Category Archives: EC&I 830

A Tool That Can Change the World Faster Than Anything Else…

In this week’s #ECI830 class the debate topic was, “Technology is a force for equity in society.”

On the agree side there was JenDawn and Sapna. In their opening arguments video they stated that technology is bridging the digital divide and providing opportunities to those that may not have had such opportunities in the past. It was discussed that it should be called digital inclusion instead of divide. They further explained that open education in the form of virtual classrooms and online educational resources (MOOC’s, OEC, OER) made education more flexible, accessible, and are providing fair and inclusive opportunities for all people.

Image result for technology connectsSome main points that I took away from the presentation was:
Technology connects many people across the world- Most people have access to technology and therefore it is the perfect tool to connect from anywhere in the world and anytime. It also provides fairness in regards to gender, socioeconomic status and ethnic background.

Technology removes barriers- Technology can act like a bridge for learning, students can have a voice, and technology has features like assistive technology that help students who may have learning disabilities or difficulties.

Technology doesn’t discriminate. Sexism was here long before technology.

 

Image result for digital colonialismOn the disagree side there was Rakan and Amy S. In their opening arguments video they stated that technology is designed in ways to promote racial inequality, gender inequality, digital colonialism and economic inequality. To be totally honest, I don’t think I ever thought this deep about this ever and think that Rakan and Amy S did a great job at defending this side.

Some main points that I took away from the presentation was:
The AI facial recognition problems was very interesting. Rich vs Poor- lower income don’t get connected. “digital poorhouse”. 4 billion have access to the internet— what about the rest of the world?

Both sides did a great job in defending their positions – In my opinion, the most complex topic thus far.

 

 

I really enjoyed the above Ted Talk that was provided this week. It showcased how technology can be successful on a limited budget as well as, how educators need to look at options, not just the “tech candy”. I liked how the video pointed out that technology is not to blame for the inequities. Inequities have been around far before technology. 

While doing more research and watching videos and doing the readings this week, I came across the below YouTube video called, “Using Technology to Close Equity Gaps”.  Richard Culatta, from the US Department of Education presented on this topic.

 

 

He discussed five ways that technology can be used to close persistent equity gaps so that all students can have access to high-quality education regardless of who they are or where they live.
Opportunity 1: Equitable access to high quality digital learning materials.
Opportunity 2: Equitable access to expertise
Opportunity 3: Personalized Learning
Opportunity 4: Support for Planning Higher education
Opportunity 5: Supporting accessibility
Image result for technology eqaulitiesRobert concluded his presentation with what I thought was very powerful. To summarize what he said, Technology is an accelerator, whatever we apply it to is going to accelerate. Technology is neutral, it is not good, nor is it bad. If we choose to apply technology is ways that accelerate existing inequalities, than shame on us all. On the other hand, if we choose to realize the value that we hold dear in this country, a value that all students should have access to the same opportunity for learning, regardless of their ZIP Code or income or anything else that we group some students to have less opportunity than others. If we decided that is something that we truly care about,  and we use technology as a way to solve those challenges- He believes that we have a tool that can change the world faster than anything else we’ve ever seen before.  Because if we drive them and keep that as part of the conversation, we change the world. It’s as simple as that.
I think that this was a good summary of how I personally view this topic. Technology has the opportunity to be more digitally inclusive instead causing a bigger divide.  How are you ensuring you are being digitally inclusive is the question? Thank you for reading and stopping by my blog this week.

 

 

 

 

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

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.

 

 

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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Education, Technology, Equity

Wow! What a debate. I feel like this debate more than others has many, many layers to it. This weeks debate topic Technology is a force for equity in society really challenged me to think about this question from many different angles and although I right now will say that I agree that technology is a force for equity, I am not 100% convinced that I couldn’t be persuaded the opposite direction still.

Both teams agree and team disagree did a great job of presenting their points. Both teams proposed strong arguments and there was not many overlays or middle ground in their debate positions and arguments this week like we found in other weeks. For the sake of my arguments, I am going to look at technology and equity when it comes to education and the roles of education in finding equity for our students among technology.

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Photo Credit

Team agree shares the idea of the digital divide and how technology actually has the ability to build a bridge over that divide. I agree with team agree in how they state that technology isn’t pushing people apart but yet it can assist in bringing people together. Team agree does a great job of sharing how technology is a driving force that allows students to move from the cannot side of the spectrum over to the can side of the spectrum. Technology and assistive technology does, in fact, have the ability to help students become more independent and it can help them to accomplish tasks that they may not have been able to accomplish before. I have witnessed this first hand in my classroom in how powerful technology can be in helping students complete grade level tasks that without assistive technology they would not have been able to accomplish. This evens out the playing field for these struggling students and allows them to also reach and feel success within the classroom. This is powerful!

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Team agree also shared the Ted talk video What We Are Learning From Online Education that features Daphne Koller who shares how college education used to at one point in time only be for the privileged. Daphne shares how she is the co-founder of Coursera and that with the use of technology they were successfully able to break down the barriers of traditional education and are now able to ‘take the best courses from the best universities and provide them to everyone around the world for free’. She goes on to share how there are now 640 000 students from 190 countries being educated on Coursera. This development in education with the use of technology has transformed inequality in post-secondary education. It provides people who may not have been able to before, an opportunity to be educated at the highest level possible. Resources like this allow for everyone to have access to post-secondary education and no longer is this level of education just for the privileged it is now for the willing to learn. This also is powerful!

Similar to the above video team agree also shared the article How OER Is Boosting School Performance and Equity From the Suburbs to the Arctic. This article outlines the power of Open Education Resources and how this greatly benefits student learning. The Open Education Movement allows isolated communities to have access to top-notch resources that are online and free for everyone to use. It allows classrooms to learn from the most updated resources and allows teachers the ability to meet the needs of their diverse learners. The article shares how divisions are using OER to address the many complexities of today’s education. The article shares how OER has the ability to:

help students learn with the most up-to-date materials, allowing teachers to do more with limited time, and adapting resources to meet the needs of diverse learners at varied levels, some whose first language is not English—all in the face of budget cuts.

OER is extremely powerful in helping reach the goal of equality in education. Prior to OPen Educationthis, isolated communities were being faced with tough budget cuts and unfortunately, the quality of education dwindles when budgets get cut. With OER this allows these communities to improve education for their students by having access to these top quality resources online. This allows all children access to the greatest level of educational resources that possibly their division could not afford to update themselves. I feel that OER most definitely works towards equality in education and it aids in preparing all students for success in their future.

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.

– How OER Is Boosting School Performance and Equity From the Suburbs to the Arctic

One discussion that hit the chat room hot from Monday’s debate was the inequality of technology between the ‘rich and poor’. Many of us could relate to this and we as teachers were able to relate to being able to see this in our local schools. This was also brought up in team disagrees introduction video. Within this video team disagree shared that ‘lower income people do not have access to resources or opportunities that are offered by technology’. This is one inequality that I feel is very unfair, the fact that people based on their socioeconomic status will or will not have regular access to technology and the internet. Many will argue that the internet should and could be considered be a basic human right and that currently there is a divide in society between the rich and the poor and the access to the internet. In the article Has The Internet Become a Basic Human Right Pavel Marceux shares that several countries are declaring internet access as a basic human right. The article states that,

Internet advocates believe that the web can significantly improve standards of living, especially as key segments such as health and education are increasingly becoming accessible online.

Although ideally, the internet would be a basic human right we are well aware that currently, this is not the case. We can see this within our own community and also within our own classrooms. In our schools, we see families who do not have access to the internet and how that can impact their lives and their education. This is where I Image result for basic human rights internetfeel that school boards have a role to fulfill and they need to do a better job of increasing the access within our classrooms and within our schools. While students are in the education system they ideally should have daily access to technology which would allow for them to learn and build the skills that they need to be successful in the 21st century. As teachers, we need to ensure that we are incorporating as much technology and access for our students into our teaching to ensure that we are giving them full opportunities to build and practice their skills. Once again education is a key factor in helping to create equality within this digital divide.

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I feel that this debate, as I mentioned above in my post has many layers to it. I chose to focus my discussions mainly on the education system. I feel that as teachers we can participate in the OER movement by sharing our resources online to help others who may not have access to what we do while we are teaching where we do. Although this debate feels very large in scale and debate most definitely is a global topic for debate there are still little things that we as teachers can do to help in building equality. Get online and share resources, give others access to what you are doing within your classroom. This may just help someone!

 

Is technology is a force for equity in society?

My first first reaction to this statement is that technology is absolutely a force for equity in society. There are so many positive ways in which we can use technology to promote equity as well equality in society.  As Daniel mention in the zoom chat, technology can be a great equalizer. The problem lies within how the technology is being utilized and the ways in which people choose to use it. This week the debaters were Jen, Dawn, and Sapna vs. Amy S. and Rakan.

I wanted to try something new for my reflection this week! I decided that I would create TWO mind maps of the key points that stuck out the most both on the agree and disagree side.

The agree side made some wonderful arguments about how technology can be an equalizer is society.  I think one of the ones that stuck out most was the fact the technology can connect everyone in the world in many ways. This provides some great opportunities for positive environment. I also appreciate the fact that technology can accommodate everyone no matter who they are, especially because I am a teacher. There are so many needs in my own classroom, that technology gives those students will challenges an opportunity to receive the equal opportunity.

Next, comes the disagree side. This statement was definitely a touch one to argue! The following are the main points I gathered from both Amy S. and Rakan. Although I more so side with the agree side, the point they made that technology has the potential to negatively influence many aspects of ones life is quite frightening to me. I guess you never know how one will react to things posted online. Another point they made was the fact that “Low income people do not have the same access to internet as higher income/middle class individuals“. In saying that, this then cause unequal opportunity for low income individuals to search and apply for jobs online.

Overall, I still believe that technology can be an equalizer in society. The ways in which we choose to use technology, educate our children about technology as well, promote technology  is very important when determining if it will be successful!

 

Whodunnit? Tech is the scapegoat for society’s inequity.

Our debate topic this week — technology is a force for equity in society — is, in my opinion, the most complex topic thus far. The previous four debates focused (from my perspective) on a more local-provincial level and at time national level. However, this topic seems more far reaching to me. Yes, it resonates locally, provincially and nationally, but also internationally and globally.

Team Agree mentioned several times that technology itself is the scapegoat for the corporate entity that produces it. True, a computer or cellphone is not to blame for inequity in society but rather the goals of economic expansion seems more at fault. The goals of massive tech corporations are deep seated in societal “values” of inequity that existed long before modern technology arrived. In fact, this article compares modern day government / corporate involvement in the digital world to the medieval feudalism.

Much of Monday’s debate had me thinking about my ED 808 class with Marc Spooner on Social Justice and Globalization. Typically, globalization and “words and concepts like economic growth, progress, development, and individual freedom are often presented to students (and all the rest of us, for that matter) as synonyms for ‘good'” (Bigelow, 2002, Rethinking Globalization: Teaching for Justice in an Unjust World, p. 308). This can certainly apply to the international expansion of technology and access to the internet. If we question concepts of economic growth, progress and development keeping in mind on whose agenda, for what purpose, who benefits and who suffers, these terms can be viewed quite differently. As Bigelow (2002) suggests, “globalization’s aim is to open up every nook and cranny of the earth to investment…Cultural diversity is the loser” (Rethinking Globalization: Teaching for Justice in an Unjust World, p. 262).

In the documentary, “Unschooling the World” (2010), Wade Davis discusses how Western power and thought often finds itself enmeshed in culturally diverse places as if to say, “here we are to teach your children” in the mostly blindly ignorant way. When Alec mentioned the notion of the “white saviour” last night, this is what he was referring to; the idea of the powerful and all-knowing North sent to save the South. With this type of bias in mind, you can imagine the assumptions made about what the South is like and the people that may inhabit it. However, often Western thought invades these culturally diverse places without being asked. These are places that are self-sufficient and prosperous nations that didn’t want or need the “help” they are so often forced to receive.

So, when we hear in the news that Facebook wants to provide free access to users in Africa, one lens to view this through is that Facebook is attempting to provide more equal access to users across the world citing digital rights issues. On the other hand, this story can also be viewed through the lens of digital colonialism. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg was “accused of acting like a digital colonialist: shouting about the right to the internet to mask true profit motives”. In another Ted Talk, Wade Davis argues that “the 20th century…is not going to be remembered for its wars or its technological innovations but rather as the era in which we stood by and either actively endorsed or passively accepted the massive destruction of both biological and cultural diversity on the planet. Now, the problem isn’t change…The problem is not technology itself…It’s not change or technology that threatens the integrity of the ethnosphere. It is power… dynamic living peoples [are] being driven to extinction but identifiable power inequity” due to the colonial powers that continue to exist today. 

When I look closer to home and think about my own experiences in a variety of schools with different socio-economic demographics, I see the digital inequity being lived out locally. This may be through device-to-student ratios, through access to paid applications and programs, through access to Internet/devices at home that may help or in absence, hinder learning and also the inequity that exists in money available through parent councils.

Further, I question digital equity or technology as a force for equity provincially as well. What about our federally run schools? What kind of access do they have? What kind of access is available in Saskatchewan and Canada’s more remote communities? When I see articles like this one, suggesting Internet upgrades in Saskatchewan Indigenous communities (or this one) I view the message with a critical lens. Yes, there are many positives to having digital access but keeping in mind the previous discussion, what risks are associated with increased access and what is being lost (culturally or otherwise) because of the presence of the technology and the corporations behind it.

We often use the image below to discuss equity, but did anyone ask, metaphorically speaking, to see the ball game in the first place? Or did some Western corporation suggest that the ball game was something we needed. Further, how does this discussion fit with the section on Education in the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada: Calls to Action? Who is making decisions about how digital access will influence (for better or worse) and affect the communities of young Indigenous people who are simultaneously seeking equitable educational opportunities as their non-Indigenous counterparts?

To clarify, when I think about inequity, I always refer back to what my professor of ED 804, Twyla Salm creatively acronym-ed RASH. That is, racism (culture), ableism, sexism and heterosexism. While most of my discussion in this post focused on cultural inequity and socio-economic inequity, I am not discounting other inequities that exist in our society and I thank Team Disagree for bringing light to some of these other issues. As a disclaimer to my earlier message, I do recognize the power of assistive technology for students. I recognize how technology has enhanced learning in my own classroom. I acknowledge how technology has shed light on massive social movements and in many ways, technology has allowed for minority populations or groups to gain increased positive attention. In this post, I am not attempting to discount any of these positive impacts of technology. But I do think we need to look a little deeper and reflect critically when we think about how technology can influence inequity in society.

I’d like to close in the following way…

Technology as a tool (computer, cellphone, etc.) is not to blame for inequity in society. The massive corporations that produce technology for the “betterment of society”, for “progress”, for “economic development” play a major role in increasing inequity in society. However, even corporations are the scapegoat for the true culprit in our inequitable society. Society as a collective including those that manage these large tech corporations are the product of hundreds of years of colonialism and colonial education. So, in the wise words of Hon. Justice Murray Sinclair, “Education has gotten us into this mess, and education will get us out“. Regardless of the technology or corporations that create it, education is the key to addressing inequity in society and helping us find a way out.

Embracing childhood today

This week’s EC&I 830 debate topic focused on whether or not social media is ruining childhood. I haven’t been this solid on my opinion in a debate since the first week’s debate when I fully agreed that technology enhances learning.  I was super excited for this debate, as I wholeheartedly disagree. From Twitter conversations ahead of class, I knew I would be in the minority, and I was eager to participate on team disagree’s side and hopefully sway some opinions.

Via GIPHY

Team agree made up of Melinda, Alyssa, and Lori started the debate off with their opening statement. Decline in mental health, acceptance from peers, cyber bullying and other unhealthy behavior were all points team agree brought up. These are all valid issues that we know are plaguing children and teens today.

Team disagree made up of Erin, Brooke, and Daniel, highlighted major positive aspects of social media in children’s lives which included strengthening relationships, providing support for those who may be struggling or marginalized, encouraging learning, and giving students an opportunity to make a positive impact on the world in their opening statement.

I understand the concern teachers, parents, and society in general has when it comes to social media, technology in general and our children’s mental health. Although social media and smart phones are still relatively new in terms of technology, research is being done on increased mental health issues as well as increased screen time. I often wonder if these are related because of causation or correlation, and if the increasing diagnoses of depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mental health disorders may be due to advancement and knowledge in these areas. As a high school teacher, I see the state of mental health in our teens and schools which alarms me, but I also see amazing action taking place with Bell Let’s Talk, local organization The UnderstandUs, and a general increase in understanding and acceptance. As I see taking care of your mental health becoming a focus in schools through courses and things like Wellness days, I also see an ever-increasing need for a focus on digital health.

Last semester in EC&I 832, I dedicated my major project to learning more about digital health and wellness. What started from a viewpoint similar to team agree’s on all the ways social media (and technology) is harming kids, quickly changed into a more positive outlook as I began reading and learning more about ways it can benefit and can be used for so much good. On a large scale, it’s amazing to see how social media has inspired, and driven movements such as March For Our Lives, but it’s important not to forget on a smaller scale how powerful it can be for isolated or struggling kids to reach out and find a connection somewhere. To know there is someone or a group of people out there who are just like you, can bring hope to someone who has never felt like they fit in.

“When I think of technology, I don’t just see it as a tool. I see it as a way for kids to be seen. For kids to be found. For kids to not be alone. And for adults too. Someone out there values us. Someone out there, who wonders whether they have worth, is waiting for all of us. Technology means we don’t have to be alone anymore.” –Ripp, 2018

All this good, doesn’t mean that bad isn’t happening at the same time. Cyber bullying is real, and prominent in the lives of many. It is harmful and hurtful in many ways, and the anonymity and viral-ness of it is what makes it so challenging. But bullying has always been real, and has always been hurtful, and regardless of what form, it is always going to occur in some manner. Taking social media away from bullies is not going to make them less of a bully. Just as taking phones away from kids is not going to make them less invested in the online world they live in. Rather than focusing on the negatives of social media, or the bullies, I truly believe we need to focus on building our students to be upstanders, and overall outstanding digital citizens.

Rather than just waiting for digital citizenship education and curriculum changes to occur….

waiting

Image found HERE

We need to be proactive as teachers in bringing digital citizenship topics such as digital etiquette and digital health into our classrooms, and have these conversations with our students about social media and technology use. These conversations do not always need to be formal or part of the days lesson plan. When a student asks me to take a phone call during class from their work and I say yes, I use this opportunity to address it with the rest of the class as to why that is okay, and actually a responsible thing to do. We also talk about when might not be okay during class time, and how you can bridge that conversation with your boss when you call back on your break.

Although a small example, this is an important part of how we as teachers can begin to change the culture in schools which is seemingly shifting to banning phones, and hoping parents will teach their kids how to navigate the online world. While some schools are reporting benefits of banning phones, I think by doing this we are missing the boat huge on preparing students to be active participants and citizens in society, as so much of today’s information, communication, and connecting is now done online. As Nathan Jurgenson writes about the IRL fetish, we no longer really have a separate identity, or life, the digital world is the real world. To be our true genuine selves, both online and off, in every interaction, is exactly what we need to be teaching students.

“We may never fully log off, but this in no way implies the loss of the face-to-face, the slow, the analog, the deep introspection, the long walks, or the subtle appreciation of life sans screen. We enjoy all of this more than ever before” – Jurgenson

It is clear our world has changed with the advent of social media. My childhood was vastly different than my parent’s – the time I spent on MSN messenger and playing Mario Party was so strange to them. My adulthood is also vastly different. Although my mom embraces Facebook, my dad and I quote, thinks “Book-Face is the devil”. My student’s childhood is also completely different, and I am trying to prepare them for an adulthood that will be ever-changing as the workforce and society continues to become more connected and social. The only way childhood is being ruined is if we are resistant to letting kids be kids. We must foster and help grow a sense of imagination, the importance of play time, healthy risk-taking, and connection with peers. I believe all of these aspects can be grown both online and offline, and they must be – in order to raise strong, resilient, creative, and inspiring leaders to come in our world today.

 

 

 

From Liability to Asset: A New Take on Social Media

What a great debate last night! Our topic: Is social media ruining childhood?

We heard opening statements from Team Agree and then opening statements from my team, Team Disagree. 

 

Here are the highlights from each team:

Capture

Even though I was part of the disagree side for this debate, I personally had some qualms about which side I agreed most with. There are certainly a lot of negatives / risks associated with social media! Researching this topic certainly helped me to see more benefits than I would have previously called to mind. “Social media is ruining childhood” becomes another debate topic that is yet again about balance…

So, here is my opinion supported by some research!

Social media  has the potential to strengthen relationships and offer a sense of belonging. Media Smarts tells us teens around the world have embraced social media to connect with others who can encourage them, mentor them, inspire them, and – most of all – show them they are not alone”. In Common Sense Media’s 2012 research study, “Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives”, teens indicated a that social media has a positive impact on their relationships and social well-being.

Mental health is another issue that must be examined in relation to social media. This article, How Social Media Helps Students Cope with Anxiety and Depression, presents a variety of examples in which students found solace in a social media platform. While I agree that social media can be the cause of mental health issues, this article demonstrates how it can also be a site of relief.

Mental health issues and bullying existed before social media. Social media is simply a tool that has created another avenue for mental health concerns and bullying to present itself within. This calls for the guided expertise of informed adults – teachers and parents – to engage in discussion with young people. It is increasingly relevant to teach youth about how social media can impact mental wellness as well as how to respond to cyberbullying concerns or how to be an upstander if they are witnessing cyberbullying. This is especially true as cyberbullying is a highly publicized negative effect of social media use

My debate-mate Erin pointed out many important ideas when it comes to social media safety. She said ” Safety online is key. It is important that parents and teachers make an effort to be informed about what they are allowing their children to access online. As the public is learning lately in the news, reading policies is very important.  We suggest that parents should also be following the recommended age restriction set by online sites. Parents, teachers, and students need to be aware of the potential safety issues with online behaviour.  Thus it is key that parents and teachers help children learn what it means to be safe online and model these behaviours”.  As Media Smarts shares in their article Social Media RulesHaving a family agreement or set of ground rules for using social networks is a good idea. It’s a great way for parents and kids to work together on how to be safe, wise and responsible online”.  Media Smarts also explains that, “As kids begin to use tools such as Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and even YouTube in earnest, they’re learning the responsibility that comes with the power to broadcast to the world. You can help nurture the positive aspects by accepting how important social media is for kids and helping them find ways for it to add real value to their lives”. 

Safety becomes even more paramount when we consider some of the risky behaviour young people engage with because of social media such as the Tide Pod challenge. One article argues that parents need to be even more involved with their child’s social media use to dismantle thoughts of participation and instead talk about “why they’re feeling they need to take part [which] can lead to a deeper discussion about decision making and online behaviours”.

In an educational context, social media has the power to encourage learning in a globally connected way and encourage collaboration. According to Joanne Orlando: “Social media is a platform for sharing ideas, information and points of view. This can have important educational value: it extends the information young people can access while also giving them insight into how others think about and use that information. Maximum educational benefit comes from combining factual information with shared reflection. This can support a balanced, varied and “real” input for kids, which can help deepen their understanding of a subject”. This learning links to a final positive for team social media: the power of social media to create change for a better world. Social media is an outlet for young people to have a voice in social justice issues and create positive change. There are endless examples of students using various social media outlets to bring awareness to recent trending social issues such as Black Lives Matter, Me Too and March for Our Lives movements and the more recent Humboldt Strong movement which hit home in Saskatchewan. An article in The Guardian  discusses social media as a weapon for good in light of the Parkland shooting. The article states “the very openness of social media platforms makes it possible for voices in the midst of a mass shooting to find an audience and shift our understanding of events”.

The fact is, the vast majority of kids are doing the right things when it comes to social media, but social media receives a bad rap in (ironically) mass media which highlights the negative risks associated with its use.

The following is a transcript of our closing arguments and I think it wraps up this post nicely:

Social media is part of modern society’s landscape. It is not going away, therefore, we need to think of constructive and productive ways to manage how we use social media and how we teach young people to be responsible, active, participating members of society. To do so we need to look at elements of responsible digital citizenship, digital safety and kindness and digital wellness. Educating youth about the responsible use of social media should be approached at an early age to minimize the potential of adverse effects on their wellbeing. If this education happens early and is taught in effective ways, social media can enhance childhood development by strengthening relationships, offering a sense of belonging, providing support for young people, helping students develop autonomy and digital identity as well as encourage and enhance learning. As we have seen through various social media outlets, youth have the power through social media to make the world a better place. The generation of tomorrow have the potential to be the foundation of a better more inclusive, compassionate and empathetic society.  Social media will play a central role in determining how this society will be built. We as teachers must be at the forefront of helping our students acquire and develop the necessary skills to be the leaders of tomorrow.

What really sealed the deal for me and helped me plant my feet with what we (Team Disagree) were suggesting was reading this article: Generation Zers Take on the Social Media AgeThis essay, authored by seventeen-year-old Elena Quartararo, was one of ten winners in the New York Times Fifth Annual Student Editorial Contest where students write about issues that matter to them. This essay provides an insider perspective of a Gen Z youth on the relevance of social media and the “information superhighway” that today’s young people consider a vital tool in the progress of the human race in tackling substantial issues such as climate change, gender equality and mass shootings among many others. Access to information, global connections and platforms in which student creativity can lead to social change are among the positive aspects of social media cited in this article. This young voice is a gem — a diamond in the rough — attempting to dismantle the the negative perspectives of social media by the previous generations. It’s worth the read. 

Drum roll please…

The votes are in and I think it’s been our closest debate yet!

The pre-vote indicated a 37% – 63% split with 63% of our peers believing social media IS ruining childhood. However, following the debate, the post vote showed a 49% – 51% split meaning we convinced a few to change their perspective. Overall, it was an excellent debate on both sides with excellent discussion by the class as a whole!

 

“So Fatal a Contagion”

Is social media ruining our children’s lives? That is the question we debated in EC&I 830 this week. As has been the pattern in recent weeks, this debate stoked passions, and preconceptions were challenged. What made this debate particularly intense was a more even divide between those who agree and disagree. A lot of people had a lot of things to day.

Dangers of Social Media

Instinctively, I have always found myself squarely in the camp that decried social media as a negative influence. I didn’t like it, and I didn’t like seeing my students use it. There was a time, not so long ago, that factors brought up by my peers Melinda, Allysa, and Lori would have formed the entire basis of my opinion. Like Catherine, my preconceptions have traditionally fallen into that camp; “A bold statement, but one I could easily agree with at first.

At the 2 minute mark of their video, for instance, team agree make the point that social media is “not designed for children.” They back it up with some solid evidence as well:

They further augment their point with some well chosen resources, like an article from the American Academy of Pediatrics that goes into great detail in discussing the pitfalls of social media with adolescents.

You know what? I agree with them. There is so much of social media that seems to be tailor made to bring out the worst in kids. Cyberbullying, sexting, Tide-pod challenges, .blue whale game… ugh.

Melinda argues further her case with this compelling image of Bill Murray:

There really isn’t any arguing any of this. Everything they have said is true, and undeniable.

DANGERS OF ______ Media

So what, if anything has changed? It certainly feels as though my position on social media is as coloured by my fears and misgivings as ever. But, over the course of the past year, for me, something has definitely changed. My own position, I believe, can be portrayed best by taking a journey through time. Come along for the ride!

2018…

“Social media is ruining childhood.” ECI830 class in Regina, Saskatchewan debates social media ruining children’s lives.

…2011…

“Outsourcing our brains to the cloud” NY Times Columnist Bill Keller worries over the impact of digital technology and social media: “Basically, we are outsourcing our brains to the cloud. The upside is that this frees a lot of gray matter for important pursuits like FarmVille and “Real Housewives.”

…1926…

“Lax Habits, Low Moral Standards, Hotel Episodes…” An issue of The Pentecostal Evangel decries the atrocities of film: “[The screen artists’] beauty, their exquisite clothing, their lax habits and low moral standards, are becoming unconsciously appropriated by the plastic minds of American youth…”

…1904…

“A Lessening Sense for Both Duty and Discipline” Psychologist Stanley Hall frets the temptations of urban life on the youth of the day: “Never has youth been exposed to such dangers of both perversion and arrest as in our own land and day…”

…1816…

“So Fatal a Contagion” A London Times issue warns decent people from the horrors of the Waltz: “[Now that it is] forced on the respectable classes of society by the evil example of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion.”

…1790…

“Corrupted the Morals of Many a Promising Youth” Reverand Enos Hitchcock laments the younger generations reckless reading of romances and novels. “The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth…”

…1565…

“confusing and harmful to the mind” Swiss scientist sounds the alarm over free press and the information overload that it would bring.

…370 BC…

“forgetfulness in the learners’ souls” Socrates rails to Phaedrus against the evils of writing: “…for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves….”

And back we come to 2018.

Are we sensing a pattern here? This is not the first time that the elders have been spooked by what the kids are doing. Is our fear of social media different from media scares of the past? Or are we getting angry at the kids on our lawn?

Vaughan Bell convincingly compares our fretting of social media to media scares of the past. He humorously points out that Socrates did not believe that children were developed enough to handle fantasies, and should only be exposed to “wholesome allegories.”

Arguing on the other side of this debate, Daniel rightly acknowledges the threat posed by cyber-bullying. But he also goes on to note that bullying is not new: “Intimidation and bullying has been a reality of childhood for decades and maybe even centuries.” (Dion, 2018) Let’s face it, he’s right.

My point is not to mitigate the uniqueness of the problems posed by social media. Social media is a new form of media, and it brings with it equally unique challenges. But think about it…. every new major form of media (TV, film, free press… writing…) would have been just as groundbreaking for anybody who had never before fathomed it. Seeing the challenges of social media in their historical context (at least, that’s what I’m trying to do) has supported me in moderating my position a bit.

We’ve been through this kind of dilemma many times before, and we will go through it again. I wonder if history has any lessons to teach us in how to deal with the challenges we perceive from social media?

Is social media ruining childhood?