe there are things that society, schools and families are doing or not doing with social media that are ruining childhood for today’s youth. I do know that kids will be kids and there are certain things we can’t control but that can be said about anything, not just social media!

“…social media has given us a way not only to speak out, but to educate ourselves and expand our minds in a way that is unprecedented.” – A Generation Zer’s Take on the Social Media Age

We could lump society, schools and parents into one conversation but I think there are things that can be done, separately on all three levels to show kids just how powerful and positive social media can be, as opposed to just the negative.

Society…

Wouldn’t it be great if our society decided to care a little less about things like the tide pod challenge, the lives of celebrities, who is wearing what and spending a little more time encouraging people to share about their real, everyday lives? Also, what if we made the decision to judge others a little less and celebrate a little more? I really think we would start to see the positives side of social media if we decide to stop saying things like, “their food posts are so annoying”, “why do they post about beachbody so often”, “I can’t stand all their baby pictures” or “no one cares about your workout”.

What happens if that one post, shared by that one person, was the one positive thing they were able to find in their day and here we are, tearing them down for it?

Schools…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberpsychology

When I think about my job as a teacher and what I want my students to be able to walk away from my classroom being able to do, I think about preparing them for life outside of school, beyond their time in the K-12 education system. Some might argue that social media should not play a role in schools because it adds no value to a child’s education… I disagree. If we are preparing kids to be critical consumers, people who can work collaboratively with others and individuals who will create opportunities for themselves then I think social media needs to be part of their education. I am not saying it needs to be everything, it shouldn’t, but if we are not teaching students how to navigate social media appropriately, how are they going to manage the pressures one can feel from social media in their everyday lives?

If we bring social media into our classrooms, we allow students to explore this world in an environment that is safe, controlled and monitored. Now, this certainly looks different in different grades and the conversation changes when it comes to students with their own devices. However, when we look at modelling appropriate use through classroom accounts, we have an opportunity to show students the positive side of social media. As my classmate Shelly mentions this week, we are in Uncharted Territory and need to ask a few questions before we decide to accept or negate social media’s impact on childhood today. As always, there will be things that come up that aren’t all about the positive but those are real-world examples and most importantly, teachable moments!

When Eric Meyers, an expert on youth online behaviour weighed in on the recent tide pod challenge he pointed out that social media is in fact just a tool and not the reason for the challenge itself.

“It’s not that social media is compelling young people to do this,” Meyers said. “Social media is simply a tool by which they can do this and gain gratification by other people. So it amplifies some of the effects of young people’s natural tendency towards risk but it’s not the actual cause of risky behaviour.”

While risk is a natural part of adolescence, Meyer said parents and school officials can play a role in talking with teens about balancing risk with acceptance – but the effectiveness of the message is in the delivery.

Instead of telling them “no,” which can often “be like the forbidden fruit” scenario, Meyers said, talking with the kid about why they’re feeling they need to take part can lead to a deeper discussion about decision making and online behaviours.” Taken from B.C. expert weighs in on why kids are eating Tide pods for fun by Ashley Wadhwani

We need to find a way to bring schools and families together to help build an understanding of how youth are using social media. As educators, we have an understanding of brain development and how youth make decisions. We understand this in different ways than families, who tend to know more about how kids are making decisions based on peer influences. Bringing these two realms of understanding together can show our kids that we understand the pressures placed on them by social media and we want to work with them to help them understand and make decisions.

Families…

Every kid is different and their ability to make decisions on their own varies greatly. Honouring the terms of use set out by social media sites, monitoring sites/apps used, having set ‘no tech’ times and open lines of communication are just a few things I would suggest for creating positive experiences for youth on social media. A tweet shared by St. Alphonsus’ RC Primary School in Middlesbrough, England offers  a guide for parents wanting to talk to their kids about social media use: Image result for social media tips for parents

Social media harnesses a lot of power, how we look at it and interact with it, determines the power that it takes.

Technology & the Classroom – Finding Balance in 2018

“Technology could be seen as the culprit, or it could be harnessed to improve engagement and effectiveness.” 6 Pros and Cons of Technology in the Classroom in 2018 

We’ve all heard a colleague say it…

” I just don’t have the time to learn about all this new technology I’m supposed to be using.”

Does anyone else worry about the state of education when they hear these words? Maybe it’s just me, but I think we have a problem if this is how some are looking at technology in education.

Photo Credit: BECCA PONS [bp] + CREATIVE Flickr via Compfight cc

Now, don’t get me wrong, I get it – we are busy! We have about 101 things on our plates each day that we need to accomplish in order to feel like we are properly supporting the students in our schools. Most days, I feel like I get done about 25% of the things I set out to do. There are also those days where I feel like a super teacher because somehow I have managed to cross EVERYTHING off my list… until I make another but I’ll take the celebration while I can.

This week in #eci830 we were tasked with the creating a response to an in-class debate on whether or not technology in the classroom enhances learning and both sides of the debate presented valid points. Prior to the debate, I would have told you I was 100% on the agree side of this statement and I still am but the disagree side challenged my thinking!  If we aren’t challenging what we think we know, then are we really learning?

While reading the article from the quote below there were two phrases that continued to come to my mind: hidden curriculum and teachable moments.

“Students may be more enthusiastic about studying a subject if they are preparing a PowerPoint presentation or a video clip instead of a written essay. However, they might spend more time and effort on the presentation than researching the subject, and complete the project knowing very little about the subject.“ –  Negative Effects of Using Technology in Today’s Classroom by Timothy Smith

I certainly do not believe that technology is going to be the ‘be all end all’ in education but what I do believe is that it is not going away. If we think back 10 or even 5 years, the changes in technology in our world are enormous. As educators, we are tasked with the job of preparing our students for life outside of the K-12 education system. If we are truly preparing them for that world then we need to realize that how we have taught in the past is not going to work. We can’t expect to continue to use teaching methods from 20-30 years ago and integrate technology all at the same time. There simply are not enough minutes in a day for that and I’m not convinced that makes for best practice! Removing some of “what we’ve always done” and thinking in ways that allow for engagement of all not only benefits students but also allows the teacher to engage in the learning process with students. I think this is why I kept going back to the idea of teachable moments and the hidden curriculum.

When teachers are willing to let go of the idea that they need to be the one who holds all the knowledge and embrace that learning alongside students is also learning, we are in a space that then allows for a change in teaching practice and pedagogical growth. For me, this does not mean that we need to see technology used all day, every day in our classrooms. To me, this means balance. When bringing technology into the classroom, balance combined with informed and intentional teaching practices, in my opinion, is what creates learning environments that will prepare our students for life outside of the classroom.

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Do you see balance in this video?

I this video I see a few things: students who are engaged, collaboration, hands-on learning, technology, pencil paper tasks and excitement for learning.

What would I change about this learning environment? I don’t think we should remove technology from the main classroom, I think we need to integrate it into what we are already doing. There is no doubt these students are learning and developing problem-solving skills. However, are they seeing the connections that can be made with what they are doing in their classroom? Perhaps a better understanding of the school set up here would be helpful.

What do you see or think about how these students are engaging with technology?

 

 

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.

 

When Technology Beats the ‘Techy’

On Monday after school, I was in my classroom working with a very patient group of grade 5 & 6 students as the technology I was wanting to use was ultimately outsmarting me! Over the weekend I had planned out how to show the team how to add a the Screencastify chrome extension and then how to create a screencast. I was really excited to finally help them take their project from planning to reality. On my prep I went and grabbed a student Chromebook to make sure all would work smoothly and then my plan crumpled!

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

Students do not have the authority to add chrome extensions to the school laptops. I can see the reasoning as to why but needed a quick new game plan and was feeling a little frazzled! I quickly sent an email off to our division office tech guys and asked for some help. They suggested the new program called WeVideo that the division has recently acquired a license to. I figured, how hard can this be! They sent me the document with the links I would need and I was ready to go. 3:45 rolls along and the Tech Team starts filing into the room. We get the chrome books out and ready to go to get set up with WeVideo and… it doesn’t work! Well turns out, it wasn’t WeVideo’s fault but rather my very own! So lesson learned, even when you think you have enough tech savvy to know what you’re doing, you don’t! Even worse, I had to swallow my bride a little and realize that had I listened a little more carefully to what one of the team members was telling me, we would have avoided the whole thing! I’ll have to admit that to him on Friday when we meet again. The learning never ends people!

 

I had to laugh when one of our grade 5 teachers walked in to see what we were up to, clearly noticing that I was a bit frazzled and laughed and said, “I’m glad this stuff happens to you too” while promptly walking out of the room laughing. All in good fun of course!

Tonight I tackled WeVideo and learned a few things:

  1. Slowing down and asking for help/accepting that you have learning you need to do is essential.
  2. WeVideo has an AMAZING set of FAQ as well as how to videos.
  3. When you embrace the learning it can actually be quite fun!

Here you have it, a screencast ready to go to teach our tech team how to make a screencast! It certainly could have used some refining but I think my tech team will be able to teach me a thing or two before I tackle my Summary of Learning!

WeVideo Screencast for Tech Team