Category Archives: EC&I 830

The Great EdTech Debate: Episode 6 – Openness and Sharing in Schools is Unfair to our Kids.

Of all the topics that we have discussed in ECI830, this is the one topic that I went into the debate not have a firm opinion as to where I stood. I feel like a portion of that comes from how broad this topic can stretch. I was interested to hear both sides of the argument, and to determine what each side had to say in order to convince me of their beliefs. I felt like I learned a lot from this debate, and enjoyed listening to the great points made by my classmates.


PreVote: Agree 25.9%, Disagree 73.1%


Debating that openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids was Melinda and Altan. They did a great arguing the topic, and shared some great resources for us to read in their annotated reading list.

On of the biggest topics these two discussed was the language barrier that many immigrant families have when they first come to the school, and the difficulty these families have when it comes to understanding all of the forms that parents are expected to sign. One of the forms highlighted was the Media Release Form. In our group discussion, Kalyn brought up a good point in that whenever she has received a Media release form as a parent, she admitted to not fully understanding what the form allows when it comes to sharing photos of students. I find that when it comes to a lot of documents that come from the school division, I find myself perplexed with the information that I have read, and need to clarify the message of the document with other educators. I can only imagine how immigrate parents with English as a second language must feel when it comes to filling out these forms.

The other big topic that I was most interested in learning more about was that parents are oversharing information about their children on social media, and that some children may not be okay with their parents doing this. I am not a parent yet, but I hope to be a father very soon. When I have a child, I never really thought about the implications of me sharing images of them online for others to see. In one article shared titled Don’t Post About Me on Social Media, Children Say, it is said that children don’t always give their parents permission to post pictures of them. From the article, it says “Those early posts from parents linger, not just online, but in our children’s memories — and the topics may be things we don’t see as potentially embarrassing.” I find in crazy that this is not only an issue with children, but also with adults who don’t think they are doing anything harmful.

Another article that was shared with the same message was titled Posting About Your Kids Online Could Damage Their Futures provides a list of 10 things that we can do to help students become familiar with the risks of sharing content online. This list includes:

  1. Encourage schools to teach Internet safety and privacy. If educators and their administrators are going to utilize EdTech, they should also make time to teach students about the dangers of giving over private information. In the U.K., internet safety was made a mandatory part of the school curriculum in 2014, and it’s time for the U.S. to step up.
  2. Demand that schools are transparent about the data collected by their technology and ask for parental approval before letting children sign in to machines and apps, as well as give guardians the opportunity to opt their children out of the use of this technology if they feel it’s not protecting their privacy.
  3. Make your friends into fellow advocates so that questions about privacy are expected. Encourage them to ask about data collection in schools and medical facilities so they understand who is collecting data, how it’s being used, who it’s being shared with, how it’s being protected, and how it’s being aggregated. (It’s important to note that anonymizing data is no longer enough since hackers are easily able to de-anonymize it.)
  4. Research the toys you buy for children to ensure they don’t contain unsecure voice or video recording systems. Disable those systems in toys you already own and change the default passwords of gadgets your children use (as well as your home router).
  5. Demand that companies who market directly to minors write terms and conditions that kids can understand.
  6. Encourage policymakers to enact legislation that protects children’s privacy. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was passed in 1998 but there are loopholes that are constantly being exploited and the legislation needs to be updated to take into account new technology.
  7. Ask about and research the technology your children are using. You can’t use parental controls properly if you don’t understand the platform or app.
  8. Don’t post photos or videos online that reveal personal information about your children. Be mindful of the long-term implications of getting a few likes.
  9. Be clear with grandparents, friends, and babysitters as well about what they are allowed to share online about your children.
  10. Remember that Facebook and Instagram stories or Snapchat “snaps” seem ephemeral, but can easily be photographed, screen capped, downloaded, or recorded by bad actors.


Debating for the opposition was Sherrie and Dean. As a side note, I want to acknowledge the amazing video these two shared with class. Highlight of the video was definitely the sharing with Sherrie segment. In addition, I was thinking throughout this debate that Dean needs to become the next Bill Nye the Science Guy in education. Watch the video below.

The broadcast is called 300 seconds, I loved this point

To partner with a great video, this duo also made sure that they touched on points regarding how it is important to teach both students and parents how to have a responsible online presence, and that it is important to have informed consent by both parents and students. They also shared some great annotated articles, including one titled Protecting Student’s Privacy on Social Media.

I want to address a comment that Nancy made during the evening debate. She commented that it seems that a big portion of ECI830 revolves around the idea of teaching mentorship and global citizenship to students. I completely agree with this statement, and have said numerously in previous posts that as the world shifts, so too must education. We are experiencing a shift into the digital era, and as educators we must prepare to teach students about these important skills. I do understand that we are not experts at this subject, but this only allows us as educators to learn the new concepts at the same time as our students.

One thing that I thought was genius was that this group went out, and tried to gather information from the experts. I was very impressed that these two were able to set up an interview with Dr. Verena Roberts, and then again have Dr. Roberts stream into our zoom meeting as a part of the concluding statements. When the ECI830 debate was over, there is usually a few classmates who stick around after to share learning stories. After this debate, Dr. Roberts stuck around and started to share some more information with us. One of the comments that really stuck out to me was when she said “open learning is about learning what consent is.” I think that it is very important that we educate not only students, but also parents about what consent is.


PostVote: Agree 16%, Disagree 84%


In the end, I voted with the disagree side of the argument, but my reasoning behind doing so was for an alternative reason. When I read the original debate of openness and sharing is unfair for kids, I looked at this topic from an alternative angle. The way that I took this debate is from the viewpoint of educators sharing resources with each other. As a relatively new teacher, I find that I have only improved over the years as a result to sharing resources with other educators. In this sense, it would almost be unfair to students if we did not have openness and sharing occurring.

As for the topic of sharing on social media, I think that it is important to educate students on the risks that can come from posting information about themselves online. However, it is important to allow students to create a digital identity, and to connect to others in order to expand their online social network. Lets just make sure that we are doing this safely, and that everyone is providing consent when doing so.

Great Ed Tech Debate: Openness and sharing in schools are unfair to our kids

My classmate, Altan and I agree that as David Wiley stated, “openness is the only means of education” and “if there is no sharing and giving feedback, there is no education”. We still believe though that openness and sharing in schools are unfair to our kids for a number of reasons. 

When it comes to openness and sharing, our children’s privacy can greatly be jeopardized. With our growing immigrant population, we feel that first of all the language barrier needs to be addressed. Schools need to make sure that our families completely understand the media release form that is sent home at the beginning of the school year. With the help of Microsoft Translator, Talking Points etc. schools can provide translations as well as additional examples to make sure parents are aware of what the media release form implies.

The story of the 4-year-old Karim from Toronto even made us wonder if posting students’ pictures on social media should be part of the media release form at all? Karim’s parents not wanting their child to have pictures posted on social media decided not to sign the media release form. This resulted of Karim’s picture being left out of a school project and he didn’t make it to the class picture either. When the case reached the superintendent’s office, the parents were told that this is the only way to completely protect Karim’s privacy.  

As Jessica Baron highlighted in the article Posting about your kids online could damage their future, when it comes to the consent form, we notice a conflict between the parent’s freedom to post and a child’s right to privacy. Since the pictures posted of children become part of their digital footprint, we believe children should have a say regarding this matter. According to psychologists, “When kids get to their early teens, they have a massive change with hormones, a sense of self-awareness and wanting to form their own identity… If their parents are constantly posting, it’s robbing those kids of the opportunity to work out how to express themselves.” A 2016 survey conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan found that while children ages 10 to 17 “were really concerned” about the ways their parents shared their lives online, their parents were far less worried. About three times more children than parents thought there should be rules about what parents shared on social media.” Parents have to work out what’s right for them but be aware that this is another person, another human being, who may not thank them for it in 15 years to come.

Additionally, children’s personal data that comes with oversharing can be misused on social media. Much of the time, students and parents are not aware of its adverse impact of openness and sharing when their personal life is exposed to the public.  Either their parents’ or their own online oversharing could also potentially lead to “online grooming”, which “takes place when someone builds an emotional connection with a child in order to gain the child’s trust for sexual exploitation or abuse, or recruitment to terrorist or extremist causes”. Sharon Kirkey in the article Do you know where your child’s image is? describes the darker side of sharenting. Facebook, Instagram and other social media accounts serve as the perfect place for pedophiles to lift, manipulate and photo-shop children’s pictures posted by their parents. According to one Australian study roughly half of images shared on pedophile sites are taken from social media sites. The idea behind the article is not to silence parents, but to help them be aware of the safety concerns. “A recent study of 152,000 reports to Cybertip found 80% of images and videos involving child sexual abuse involved children under 12. The majority was under age 8, and more than 3% involved babies and toddlers.”

Another reason why we feel openness and sharing is unfair to our kids is the use of Open Educational Resources. Knowing how to read laterally and finding accurate, quality information in a timely manner can be very stressful. When it comes to showcasing learning, in order to be able to show off their performance, students often fall into the trap of plagiarizing and copyright.

Technology in the classroom has even more of an impact when students can continue their ed tech use at home. However, not all students have the same access to technology due to the lack of Internet access and devices. Those students are more likely to fail to complete their homework because they lack a reliable computer or internet connection at home. The limitations caused by the digital divide often make sharing and openness impossible. These barriers cause an ‘opportunity gap’ that can lead to a negative experience when students are trying to apply for further studies or enter the work force. 

One more issue in terms of openness is the unsupervised sharing in our schools. In many schools, students are allowed to use cell phones during lunch break. The main concern is that this is where cyberbullying, sexting, and sharing pictures/ videos without permission happen. The solution to this problem is not to ban the cell phones and forbid sharing but as our peers Skyler and Alyssa suggested, to bring them in the classrooms and teach our ‘digital natives’ through examples to be respectful and responsible digital citizens.

Please check out our Wakelet resource collection and our video why we think openness and sharing in schools are unfair to our kids!

Thank you for stopping by! 🙂

Should Schools Ban Cellphones

It was another great debate this week about whether cellphones should be banned from the classroom. Jill and Tarina argued cellphones should be banned from the classroom. Their points included cellphones are distracting, school devices are safer and cellphones increase negative behaviour.  Skyler and Alyssa were against cellphones being banned. They argued that parents should be able to reach their child in case of an emergency, that there aren’t enough school devices for children, so cellphones help and cellphones help teach children digital citizenship skills. Skyler and Alyssa’s strongest point was don’t completely ban cellphones, restrict their use.

An all out ban on cellphones isn’t realistic, but their use definitely does need to be restricted.  I know that I can find my cellphone distracting. Sometimes I think that I will just check it quick while listening to someone talk, I’ll multitask! But really, I am lying to myself because no one can truly multitask.  I know I definitely cannot read something on my phone and listen to someone at the same time.

Cell Phones in the Classroom: Learning Tool or Distraction by Oxford Learning discusses the pros and cons of cellphones in the classroom.

The benefits of cellphones in the classroom are:

  1. Using educational learning apps – if there aren’t enough school devices for each student, cellphones can allow everyone to have access to the apps
  2. Incorporating digital platforms into lessons – this can be the beginning of incorporating media and digital literacy into lesson plans
  3. Supplementing lessons with digital materials – having different types of material engages students with different learning styles
  4. Providing easy access to more information – having access to the internet allows students to research topics easily

The drawbacks of having cellphones in the classroom are:

  1. Distractions and interruptions – students check their cellphones on average 11 times per day during class time.  This is very distracting to the student checking their phone and to others.
  2. Cyber bullying – bullying happens on school grounds with or without cellphones. Cellphones make it more difficult to identify that bullying is occurring and who exactly is involved.
  3. Cheating – between smartphones and smart watches, it is very easy for students to access information while writing exams.
  4. Disconnection from face-to-face activities – for lots of students, they become so caught up in messaging others that they will text a friend rather than talk to them directly.

It is hard to completely ban cellphones from classrooms, but there is no denying the negative effects of having them there.  In order for cellphones not to become a major distraction, a plan needs to be in place to restrict access and usage.  You could allow students to manage their cellphone usage on their own, but that probably wouldn’t go well. Therefore it becomes the teachers responsibility to police cellphone usage.

How to Deal with Cell Phones in School by Nancy Barile discusses the tactic she used to effectively manage cell phone usage in the classroom. She created a classroom policy that both the student and parents had to sign. She also had a discussion with the students explaining why she thought this would be best. Then cell phones were placed in a pocket with the student name on it as soon as the student entered the classroom.  Barile says that this was a game-changer in her classroom. Students were fine with not having their phones during class time and if anything “seemed to appreciate the time away from their phones.”

Cellphones are such an ingrained part of our society now.  They are not going to go away, so as Skyler stated “don’t make a ban, have a plan!” It adds another thing for teachers to do during their already busy days.  But if you have a plan, and get student buy-in, I think it is possible to have cellphones in the classroom without them being a major distraction.


Debate #6: Openness and Sharing in schools is unfair to our kids

Our debate topic for this session was focused on openness and sharing in schools.  The two teams were  Altan and Melinda (FOR) and Sherrie and Dean  (AGAINST)

Altan and Melinda prepared a compelling argument:

Three key themes they focused on included:

Privacy: language barriers, social media, input from children and "sharenting"

Openness: digital etiquette, digital rights, digital literacy, digital divide

Cellphones: digital communication

Sherrie and Dean focused on (in my opinion) a more realistic approach to this argument.  I think Sherrie could be approached by the CBC to replace Rick Mercer for her "rant" - prairie style. Simply put, the Sharing with Sherrie segment was outstanding.  She was realistic and pragmatic with her "rant" and it really resonated with me.

It was valuable to hear the insights from Dr. Varena Roberts and the positive examples she shared of age appropriate social media use by school including some Kindergarten age ones.  I have heard other students share other examples of positive use of social media from the different grades they teach too.  I am left with the perception that it is feasible to do, and with careful and thoughtful approach it isn't unfair for social media to be used in the classroom/schools.  Dean & Sherrie provided an extended video interview with Dr. Roberts that was incredibly insightful.  I think she was spot on with her question of 

 "WHO are we sharing our online presence to, who are we opening our minds to?" 

They discussed practical examples of how teachers can implement openness and social media in the classroom.  It isn't something that can be implemented with a flick of a switch, it is something that can be nurtured and developed.

There is no question that we need to evolve our thinking to be realistic with how society uses technology and not try to isolate how some schools isolate this issue.  I value the opportunity for our kids to learn from other perspectives and to access global resources to enhance their learning.  Growing up, I was fortunate to be able to travel extensively and see people from other cultures, beliefs, backgrounds, races and religions first hand.  This provided me the opportunity to gain a broader perspective on life and appreciate that the world is much broader than my own community.  Today, and especially during this pandemic, international travel is not an option.  But it is critical for us to hear and explore world events and to be aware of what is happening.  We need to embrace how we can make a positive contribution to the digital space and not be overly concerned about controlling what our kids see/experience.  

Our conversation during class, and several of the articles that were shared as the annotated readings focused on the parents responsibility for not oversharing or "sharenting" too much of their childrens lives online.  Is there a real or perceived issue of children's privacy being violated?  Initially, when I signed up for Facebook in 2008 I found it to be a wonderful way to connect with my family and friends and share the growth and development of my son who was 3 years old at the time.  My mother lived in Mexico for 6 months of the year and my two older brothers don't live in Calgary.  Facebook acted as a connection for us and continues to do so today.  Now my son is 15, and like many other teens he now has his own online presence.  He doesn't often like me to post photos anymore, and now I ask his permission.

I am hopeful for the future implementation of intentional openess and social media in the classroom based on the rich discussion our class had during this debate.

Openness and Sharing – Fair but Unfair

Smartphone, Face, Woman, Old, Baby
Used with permission from Pixabay

Tonight’s discussion debated on two different aspects of openness and sharing in school being unfair to our kids. Sherrie and Dean argued the benefits of openness and sharing with regards to learning and connecting with others across the world in a meaningful, purposeful way. Melinda and Altan argued the concerns of openness and sharing with regards to privacy, consent, and accessibility. Both arguments had me agreeing with both sides because they were looking at this debate topic from differently interpreted angles. I respect each angle as I feel they both need to be discussed to bring awareness so that education on these concepts is “open and shared” (see how I did that, kinda punny!)

As I tend to have done in my last few posts, I am going to share my takeaways from this discussion. First off, I’ll start with Sherrie and Dean’s perspective on the topic.

Adapted and expanded on from source

As mentioned by the presenters, openness and sharing allows for the 4, now 5, C’s of the 21st century education. Don’t get me wrong, all of these are important in education regardless of the platform, but by using the online format, it opens up the possibility for more of each area. Communicating with others in your school division, province, country, or across the world, opens up the potential for diverse collaboration, exposure to differing perspectives to develop and apply the art of critical thinking, generating creativity for sharing, and connecting in a global stage to take education and our future leaders to the next level.

More often than not, we are the authority on what students learn and how but that has to change. We need to empower students by allowing them choice and freedom in their learning and this can be done through openness and sharing, or OEPs (Open Educational Practices) and OERs (Open Educational Resources). OEPs are a set of activities and support around the creation, use, and repurposing of OERs (Conole, 2010). OERs are freely accessible, openly licensed text, media, and other digital assets that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes (Wikipedia, accessed on June 9th, 2020). Although OEPs and OERs are used more with high school and post-secondary institutions, there are some that address elementary outcomes such as

Media, Social Media, Apps, Social Network, Facebook
Used with permission from Pixabay

Lastly, students need to be in charge of their digital footprint. Let’s not be ignorant to the fact that they will all have one, if not already, much like we all do in some capacity. However, we need to make them aware of how their actions shape their online identity, which is something most employers are accessing to make hiring decisions. Students are going to inevitably venture into the online world and we as teachers have a part in educating them on how to positively reflect who they are by what they are sharing online. The difficult part is that many adults have difficulties with this concept. If we follow Ribble’s Step Approach, this will help us think critically when posting.

In addition, ISTE has created five questions that adults can use to kick-start meaningful conversations with kids about online behavior and identity:

  1. What information 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?

When we lead by example and are transparent (or translucent) with our own online activities, we can guide, influence, and inspire our youth to responsibly benefit from openness and sharing.

Now on the other hand, Melinda and Altan brought up some valid points with regards to openness and sharing in a personal context. We have to be knowledgeable about our division’s privacy policies with regard to sharing student information, especially pictures. As they pointed out, our EAL population has a difficult time understanding documents, such as the media release forms, and I assume there are other families that do as well. How can we make these documents more clear and understandable by most?

The digital divide is a concern brought up in many of our debates, and for good reason. Because of it, many in our population aren’t exposed to the benefits of openness and sharing. Since a lot of things are online now, such as applying for jobs, registering for activities, etc, those without access aren’t getting the same opportunities.

As Alec mentioned, it isn’t fair to keep the concept of openness and sharing from our youth. We need to provide them with tools and knowledge to positively participate in openness and sharing within our digital world. We also need to provide access for those who don’t have it so that they are exposed to more opportunities. Although openness and sharing can be done offline, with guidance, it can be transferred to online spaces appropriately. We can’t lose sight that open learning and sharing start with consent and choice and be aware of the positive and negative consequences of what we are posting or accessing online. It is important to share learning, and not necessarily opinions as this may lead to scrutiny of your teaching motives and agenda.

Openness and sharing in schools can be fair to our kids if addressed with care and concern and if used with an appropriate purpose to help instill the “5” C’s of 21st century education.

The Great EdTech Debate – CHAPTER SIX – Openness and Sharing in Schools is not fair to our students.

Leading up to tonight’s debate I was mostly curious about how each team would interpret the topic. “Openness and Sharing” is quite the vague statement and I was anticipating that the debate teams would mostly discuss sharing when it comes to media, such as pictures or videos of students themselves and possibly their work.

Each of the teams went much more in depth than that, leading us into questions of whether or not sharing, openness and open education can lead to an increase in equitable outcomes for students or exploitation of our students, including the most vulnerable ones. So – it got deep, as usual with this group.

I will start off my sharing that both at the beginning of the debate and at the end of it I still disagreed with the debate statement. Beyond their intensely impressive showmanship in their video (who doesn’t love a good rant??) Sherrie and Dean spoke about everything from sharing student work online to celebrate student success, to educators use of social media in the classroom, and even dipped into an argument in favour of Open Education by bringing in expert Dr. Verena Roberts. (I watched their interview with her and it was fantastic – I suggest checking it out when you have an extra 44 minutes).

It was Sherrie’s opening line in her rant that had me convinced:

Is openness and sharing in schools unfair to our students?  Or is it unfair not to take the opportunity to teach students about positive online behaviours.  Schools are the best place for students to learn how to create and maintain a positive identity online.  

Sherrie Meredith, 2020

So rather than discuss the back and forth of the debate where my position did not change, I would like to discuss the points the opposing team brought up that truly caused me to pause and reflect.

Melinda and Altan had me thinking about:

  • If the media release documents are overwhelming or confusing to parent’s whose first language is is English – what do we have in place to ensure parents who may not be English readers understand what they are agreeing to?

This was interesting to consider when you heard their arguments in the context of the work that both Melinda and Altan do – and the families that they serve. Many others in class also expressed that as parents AND graduate students in an EdTech class they still aren’t sure what type of sharing they are agreeing to when they sign their forms at the beginning of the year. It got me really considering what that means for the partnerships we all describe between school and home in teaching Digital Citizenship. It had me considering other options for engaging parents in learning about the elements of DC for themselves and how I can support them beyond sending home a legal form at the beginning of the year.

  • Through “sharing” are we oversharing our students AND our own children’s lives before they can truly give consent?

It’s a thought provoking question and that is for sure. It was fascinating to hear my classmates share how they as parents take certain precautions when sharing their own children’s lives in online spaces. It had me reevaluating what I have shared when it comes to my nephew or my friends’ children.

I know that in my classroom beyond the parental consent that I obtain at the beginning of the year. I also ask my students for their assent more than once, as we learn about Digital Citizenship allowing them to reevaluate whether or not they would like their blogs to be visible to others in the class, or their faces and work visible on social media. If the parent has given consent, and the child has expressed they don’t give assent I still do not include them as a way to show the students that they have autonomy over their digital footprint, and that I will respect it. Although I do encourage the student then to go home and have that conversation with their parents about why they changed their mind. At grade five I feel my students are capable of having those conversations and somewhat thoughtfully coming to an autonomous conclusion – but I truly don’t know how I would approach this topic were I teaching a younger grade level.

Melinda and Altan had many other important points to consider, and I am still unpacking everything I learned from Dr. Verena Roberts, but this is a summary of what I have been considering this week so far.

ECI 830 – what did this debate have you thinking over?

Cellphones in the classroom debate

Again, our last debate is one of the very controversial topics. Some approve the use of cell phones in the classroom, and they have very valid reasons as outlined by Skyler & Alyssa, and others do not, which has been nicely highlighted by Jill & Tarina.  A Common Sense Media survey found that that 80 percent of schools have a cell phone policy, with 25% of teachers (mostly high school teachers) finding the policy difficult to implement and 66% finding it easy to follow. 

Students getting their phone taken away. Photo courtesy of Google Images via Creative Commons.

Cell phones can easily be the greatest students’ distraction tool in the classroom, not only for the users of cell phones but also for their classmates. For example, teachers have to be interrupted to ask cellphone holders to stop distracting others. Another issue with cell phones in class is that some students may use it for cheating, and other students may use it for bullying, especially with cameras being everywhere and too small to see. In addition, cell phones typically increase the amount of time each student spends alone, which reduces the social experience with classmates (albeit may increase it with virtual classmates). 

However, Cell phones can have advantages in the classroom. First, Cell phones can be an important factor for equity in the classroom.  Duncan Clark believes that mobile phone usage will be “the single most important factor in increasing literacy on the planet.” As he explains, “Every child is massively motivated to learn to text, post and message on mobiles. The evidence shows that they become obsessive readers and writers through mobile devices.” Kalyn and Nataly debate 

Cell phones can be used by students to access educational apps (such as Kahoot). Cell phones allow students to conduct research related to the material they study through, for example, access and search of social media content as well as access to their learning network. Building such a network is very important for the educational process of students. Group discussions and peer-teaching during and after class time can be the best learning times for students. Another example is when students use cell phones to access different media (videos, articles, libraries, digital textbooks) related to class topics. Cell phones also provide general apps that help students take note, and efficiently manage their time/ projects. The office of educational technology summarized this by “Digital learning tools can offer more flexibility and learning supports than traditional formats. Educators are better able to personalize and customize learning experiences to align with the needs of each student.” 

In the situation that the teacher/ Professor is following active learning methodologies, cell phones can be an integral part of the classroom. Cell phones can be used by students, for example, to answer MCQ quizzes. They can also be used as clickers to provide feedback to professors in a higher education classroom. Integrating cell phones in the classroom can enhance the learning experience and creates a functional and personalized learning environment. 

However, all of the above advantages for the use of cell phones in the classroom are conditional on the appropriate use of students of this technology.   Skyler & Alyssa’s motto ‘Have a Plan, Not a Ban.’ is really a pivotal point to this issue. I guess our plan should consider the following two conditions: 

The first condition is to incorporate different learning and pedagogy strategies in lesson/ lecture design to maximize the advantages of using technology in the classroom.  As I mentioned in the previous blog, We should look at our pedagogy goals and decide accordingly. We should ask ourselves why we choose to allow students to use a cell phone in the classroom? What problem do we think it solves? We have to take a closer look at the pedagogy and try to find out the pedagogical concerns we might have. Depending on the issues discovered, we would then choose to allow (or not) cell phones in the classroom.

Another condition before allowing cell phones in the classroom is to teach students how to use technology (whether cell phone or social networks or any other technology in fact) in the classroom. Such educational endeavours become essential as these technologies may affect students’ safety and privacy. I believe if our students are taught to be responsible digital citizens, the advantage of technology in the classroom will outweigh its disadvantages. 

Social Media, the Great Evil?

It was another great debate this week, discussing whether or not social media is ruining childhood. My first instinct is to agree, social media is ruining childhood!  Kids are on their phones all the time now.  They don’t communicate directly because they are too busy messaging each other. They don’t go outside and play as much.  They just want to stay inside and be on devices.

Then I realized that because I didn’t grow up with social media, I viewed it as being negative, because it is so different from my childhood.  But just because it is different doesn’t mean it is bad.  As a kid, I would do skits or put on performances with my friends.  Now my daughter loves to recreate TikTok videos with music and dancing.  We don’t post the videos, but she is happy just to create them.  Are those two activities that different? I realized they aren’t! They both involve being creative and doing something fun with your friends. The only difference is that mine involved a boombox and performing for my parents and my daughter’s involves a phone and playing the video for us.

There are negative aspects to social media.  Bailey Parnell, in her TEDxRyersonU talk mentioned some of the issues with social media and mental health.  Some facts that Parnell stated are, 90% of 18-24 year olds use social media and they use it 2 hours per day. 70% of the Canadian population is on social media. According to Parnell, there are four stressors for people that use social media.  They are:

  1. Is Social Media Hurting Your Mental Health? | Bailey Parnell | TEDxRyersonU

    Highlight reel. People post their best moments to social media.  But users end up comparing their behind the scenes and everyday moments to others highlight reel and feel like they are failing or are less than.

  2. Social currency. When users post on social media, their currency is getting likes, positive comments and shares.  It causes dopamine to be released and makes them feel good.  Eventually though, their self-worth begins to be tied to whether or not a post does well.
  3. FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out. Even though social media can cause anxiety for people, they can’t bring themselves to stop using it because of FOMO.  The fear of missing out on social situations prevents them from stopping something that is causing them anxiety.
  4. Online harassment. 40% of social media users have media users have experienced online harassment and 70% of witnessed it. This percentage increases drastically if the user is a visible minority or LGBTQ+. Sometimes the harassment is one negative comment or a micro moment. But as Parnell mentioned, when micro moments happen repeatedly, they become macro problems.

Social media does get a bad rap, but there are positive aspects to social media as well. In 10 Examples of the Positive Impact of Social Media, it talks about how social media has a positive impact on tweens and teens. Some of the ways it accomplishes that is by teaching them how to use technology and job skills they will use in the furture.  It fosters creativity, because they are exposed to so many different ideas and it allows teens to experiment, create and share easily. Social media allows them to connect with their classmates and friends.  If a child is introverted, it can be hard to reach out to peers, but social media can empower them to express their ideas. Also, if a childhood friend moves away, it easier now to stay connected.

One of the biggest benefits of social media for teens is that it can be used to spread social awareness and kindness. It has become very apparent how important social media is in bringing awareness to serious issues such as #BLM.  As Jason Perkins, San Diego SEO and Online Marketing Inc. mentioned, social media allows teens to “search for new information on people, explore new ideas, express themselves the way they want to, and connect with others all over the world.” And allows teens to “start campaigning for their rights and the rights of other people.” In this day and age, it is incredibly important that everyone is able to connect and spread social awareness to bring attention to important social issues.

In the end, I feel like social media isn’t going to go away.  It allows us to easily do something we always did, which is communicate, connect and share stories.  The big difference is that it allows our communication to reach a larger number of people, quicker. Social media isn’t really the problem. The amount of time spent using it is the bigger issue. Because social media isn’t going away, it is more important we teach teens how to use it safely and responsibly so that mental health and online harassment are less likely to be an issue. If it is used properly teens can moderate who they are following so that they increase their civic engagement and feel uplifted, rather than anxious. There are negative aspects to social media, but there are also many positive and it is important to be informed and educated to be able to benefit from the positive aspects.

Debate #5: Should cell phones be banned in the classroom?

I was really disappointed to have missed our last debate due to my work.  The topic was whether or not cellphones should be banned in the classroom.  I watched the class recording - and clearly I missed out on was the opportunity to participate in our lively chat :)

Both teams presented excellent videos.  I especially liked the editing of clips from videos including the Simpsons and Saved By the Bell ...

Skyler and Alyssa focused on the argument that  cell phones in the classroom are a positive addition to Educational Technology. They approached this discussion from a more moderate viewpoint, which I think was very smart.  They defined what a "ban" is - and suggested it was too extreme and advocated for restricted use that is controlled vs. outright dismissal.

The opposing team, Jill and Tarina focused their argument on banning cell phones from the classroom because they are a distraction to students and their ability to learn. 

A very interesting point that was raised that I had not considered was the positioning that school devices are safer for students to use than the personal ones.  This is for several reasons including firewall protection, the responsible use agreement that students must accept as well as the opportunity for teachers to review the search/browser history.

The class discussion focused alot on my classmates experience teaching - and this was so insightful!  I was surprised to hear that most of my fellow students were not opposed to devices in the class.  They stressed the need for focusing on digital citizenship and a recurring theme of the increased need and emphasis to be able to teach this throughout the school years is needed, but not happening.  Many also stressed that parents MUST be a part of this important learning and it can't be a "one and done" conversation.

I wanted to share a couple of additional resources I have found to be very helpful as a parent trying to navigate how to raise a kid using tech responsibily:

Devorah Heitner  her website Raising Digital Natives, and her book "Screenwise" were one of the first POSITIVE resources I found on the topic of digital citizenship for kids.

Here is a link to her Ted Talk, and although it is from 2014, it is still relevant:

Another resource I really like is Anya Kamenetz, her book "The Art of Screen Time

Lastly, if you were looking for a training program for your class - here is one I highly recommend for younger grades, it is called My Life Online 

But I digress ....

One thing I really appreciated about this week's debate was how logical both arguments were.  I did not find the debators to be as polarizing as previous ones, and I have to admit, I was rethinking my position throughout the discussion.

In the end, I maintained my stance that cell phones should not be banned.  However what I found most interesting was hearing from my classmates who did change their vote.  Listening to Melinda explain how essential devices are in her practice of teaching ESL was truly fascinating to me.

The Great EdTech Debate – CHAPTER FIVE – Should cell phones be banned in the classroom?

Tonight’s debate featured two teams debating whether or not cell phones should be banned in the classroom. Each team made fantastic use of the fact that this topic is hotly debated in the media, by incorporating news reports and popular media clips in their opening arguments.

As the debate progressed, it felt as though really we were debating two different aspects of the same topic (cell phones).

  1. Whether or not students should have access to cell phones all the time during school.
  2. Whether or not students should be able to utilize their cell phones as EdTech.

Both teams had arguments that covered these points.

Skyler and Alyssa aimed to convince us that cell phones in the classroom are a positive addition to Educational Technology and teaching and learning in general. Plus, they had an extremely catchy slogan “Don’t Ban, Make a Plan!” and apparently political tactics work on me because I was thinking “Yeah!” as Skyler ended his debate rebuttal with it.

I found their argument fascinating for more than one reason – but what really interested me was they still took a middle ground approach. They did not argue that students should have their devices at all times, instead they favoured the wording of “restricted use” instead of an all out ban, such as the one instituted recently in Ontario. They advocated for clear guidelines in teaching digital citizenship and teacher and administrator determined restrictions.

Jill and Tarina argued that students should not have physical access to cell phones in school, and that they should in fact be banned from the classroom due to their ability to potentially cause distractions. They cited a news report that illustrated how a teacher and her students tracked the amount of notifications they collectively received in a time period – as a way to prove how often a phone could possibly distract a student. The results of this didn’t surprise me – I am an adult and I leave my cell phone in my bedroom during WFH hours because I know I cannot trust myself to not become distracted. (This might just be a symptom of my lack of respect for my own authority though…)

In terms of Cell Phones as educational technology they argued not that we should not have technology in classrooms, but rather school division laptops and tablets were the answer to this need, instead of student cell phones. They discussed the fact that school owned devices are equipped with firewalls and therefore provide certain amounts of protection to students and piece of mind to educators.

Since I know I began the debate firmly in line with Skyler and Alyssa – I was really torn halfway through. Overall this team was very convincing. I can’t disagree with most of their points – they were in fact true and the team came prepared with the research to back it up.

However, it is only because this is my second course focusing on Educational Technology that I also know that there is a growing body of research too – that would argue that most of these issues are caused by a lack of Digital Citizenship Education for students, both at home and at school.

After all, Mike Ribble describes Digital Citizenship as

“The continuously developing norms of appropriate, responsible, and empowered technology use.”

Mike Ribble, 2017

Although I do very much believe that phones can be distracting physically, as well as cause a great deal of social and emotional issues among students, which is the part that still troubles me, and I won’t pretend to have an answer for. That said, I can’t help but also believe that it is our duty to help students define and navigate the norms of technology use – starting in the classroom.

via The Saskatchewan Digital Citizenship Policy Planning Guide

If we expect students to become digital citizens, but don’t allow them the freedom and the space to navigate with their most commonly used pieces of technology – will their learning be authentic?

Let me know what you think! Check out my video from my last EC&I 832 Class Arguing what I think a School’s role in Teaching Digital Citizenship should be – and tell me your own thoughts in the comments below!