Category Archives: ECI830

Educators and Social Justice

Image by tiday from Pixabay

Thursday was the last edition of The Great EdTech Debate, and the topic couldn’t have been more fitting for our current times. The last debate posed the following statement: Educators have a responsibility to use tech and social media to promote social justice. Before sharing my own thoughts and feelings, let’s take a quick look at the debate my classmates presented.

Debate Recap

Team Agree

Mike and Jacquie took on the task of arguing FOR the debate statement. In their video (posted below), Mike and Jacquie stated how social justice in education includes 4 components:

  1. Challenges, confronts, and disrupts misconceptions, untruths, and stereotypes
  2. Provides students with resources needed to learn to their full potential
  3. Draws on students talents and strengths
  4. Promotes critical thinking and supports agency for social change

They also outlines how using tech and social media to promote social justice allows students to foster:

  • Problem Solving
  • Critical Thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Perseverance
  • Historical Context
  • The idea that schools can, and should, be bigger than its four walls

Their video ended with a POWERFUL, goosebump worthy, video clip called “Martin Niemoller’s Words: First They Came For. . .” (I found the clip so powerful, I believe it deserves its own link!)

Team Disagree

On the opposing side, Brad and Michala argued how educators DO NOT have a responsibility to use tech and social media to promote social justice. Through their video (posted below), Brad and Michala stated that using social media and tech may not be the best places to promote social justice because:

  • Teachers can use their students as “tiny foot soldiers” to promote their own personal beliefs and agendas
  • Students can become “internet trolls” if they are not well-informed on social justice topics, yet choose to post online. Causing harm to their digital footprints.

They did not argue that educators should NOT teach about social justice. Rather, they argued that the education on social justice should take place IN the classroom, face-to-face, rather than through social media.

My Thoughts

This debate, once again, had me torn.  Both sides presented arguments that I found myself agreeing with, or that caused me to second guess my own thoughts/beliefs.

Arguments From Team Disagree

I think the main issue I found myself having with this debate was the wording of the debate statement itself.  I do believe that teachers should be teaching about social justice, but I don’t know if I agree that it should be done via social media or tech use. I strongly agree with Michala’s argument on how there needs to be a more face-to-face component when teaching a subject area that can be very emotionally taxing. Classrooms are supposed to be a safe place for students, which makes it the perfect setting to discuss such sensitive topics. The article Teaching Young Children About Bias, Diversity, and Social Justice has 5 great alternatives to teaching young children about social justice without the use of social media, such as; using children’s literature, or giving familiar examples such as gender stereotyped toys.

The second point Brad and Michala stressed that really stuck with me was the idea of teachers pushing their own beliefs and agendas on students. I would hope no one would do this on purpose; however, I also know it can happen from habit.  When you are passionate about something, or have strong roots in your beliefs, it can be difficult not to lead with that. Teachers, in my opinion, have an obligation not to steer students in the direction they believe in, but, rather, fully educate them on the situations and injustices of the world as unbiased as possible. Granted, this may be easier said than done, but there needs to be a strong effort to do this.

Arguments From Team Agree

The main point that stood out to me from the agree team was the idea of teachers moving beyond the idea of staying neutral.  The curriculums we teach are not neutral, and, often times, students look to us (as educators) to help guide them through scenarios that are scary or unknown. Teachers being complacent does not benefit anyone, in my opinion.  That being said, it can also be scary to step out of that comfort zone and talk about subject areas surrounding social justice, as there is always the possibility of upsetting someone. As we talked about in our discussion during class, it can be a fine line. On one hand, if you speak out, you risk upsetting/offending someone in the process. On the other hand, if you don’t speak out, you also risk offending people for being seen as complacent. In the end, you are never going to please everyone; however, as mentioned above, I believe if teachers try to give a holistic view when teaching social justice, that is all we can ask.  Teacher are also humans, who will grow and learn, just like everyone else.

I really appreciated the article Teachers must Hold Themselves Accountable for Dismantling Racial Oppression, as it outlined 3 rather simple, yet effective, ways that teachers can hold themselves accountable in schools to dismantle oppression. As Mike mentioned in his rebuttal, teaching about social justice to our students allows them to become justice oriented citizens. Hopefully, in turn, this will allow them to go on and educate others on how to do the same, and cause a ripple effect.

I think, as teachers, or at least for myself, all I want is my students to be good, respectful, citizens in this world. I want them to feel valued and accepted, and, in turn, give others the value and respect they deserve. If we shy away from teaching them about the injustices, or oppression, other people face, I believe we are doing our students a disservice. I heard on the news one night, from a protestor in Boston, that “our world is broken, and we need to change.” As educators, we have the power, platform, and, often times, privilege, to promote and model that change for our young students.

Social justice issues can be hard to tackle. They can be uncomfortable, taxing, or cause your heart to ache. However, to quote Jacquie in her closing argument, “when we lean into uncomfortable conversations, the magic that can happen, the opportunities, the connection, and the growth. . . [perhaps] it’s those little things and those little moments of leaning in to what breaks your heart, and creating ways and places that we can act in service, in kindness, and in compassion.” This statement was beautiful, and I think everyone needs to hear it, because it sums out the power of teaching social justice beautifully.

My Thoughts on Openness and Sharing in Schools

The topic, Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids, up for debate last Tuesday was a bit confusing for me. “What does this even mean?”, was the first question that popped in my head and I was anxious and excited to see how my colleagues, Melinda and Altan, and Sherrie and Dean, would go about debating this topic. I believe that it could be addressed in many ways:

  • Openness and sharing in social media.

Parents are creating a digital footprint for their children. Just like all the other big decisions they make for them, deciding on vaccinating or not for example, sharing pictures of their children on social media can impact their lives for better or for worst. It’s imperative to consider how sharing pictures of our children on social media might affect them when they are older. Parents behaviour on social media platforms can alter the safety of their kids. According to Jessica Baron, they become more “at risk of identity theft, humiliation, various privacy violations, future discrimination, and […] developmental issues related to autonomy and consent”.  In her article, Could children one day sue parents for posting baby pics on Facebook?, published in The Gardian, Nicole Kobie explains that “Given the relative youth of social media, it’s hard to say exactly how growing up online could affect children but there are concerns around infringing privacy, safety and security […], and leaving children open to bullying”. Sharing can be positive when done with good intents. Living five provinces away from my family, I know it’s important to stay connected. Sharing pictures on Facebook, Instagram and Snap Chat is how we do it. I love being able to see pictures of my nephews and keeping up to date with all their activities and achievements. It makes it much easier to keep relationships strong. It’s especially easier for me to start conversations with them after seeing a picture that was posted online, when video chatting or speaking on the phone.

When taking pictures of students and sharing them on social media, schools should be careful. It’s important to take into consideration that some pictures may be embarrassing and could lead to problems for them in the future, like getting a job for example. Schools should have a policy in place to assure everyone’s, students and staff members, safety regarding sharing pictures on social media. Just like parents overshare, schools can do the same. Are we looking to celebrate achievements or are we just trying to look good? Exploitation is a problem and oversharing is a way of looking for trouble. On the other hand, celebrating achievements is important and social media can be a great tool to use to do this. This year, because of Covid-19, our school celebrated graduation on Facebook. We decided, with the graduates and their parents, to create videos to present the grads and awards and bursaries they won. It was hard work but I feel like we captured the essence of our usual grad ceremony while highlighting the positive each student brought to the school community throughout their years at École St-Isidore.

With that being said, schools need to collaborate with parents and children when opting to post information on social media. When sending media release forms to families, it’s important to assure parents or guardians understand what they entail. It is also important to ask the children if it’s ok to share pictures before sharing them. Educators and administrators need to use common sense before posting information online. They also need to educate themselves and students on the subject. Once again, digital citizenship is key to assure everyone’s safety. According to Tanner Higgin, director, Education Editorial Strategy at Common Sense Education, “To be true digital citizens, our students need teachers who model pro-social, creative, and responsible social media use”.  Creating an open classroom takes time, patience and practice. Open learning enhances “learning opportunities within formal education systems or broadens learning opportunities beyond formal education systems”. Rdouan Faizi, Abdellatif El Afia, Raddouane Chiheb in Exploring the Potential Benefits of Using Social media in Education, explain that social media can encourage communication between students and teachers. If used properly, it can become a tool that engages students in the learning process. They also state that the use of social media can enhance collaboration between students.

Choosing often leads to unexpected and unpredictable results. While there is risk associated with the unknown, there is even greater reward and goodness.

Eight Qualities of Open Pedagogy – Next Thought Studios
  • Openness and sharing resources amongst teachers

Sharing resources to help others is a necessity to grow the school sense of community. Steve at edfuturists.com explains that at “At Leeds City College, we actively promote sharing ideas and best practice and have a Google community where staff can share the amazing things they are doing in their practice, which may inspire someone else to magpie their idea or spur them on to challenge themselves to do something differently with their learners.” Working together is powerful. I’ve always believed that “two heads are better than one”. When colleagues brainstorm, share and collaborate, innovation happens. And it is my belief that students feel more connected to their learning because of this collaboration. Caitlin Tucker, in her article entitled Cultivating Communities of Practice, explains that members of a community of practice help “grow their collective knowledge-in-use, or ‘practice’, by incorporating variations that arise form the diversity of their dynamic membership and their collective interaction with the larger communities”. At École St-Isidore, collaboration is a value set in stone. We meet every two weeks to discuss what is going well in our respective classrooms, what we are doing that students are liking, which students need more guidance and what others are doing to help assure every child’s needs are met. Openness and sharing help us be on the same page and assures every child is accompanied through learning in efficient ways and according to what they need to better thrive. It also allows teachers and other staff members to learn from others and grow as individuals.

  • Openness and sharing about your personal life, to some extent, to help create strong relationships with students.

I remember being in elementary school and meeting one of my teachers at the grocery store on a Saturday and thinking, “whaaaaaat are you doing here, you should be at school?”. Now that I’m a teacher, I have a hard time understanding why questions like this one even crossed my mind. Teachers are real people. They have families, hobbies, expectations, and goals that exist beyond what defines them as being teachers. But if we don’t share these parts of ourselves with our students, how are they supposed to understand that we are normal human beings. I truly believe sharing with others, listening to what they have to say and opening up to ideas and change is important to create climates of trust and respect. With this being said, it’s important to be cautious, some things are better left unshared. “Romantic relationships, family matters, and personal drama are of no concern to your students”, stick with the funny things your kids did, or talk about a book you are reading for fun, what you did during the weekend or a family trip you took. Keep it light and happy.

To conclude, I propose we become teachers that are digital citizenship advocates who encourage open learning in our classrooms to help our students become engaged, responsible and independent in their learning process.

Thank you for reading 🙂

Here are the openning statement videos created by my classmates on the topic of openness and sharing…

Melinda and Altan created the video to voice how Openness and sharing in schools is unfaire to our kids.
On the other hand, Sherrie and Dean explain that openness and sharing is good for our kids.

The G.E.T. Debate Round 7 – Social Justice and Social Media in the Classroom – It’s Complicated

The Debate

Another timely and important debate.

The Pre-Vote

50/50 right down the middle at the start. Based on views and thoughts shared through out the class this split did not surprise me. People are really weighing the pros and cons with each topic.

The Thoughts

It was another timely and thoughtful debate. Both teams did incredible jobs with the research, presentations, and delivery (Thanks Mike, Jacquie, Brad,and Michala). One thing that has struck me about the debates and it’s that one word usually sticks out to me and this time was ‘promote’. Are you promoting a social justice cause or promoting the importance of social justice or promoting that kids have to be involved in social justice? Mike and Jacquie did a great job of laying out that teaching is a political act and that social justice is part of the art of teaching (Social Justice Belongs in Our Schools). One of the goals of education is to ensure that the world continues to be a better place for all (although this could be challenge by the great points Melinda and Altan made (also personal for me as that’s one of the reasons my dad came to Canada from former Yugoslavia)). So if we are not using all of the tools at our disposal to help move the world forward are we doing our jobs as educators. But there is another side of the story and Brad and Michala did a great job of pointing out the ‘risks’ especially with social media … are you ‘recruiting’ foot soldiers for your cause, making assumptions on social media that you wouldn’t make face to face, or listening to ‘trolls’ out there posting information they know nothing about? (Social Justice Lens Checklist) Using technology and social media does magnify these challenges as the audience is bigger, far reaching, and in some cases brings out the ‘trolls’. Then there is the issue of ‘slackivism’ (great read on Slacktivism, Social Justice, and Social Media here). In this article, there is a meme that basically says a thumbs up on social media is not an action. So if this is happening are we really promoting social justice of any kind. Sometimes I find (and I know it’s part of the debate and many issues timely – so I’m not questioning these important points or saying it not cool to go there) that we go to the ‘extreme’ examples and stay there in many of the debates. An example we used in our openness / sharing debate was the Kindness Ninja. These are important social justice movements too. It is important to tackle the ‘big’ social justice movements, but sometimes we just need to step back and tackle a smaller, more local, and/or less charged issue as well. I feel a great debate produces more questions than answers and this one was definitely a great one for me.

The Research

I enjoyed reading Katia’s article Journal Homepage: Nurturing #TeacherVoice: Why Educators’ Online Presence Matters to Educational Equity. One of the quotes that stood out to me was, ‘Technology can also give provide a greater platform for causes that might otherwise go overlooked in the mainstream media’ (p.34). I feel this way about many of the issues we have examined. It is a challenge but social media provides more voices. It can be daunting, but many times things went unnoticed because mainstream media was limiting both intentionally and unintentionally. I feel that a lot of things seem ‘worse’, but I feel there are just more voices that have a platform to be heard. I think our debates have been important a “community of discomfort” (p. 36) which is a good thing. In a short time (because of the people and leadership in this class), we have struggled forward on a great many topics. I know by reading many class mates blogs and seeing a few flipgrids that this has been a great take away of this class One of the last points in the article was, ‘Being an educator in a digital age necessitates our thoughtful participation in digital life; we can no longer cling to “safe” topics of conversation, and we can no longer allow our silence to speak in our stead.’ (p. 37) I know I have grown a lot in this area and still have a long ways to go. But I know this class and this debate has moved me along in this journey. As I said in my title, it’s complicated but I’d also add worth it.

A Resource

Found this as I researched and learned more about our topic. It is made for elementary but could use easily in high school. I think it would be a great resource for those who are on their social media in the classroom journey. http://www.usingtheirwords.org/6elements/

The Results

The results made sense to me, as I felt even the disagree side recognized the need to promote social justice in the class but still influenced enough people to question whether tech and social media need to be a part of this.

The Community is the Curriculum

When Alec first made that statement early in our course, I thought, oh that’s so nice.  However as we worked through the course, the true meaning of this statement really showed.  I wanted to write an additional blog post to thank each of you for your contributions to my learning, especially since this is the final course of my Ed Leadership Degree.

Altan

Thanks so much for for sharing some personal experiences. You brought some unique perspectives to our class. My cat also liked your cat picture!

bella

Alyssa

A great debate opponent! I will never forget the slogan “have a plan, not a ban!” Thanks for a fun debate! You did awesome!

Amanda

You have great knowledge of tech and several instructional topics. I enjoy listening to your podcast and thank you for the ant-racism resources.

Amy

While this is our first class together, we are both at the end of our Master’s journey. Congrats to you! I have enjoyed reading your Tweets!

Brad

I always enjoyed hearing your thoughts when you shared them during or discussion. You speak from experience. You are a great actor/impersonator!

Christina

You shared a lot of excellent resources in your blog and on Twitter that I have found very useful and can see myself using in the future.  Your blog comments prompted me to reflect on my own situation. I also really enjoyed your debate video.

Curtis

I really appreciate your contributions to the Slack forums. You helped me in a few different situations.

Daina

I agreed with so much that you said in your debate video and blog post relating to your debate. It really related to my current teaching role and affirmed some of my instructional beliefs.

Dean

You have an abundance of knowledge relating to tech. I’ll admit I’m a little envious of how comfortable you are with using such a variety of platforms. You always added great insight to our class conversations via Zoom, Twitter, and Slack.

Jacquie

The closing statement of your debate blew me away. You are an excellent speaker and spoke with such emotion that you brought me to tears!

Jasmine

You are very good at Tweeting valuable resources that I found useful. Your blog post titles are also original and engaging.

Jocelyn

Since you were Daina’s debate partner, I will repeat how your debate impacted me. I   agreed with so much that you said in your debate video and blog post relating to your debate. It really related to my current teaching role and affirmed some of my instructional beliefs.

Kalyn

You never hesitated to share your thoughts during our class discussions.  I always enjoyed hearing what you had to say.  You prompted me to think of things in a different way sometimes.

Laurie

I greatly enjoyed your video for your debate.  It was a topic that related greatly to my current teaching assignment. I enjoyed your take on this topic and gave me a lot to think about.

Lisa

We were in two classes together this spring term. I enjoyed getting to know you in both settings. You always added valuable thoughts to our discussions.

Matt

We were in a breakout room together early on in this course and your contributions were relevant and and practical. You helped keep our discussion on track and focused on real scenarios.

Melinda

You have a talent for being honest and open in your experiences and thoughts relating to tech and other social issues through our class discussions and your blog posts.

Michael

You had lots to contribute during class discussions.  You were supportive on Twitter and Slack. Your debate has left a lasting impression on me.

Michala

Excellent debate video with Brad.  You two did a fantastic job throughout your debate.  You shared some very helpful thoughts that gave me a lot to think about.

Nancy

Your background in digital platforms and relating issues really added to my learning in this course. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience. I look forward to continuing to follow you on Twitter.

Nataly

I enjoyed reading your blog posts. You balanced your experiential input as an educator and as a parent. Your debate offered me a glimpse into an area that I hadn’t given much thought to.

Sherrie

Your “Sharing with Sherrie” feature was unbelievable! Very impressive and really helped drive your point.  Great work!

Skyler

A great debate opponent! I will never forget the slogan “have a plan, not a ban!” Thanks for a fun debate! You are very good at it!

Tarina

My debate partner, my Master’s mate, my colleague. For those of you who don’t know, Tarina and I work in the same school and began our Master’s at the same time. Our course schedule has differed slightly so she has a couple more courses to go. Thanks for helping me figure out how to use WeVideo for this course!

Trevor

You set the bar high with a strong first debate. Your argument really shifted my mindset early on in the course.

Victoria

You shared lots of resources and insightful material on Twitter that I have enjoyed reading. I also appreciated your response to my question on Slack.

purple petaled flower and thank you card
Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

Summary of Learning

Who would have thought that Ed Tech would stretch my thinking in so many different ways other than Tech? Coming into this class I thought I would just expand my knowledge about Technology and find some really engaging tools to use with my students in the classroom. BUT… this class was soooo much more than that.

It made me so much more aware of the importance of the fact that I am a compass to navigate my students success. Not only is it my responsiblity to provide a high quality learning environment in which technology plays a role, but I have to be diligent in teaching and modelling online social etiquette and digital citizenship. I have to educate my students to be INFORMED posters, to use technology and Social Media safely, purposefully and enjoyably.

I was blown away with the fact that an Ed Tech class taught me so much about inequalities in the world and how Technology and Social Justice NEEDS to play a huge part in today’s classrooms. After all schools need to be larger than the walls that make it up.

It made me aware that we have a very powerul role in shaping our children. Technology and Social Media gives them a voice. Let’s make that voice one that we can be proud of.

Thank you to my classmates. Good luck to those who are finishing!

Here it is! My very first Summary of Learning!

The Great Debates…Finale (and ohhhh, what a finale it was)

“NEVER FORGET THAT JUSTICE IS WHAT LOVE LOOKS LIKE IN PUBLIC.” -Cornell West

Educators have a responsibility to use tech and social media to promote social justice.

This debate took the cake for the most powerful, courageous, thought-provoking conversation to date. I feel honoured to have been a part of it. This is a group of powerful, positive, inpirational humans.

The Agree Side:

Mike and Jacquie started us off with an extremely moving video.

They stated the definition for social justice was fair and equitable rights, opportunities and access to resources for all. We teach students with all different backgrounds and lived experience that are bound by historical contexts. Social Justice allows for Problem Solving, Criticial Thinking, Collaboration, Perseverance, Historical context and allows the school to be bigger than its walls. Students are telling us that Social Justice matters to them and researchers are telling us that this valuable work helps students learn.

I found their article by  Teaching as Political Work: Learning from Courageous and Caring Teachers: Sonia Nieto very intriguing. It made me question who I was as a teacher and what was I doing to better prepare myself for the diversity in my classroom? What does Social Justice look like in my classroom? What does it look like in yours?

Teaching is always about power so it must be about Social Justice. I believe all of this whole heartedly and have seen how powerful students can be.

The Disagree Side

Brad and Michala came out strong with a video that wowed us, called The Randomizer.

They also agreed that Social Justice NEEDS to be a part of the classroom. However they stated that it didn’t need to be promoted by Tech or Social Media. Some reasons are that it can be overwhelming for students to filter through all the things on Social Media which can cause mental health issues. It also depends on the age and maturity level of your students. They argued that tech has its strategic place in the classroom but they pointed out that face to face conversation is the most beneficial and has the most power.

I have to agree with both sides. Social Justice IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY to teach in the classroom. However, I feel that it is up to the teacher as to whether or not they are ready or not to promote it via Tech and Social Media because of all the variables they may have to consider in their role. For myself personally, I have to agree with Brad and Michala, just for the sake that I don’t feel my students, who are aged 11 and 12, are mature enough to deal with all the content on Social Media and I don’t want to overwhelm them with the extra stress of it. However, I do want to engage them in that critical thinking and learning and empower them by being supportive of their physical work.

As a teacher you have to listen to what the students are asking/saying and support them in whatever capacity you can. When Social Justice issues matter to them, students are a powerful force that will change the world. One of the best teaching experiences of my career came from a Social Justice Issue. It was the students’ asking to do something and I was just their support. I had read them the story of Iqbal Masih and how Craig Keilburger started Free the Children because of this story. We had also discussed the power of a group. People have power when they come together for a cause (whether good or bad). The concern started out with just a few students asking questions saying they wanted to help. They formed a group called The Saving Sevens. We met with parents (I was just the liason- they did all the planning and work). They had very supportive parents. They had rubber wristbands made with their Saving Sevens on it to identify themselves. It was popular to be in this group. They organized a dance with chinese auction prizes and a canteen for other classes. They went to the classes telling the story of Iqbal and Craig Keilburger. They made posters. They held bake sales and Sundae Sales. The whole school got behind them and in a matter of a couple of weeks they raised over $2800.00. At this time, there was no Social Media yet. But it was an empowering, inspirational, emotional experience that shaped who these young indiduals were. The movers, shakers and leaders of today. They are all very successful adults now who do stand for justice and equality in the world.

I would like to thank both Altan and Melinda for sharing your courageous stories.

Schools can neither create nor save democracy–they can only support societies in which action and subjectivity are real possibilities. -Gert Biesta

That’s a Wrap…Debate #7

Debate #7 started with a pre-vote of a 50/50 split. This was the first debate that my thinking shifted as the debate progressed. I initially started with an agreement vote as I do think it is important that teachers promote social justice in the classroom. Mike and Jacquie had a great video with a lot of strong points, including:

-social justice promotes critical thinking skills

-learning about social justice empowers our students

-using social media and technology to promote social justice allows students to foster problem solving, collaboration, and perseverance

-a school should be bigger than its walls

They also brought up strong points about the impossibility of teachers being neutral and impartial. Mike and Jacquie spoke about the uncomfortable conversations that will ultimately come up but that these are the conversations worth having for social growth. 

In her TED Talk video, Ms. Chafee advocates for education being a tool for social justice. She goes on to say that we don’t teach ‘subjects’, we teach ‘people’. What a great shift in thinking this demonstrates. 

Affirmative side intro video:

The disagree side had a creative video that was both informative and engaging. I commend Brad for getting rid of his facial hair (in steps) for the video. The presentation given by Brad and Michala swayed me to change my vote. They started off their argument questioning the purpose of teachers promoting social justice in the classroom. A phrase they used was “Teachers are using children as foot soldiers to promote their views”.  I thought this was a little far fetched, but Brad brought context to the statement later in the debate. It blows me away that a grown adult would have used that statement in regards to Brad’s students starting a recycling project!  But I guess we will never please everybody…someone always will find fault with the best-laid plans. This debate team also brought up the reality of having students going online to promote social justice. They likened these students going online to students going online to pick fights with unknown people and the harm it can cause if internet trolls engage in the conversation with impressionable youth. They spoke of the importance of face-to-face conversations. I could relate to the example they proposed of the ‘irate’ parent. With these types of situations, we need to see and communicate with the parent to diffuse the situation. An email is not going to do. Many things can be taken incorrectly in an email- no body language or tone of voice. Brad and Michala’s conversation began to focus on the importance of teachers promoting social justice in the classroom but not having students participate online. This is where my agree pre-vote began to morph into a disagree post-vote. 

Negative side intro video:

97238305-writing-text-showing-final-thoughts-business-concept-for-conclusion-summary-text-written-on-sticky-n.jpeg

I like the comment in the discussion Dean made about “going to extremes when we think of social justice ideas”.  If we work with our students to find a way to help others less fortunate- then we are making strides toward promoting social justice. Our school does a great job of this through helping our school families out in times of need, raising money for those who can’t help themselves (SPCA), among other projects. As our class was discussing this topic I kept coming back to the importance of the social justice topic/project being age appropriate. At my level these are 11/12 year old kids. Some days just trying to get them to look past themselves is an uphill battle…baby steps. 

So I changed my vote…I still believe that teachers have the responsibility to promote social justice…the student online component is what concerns me…especially with a grade 6 brain. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts…

How Your Thoughts Affect Your Health | Naturopathic Doctor Whitby ...

Heavy.

Debate #7 – The Finale

I don’t think it was planned but I feel the topic for tonight’s debate, which was our last one, was the most intense one of all.  This could be in light of the current global situation.  The topic was, “educators have a responsibility to use tech and social media to promote social justice.”  The presenters did a superb job.  The conversation was emotional and impactful.

Bitmoji Image

Agree Side

Jacquie and Mike supported the idea that educators need to be using tech and social media to promote social justice.  From the beginning, their video presented a serious tone.  It wasn’t flashy, catchy, or funny like many of the other debate videos.  It was filled with definitions, framework, real life examples, and powerful images and videos that brought their argument to life and helped us understand the seriousness of social justice.  They began by sharing the thoughts and work of a teacher of the year recipient from the United States, named Sydney Chaffee.  Social justice is the foundation of her instruction.  She defines social justice as “all people in society deserve fair and equitable rights, opportunities, and access to resources.”  Jacquie and Mike went on to discuss the four elements of teaching social justice.  They said it can challenge, disrupt, and confronts, it provides students with resources, it draws on student talents and strengths, and it promotes critical thinking.  Through this, students can develop problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, perseverance, and historical context.  Finally, the video clip they used to conclude their opening argument was powerful for highlighting the need to take action against injustices.

Disagree Side 

Brad and Michala had a tough act to follow, however their video was also impressive.  Although they chose a humorous approach including guest appearances of funny characters and an impersonation of President Trump – well done Brad!  The main points from this team included, remain impartial, present both sides of an argument, promote the human factor, and the importance of face-to-face connections.  They also had a slogan at the end of their video, like we’ve seen from some other debate teams.  This was “be informed – don’t be a troll.”

My Takeaways

Brad and Michala brought up an excellent point about the importance of face-to-face communication.  They related it to many things we do at school which helped me understand it better.  They mentioned that when we want to talk about something serious with a parent, we call them in for a face-to-face meeting.  This could be a meeting about an incident, parent conferences, or SST meetings.  Very true!  We can see facial expressions, hear tone, and make stronger personal connections and mutual understanding during face-to-face meetings.  A couple points from Mike and Jacquie stood out to me.  They stated that social issues aren’t fixed after one presentation or one protest, but rather daily focus, and a journey of self-growth is more effective.  They also shared that school can and should occur beyond the four walls of the classroom/building.  This point has come up in a few of my Master’s classes and it is something that I want to do a better job of when we’re back at school.  Another poignant moment during our discussion was two personal accounts from Melinda and Altan about fears of speaking their minds in the countries they grew up in due to dictatorship.  Tonight’s debate was heavy.  It was a heavy topic that brought heavy emotions and has left me with heavy thoughts.

General Thoughts

This is something that I greatly struggle with.  To be honest, I had a very difficult time navigating Twitter during the early days after George Floyd’s death.  I am very much afraid of posting the wrong thing.  I also go on social media to ‘escape’ and unwind.  I don’t like seeing all of the negative, partisan comments.  I have “unfollowed” people, not because I don’t think their opinion is important, or because their opinions don’t align with mine, but because their abundance of strong, negative, postings caused me stress.  I also feel that there are 2 parts to teachers promoting social justice.  There’s what we teach in the classroom to students, and what we post on our personal accounts.  I am a strong supporter of teaching social justice at school.  These are often the topics that can’t be easily Googled.  I believe it was Michala who pointed out that her daughter was online and had no idea what was true and how to feel about everything she was seeing.  Kids need to be exposed to these topics in school and work to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills in relation to these areas.  With being in rural Saskatchewan, I’ve often heard that we shouldn’t be teaching about racial groups, or marginalized people because we don’t encounter a lot of that in our communities.  We live in a global world.  We are closer to everyone in the world now than ever before.  With increased accessibility of international travel, and the internet bringing things from all over the world into our homes, it is necessary that we educate today’s youth so they are knowledgeable.  I don’t believe in pushing an agenda, but as mentioned in the debate conversation, presenting all sides and then letting students make their decisions, is a good way to inform.  I will admit I am still hesitant to push social justice issues on my personal account, or get involved with polarizing issues outside of school.  As educators, we are contracted to uphold the values of our sector and to represent our school, division, and profession positively.  Teachers have lost their jobs for inappropriate social media posts and pictures, or from inappropriate social conduct say while at a bar on the weekend, etc.  We are in a different situation than some other people and we do need to be careful.  I like the expression that came up in our discussion about the hill you’re prepared to die on.  Social justice is not something to be taken lightly.

blue banner sign posters
Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

Is openness and sharing unfair to our students? The Great EdTech Debate

Lucky for us, we were treated to another great episode of The Great EdTech debate. Debating the issue, “Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our students” both sides put up a strong argument on topic. Starting with the agree side, Melinda and Altan presented some thought provoking thoughts about this topic, especially in regards to the EAL learners in our country. On the opposite side of the debate, Sherrie and Dean countered with some strong points as to why openness and sharing is actually beneficial to our students.

Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our students – Agree

Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our students – Disagree

My Thoughts

After hearing both sides of the debate, I connected with the thoughts and ideas on both sides of the debate. For one, should we require student permission before posting a photo of them to social media? Or, is the permission form signed at the beginning of the year good enough and we are free to post whatever images we choose. I question whether we should go beyond a simple signature in September of every school year. In my position of power and authority, I know that my students aren’t going to question and challenge me if I take a picture of them. I also know that if I tell them to get the form signed, they will likely get the form signed. But, do they really want that picture being posted to social media? As teachers, we often teach and educate our students about the importance of controlling and contributing to their digital footprint. Yet, we often freely contribute and curate their footprint, often without them even knowing it. Thinking back to last semester, Victoria tweeted about the difference between consent and assent. Applying this to education and sharing of students on social media, I think we should take some time to consider this in our classrooms.

In terms of sharing content and being open in school, I feel that there is tremendous opportunity and benefits to students in this area. Whether it be a Mystery Skypes, digital book clubs, or connecting with a class across the world through Flipgrid, I think there are many ways that sharing and openness can be beneficial to our students. Breaking down the walls of a classroom provided opportunities that did not exist prior to social media. This allows students to:

  • Hear different perspectives, especially from those who don’t dominate the conversation in school
  • Authentically learn from and with other’s that have a different worldview. Whether this be a different culture, race, or religion, this is a very powerful experience
  • Collaborate on larger scale, which includes other schools and professionals from all over the world
  • Actively learn how to positively and effectively contribute to the digital space

Overall, I am truly at a crossroads whens it comes to the debate of openness and sharing. When it comes to sharing of personal images of students, I question the intent and goal behind sharing images of students on social media platforms. In some cases, our students are being used to market ideas, lessons, or classroom activities to a global audience. As I think we should teach our students ways that they can positively use social media, I’m not sure we should use them for our social media. Now, I believe that 99% of these teachers don’t have an ill intentions with the content that is being shared on social media. Rather, I think we need to critically look at the situation and ask ourselves a few questions before posting student images to social media. As we push our students to make smart decisions online and watch what they post, should they have more choice as to what’s being posted to social media accounts by us? Should they have full control of their digital footprint or should we dictate how that looks like? Who is benefiting from posting this image to social media? In saying this, there are so many teachers doing any amazing job of social media account with their classroom. As a teacher, if we can find academic value, social value, or improved community connections for our students, I think that’s a good enough reason to post to social media.

Openness and sharing of ideas provides tremendous opportunity for teachers, students, and society as a whole. Through the openness of the internet, students have endless opportunities to truly learn about anything they want. School hasn’t always been this way, as the narrative has been shaped by a few textbooks sitting on the shelves of a classroom. In my personal experience with a project such as Genius Hour, the openness of the internet has allowed students to learn things that I have truly no clue about. It’s allowed them to explore passion, spark creativity, and develop critical thinking skills that I probably wouldn’t be able to teach them.

What to Share, What Not to Share. Growing Up In An Online World

As a millennial, I have never grown up in a world where there wasn’t the internet or computers. I got my first “flip phone” when I was 17 (which I had to buy myself) and it wasn’t until I was 20 that Facebook really started to take off as a social media platform. As a result, people could share pictures, thoughts and connect with others online in a way they never could before. It was the beginning of the social media era and the time when people started to develop an online presence and identity that they shared with others.

Today, many kids have an online presence even before they are born. So is sharing pictures and information online about our kids unfair to them? At what age should children be able to choose what can or can’t be posted about them online? The article Posting About Your Kids Online Damage Their Futures points out that “parents are already some of the biggest violators of their kids’ privacy leaving potentially harmful digital footprints well before the age of consent”. It discusses the risks of identity theft, humiliation and future discrimination that can occur as a result of the digital footprints children’s parents have created. In the video Are Parents Exploiting Their Kids On Social Media the phenomenon of “sharenting” and its lasting impact is explored.

As educators, we also have to examine how we share student work and information about our students online with the public. When you compound the information parents are posting with the data schools collect and post, do children really have any privacy online today? Are we being fair or unfair when we share student content on online platforms such as SeeSaw or Twitter? During Tuesday’s EC&I 830 class Altan and Melinda demonstrated why sharing and openness in schools is unfair to children.

For Dean and Sherri though, “sharing is caring and openness is everywhere!”

After having the opportunity to explore both sides of this topic, as an educator I do not feel that it is unfair to students to be open and share educational material. I agree with Sherri that being open and sharing material online can provide deep and meaningful learning opportunities for students. I think it is important as educators we use the social media platforms as a way to help students build digital citizenship and help them learn how to safely navigate the online world. Amanda posts a great list of ways to protect students privacy online in her blog post, Is it Fair to Share?

In conclusion, I think that parents should be mindful what they post about their kids online, the same way they are thoughtful about what they post online about themselves as adults. I don’t believe that social media will be disappearing anytime soon, but through thoughtful and constructive conversations parents and teachers can work together to help educate children in how to ultimately build a positive and safe online profile for themselves.