Category Archives: Debate Reflections

Equality and Equity in the Digital World

This week in EC&I 830, two teams argued the statement:

Technology is a force for equity in society

The general consensus during our class discussion was that Team Disagree had a tough side to argue as nearly two thirds of the class sided with Team Agree.  That being said, Team Disagree raised some very valid and important points in their opening and closing statements and rebuttal.

The image below is the first thing I thought about when I read the debate statement. Equal distribution and use of technology will not work in our society – it can’t be a ‘one size fits all’ approach.  Instead, equitable distribution and access to technology is required to have positive and successful integration of technology.  Therefore I completely agree with the debate statement this week, provided there is equal opportunities for all.

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A classic illustration of equality vs equity

Although my ‘agree’ opinion did not change before or after the debate, my eyes were opened to some of the negative aspects of technology and equity in society.  One of the points Team Disagree focused part of their opening statement on is the issue of gender inequality in the technology world.  In one of the suggested articles, technology is considered another avenue for men to oppress women.  In fact, many women have come together to reveal the sexist culture in Silicon Valley tech and venture capital firms.

The article also expresses the idea that, “we have to challenge the presumption that it (the workplace) is neutral and allow women to reach their potential in workplaces where they feel safe and respected”. I have never really considered the idea that technology can be biased against women, but it does make sense.  I know I don’t question the fact that certain tools like Siri are set to a woman’s voice.  Although you can change this in the settings, it is interesting that the default is often a female voice. As the article describes, we need to have a neutral technological system for gender and social equality.

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Often a barrier for technology is limited access in some developing countries and poverty stricken areas. Facebook created Free Basics, a limited internet service for developing markets, (which) is neither serving local needs nor achieving its objective of bringing people online for the first time. Maybe the intention of this service was meant to be a great solution for developing areas that do not have internet access, but instead it narrows what users can access and search for online.  Ellery Biddle, the advocacy director of Global Voices says, “It’s building this little web that turn the user into a mostly passive consumer of mostly western corporate content. That’s digital colonialism.”

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Protesters against Facebook’s Free Basics service

The term “digital colonialism” showcases one way that our society is not making technology equitable across different socio-economic groups.  Instead of giving these groups “internet” (like Free Basics) that pushes certain messages or propaganda, Biddle explains that we need to fix, “the barriers to internet access (which) include signal availability, device ownership, education, digital literacy and electricity”.

Finally, bringing the technology access closer to home, a Huffington Post article explores access to internet in Canada.  The Canadian Internet Registration Authority’s 2014 Factbook (CIRA) states that while 95 percent of Canadians in the highest income bracket are connected to the internet only 62 percent in the lowest income bracket have internet access.  Some communities in Canada (like Nunavut) only have 27 percent of communities with internet access.  Unfortunately, the CIRA explains that Canada has no national strategy to improve access, speed and prices.

Team Disagree made some very good points in their rebuttal that for technology to be equitable in society, internet should not be a luxury. It needs to be affordable and accessible to everyone and we need to redesign systems that discriminate against social status, gender and race.  All this being said, technology is here to stay, so we need to find a way to make it equal and fair for everyone.  This issues raised in Team Disagree’s argument are a great starting point for how we can improve technology to be an even better force for equity in our society.

Team Agree opened their argument by suggesting that technology has achieved a lot in our society, like removing barriers (ex. helping people read) and connecting the world (ex. real time video chat).  Most importantly, they focused on the idea that technology is not the problem and neither is the “digital divide”.

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In my own experiences and those expressed by my classmates during our class discussion, we have seen how technology can help remove learning barriers for students in schools.  A big discussion took place on how one school division (my division) redistributed technology across all schools for equitable use among students.  During my short career so far, I have only taught in community and lower socio-economic background schools.  The equitable distribution plan has been crucial in my teaching and use of technology, because many of my students do not have access to reliable internet and technology at home.  It has also affected how I prepare lessons and assignments, as I have to assume that students will be able to complete assignments with technology at school, but not necessarily at home.

Some students have an assigned laptop (assistive technology) that follows them throughout their school career.  As a teacher, I know that I can design instruction that will allow these students to have the most success because they are guaranteed to use the assigned technology to help with their learning experience.  An example is the ‘Read&Write for Google Chrome‘ extension that is used throughout my division.  This tool has a variety of options including reading text to the student, dictation and simplifying text which has been extremely valuable with students who have reading difficulties.  A couple of years ago I taught in a school with a high EAL population, and ‘Read&Write’ helped my students (with a variety of English speaking and reading levels) to achieve their learning goals.

Another reason I agreed with the argument is the availability and affordability of online education.  A few great examples provided by Team Agree include Open Education Courses (OEC), Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Open Education Resources (OER) and Virtual Classrooms.  The suggested article explores that a process that is helping share knowledge is, “the use of ‘open education resources’ (OER) – freely available, high-quality materials that can be downloaded, edited and shared to support teaching and learning.”  Team Agree explains that open education is based on fairness (among gender, socio-economic status and ethnic origin) and inclusion (a basic minimum standard of education should be available to everyone).

During my B.E.A.D. program (Bachelor of Education After Degree) at the University of Regina, I was able to complete my program in a shorter time period and maintain working nearly full time by taking courses through Athabasca University.  This was my first experience with online education, and I do admit that it was a challenge at first.  I found that by not having classmate interaction and only assignments to complete that I needed a lot of self-discipline to stay on track.  I eventually figured out the time management piece and overall felt that the experience was positive.

My first “blended learning” course was for Standard First Aid.  The course required completion of online modules and quizzes prior to attending a one-day in class session.  This is a great model as it allows for a deeper understanding of the information and can then be applied in person during the one-day course.  I enjoyed this experience as it did not take up my entire weekend and I could work on the modules at my own pace and schedule.  My husband is currently enrolled in professional development learning through his work.  The course started with a one-week intensive in person to dive into the course material with the instructors and other classmates.  He then has one year to complete a variety of modules and assignments through an online portal.  There is continuous contact with course instructors and motivation to complete the coursework with an online course community.

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And of course,  EC&I 830 is my first “blended learning” web based academic course.  I think one of the benefits of this being an educational technology course is that there is lots of engagement online through blog comments, Google Plus community, Twitter and of course, our weekly Zoom sessions.  This keeps the motivation for learning and completing course work in a timely fashion, something I struggled with in my Athabasca courses.

This brings me to the point raised by Team Agree that the concept of open education has revolutionized the learning classroom and allowed for digital inclusion.  Instead of referring to a digital divide, the term inclusion was used to reframe the divided in a more positive way.  This can be achieved with equal and equitable access, affordability and a mindset to embrace the digital world.

A Forbes article explains that many advocates believe that digital technology has the potential to expand access to education to underserved children around the world.  In 2015, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called technology the new platform for learning at the annual South by Southwest conference and said, “technological competency is a requirement for entry into the global economy”.   For this to happen, we need to increase equity for children and communities that are historically underserved, and one way is through digital technology.  This solution almost seems too easy – to help poverty stricken communities have better education, all we need to do is supply the students with technology!  An example is the “digital school in a box” provided by the Vodafone Foundation,  which supplies a laptop and 25 tablets pre-loaded with educational software to a refugee settlement in Kenya.  I think this is an awesome initiative and it is great to see organizations looking for ways to support education around the world.  But in reality, it is a band-aid fix – as it is only a temporary solution to a problem.  What happens when the technology is out of date? What about all the other underserved areas in that community? Or the underserved areas in our own country?

The increase of technology and the digital world has give many different groups around the world a chance for better education.  I completely agree that technology is a force for equity in society, but the complicated part is how technology is distributed and used.  I think this is still a learning process and we will continue to see many trial initiatives as possible solutions to the complicated issues of technology access.  By being aware of the issues raised by Team Disagree (like inequality among different gender, race and socio-economic groups), we can continue to improve distribution, access and affordability of technology to remove the digital divide.  Technology is here to stay and grow, so it is society’s responsibility to search for solutions that close the accessibility gap.  Both teams presented great arguments this week which served as a reminder that issues that existed before technology will continue to take place with technology use.  As educators, we must continue to focus on teaching digital citizenship to develop positive online identities.  As members of society, we need to rally for equal and equitable technology access in our communities.

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

Technology Is Equitable; People Are Not.

This week’s debate had me all over the place.  Thinking of the phrase: “technology is a force of equity in society” has many sides and angles to consider and there is not one straight answer: yes or no.  I found there was a lot of mixed reviews throughout our 1.gifdebate, and many elaborations for our reasons we think it is or isn’t.  For example, yes, technology can be a force of equity because it is creating opportunities where they were limited before or no, it is not a force of equity because there is not equal access around the globe.  These types of ideas were incredibly important to our debate this week, and I think through a lot of thinking post-debate, I have established that we may not be there yet, but we are working towards solutions for this inequity.

The agree side this week did a fantastic job opening the floor and I found myself agreeing with all the points that Jen, Dawn and Sapna shared.  Their major points included the removal of barriers in education and skills, the use of open education resources creating equality through education, and then focused on the idea that the corporate system is the reason that technology is inaccessible for people in a lower socio-economic status and not the tech itself, and not the tech’s fault itself, showing that the tech isn’t creating inequity, but people by making these devices which have now become a necessity, cost too much money to afford.people using smart phones sitting at a table

The disagree side of Amy S, and Rakan countered well including some important ideas I would have never thought about in my internal debate.  Their main ideas circled around tech creating bias, gender abuse, and racism online, as well as digital colonialism and economic inequality.

As a said before, I found myself agreeing with all the points the agree team shared.  I see technology remove barriers all the time in the classroom.  I actually once saw a two men sitting at Tim Horton’s using their cellphones and a translating app to communicate with their voices and have a real conversation.  It made me so happy that technology has been able to reach a point where we can communicate with one another and create friendships with people that do not necessarily share a common language.2.gif

As for the classroom, I know I would have been in a real bind if I did not have my technological resources for teaching.  I have taught A LOT of different subject matter and without open resources and the World Wide Web, my knowledge would have been much more limited as well as the material for my students would have been much simpler as I would be scrambling for activities and ideas on my own.  For example, my first year I original-846541-1taught Law 30.  Where did I turn but to the internet to find different ideas and resources to help supplement the material.  I even found an activity to look at the laws often broken in different fairy tales and create a trial for the characters.  Would I have been able to come up with this idea without technology?  No way!  It helped make my life less stressful and created equity in a situation where I was at a disadvantage.

There are also many assistive technologies out there to help students including Google Write&Read.  Many students struggle with getting their ideas on paper and these types of apps help create an equity in the classroom so they too, can reach the outcomes of other students.  However, access to these apps can be difficult if you do not have access to the technology which is what the disagree side countered.

3.gifCost is a major downside to education as well as creating equity in the classroom.  And like Amy R. said in her blog this week, Technology should be accessible to everyone because it has become essential to live.  It has become a basic human right to be able to access this information and these devices yet corporations will not lower the price on devices, making it difficult for people of a lower socio-economic status to get access.  People may argue that there is free access in libraries, and schools, but not everyone has direct access to a building like that.  Sunny Freeman’s article states that even in Canada, only 62% of low-income quartile has access to the internet and it is difficult to dispute.  Have you ever gone camping in a rural/northern part of Saskatchewan?  Little to no internet access or even service exists! 4 So like, the agree group said, we can fix this!  We just need to lower the costs on devices, and create more opportunities for access in order to lessen the digital divide felt everywhere in the world, not just Canada.

Daniel also made a great point in his blog this week: “Some affluent people thus think by simply dumping the highest tech in the poorest places in society, inequality will be solved.”  This will not solve our problem when there is no education to help those educators or students use the technology and unlock its potential for the classroom and for their future.  If we are going to increase technology use in the classroom, we need to also increase the professional development and resources for teachers to USE the technology as well.

UNRWA_Gaza5(2).jpgI think it is super important that if we are going to increase technology and use programs like One Laptop Per Child, they need to be used appropriately in order to avoid digital colonialism which is what Amy and Rakan hinted at in their opening video.  It’s a very thin line between introducing and advancing a third world country and pushing Western beliefs on an already established society.  For example, in this article, Facebook is offering free internet to places with low economic status but with a catch.

The following statement is from ‘It’s digital colonialism’: how Facebook’s free internet service has failed its users, and can definitely be considered a negative for what should be a positive movement towards digital inclusion:

“Free Basics is a Facebook-developed mobile app that gives users access to a small selection of data-light websites and services. The websites are stripped of photos and videos and can be browsed without paying for mobile data.

Facebook sees this as an “on-ramp” to using the open internet: by introducing people to a taster of the internet, they will see the value in paying for data, which in turn brings more people online and can help improve their lives.”

The catch is that they cannot access all the internet, only a few select sites and they need to pay more for more access.  This in my opinion does not create equity, but increases the divide showing “you can afford this” or “you can’t afford this.”  This idea is also restricting language, with the majority options being only in English, and if that’s not a Westernized view/Digital Colonialism, then I don’t know what is!

Dhanaraj “Thakur believes a better solution would be to give low-income groups a limited amount of free data to access the open web” and I agree.  Why not?  What is the harm?  Unless the corporations in charge have a hidden agenda behind enabling these communities with a more Western view.

Another solution to the idea of making education more accessible is Open Education Resources (OERs), Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and Virtual Classrooms.  Having these types of resources online have created a lot of opportunity for remote classrooms and cities.  They may not have the resources physically, but they can access the information online ending the digital divide.

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Via Flickr

The article, Analysis: How OER Is Boosting School Performance and Equity From the Suburbs to the Arctic shows how students and classrooms in Kotzebue, Alaska are able to still access high-quality materials within budget cuts and limited resources. Layla Bonnot says, “With OER, districts can adapt content to meet their local needs, maximize education budgets, and ensure access to resources and educational rigor. By being able to serve all students — whatever their race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, family background, or family income — OER supports the goal of educational equity.”

Of course, there are still other down-sides that are creating unequitable circumstances like the ideas of gender and racial bias online, and that AI could possibly be racist and learning its racist behaviours from humans, but I hope that we are moving in a positive direction away from these ideas.  Lizzie O’Shea stated in her article that technology’s biases are not bad necessarily, as long as we recognize them as such and move towards making these racial and gender roles more neutral.

0447f-thinkstockphotos-179079064O’Shea said,  “To make the most of this moment, we need to imagine a future without the oppressions of the past.  We need to allow women to reach their potential in workplaces where they feel safe and respected.  But we also need to look into the black mirror of technology and find the cracks of light shining through.”

And after listening to both sides of the debate, I couldn’t agree more.  We are imperfect, so our tech is imperfect too.  As long as we recognize our faults, and are trying to work towards solutions, then I think we are accomplishing something.  Is technology creating equity in society?  In some cases yes, and in some cases no.  Technology is not going anywhere, and it is becoming a more crucial part of life and should be demanded by all of society.  It has huge potential to create equity in all walks of life, but it is how we go about making sure it is accessible, fair, and neutral to everyone that is the most important part.

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Social Media – An Outlet for Our Children

When I began this week, I stood firmly on the agree side when the question was asked, “Is social media ruining childhood?”  Of course, social media is ruining childhood!  How couldn’t it be?  Why do I not see children gathering outside?  Playing hopscotch?  Skipping?  Shooting hoops?  Riding bikes with their friends?  Using their imagination to build forts?  Because, social media controls their lives.

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Click here for 25 things you don’t see anymore; and maybe some nostalgia too!

They no longer need to go find their friends, play these games, or use their imagination the way I did growing up, because they have a device that connects them to their friends, their device has the games, and their device allows them to be creative in other ways.  Is this entirely a bad thing?  No, I don’t think it is.

 

After the debate this week, I had many thoughts on the topic.  I thought both sides of the debate did a fantastic job: Melinda, Allysa and Lori has some excellent points that made me nod my head and solidified my idea that social media is ruining childhood.  They discussed the rise in anxiety, and cyber-bullying online, as well as the pressure kids feel to fit in, and how many of these problems are because children ignore the age restrictions, and parents are left in the dark – oblivious, or conscious of these decisions.

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The disagree side is what started to sway me: Erin, Brooke and Daniel made some strong arguments towards the positives of social media, including the idea that it strengthens children’s relationships, creates a community, and they become more aware than children of past generations.

After both of these arguments, my original ideas were up in the air.  I think the biggest difficulty for me was that I was stuck on the nostalgic idea of what my own childhood was like and that kids today were missing out!  There was so much good before technology took over and I remember creating my own fun in the backyard, riding my bike all over town to meet up with friends, the new addition of MSN to my teenage years, and no social media.  I grew up in the nineties and I am in awe at how fast things changed.  I think I was stuck in the idea that I had the best childhood, so of course social media is ruining now-a-days children’s childhood because they are having such different experiences than I did 20 years ago.

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Once I got past the idea that children today aren’t missing out; their childhood is just different with different opportunities and different challenges.  I think yes, there are a lot of potential risks of over-using social media, and the risk of addiction for teens is very real.  I had a couple of grade nines almost cry when I took their phones away for one day for a health experiment.  Cyber-bullying is also a very real concern, and it is something I deal with daily in a high school setting.  Unfortunately, cyber-bullying is worse than just bullying because it can follow a child home, and follows them every time they log online.  This infograph does an excellent job of explaining just how prominent cyber-bullying is, and the different ways it is visible to teens.

However, as the disagree team pointed out, the online world can also be a great place for community development and support.  When I am teaching about mental health, I always suggest using online resources to find supports if students are struggling but after Monday, it clicked.  Students develop their own communities and support groups online social-media-community-cohesionfor isolation, bullying, gender inequality, racism, etc.  and this is awesome!!  Another point the disagree team made was that students are able to explore their interests and ideas online, making connections to other students all over the world who are like-minded individuals and all of a sudden, they aren’t alone anymore and I think that is fantastic.  Of course, there are risks associated with this idea, like pedophiles profiling and “cat-fishing” young children into meeting up or earning trust to have children partake in risky behavior, however, this is where education is key.  Parents also need to be aware of the behavior of their children and not let them loose online.  Teach them and discuss social media etiquette.

The article, The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families had some great tips specifically for pediatricians to help parents talk to their children about social media:

  1. Advise parents to talk to their children and adolescents about their online use and the specific issues that today’s online kids face.
  2. Advise parents to work on their own participation gap in their homes by becoming better educated about the many technologies their youngsters are using.
  3. Discuss with families the need for a family online-use plan that involves regular family meetings to discuss online topics and checks of privacy settings and online profiles for inappropriate posts. The emphasis should be on citizenship and healthy behavior and not punitive action, unless truly warranted.
  4. Discuss with parents the importance of supervising online activities via active participation and communication, as opposed to remote monitoring with a “net-nanny” program (software used to monitor the Internet in the absence of parents)

The real goal is to help students develop a positive online identity and understand the consequences of posting risky photos or videos online.  Just because you do something when you are young, means it will follow you online for the rest of your lives.  They need to understand that the things they say and do on social media is permanent and can harm their futures.  I think this is also why, as teachers, we need to teach healthy digital citizenship to children from a young age, so that when they reach adolescence, they are better equipped to navigate this online world.

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On top of this, students are more aware of their country, and the world they live in.  Having instant connection to social media and news, things spread fast and they are on top of it.  Often students are advocating for causes, researching bias of opinion and using social networking sites to trend important issues like #blacklivesmatter, #metoo, #prayfordouglas, or even something like #humboldtstrong.  These kids have power at their finger tips, and once they realize it, things could start happening for our future, and our planet.  The Learning Network says, “We’ve become the most tolerant and conscious generation to date, with 76 percent of Gen Zers concerned about humanity’s influence on the Earth and 60 percent hoping the job they choose impacts the world.”  I think a large part of this is due to social media, in creating an open dialogue for a lot of these issues, like climate change, racism, gender equality, political campaigns, mental health awareness, and so many more.  People are able to connect with others online, and start discussions that matter, whereas in the past, we have been limited to the beliefs of the people around us physically.

What-children-need-most-1.jpgI think Melinda had a great point, when she said in her blog, “There needs to be a balance, kids need to be kids and play outside, rough house, interact, etc. They don’t need to have 24/7 screen time, they need to be active and imaginative.”  And to sum up, I think social media can be a great outlet for children, but it is not the only outlet.  Like Melinda said, kids still need to be kids, explore, and develop in the real world, be active and engaged, but I think there are a lot of great things we can expect from this generation as they become more tolerant, and engaged in the issues occurring in our world.

Is openness and sharing in our schools a good thing?

This week during EC&I 830, two teams debated the statement

Openness and sharing in our schools is unfair to our kids

Initially, I fully disagreed with the statement because I think that it is openness and sharing that makes this era of education exciting and unique. Through Twitter, blogs and Youtube, I have been able to connect with parents and students and share what goes on in the classroom. As expressed by Team Disagree, sharing promotes connectivity and is the reality of today’s childhood experience. We have all this cool technology nowadays, so why wouldn’t we use it?

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This is the point when I begin to realize that maybe technology and sharing in the classroom is not always so great. Team Agree explained in their opening statement that sharing in schools is not always negative.  But then they asked the question, “Are we being ethically fair and responsible with the amount of sharing?”

This question gives educators a chance to reflect on how we ask for parent/guardian permission to post photos of their children on the Internet. One of the suggested articles states,

“The challenge for schools is to balance their (and parents’) desire to publicize the great things that are happening in their organizations with their responsibilities to protect children and satisfy parental concerts about student privacy and safety”.

At my school (and schools in my division), a ‘media release’ form goes home at the beginning of the year that asks parents/guardians for permission to distribute photos, video, use a variety of social media platforms, etc.  My school has created a culture of sharing and celebrating student successes through social media, and we are very aware of which students can or cannot be included. In my role, I teach every student in the entire school, so I very quickly figured out which students I can include in my photos and videos at the beginning of the year. In past years I have a tried to use a blog to share what is going on in the Arts Ed classroom, but I have found that Twitter is a lot easier for quick sharing AND has the bonus of engaging with families and other educators.

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But, Team Agree then made me realize that when I post images on Twitter of students and student work, I am basing my decision on whether or not a media release form has been signed by the parent/guardian.  I rarely ask the student if I can post their image on my Twitter account – a discussion of permission usually only takes place when an older student expresses that they do not want their photo taken or posted anywhere. Upon reflection, I feel like I am doing a disservice to my students by not explaining the rationale for a post or including the students in the decision. I didn’t even think about the fact that these students will inherit a digital footprint that they had no part in creating.

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When did the sharing culture shift to feeling like we have the right to post any picture on social media simply because it was a photo taken by the poster? In the early days of social media, I remember asking my sister if I could post certain images of my nieces and nephews, but now it isn’t even a conversation. A BBC poll showed that 70% of adults believe it is not okay to post photos of anyone else, including children, without permission, and 56% of parents avoid ever posting images online.  I think that if were to take this same poll, I would agree with these statements. But in reality, my practices do not reflect my opinion.

So, something needs to change. A good piece of advice by a spokeswoman for the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) urges parents to consider the fact that “each time a photo or video is uploaded, it creates a digital footprint of a child which can follow them into adult life”. 

There is a lot of good advice in this suggested article  like parents should advocate digital consent and ownership so they can help teach their children to value it as well. Another campaign is the #talkb4sharing movement which asks parents to talk to their children before posting their images online. While this is directed towards parents, educators could use similar practices to encourage consent among their students.

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(As a side note, Team Agree really struck a nerve when they discussed the fact that any innocent photo could be used by Internet predators. In fact, 50% of images posted on child pedophile sites were sourced from parent social media profiles. Shudder)

Where do we go from here? The first step is to think before we share.

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Team Disagree helped calm my mind a bit and helped me to remember my original opinion that I think openness and sharing among our students is a good thing. In one of the suggested journal articles, the benefits of social media in education are explored and how it can be used to promote student engagement. Certain web-based applications can simplify the communication among students, between student and teacher and with parent and teacher. One could also note the negatives of this easy communication, especially with parent-teacher communication.  Boundaries are necessary so the ability to be in constant communication is not abused.

An exciting point about social media in education is that is fosters collaboration and allows students to work together to achieve a common goal. Recently, my students participated in an activist art project with students in both RPS and RCS school divisions. We connected on Twitter using the hashtag, #YQRActivistArt as an outlet to share our work. While it was not used by a lot of schools, the hope was that it would be used to engage our students and see what other groups in the city were doing to create socially aware art projects.  Collaborative learning is meaningful for students and social media is one way to let students share and express their ideas.

Finally, Team Disagree helped me realize that, yes we need to be aware of what we post about our students online, but we have an opportunity to help our students build and keep a positive digital identity 

The EdTek White Paper explains that educators are very important in building students’ understanding about how technology can impact personal and future professional lives. Educators have a responsibility to teach our students how to create habits that will lead to a positive online identity. The article uses ISTE standards to provide recommendations and questions to help students:

  1. What info am I sharing?
  2. How secure is it?**
  3. Whom am I sharing it with?
  4. What am I leaving behind?
  5. What are my rights?

**Security online is expressed using the STEP method:

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Our role as educators is to give students the skills they need to protect themselves online and create a positive digital footprint.

Let me reflect on the debate statement again:

Openness and sharing in our schools is unfair to our kids

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I feel like the debate this week took me on an emotional roller coaster. First I disagreed with the statement, then Team Agree made me fear and question my teaching practices. Am I bad educator for not asking my students their permission to post photos? And what about the gross idea that pedophiles could be taking these images? But then Team Disagree calmed my nerves a bit and reminded me that openness and sharing in our schools promotes engagement and collaboration.  As a responsible educator, it is my job to inform and teach students ways to create a positive digital footprint and to help students understand consent and permission to post photos and work online.  I can do this by modelling good online behaviour and discussing sharing online with my students. I still have a lot of work to do in these areas and intend to implement some of the good sharing practices shared by both teams.

 

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

Openness In Education Reality Check

This week’s debate really made me think.  I started somewhere in the middle; on one side, sharing is a fantastic opportunity for our students to learn important practices, share their accomplishments, and interact with other like-minded people around the globe.  On the other hand, sharing can create a lot of issues with privacy, as well as cyber-bullying and consent to use specific photos posted online. This dynamic created a lot of debate in our class this week, and honestly a lot of debate in my own head.  g

Whenever the ideas of privacy laws and practices come up, it can be a very controversial and scary idea. What if what we post is wrong? What if we get in trouble? Can I lose my job for this? There are no shortage of horror stories out there to scare teachers into 6.gifnever posting a single thing on the internet again; class or non-class related.  I too, often think and rethink what I share online about my students, which to be honest is very limited. Beyond team, athletic, and grad photos, I hardly post about my students online. Everything remains nameless and it is almost always acelebration of accomplishments.

I think the biggest struggle I had with this week’s debate was a lot of the focus was on the
elementary stand-point and teaching young students how to be responsible online.  What should you post?  What shouldn’t you post?  A lot of conversations circled around the idea of parents being super involved with their child’s tech use and also the teacher helicopter-parent-main-imageoverseeing the practices. Seesaw, I’ve learned, is a great tool to engage parents and create important conversations with kids at home.  This technology is awesome because it can often bridge the gap between school and home life.  However, there is the down side of over-involvement of parents and the idea of “helicoptering.”  In fact, Robyn Treyvaud states in her article, Dangers of Posting Pictures Online, that “more than 1 in 4 children admit to feeling worried, embarrassed, or anxious when their parents post photos of them on social media,” which goes beyond the idea of hovering or helicoptering.  I know many of my friends are having children right now and seriously, the amount of “baby spam” I see in a day is ridiculous and the consequences can be even more serious!  It’s something I don’t think my generation really understands, making it even more important for the next generation to comprehend!  What parents post, even at a very young age, can affect a child’s mental health later on in life?  It begs the questions, do you want the whole world to see a baby photo of you?

I think both sides of the debate did a fantastic job of making their case!  When it comes to my world in a high school, photos, technology and phones are everywhere.  We even have a school Snapchat and Instagram account run by the Spirit Committee, run by a print screen.pngcouple of awesome teachers!  My students are on their phones constantly; I use Remind 101 to contact students and my athletes for various things like deadlines, practice changes, or just general reminders for the next day.  It allows my students to connect me as well without directly having my phone number. I also use Google Classroom for all the students’ homework, assignments, deadlines, and I also used it for Track and Field this year – creating an online platform for athletes to access permission forms, schedules, dates, and results.  It worked fantastically and never thought twice about using these online platforms with my students. However, everything I use and do online is “private.” I’m not sharing student photos to the internet, not posting on Twitter about our interactive activities, and although I feel my students are safe because of this, maybe I’m not properly preparing them for the online world?

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My Google Classroom!

I feel like it is my responsibility to help teach and guide my students through this online world they have become accustomed to.  I loved Amy’s point this week: “We need to stop
telling students how to live, but instead empower them to make the correct decisions regarding technology. We want students who use their powers for good, we do not want passive students.  Teachers can have an influence.
”  I think especially at the high school
level, students need to be empowered and use technology for good, like Amy said, instead of being the passive “likers” online.

Randi Zuckerberg stated in his article that, “technology and the world around us is evolving so quickly that even children a few years apart may experience two very different forms of childhood.” And I think this couldn’t be more true.  I know my childhood was vastly different than kids today and even looking at my current students.  I graduated high school nine years ago, and THINGS HAVE CHANGED.  EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED! I think it’s important that we don’t shut down these differences and Online-Worldinstead we embrace them, because if we don’t, they we run the risk of not helping our students be successful in the outside world. Their world is online, and it will continue to be for the rest of their lives.  They need to learn how to adapt and post appropriately online and protect themselves.  It lends itself to the idea that we cannot protect our students by banning the internet or posting pictures online because what is that teaching them?  They will rebel, and in turn post inappropriately online because they were never taught, nor was it modeled for them.

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I think digital literacy and creating a positive digital footprint is incredibly important for students.  What is the first thing their employer will do? Google them. What is the first thing someone just getting to know them will do?  Google them. They need to understand that their online identity will exist online whether they want it to or not. If they do not create it for themselves, and twist it into the story they want to tell, someone else will tell the story for them.  I think once students understand this concept, the rest becomes more simple than we think.

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It becomes about education, about what they want a future spouse, family, employer, etc. to see online. There are many dangers to the online world, but the opportunities and positives far outweigh these negatives.  “Students are, for the most part, growing up in this digital world without any explicit or universally adopted rules about how to behave, and there is little guidance available to adults. As our digital connections and interactions grow, the lines between our education and personal lives, our career and private activities, become blurred” (EdTek White Paper, 1) and it is our job to help advocate for ourselves and for our students online.  I know after this week, I am going to try to be more involved with their online world and help my students navigate it.  I feel as though it is my responsibility as an educator to do this much for them and prepare them for their future, and their online portfolio that is all their own and no one else’s.

Should we teach things that can be googled?

Last week, I teamed up with two colleagues, Shelby and Amanda to form Team Disagree for the debate statement:

Schools should not focus on teaching things that can be googled.

We created an opening statement video for the debate, and after a strong rebuttal with Team Agree and class discussion, I still strongly support our disagree stance.

Our opening statement video:

To support our argument, we focused on three main points:

  1. Google should be used as a tool to build foundational skills and understand how to verify factual information

  2. Memorization has an important place in developing student learning skills

  3. Google is hindering our ability to concentrate and focus

It is interesting that both Team Agree and Team Disagree mentioned the significance of critical thinking in education. Team Agree focused on the importance of learning to problem solve and develop critical thinking skills as knowledge is changing faster than ever and continues to grow. Furthermore, as stated in one of their suggested articles, students and educators teaching in the 21st century need to learn 21st century competencies. The emphasis should be on content creation instead of reproduction of information, as this will be most beneficial to learner development.

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Similarly, my team (disagree) also focused on the importance of critical thinking and teaching students how to use tools like Google to guide students through the information and think about what they are accessing. In short, teachers need to help guide our students to learn ways to use Google appropriately and develop critical thinking skills. As stated in our team’s suggested article, when students think critically, they actively engage in these processes:

  • Communication
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Problem-solving
  • Evaluation
  • Reflection

To help students reach these processes, teachers need to prepare a variety of hands-on activities that allow the students to be involved in their learning.  While both Team Agree and Disagree believe that critical thinking is important, we have to teach our students how to develop the skills without Google first. This goes along with the idea of “smart searching” as described in our suggested article.

IMG_0819Instead of just releasing our students into the world of Google, teachers should first model the process for searching online. Since Google is so open and accessible, a good tip is to teach students how to predict results they expect to see.  This way students can evaluate what they are typing in the search box and if they think it will produce the results they want.

In high school, I had a teacher briefly touch on the idea of “smart searching” on Google. Fast-forward a few years later in a university career session, an advisor expressed the importance of “googling yourself”, so you could see what future employers may find about you.

ProtectYourIdentityOnline-600x400.jpgWhen you search Catherine Ready, there is a wide range of results, from websites relevant to me, to articles that simply included the words “Catherine” and “ready” – ready being a very common term! Once I began using a few “smart searching” techniques, I was able to find articles and websites related specifically to me over the last decade. These searching tips are easily found on Google, but it was through the guidance of a teacher that showed me how to use Google in an efficient and effective way in my learning.

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The second point to support our argument is that memorization has a place in learning.  Interestingly, Team Agree spoke to the detrimental effects of rote learning, or simply memorizing through drilling and repetition.

In our research and suggested article, memorization is considered a tool in learning and involves a variety of methods to help students recall and remember information. Rote learning is only one way to commit things to memory and instead students can use techniques like visualization, imagery and mnemonics.

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Growing up, learning through memorization was (and still is) something I loved. I always felt that I had a really good handle on how to memorize, using songs, rhythms, imagery and mnemonics. I also heavily relied on rote memorizing through drilling and repetition of skills like multiplication tables, French vocabulary, science facts, etc. Additionally, I danced, figure skated and took music lessons – all areas that required memorization. My first undergraduate degree was in music with a concentration in piano  and part of the degree requirements included memorizing over an hour of music to be performed in recital.

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Excerpt from Liszt’s Consolation No. 3 (one of my favourites!)

I like to think I mastered the art of memory work and have experienced firsthand how memorization helps learners grow and move beyond the basic level of recall and remembering. Through my strong knowledge basic of facts (from math facts to music theory terms and rules) I have been able to “move up the ladder” of Bloom’s Taxonomy and go deeper into my learning to the more sophisticated levels of analyzing, evaluating and creating.

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But,

as an educator, it would be naive to think that every student would be able to learn and memorize exactly as I did as a student. Since memory work is something that I find simple and enjoyable, I could assume that all students would feel the same way. My job as an educator is to teach students how to memorize and build a knowledge base. One of the suggested articles by Team Agree states that:

“The objective of education is learning, not teaching”.

I agree with this point, but I also understand that we can teach our students how to memorize through hands on activities, especially with song, dance, rhythms, patterns and imagery.

As an arts educator, I am trained in the Orff Schulwerk Approach. This style of music education is a process that encourages students to explore and experience music through singing, movement and playing instruments.  But interestingly enough, all music and songs in the Orff Approach are taught to first be memorized through rote learning and then movement and instruments are added. This is a starting point in music education to develop the musical ear before we introduce music theory and learning to read music and rhythms.

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Students in my classroom learning guitar.

In higher grades, I teach guitar and I require students to memorize a few basic chords so that they can grow and improve their playing more quickly. Sure, they could google the chord every time, or they could commit the chord to memory through repetition, visualizing and practicing the finger placement on the fretboard – a very “hands on” activity. This is much more effective for a developing musician and allows students to eventually move to the creating and composing levels in music.

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Finally, there is research that every time you learn something new, a connection is formed between neurons in the brain. The more you repeat the learning – possibly through memorization – the stronger the connections.  The more you keep something in short term memory, it will eventually be pushed to long-term memory, so therefore practice makes perfect, and memorization is one way to do it.

Our last point to support our argument is that Google is hindering our ability to concentrate. Last week, I touched on how technology has played a distracting role throughout my education. One reason it is more difficult to concentrate is that when we are on the Internet for answers, we can be easily distracted by advertisements, videos, links and other information that is strategically targeted to the user, but unrelated to the topic we are searching. In our suggested article, there is concern that we are relying on skimming rather than deep-reading information.  If we want an answer quickly, all we have to do is “google it” instead of creating our own pathways to learn new information.  The article even goes on to suggest that our brains are changing to adapt to this new form of quick thinking. As educators, it is our responsibility to continue teaching and showing students how to learn and acquire new information. If we go back to our first point, it is important to practice critical thinking skills and teach our students how to use Google effectively.

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At the end of the day, the Internet has no limits to the amount and kind of information that can be accessed by our students. If we did not teach things that could be googled, there would not be anything left to teach! Educators have to find a way to balance a variety of learning techniques (include using Google) and how to incorporate these ideas into 21st century education. With so many ways to learn, access and explore information, we can rely on research to support our teaching methods so we can foster strong critical thinkers and flexible learners.

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

To Google or Not to Google

Should we focus on teaching things that should be googled?  I still stand by my debate team and say a resounding yes!  For our debate, we decided to focus on three key ideas:

  1. Critical Thinking Skills Without the Aid of Google
  2. Memorization Holds a Key Part in Education and in Life
  3. Google is Hindering Our Ability to Concentrate and Focus

To watch our introduction video, click here!

After the debate, I realized there is even more we could have focused on, including the einsteinidea of “fake news” and our students’ ability to interpret it, and the idea of curiosity as a skill.  I touched on this slightly in my closing statements, but I hold strong on the idea that children and teenagers NEED to be curious!  If they are not curious with their ideas, then where is the creativity?  Where is the innovation?  Where are the skills that they will NEED in the future?  The “agree” team posted a video: Knowledge is Obsolete, so Now What? spoken by Pavan Arora and I do agree with them.  Some knowledge is becoming obsolete, but not all of it is obsolete.  Key math skills, and basic understanding of the English language are incredibly important!  And whether my students believe it or not, they will need to add, subtract, create ratios, convert measurements and be able to do it quickly and will not always have the assistance of their phones.

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Examples of the consequences of bad grammar!

autoWhen it comes to English and writing skills, everyone will need to know how to properly write an email, a cover letter, and important text messages.  You cannot text your boss that you are ill, and send something full of abbreviations and misspellings.

Of course, Pavan’s argument goes beyond this.  He discusses the idea that children of today, will not have jobs that exist today, so how do we educate them so that they are ready?  He states our job is to “teach our children how to access knowledge, how to assess knowledge and how to apply knowledge.”  Our group never stated that teachers should not use google or that students should be banned from using it for research.  Our focus was to use it with purpose and not simply answer students questions by saying “google it.”  Students need to use their critical thinking skills first and develop their own opinions before they start accessing the internet and using someone else’s opinion for make their opinion.  Things like facts, should be checked and students need to figure out how to weave the web to find the good stuff, the right stuff and make educated decisions based on the information found.

The same goes for memorization.  Imagine having a conversation with someone who didn’t know the basics of the discussion and everything they had to say, had to come from google.

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These ideas of fact checking have their place, but it is much easier if we teach certain skills and basic understandings so that students CAN apply the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Memorization is the base of the levels so students need some ideas or thinking critically or innovative will not happen easily!

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Students always ask me why we have to study Hamlet.  I’ve thought about it, and is it necessary, no, but is it relevant, absolutely.  I tell my students, what better way to learn than from a story.  There are many life lessons from Hamlet that can be applied to the real world, and probably some irrelevant information as well but sometimes a piece of literature can help a student through a situation or they find a quote that really means something to them, and they hold onto it.  In a world where mental health is a huge concern and we are trying to advocate for it, I show my students Hamlet – a depressed character who has been through a lot (the murder of his father and the marriage of his mother and uncle) voicing how sad he is, and no one listens.  We discuss the importance of listening to each other and helping each other.  He even has soliloquys about dying and wanting to die.  Some of my students can unfortunately relate to that so we discuss the ideas of suicide and how Hamlet really feels right now.  We talk about mental health and the differences between then and now and I would say it’s the most important thing we discuss in my class.  to beAnd you know what, they don’t forget it.  I have students come back and tell me, it is still their favourite Shakespeare play and they still remember the story!  Of course, there are also ideas of following through with your actions and thinking before you act; watching the effect you have on others around you, and many other life lessons that are better experienced through literature than life itself (I mean, I don’t think anyone wants to plot the murder of their uncle and see what consequences follow, so probably better to read about it 😉 )I think Shakespeare also helps interpret language we don’t understand, students have to find meaning in it, and it helps them understand bigger ideas, and see how far our language has really come and it’s awesome to watch!

This example also leads into our third argument about deep-reading and reading for understanding.  Of course, the internet and the process of skimming are valuable skills but so is reading and actually remembering what you read.  I know I struggle to focus on the computer, especially for long articles or even books online.  If I print them; totally different story!  Anyone else??  The idea of reading and understanding is becoming a lost art and I know my students struggle with it.  Lots of them turn to Sparknotes or other websites to tell them what happened in the novel instead of reading it themselves which can be really frustrating as a teacher.  5There is so much more to a piece of writing than just the summary and it can help them become better writers, and critical thinkers if they actually attempt to interpret the writing for themselves.  Even looking at the ideas of themes or choices characters make can help them deeply in terms of their depth of knowledge and understanding of other people.  In Is Google Making Us Stupid, Nicholas Carr makes an excellent stating, “our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged” when we are browsing the internet.  I think he is 100% correct.  I know the “agree” team argued this point stating that it’s a different type of skill we are gaining and I totally agree.  And I think it is excellent that we can skim dozens of articles to find something meaningful to use for our own research but I’m also talking about stories and books and those need to be read to be truly understood.  Deep reading is a valuable skill and one I’m worried we will lose if we don’t continue to make kids read!  What will happen to all the old literature, the beautiful stories, and even our own history if we only skim it in the future?

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So to conclude, I still think there is a place for memorization and facts in the classroom.  There is value in teaching things that can be found on the internet.  Do I think we should erase the internet all together?  NOPE!  It’s not going anywhere and we do need to teach our students to be responsible digital citizens and be able to navigate the web responsibly and effectively for information.  It all depends on your purpose.  And honestly, if we are teaching students that the first response to a question is to google it, I don’t think we are teaching them correctly.  We should let them be curious, think about the answer, find their own idea, and then turn to the internet because that will have more meaning, they will remember the lesson more, and they will automatically think more deeply and critically about the response they found if it contradicts their own.

Does Tech Enhance Learning in the Classroom?

To say that technology enhances or does not enhance learning is a complicated question.  We live in the day and age of technology, and as educators, it is our responsibility to teach for the future and that future includes technology.  I think a big part of having technology in the classroom enhances learning.  This year alone, I have found myself relying more and more on it to help my students learn effectively.  For example, with my

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Calculus class, I was relying heavily on Khan Academy to help supplement my students’ learning.  It was my first time teaching it, so there was a lot of “learning together” going on.   I was also using graphing calculators and apps to help my students visualize first, and then internalize what certain graphs look like so when it came time for the big exam in May, they wouldn’t even need to look at a calculator to know the behaviors of certain functions.One of the biggest factors to integrating technology in the classroom that we debated on Monday was cost.  It costs a lot of money to integrate a new set of laptops, or a new program, or a new app.  I’m lucky at Prairie South that we do not have the 1:1 rule that many of the Regina teachers were discussing on Monday.  However, the tech accessibility at Central is limited.  We have three working computer labs, and at this point, they are all

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being used as classrooms for majority of the day so booking into one is nearly impossible!  We also have two sets of chrome books, which are awesome….but slow.  The Wi-Fi is not the most reliable in the school which can render the chrome books almost useless in the hour of time we get to use them.  As a result, I definitely do not use tech in my classroom as frequently as I’d like.

However, I am pro-tech in the classroom as there are so many benefits to using it!  Vawn Himmelsbach at TopHat.com stated these 6 pros to using tech in the classroom:

  • Using technology in the classroom allows you to experiment more in pedagogy and get instant feedback.
  • Technology in the classroom helps ensure full participation.
  • There are countless resources for enhancing education and making learning more fun and effective.
  • Technology can automate a lot of your tedious tasks.
  • With technology in the classroom, your students have instant access to fresh information that can supplement their learning experience.
  • We live in a digital world, and technology is a life skill.
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The last one is the most important one to me.  Knowing that my students live in a world of technology, teaching digital citizenship is the crucial to their success in the bigger world.  With so much access to technology, I love teaching my students how to research properly, how to think critically about what they are reading online, and how to search for things effectively.  I encourage them to use sites like Khan Academy (I actually linked it to my Google Classroom this semester, and used their AP Calculus prep course to help my students study for the exam), SparkNotes and No Fear Shakespeare (for when my students miss a reading or just need more help understanding the language) to help enhance their understanding of course content.

My favourite is being able to teach the teenagers in my classroom those important life lessons when it comes to cellphone usage.  We discussed a lot on Monday about appropriate use of cellphones and how to structure it.  I allow cellphones in my classroom, and I often have students working on projects, connecting to my Google Classroom, or reading on their phones.  However, I am not naïve that they are “only” doing school work.  We discussed the idea of multi-tasking and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for students.

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The fact that I teach high school influences my opinion and I believe that they need to learn how to multi-task effectively because as teachers and adults, we are expected to multi-task daily.  Of course, I reprimand students for being on their cellphones while I am delivering a lesson, but when it comes time to their individual work time, I allow them to figure out a balance that works for them.  As long as they are on task most of the time, cellphones are allowed — otherwise, they lose the privilege.  They need to learn for themselves when is the appropriate and inappropriate times for their usage.  Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty stated, “it seems inevitable that some sort of hand-held wireless device will eventually become part of education systems across the country” in the Maclean’s article: Don’t give students more tools of mass distraction, so why not embrace this change?  If we fight it, what are we really doing?  We are hindering our students’ abilities to be able to use their mini-computers in effective ways, rather than as just a social connection tool.  Would you not rather teach students about all the tools and information that is out there and give them access, as well as teach them how to effectively use it to create something big?

Thinking_Face_Emoji_largeStudents learn from teachers more effectively and will remember a story, or an experience much more than something they read once on a device.  So why wouldn’t you want to us this knowledge and power to teach students the “how-to”, the “why”, and teach them to ask questions about the tech world and what they see, and the social do’s and don’ts of society, instead of leaving them to discover it on their own?