Category Archives: ECI830

Posting Students’ Lives

Our third topic in the EC&I 830 class was about posting students’ moments during their academic career. There was a debate between people who agreed with that and those who disagreed. Both groups demonstrated convincing attitudes and brought strong arguments. The agree group generally depended on the idea that posting a child’s life helps in forming his/her identity. However, from my own experience, instructors should consider the religious, cultural, and private aspects before sharing their students’ academic moments.

Some people may argue that is not serious to the cultural and religious extent.giphy (2)

By Giphy

But yes, when you, as a teacher, have students from diverse backgrounds and different religions in your class, that is what you should look at before posting online. That is serious.

giphy (3)

By Giphy

Indeed, children who grow in religious families are sensitive about posting their moments when they get older. For instance, some girls might feel offended when they realize, according to their religious standards, that their photos or videos should not to be posted on internet “even if that was when they were young”. So, in this case, whom do they blame?

giphy (4)

Yes it is the teacher at the first place. Not only some religious students are offended but also their parents are when they figure out that something happens against their beliefs. For example, a father of a girl student felt offended when he saw his daughter’s photo on the wall of honor in the school I taught at. He asked the teacher who posted the student’s photo to remove it immediately and to be respectful to their religious standards even though the girl was happy seeing her photo on that wall. We, her coworkers, really understand that her intention was not out of disrespect.

Another aspect is the cultural one. It is not only the religious standards. Some people think that they belong to a group of people in which sharing moments or photos is not decent; consequently, they apply that as a part of their traditions. Again, in my classroom, there many students with tribal backgrounds. They were avoiding showing up in any photo or video. When I asked them why they disliked sharing moments, most of them answered that they would not disobey their tribal standards. Technically, it is because of their conservative backgrounds.

Furthermore, averting posting online could also be because of privacy issues. Some students do not trust the school online platform or any other platform in which their memories posted on. they think that it is almost public and accessible by everybody no matter what the security level of the platform is. As a result, those photos or videos can be easily haunted by hackers. Moreover, Myra Hamilton argues in Posting a child’s life for the world to see is a privacy issue that children might not be consent with that when they are adults for many reasons, “In addition to expecting their privacy as children to be protected, there’s also the issue of their privacy as future adults. What about when the child grows up? If the information is available on social media when the child reaches adolescence and adulthood, there’s a reserve of fodder for potential bullies at school, for potential employers, and for the media if they become prominent.” .

The reader might judge that I am not with celebrating the special moments in students’ lives. On the contrary, I believe that having our children’s achievements and embarrassing moments posted in a safe place is a must. It is their right to go back to those memories and achievements during life. Also, I am with the idea of posting online and sharing photos and videos but not before the consent of both children and their parents and caring  about their religion, background, and privacy.

 

The featured image source

Risk adverse teachers must take the plunge

As I write these words, a few days following the debate covering the following affirmation: “Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids”, I still can’t decide on what position to take.  During the debate, I kept flip flopping between agreeing and disagreeing with the statement.  Although both teams provided compelling arguments for both perspectives, taking a position is proving to be more difficult than I initially thought.  In my own practice as a teacher, I occasionally tweet statements or pictures of special accomplishments my students have achieved.  Although my use of social media in my professional life is very infrequent, I always hesitate before hitting the “post” button.  A flurry of questions consumes my mind in those few seconds or even minutes between my composing my tweet and publishing it.

  • Is this post appropriate for the public at large?
  • Are there any typos or grammatical mistakes?
  • Will this post hurt anyone?
  • Is this post beneficial to my students?
  • Can I live with this post being on the internet permanently?
  • Is this post even necessary?
  • Do I want to pollute my personal twitter stream with work related posts?
  • Do I really want to post this thing, or should I wait to reflect on this?
  • Can there potentially be any unintentional consequences to my posting this thing?

As one can clearly see, caution and prudence are at the center of my mind when using social media of any kind.  From the perspective of a teacher, I want what is best for my students. We cannot deny that over the past few years, it has never been easier to open up the classroom to the rest of the world. With the use of blogs, microblogs, social media, video sharing sites, image sharing sites and education specific tool like Seesaw, teachers, students and parents have resources that in many cases, didn’t exist only a few years ago.  Like any new technology, it is often hard to predict the impact these technologies will have on the world of education.  My analysis of the suggested readings has led me to categorize teachers in two general categories:

  • Risk adverse teachers who fear the repercussions of opening up their controlled and calculated classroom with the fear of introducing negative effects for their students and themselves.
  • Risk tolerant teachers who embrace opening up their classrooms with the objective of finding potential benefits for themselves and their students.

New technologies and new methods seem to favour risk tolerant teachers in that they don’t have to wait for technologies to mature or be the subject of scrutiny before trying new things.  Only once technologies have been proven to be effective and scrutinized, do risk adverse teachers seem to jump onto new approaches.  Although I find myself leaning towards being a risk adverse teacher, I find myself being more and more positive to the idea of opening my classroom and using some of the tools I mentioned earlier to make my offering as a teacher more diverse.

Many papers extol the benefits of using new technologies including social media in the classroom.  Rdouan Faizi et al. notes these benefits in the following categories:

  • Social Media as Communications Channels
  • Social Media as Engagements Tools
  • Social Media as Collaborative Platforms

In each of these categories, Farzi explores the benefits of using social media to open the classroom to the outside world by enabling more efficient communication channels and integrating new engagement tools between parents, teachers and students.  In addition, by utilizing collaborative platforms, a larger part of the community can contribute to the holistic molding of students.  Most teachers wouldn’t argue the findings of a paper like this particular one.  However, the success of opening the classroom using tools as social media rests, as always on the method of delivery and the approach taken by teachers.

With the prevalence of social media and modern online collaboration tools, I have no other option but to embrace these technologies and minimize risk for my students by helping them become responsible digital citizens. This can be accomplished by having discussions with the students regarding safe and proper use of information technology all the while explicitly showing them how to use these technologies by modeling correct online behaviour myself.

In her paper, Diane Forbes details many of the risks and issues that must be taken into consideration when educating people with regards to the ethical use of Social Media.  She provides excellent leads that might be the source of many answers for the Risk adverse teachers that enter the world of more open education.  Although there is still much to learn regarding the use of these tools, I think it’s well worth the risks to dive into the world of openness and sharing using online tools.

One must be vigilant make sure to stay current on the latest and proper practices for using these tools by staying informed on the potential issues that could surface.  Although mostly reactive, school division policies regarding the use of these tools might be a great place to start.  Although I’m relatively scared to take the next steps in using these tools as a Risk adverse teacher, I feel it is my duty to explore them as I’m depriving my student of important skills and knowledge if I don’t.  Here we go!

Twitter: @danieldion1

Blog: danieldion1.wordpress.com

Youtube: www.youtube.com/danieldion1

Is openness and sharing in our schools a good thing?

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

Openness and sharing in our schools is unfair to our kids

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

edtechpic_med

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

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

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

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

screen-shot-2015-12-03-at-22820-pmpng

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

18519959-vector-oops-symbol.jpg

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

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

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

C3I3cMBVcAAH5QU.jpg

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

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

think

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

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

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

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

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

**Security online is expressed using the STEP method:

step

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

Let me reflect on the debate statement again:

Openness and sharing in our schools is unfair to our kids

download

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

 

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

Just Google It


Image from GIPHY

The Great Tech Debate for this week was about whether we should be focusing on teaching things that can just be googled.  This is a very tricky topic as many people had very different ways of looking at what “Googling it” entailed. It ranged from the simple act of typing something into Google to find the answer, to using the many tools Google has to offer, such as Google slides and hangouts.

When I think of “Googling it” I think of typing in a simple question into Google to find an answer.  I think of these types of questions as lower level questions that have an easy answer.  According to The Curriculum Corner these lower level questions can be thought of as thin questions and higher level questions can be thought of as thick questions.  Now although we are using Google and not a book, looking at the chart I think we can say that thin questions are ones that are right there on Google after we type something into a Google search. Although students need to be able to answer lower level/thin questions, it’s important that we spend most of our time guiding students to higher level/thick questions that involve more thinking and applying what they are learning.

Image from https://www.thecurriculumcorner.com/thecurriculumcorner456/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/thickthinanchorcolor-768×593.jpg

Understanding lower level basic content provides a foundation to better understand higher level content.  So although I don’t feel we should focus on things that can just be “Googled”, we do need to provide students with a foundation of knowledge to build on.  For example, if students don’t understand what a habitat is, how can we expect them to decide if it’s important to protect animal habitats and make the choice to take action to protect them.

Students also need to understand that our Google search history can have an impact on what Google will provide us during a Google search. In the article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, Nicholas Carr points out that “[Google] uses the results to refine the algorithms that increasingly control how people find information and extract meaning from it”.  In our night class, Alec pointed out that Google can even provide content that is leaning more towards one political side based on our search histories.  Students need to be aware of this and not take a Google search at face value, but instead dig deeper into what they find.

Both the disagree and agree teams found some common ground and both pointed out the importance of critical thinking skills.  These skills can be practiced with and without the use of Google.  However, using Google as a tool allows students access to more resources to explore and use on their critical thinking journey. Being able to use these skills online is vital these days with the issues of fake news and very biased articles/posts. Using Google as a search tool is the first step to finding items online to view through a critical lens.

Image from GIPHY

From my last class with Alec, I learned about teaching students to think critically. One resource shared during the course was “The Five C’s of Critical Consuming” by John Spencer. In this video John shares five ways that students can view content and decide if it is trustworthy, reliable and useful.  The Five C’s he suggests are:

Context – When and where is it written? Have events changed or new info available?

Credibility – Is the site credible? Are the sources cited credible? Is it satirical? Is it an advertisement?

Construction – What’s the bias, facts, opinions, propaganda?

Corroboration – Do other sources claim this too?

Compare – Find other credible sources to compare it to get a larger more rounded picture of the information.

 

After the debate I still feel that some time should be spend on content that can be Googled, but that more time should be spent on helping students gain critical thinking skills and practice applying them to a digital world.  We can use the foundation of the content students need to understand from the curriculum and have them apply the skills needed to understand this information in a deeper more meaningful way.

 

Areas that teaching should focus on

Do we need Shakespeare? That is one of many questions one is asked when talking about whether we should teach things that can be googled or not, whether teachers should focus on the knowledge existed in the school standard textbooks or focus on the critical skills and individual attitudes.

giphy

by Giphy

To begin with, I studied English literature for four-undergraduate years in Damascus University. The system of teaching was extremely traditional with about two hours lecturing for every class. As students, we did not have the chance to even speak to the professors before and after lectures. Such traditional educational systems do not even focus on the learner; I doubt that instructors notice if all the learners are in the class or not!

giphy (1)

by Giphy

Jusoor, the educational organization that I worked at as a teacher, was open to development and modern education so that it brought educational advisers and consultants from many countries such as America and Canada. It also corporated with many other non-profit educational organizations. The advisers and trainers focused on student-centered education. They took into their consideration the traumas that students have been through. For example, RightToPlay is one of the organizations which trained me on how to implement playing, as a right for children, in the educational process. Keeping away the standard school knowledge, I extremely adopted the student-centered teaching methodology as an overreaction to a) the traditional undergraduate learning system I had, b) the students who psychologically suffered from an old schooling system and displacement effects, c) the fascinating practices of the interactive methodologies that many international organizations used to teach. Assessing the results, I would curb my enthusiasm towards focusing on individual attitudes and interpersonal skills only (critical thinking, solving problems, communication). Instead of focusing only on the individual attitudes and interpersonal skills adaptability, I would rather make a balance between them and the knowledge of standard school subjects, which can be googled.

In the last two decades, many educators emphasized on the cognitive skills and how students need to improve them for successful education to fit the 21st century. During my work as a teacher of English, I was teaching the Lebanese curriculum for Syrian students. It was intense for them to deal with, especially after a period of disruption. Keeping that in mind, I worked on enhancing their cognitive skills and responsible behaviors despite how much they achieved in the school subjects. What was the result? They improved skills on how to deal with varied communicative situations, but most of them failed to achieve in their pure academic tasks. For instance, once I taught them how to pronounce a set of words without requiring to memorize them. Correspondingly, they missed how to use that set of words in the appropriate context and form.

My point of view is that we, as educators, should look carefully at how to combine between the foundation and the structure. The foundation is the store of information that we need to resort to as experiments, resources, and proofs, and the structure is the set of skills in how to deal with those previous experiences. Every student learns more successfully if his/her learning is based on previous knowledge and experiences. That, in a way or another, is actually mentioned in Marc Smith’s article Why memorizing facts can bey a keystone to learning, “Memorising facts can build the foundations for higher thinking and problem solving. Constant recitation of times tables might not help children understand mathematical concepts but it may allow them to draw on what they have memorised in order succeed in more complex mental arithmetic.”

I am not saying that educators should prioritize standard knowledge on cognitive skills. On the contrary, it is safe to focus on the store of knowledge even if it can be easily googled as long as there are varied subjects where students can access information and interpret them at the same time. Indeed, do not we need novels and poems to analyze? Do not we need facts for science to apply on?

 

 

 

“GOOGLE” THE FOUNTAIN OF KNOWLEDGE ?

Image Via Marketingland

Hello ECI830!

Are school and teachers the fountain of knowledge?  My response to this statement is that the school or teacher are no longer the fountains of all knowledge but they were once. I agree with the fact that Google has affected the way students learn but having said that I do not agree with the statement that schools should not focus on things that can be googled. Now, with the arrival of many virtual assistants and search engines information can be accessed very easily, just say the words and you’ll have your answer. But with so much information easily available, does it make kids smarter? The notion of schooling is to make our students educated and not just literate. Technology and digital media are altering the meaning of literacy and creating new challenges for teaching and learning and in this media-saturated culture our kids spend a great amount of time on the internet and they access an enormous amount of data from many sources. It is very important that they are equipped with right knowledge of analyzing information and be a critical thinker and that is where schools and teachers come in.

The great debate this week was interesting and was focused on one of the questions that we educators will always think of but hardly discuss “Should teachers teach anything that can be Googled?” Both teams of the debate presented a well organized and strategized approach and were very informative. The recommended readings and articles further supported their stand and even mine. The Ted talk video by Pavan stunningly explains that knowledge is obsolete and 65% of our students will have jobs in the future that we have never heard of. His further explanations were quite convincing and to an extent real and I believe that technology by itself will not make anyone smarter. In his thought-provoking speech! I especially like the notion that we should teach our students to be creative instead of teaching them tasks which will be obsolete by the time they’re old enough to use them.

The word which highlighted my thoughts in the whole videos was TEACH, yes, we as educators must teach our students. Just because the information is available on google doesn’t mean that our students can analyze it in an appropriate way. we must teach our students to understand themselves as learners and understand how to access material, we must make them critical thinkers to analyze the information, our learners need

Image Via Thepeakperformancecenter

guidance and I believe that the internet is too vast, disordered and dangerous for learners to find their way alone. My thoughts reflect on Shelby’s blog post and I completely agree when she states” Things like facts, should be checked and students need to figure out how to weave the web to find the good stuff, the right stuff and make educated decisions based on the information found” I believe that we as teacher must actively engage our students in the process analysing information, what is right and what is not. In short, we must aid them in the process of weaving the web and if we do not focus or do not teach things that can be Googled are we being fair with them and doing justice for our profession?

Gif Via Giphy

Further focusing on the arguments about memorization, I think it is very important that we teach these skills to our students. I may sound like an old school but I often hear this statement from parents that their kids don’t remember. The reason they don’t remember is that they are not taught how to memorize. In his article “In the Age of Google, Should Schools Teach Memorization Skills?”  Dr. Bill Klemm states that the reason students don’t remember is that they are not taught how to memorize. Why is that? First, there is a cultural disdain for memorization skills. Who needs memory skills today? Not only do we have books where we can look something up, but now we can always just “Google it.” But Google can’t learn a foreign language for you. What about students trying to pass high-stakes exams? Google isn’t made available. And can Google make businesspeople more knowledgeable and competent? “So, to conclude, I think that the more one remembers, the more intellectual competencies one has to draw upon for thinking, problem-solving, and even creativity.

Finally, to wrap this post I want to state that I am not against Google or any technology and I believe in integration of technology in classroom and teaching practices but I also believe that technologies could never replace great teaching and with the hype of Technology in education let us not forget the importance of teaching and learning. What do you think?

GIF via GIPHY

Debate #2 (Stepping way out of my comfort zone)

I like a challenge; this is what I told myself when I decided that I would attempt to ‘vlog’ rather than blog for my thoughts on this week’s debate. Little did I know, I’d spend countless hours trying to figure out how to do it, and then nearly fail to upload it because of a mistake I had made. Oh well… it is all part of the learning process, as Alec says.

abd72ff368445c1749b048ba4b19e1fc--what-ha-my-hair

Speaking of the learning process, I totally used Google to search for tutorials to help me through the creation of this video. Spoiler alert: that probably tells you which side of the debate statement I am siding with.

However, as many have mentioned, in no way do I think that Google should be used as a ‘be all end all’ solution to problem solving. I love seeing my students struggle through their daily math puzzler and seeing the exact moment that the lightbulb goes on. I challenge my students to think critically, and that it’s okay to struggle or make mistakes. I am there to help, to guide, to probe, and prompt. I am there to offer strategies or to provide manipulatives that may help. Just because my students have the math textbook, doesn’t mean that I don’t teach them the skills and knowledge they need to understand the grade 4 curriculum. In turn, just because Google may have readily available facts at our fingertips, doesn’t mean that we as teachers shouldn’t teach certain google-able content.

Without further adieu, here it is folks. Please don’t criticize too hard 😉

Vlog for debate #2

Oh, and please note that it is finished at 5:19, but I forgot to chop the audio and so it plays til 6:19 hahaha.. oh wow… allllll part of the learning process (this is my new mantra I swear)

This is it…get ready for the mic drop!

Featured image source.

Hello ECI830’ers,

This week (on Monday if we’re getting sticky on dates! 😉Joe, Amy and I are presenting our argument on why IT IS unfair to our children to have so much openness and sharing in schools. scared dog GIF I’m not going to give away our arguments just in case the opposition is watching————————————>

                          image source.

 

But I’m just here to tell you that I think myself and my team have put together a very convincing argument on why we need to, if nothing else, be more mindful of how much, and what we are sharing online of our kids and their work.  The world is a VERY connected place now and the implications of what we post will follow our kids throughout the rest of their lives.  We teach them to be careful and think of the consequences of their actions, but are parents and schools doing the same when they sign off the media consent, the facebook page consent, etc.  I’m not so sure!

Image result for pot calling the kettle black image source.

Now, before someone says, “well aren’t you the pot calling the kettle black”  – I know, I have a classroom Facebook page that I readily share both student work and pictures on.  That being said, I have a very strict permission package that goes home with every family that outlines both how I intended to use the page as well as the rules and guidelines around saving, sharing or tagging photos.  I feel better about this because it is separate from the division media release and I can police it’s comings and goings on my own rather than counting on the powers that be.  Also, all of my content is closed and deleted at the end of every school year.  I recognize and respect when a parent declines to be a part of the page however because I absolutely see the risks.

Looking forward to seeing how the debate shakes down on Monday!  Get ready Kari, Esther and Shelly!  We’re coming for you! 😉

❤ Dani

“Educating the mind, without educating the heart,

is no education at all.”

-Aristotle

 

Meet Me In The Middle?

“Long before there were schools as we know them, there was apprenticeship — learning how to do something by trying it under the guidance of one who knows how.” – ‘The Objective of Education Is Learning, Not Teaching’

This week in #eci830 my group was tasked with the challenge of presenting an argument that suggested schools should not be teaching anything that can be googled, our opponents argued the opposite. What was ironic about the debate was that both sides spent a fair amount of time talking about critical thinking skills.

In our opening statement, my group discussed the need for educators to understand that:

  1. Knowledge is changing at a rapid pace
  2. Schools need to prepare students for that change in knowledge
  3. Technology allows for efficiency

Channing explains each of our introductory arguments further in her post, Educating The Google Generation.

Whether someone felt they agreed or disagreed with the idea that schools should not be teaching things that can be googled before the debate, I think you’d have been hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t agree that critical thinking skills are vital to student future success, after the debate! So if critical thinking is so important, just what does that look like and what does it mean?

What I found most interesting about this video was that it really doesn’t matter where in the world you live, what language you speak or your life experiences – critical thinking skills are valuable!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/acidmidget/13910556505
Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/nceeP8

Every day we are bombarded with information all around us. Whether it is in a store, on a billboard, on social media, the radio or pretty much anywhere we go – there is something to be consumed.  As educators we have to ask ourselves, what are we doing to prepare our students for the overwhelming amount of information they are being exposed to? Though both groups in the debate disagreed in some areas, Kristen highlighted in her blog that we did agree on the idea that critical thinking is something students NEED to have an opportunity to practice.

So we then have to ask ourselves how are we providing our students with these opportunities? I believe that we need to change how we look at learning, as a whole, in order to truly prepare our youth for a world that we don’t yet fully understand. The skills students will need to be successful are not things that can be memorized or copied. Rather, they are abilities that these individuals will possess! I believe that when we give students the skills they need, to learn about the things they are passionate about, they will internalize (I like that word better than memorize) the information they need to be able to share their knowledge and passions.

If we truly want to provide opportunities for students to develop critical thinking skills I think there are a few changes we need to make in education. Often times while planning units and lessons I have found myself questioning some of the things in our Saskatchewan Curriculum. Not because I don’t think learning is important but rather because I don’t think we allow for enough autonomy in our students learning.  Now, dependant on the age of your students, this certainly looks different but I think it is possible. As a bit of a side note, I do think we need concrete knowledge in areas like reading, writing and math but I do believe there are ways to provide student choice in these subjects as well.

Some changes I would make in my education dream world…

  1. Change the mindset around the role of the teacher from the knower of knowledge to a guide for students
  2. Provide guiding questions rather than answers/final destinations of learning in curriculum documents
  3. Integrate digital citizenship skills into all areas of the curriculum as a mandatory piece
  4. Eliminate traditional grading practices in the K-5 classroom
  5. Remove the idea that students of a certain age need to meet a certain ‘level’ by a certain time. Keep growth and development as a staple but remove the constraints of time.

In the real world, I believe we must seek to find balance in our classrooms, finding the middle ground for integrating tools like Google and learning skills like how to read!

All week I had this song in my head and I think Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey say it perfectly… meet me in the middle!

To Google or not to Google? I guess I’ll have to Google for an answer!

The world of information is in constant evolution and as information technology evolves, so do the ways we consume it, we distribute it, we use it and we create it.  With the advent of the internet and modern search engines using advanced algorithms and artificial intelligence, access to information has never been easier.  Knowledge is no longer reserved for a privileged subset of society, it can be accessed instantly my almost anyone from anywhere in the world.  This shift in information availability and accessibility has pushed the world of education to reflect on its approach in developing its students.

After evaluating the suggested readings related to the debate on the topic of teaching things that can be “Googled”, I am led to believe that as educators, our role as conveyors of knowledge and skills is rapidly being redefined.  Although it certainly takes a high level of knowledge to be a competent teacher, our students are depending less on us to be their primary source of information and more on us to help them navigate the panoply of information on the internet.

The phenomena of fake news, misinformation, propaganda and pseudoscience have ravaged the internet in the past few years. Here are but a few examples:

From my experience as a parent and a teacher, kids can easily be influenced by this type of content.  Seeing this type of content on the internet leads me to ask the following questions:

  • How do I, as an educator, guide my students in navigating these numerous varied sources of information?
  • How do I teach students to decipher the good, the mediocre, the bad and the ugly parts of the internet?
  • How to I assure my students build strong critical and analytical skills in the hope they don’t get negatively influenced my sources of information that have less than pure intentions?

These questions all point towards key information processing skills.  In Challenges to learning and schooling in the digital networked world of the 21st century, it is stated that:

“Across these frameworks it is generally agreed that collaboration, communication, digital literacy, citizenship, problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and productivity are essential for living in and contributing to our present societies.”

Most teachers I know would agree with this affirmation, and I certainly do also, however one must note that, of these attributes, none of them refer to content or knowledge.  They all refer to skill building.

As a high school science teacher, building these skills are my priority.  Asking questions, seeking answers and asking more questions are at the basis of the scientific method.

2013-updated_scientific-method-steps_v6_noheader

source: https:///science-fair-projects/science-fair/steps-of-the-scientific-method

Teachers such as Dan Mayer have developed and promoted educational approaches that can be used by teachers to help them develop these analytical skills in students.

Another question remains:

  • Is teaching information that can be found on the internet still something that teachers should do? 

As I reflected on this question following the debate, my thoughts let me to thinking of the world of assessment.  In the current format of the education system in which I teach here in Saskatchewan, assessment is the ultimate goal as it is how we determine the worthiness of a student to proceed to the next step in their education.  Unfortunately, assessing students can be quite difficult and rudimentary.  In most cases, assessments have a tendency of measuring a students’ knowledge in a particular subject and not necessarily their skills.  There seems to be a disconnect when we promote teaching skills to student while evaluating their retention of knowledge.  These skills we value so much as educators cannot adequately measure given the structure of our current education system of standardized tests.

When I participated in the writing of the new provincial Physics 30 curriculum a few years ago, our team of writers almost endlessly debated the importance of skills and knowledge that needed to be addressed as part of the curriculum.  Ultimately, the outcomes we built into the curriculum were skill based, however, the indicators we created to help demonstrate the achievement of these outcomes were often knowledge based.  We were consistently influenced in our curriculum writing by the fact that a departmental exam needed to be issued for the course and we needed to establish indicators that could be measured and assessed with multiple answer questions and numerical calculations.  As a non-accredited physics teacher, this situation frustrates me to no end and ultimately restricts what and how I can teach.  Let’s not even take into consideration the disadvantage that I teach physics in French and have to deal with subpar teaching resources and tools as compared to my colleagues who teach the same course in English.  A disparity that is even the internet cannot eliminate.

In the end, I feel like I am left with no choice.  I MUST teach information that can be found on the internet and in textbooks as I MUST assess them in such a way for them gain the skills pass standardized departmental examinations provided by the Ministry of Education of Saskatchewan.  These examinations HAVE to count for 40% of their final mark and will determine their suitability for perusing in a subject related to that subject area.  As much as it pains me, this practice will continue until there are drastic policy and philosophical changes in the structure of education in Saskatchewan.

Each day, I try to teach the skills that my students will need to be successful productive members of society and HOPE these skills I teach them will translate well in standardized assessments.

Technology might hold the key in solving this dilemma, I guess I have some Googling to do!

googling