Category Archives: Ed Tech

What’s your Story? Here’s the Story of my ECI 830 Journey

So what’s my story?  What did I learn?  ECI 830 has provided many thought provoking opportunities for reflection on the Ed Tech world.  Here’s my attempt to try and sum up my learning journey.  Because Alec & Katia classes are different than my Blackboard based U of S Educational Technology and Design  (ETAD) classes, I’ve included a short section at the start of the video that highlights how we learn in this class.  It will be added to my ETAD Portfolio because after I’m brave enough to post my summary of learning and share my last debate reflection this will conclude class 9 of 10 on my ETAD journey.  Next up is an independent study on Leadership – Is there a difference between our face to face and online worlds?

So here’s my video….
—The first part is more my style and then, like a fellow ECI 830 student mentioned, I stepped way outside my comfort zone and attempted to rewrite a song.  (I should mention my husband plays in a band (guitar and vocals)… I don’t sing…in public…or very loud… so this is way outside my comfort zone – hopefully your ears are okay after;)  It’s hiding at the end of the video.

–I’ve attempted to rewrite & perform the Johnny Cash version of I won’t Back Down – It’s now called, “I Will Step In.”  Special thanks to my husband, David, for recording the guitar & background vocals and not laughing at me while I attempted to sing it:)  He helped edit the musical track together for the song. (It was quite the process, first he recorded the guitar track, then I had to sing, then he added the harmonies… glad he’s a DJ, rockstar, shop teacher. And did I mention… he always sings the Johnny Cash songs that the band plays)

All images included in the video are sourced from Pixabay Creative Commons CC0 & Screenshots by Stephanie

Our debates reminded me of the Story of Two Wolves shared by a Grandfather to his Grandson.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It’s a terrible fight and it’s between two wolves.”

“One is evil, he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt and ego.

“The other is good, he is joy, peace, love, hope, serentiy, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

“This is the same fight going inside you – and inside every other person, too”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?

He replied simply, “The one you feed.”

There’s always two sides to the story, to the issue – careful which one you feed.

Thank-you for watching!  I truly appreciated learning with everyone!! Truly one of the highlights of my Masters class journey.  I can’t thank you enough for sharing your stories and different perspectives.  It’s truly added to the richness of the class.

Wishing everyone a restful and re-energizing summer and smooth sailing your Masters journey.

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No need to keep reading – this is just my reflection on how I came to learn what I did in ECI 830:)  It’s a more detailed description of what I tried to put into video with a top 10 things I learned.


What’s my story? 

The non-video version


Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. – Martin Luther King Jr.

It started with a decision to apply to the ETAD program in April of 2014, a letter welcoming me to the program and the fun of trying to register and figure out classes. Class #1 started in September of 2014, the same day my daughter started Kindergarten.  Coincidentally, the same summer the Color By Amber came to Canada and I started a home based business all while I worked as a Learning Consultant.   Because when opportunity comes along you just have to go for it.

 

Change is an ever present force in our lives and you can either fight it or learn and grow .  So why not step out of your comfort zone and see just want you can do.

Fast forward to the count down to my two remaining classes.  I reached out to Alec Couros to see what might be available at the U of R and he suggested ECI 830 – Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology – one SUGA agreement and a “hey, so we just found out your are in our class from Katia and her I am.  Working on finishing class #9. (Okay this post means the class is almost finished:)

The more learning I do the more I find we are all connected by the stories we tell and those that we share. ECI 830 enabled me to step out of my ETAD comfort zone and meet a whole new network of amazingly talented, reflective and creative teachers. So here’s the story of ECI 830….Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology… which is really a fancy way of saying in the world around us;)

Having just finished a full year of amazing Kitchen Parties with the legendary Rick Schwier, I was excited to join my fellow colleagues each Tuesday night at 7 for our Great Ed Tech Debates.

I use zoom with my business team so it was great to see it in action live with an entire class.

Instead of textbook we shared articles each week and instead of lectures we debated ed tech topics.

We shared evidence of our learning through blogs, which is something that I’ve always wanted to do but have just never had the time to do consistently.
We used WordPress to share our ideas and interact with each other.

In ETAD, we typically posted behind the blackboard walls in discussion forums so this provided a public forum for us to share our ideas.

I’ve never met these educators before but they  are shaping my stories by choosing to share theirs.

Twitter gave us another chance to connect and share our ideas and grow our personal learning network.

Finding that online community that energizes and encourages you to grow is like finding a treasure.  Together we shared not only our stories but our articles, blogs, podcasts and TED Talks all intended to help us better understand the Ed Tech issues all around us.

While the class talked about focusing on Ed Tech trends and issues, it’s really a course that any citizen would benefit from.  Our topics don’t just affect our schools and our students, they affect our lives and our children….that’s who our students are.  These issues affect all of us.

Alec and Katia carefully crafted the debate statements to get us to dig deeper and think more reflectively about how the issue affect us and our teaching.

Let’s break that down who’s affected….

You – students, parents, teachers, admin, division, community members…

  • your kids, your family, your friends
  • your social media connections…

The conversations that you have matter and whether you choose to step in or just listen impacts the ripple effect of your legacy.

Does technology enhance learning in the classroom?

Technology is all around us.  It comes in many forms from the pencil with an eraser, scissors, to mobile devices, to the cell phone in your hand, to 3D printers.  There will always be technology.  It’s not inherently bad or good, it’s what you do with the technology you have that has the ability to enhance learning.

Should you teach anything that can be Googled?

Google is an integral part of our lives, if I said just Google it – you’d know what to do.  Does our 24/7 access to information replace what we need to teach?  It all depends how you teach; moreover, how you assess?  If your students can just google the answer, what is it we are teaching them?  Let’s remember that for information to become knowledge we have to think about it – Google doesn’t think about it it’s programmed to find connections – it’s up to us to use our brain to make sense of the world we encounter and as educators it is up to us to reflect on how we authentically assess students in a information based world.

 What we choose to value in the learning process is going to echo forward for years to come.

Our class challenged the notion that memorization is bad, just think of all of the processes you’ve learned that have become automatic.  It’s about what we choose to memorize and the purpose of investing in it.  I’m more of a connectivist – yes there’s knowledge I need to hold in my own brain but there’s also an immense of amount of knowledge that I can connect to in my learning network (Google or the human kind).

Is technology making our kids unhealthy?

Is it making all of us unhealthy? Again it’s developing an awareness.  Each week I find myself stepping back and looking at my world through a more reflective lens. Is my love of technology making me unhealthy? Or rather do I need to be more aware of the lifestyle choices that I am making?  Tech is just a tool – before mobile devices, TVs were bad influences and before that books contained information that might just make us want to stay in one place until we finished the story.

As Audrey Watters pointed out, we always seem to have amnesia when it comes to new technology – as if we are the first ones to struggle with the challenges of tech.  Are our problems must be more significant than those before us.

Isn’t it really about how we choose to use the tech? It’s how I choose to shape my life? You have to find the balance.

Is openness and sharing unfair to our kids?

Again it’s about the choices you make…. although I may be a bit biased.  In a social media, knowledge based world where your life, as Alec pointed out, seems to be public by default and private by effort.  I think we (educators and parents) have to teach our children how to become thoughtful, digital citizens that are aware of how their actions will impact their future.  Every generation has things to learn and learning what and how to share may be one of the top five things to understand. Like the agree side explained, you are essentially creating a digital tattoo that will live years beyond you.

What do you want your legacy to be?

Is technology is a force for equity in society?

Let’s step back from technology – how do you create equity in your classroom?

Tech has the potential to be a force for equity, but it depends on how you use the tools you choose to use, how you choose to use them and the prior knowledge that your students bring to the table.

Equity doesn’t just happen, people consistently choose to look, listen and reflect on the environment they are creating in their class. In a diverse world, it’s important for us to recognize that culture shapes the way our brains make sense of the world.  So you are going to have to step out of your comfort zone and choose to value equity.

This is the week I learned about Storientation = sharing your story builds connections, listening to the stories of others develops trust and being aware of your organization’s story shapes the path you are on.

Like Malcom Gladwell shared in the “Tipping Point” and Chip and Dan Heath explained in “The Switch” – it’s the small consistent choices that we make that truly shape the path and move us toward our goals.  Tech is only one piece of the puzzle.

Is Social Media ruining childhood?

Social media has changed childhood.

As educators and parents, we need to be aware of what we choose to share and the medium we choose to share it in.  If you are choosing what you post on social media, you are branding yourself.  Changing the identity of a brand isn’t easy so learning strategies to think through things before you post is an important strategy in continuing to build a digital footprint. You wouldn’t send your child to the park unsupervised to spend the day with strangers, so use your not so common, common sense.

Make the effort to be aware of the world you live in and make the best choices you can to help build resilient children that have a well developed tool box of strategies to not just cope but thrive in today’s social world.

Has public education sold it’s soul to corporate interests?

Of all the debates this this one opened my eyes… not that I was oblivious to education’s connections to business. It’s part of life. Schools will always need supplies, tools and tech from the non educational world, what tugged at my heart was …it’s not something I actively reflect on very often. I love google, office, windows, android, apple, share point…. I use the tech I have access to – to create the best learning opportunities I can for my students and staff.  If it’s free, all the better… but how do my choices ripple out?  When I choose to use Google Apps because it’s free for education do I ever stop to have the conversation with my students about why I chose this tool?

I’m reminded of a conversation I had with my Coordinator or Student Support Services. Attribution theory – as we reviewed IIPs she reminded me it’s great to explicitly teach students the strategies they need but we also need students to learn to think about why choosing that strategy in that context works.  It’s important for them to attribute their success to choosing the tool or strategy appropriately.

After all if I tried to use one thing for everything, it just wouldn’t work, but if I step back and choose the tool or strategy that best fits the situational need, then I’m more likely to find success.

What have I learned on this journey?

  1. If you are too comfortable with what you know maybe you haven’t thought about it enough
  2. Learning is messy and that’s good.
  3. It’s all about perspective.  We each come to the table with different ideas and strengths and that’s the best part – it’s how we learn by sharing ideas and challenging each other to think outside our comfort zone
  4. If you walk into a room and you think you are the smartest person you are in the wrong room!  You become like those you interact with, so choose to surround yourself with people that are going to challenge you to grow outside your comfort zone in positive ways.
  5. The more I learn the less I know & there’s always more to learn
  6. There’s always two sides to every issue, every story has at least two sides.  It’s important to respect and listen to the challenges and questions raised by those that lie outside your initial zone of comfort…. you always have to listen first.
  7. Dean Benko explained that you have to find the balance – when you do you will find a state of flow.
  8. It’s not about the technology its about what you do with what you have… then again in our last debate … does it matter the kind of tech you have?
  9. Data and information are just that – knowledge is created by individual minds drawing on individual experience.. making value judgements based on their experiences….tech makes info and data easier to access, more visual and what seems at first easier to interpret… but that of course depends on who created the parameters of what to graph out? Just because it looks pretty doesn’t mean it’s any more valid – you have to think critically and look deeper.
  10. Our ultimate goal is to encourage our students (our children) and those around us to become an engaged, multi-literate learners that care enough to think critically about the information, the environment and it’s sources that they encounter and choose to make a decisions based on their experiences.  As Toffler says,  the future belongs to the those who can learn, unlearn and relearn.

To reach the end is really to begin again and write the next chapter.

So here’s to the next chapter. 

to reach the end

 


The stories we tell ourselves – Rationalizing or Collaborating?

network-1433045_960_720Image from Pixabay – geralt

Has public education sold its soul to corporate interests in what amounts to a Faustian bargain?

14532764725lpw0Image by GeoffS MorgueFile

Did we do what now?  Have we already? How do we find the balance?

FYI… you may know the term Faustian Bargain better as a deal with the devil…Dictionary.com  explained

“Faust, in the legend, traded his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge. To “strike a Faustian bargain” is to be willing to sacrifice anything to satisfy a limitless desire for knowledge or power.”

robot-507811_960_720Hmmmm do we have a limitless desire for knowledge?  Do we take for granted how easy it is for us to access information? To become knowledge – we still have to process it in our brains and make sense of it otherwise it’s just data.  Is our economy today based on knowledge and who has it? Or rather who’s willing to share it?  Seems I have lots of questions this week.

(Image from Pixabay – Geralt CC0 Public Domain)

So do we take a bus trip or boat trip this week?  Or are we already on a high speed train with the details flying by so fast that we are distracted by the comforts of high speed travel?  As with most ECI 830 debate topics, this one raised some very interesting points. How far down the track are we? Have we gone off the rails?  Hang on this week’s reflection looks comfy but there’s a lot more happening outside the train than we may realize….

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Pixabay – Si_Platt – CC0 Public Domain

Do you even know what train you are on?

  • GAFE… Google Apps for Education
  • Have you opted for Apple instead?
  • Perhaps it’s a CLEVR dash of StudentsAchieve, a cup of Maplewood, mixed with SKOPUS, delivered through Community Net with a side of SharePoint;)
  • What kind of vending machines are found in your building?
  • How do donations impact your school?
  • Do sponsor names cover your school uniforms?

First let me say we had an amazing array of presenters this week including our very own ECI 830 colleagues Tyler and Justine paired against our guests –  Dean Shareski and his team Kyle Schutt and David Fisher.  Following the debate Audrey Watters of Hack Education shared her thoughts on the stories we tell ourselves about the connections between education and business.  Perhaps things aren’t as clear cut as we might first think.

I’m a Google fan but Tuesday’s debate has me wondering just how much does Google know about me based on my let’s say variety of Google Accounts and extensive use of Google Apps?   Is it wrong that Google is my preferred search engine?  Has popular culture ingrained it in me?  It all made me wonder just when did Google get “verbed?”  Anderson explained that “Google” became a verb in 2006, a marketing dream, however, “for the companies themselves, though, being “verbed” has its dark side.  A company that does not defend its trademark risks losing it when it becomes a common figure of speech” (para 1). The article is old so laws may have changed since then but it’s an interesting commentary that reaching common phrase status can also affect trademarks.

digital-marketing-1433427_960_720Andrea Peterson’s (2015) article “Google is tracking students as it sells more products to schools, privacy advocates warn” noted that there’s a concern going forward about just how much information Google is collecting on our students as only certain apps are private.  Step outside those faint lines and Google will begin to build a profile. Peterson asked is Google quickly becoming as common in school as pencils and erasers?

(Image from Pixabay – Wdnet –  CC0 Public Domain)

I find it interesting that we go to google for anonymity.  Think of the questions that we would only ask Google…rather than our own Doctor, but ironically Google remembers more about what we are looking for than we do.

You may want to check out some of the links found in this post, 6 Links that will show you what Google knows about you.

Just how deeply embedded into our lives and our classrooms are corporate influences? I’m not saying this is good or bad, I’m just asking you to consider for a moment just how much we are surrounded by brands.

Molnar (2001) examined the history of corporate marketing in US public education.  He noted, “Unfortunately, to this point in America, policy makers have devoted much less time to thinking through the constraints that may be necessary on corporate involvement

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Pixabay- geralt-CCO
Public Domain

in the schools than considering ways to expand school-business partnerships.”  As Dean Shareski reminded us during the debate, it’s important for schools and divisions to consider how partnerships align with division and ministry initiatives.  It’s important to be smart and ethical with whom you choose to create partnerships. He also reminded us that schools have always had a connection with the private sector… think about all of the supplies required to run a school.  We are inextricably linked to corporations, but it’s important as Shareski mentioned to look at underlying values of the companies.  Yes they all need to make money to survive? But I’d like to hope that some want to partner with schools because they believe they can make a difference for our students not just the bottom line.

 

Do any of your resources come from Pearson? Likely at some point you’ve crossed paths with this “multi-national conglomerate” (Singer, 2012, para 2). Until the debate, I didn’t realize just how intricately networked Pearson was in the world of education from the traditional textbook to delivering assessments to funding educational research.  It’s just not something I reflect on daily, there are different aspects demanding my daily attention.  I look for the resource that will best meet the need of my team…I’ve never really stopped to think about how often I prefer one company over another… or does Google do that for me?

Tyler and Justine shared this video which provides another interesting perspective,

In what the Saskatchewan Government proclaims to be transformational times in terms of education and health care in Saskatchewan, I wonder what the long and short term costs will be to our students. When divisions are required to make it work what is it that disappears.  I’d like to hope it’s not the people providing the education.  As Watters mentioned computers don’t care about us, they respond to code. What worries me is that educators are encouraged to be innovative and creative in response to decreased funding…what state of vulnerability does that leave schools in when corporations offer to invest in your school?  It’s not that any one school or division would purposefully set out to lose control over the goals of education but what happens when it’s —find a partnership or decrease class offerings to students.  Are the Faustian bargains mentioned in our debate statement closer than we care to think?

So let’s consider “How Corporations Are Helping To Solve The Education Crisis.” Schiller and Arena (2012) noted that 80% of jobs in the next decade will need science, technology and math and they cited a McKinsey study warning that two-thirds of those jobs don’t even exist yet (para. 3). Schiller and Arena explained that companies like Microsoft are taking corporate citizenship and social innovation to a new level to help decrease the opportunity divide. VP of Microsoft Worldwide Education, Anthony Salcito explained

“It’s not just about technology. It’s about bringing innovation to schools. How do you personalize the education experience? How do you incorporate new modes of classroom design and curriculum, or think about assessment differently? How do you change a kid’s vision of his future?…. We have to acknowledge that learning is shifting away from content memorization to a more relevant, personalized, skill-based foundation. We have to dig deeper, think harder and get more engaged to determine what change is needed and then push the pieces forward. We also have to bring a culture of sustainability to the process of transforming education.”

And that’s great as long as our partnership goals are to create positive learning environments where students are encouraged to become engaged, literate, critical thinkers.  Will being surrounded by certain types of products unconsciously influence our choices?  Just a question…or are we always influenced by the choices of our peers, colleagues and family members?  Then again back to the importance of empowering students to become engage citizens who can think for themselves.

During the debate I asked where the bright spots are in educational partnerships.  In “The Switch” Chip and Dan Heath encouraged us to look for the bright spots. “When it’s time to change, we must look for bright spots — the first signs that things are working, …. We need to ask ourselves a question that sounds simple but is, in fact, deeply unnatural: What’s working and how can we do more of it?” (2010, para. 12).  Alec explained that it’s not easy to find balanced published research on this or perhaps more to the point there’s research; however, only the positive research gets published…I used to joke with my senior science students to keep asking questions, to be critical, to ask who funded the study…. to follow the money.

GAFE screenshotScreenshot from Google for Education

I found the Google for Education case studies interesting. Lots of positive examples of how to collaborate and grow… bright spots? I did find it interesting, how some of the case studies were phrased….”Unfortunately, the Windows devices the school had at the time were clunky, slow, and difficult for students to use….” The solution…“We chose Google Apps for Education, touchscreen Chromebooks,and Google Classroom because they deliver the type of experience that our students need and deserve.” Just interesting the choice of words.

Just to clarify at this point… I’m a Google fan.  I’ve been said to drive the Google Bus encouraging people to join.  I like Google Apps for education and how it works in my own business. It’s convenient and it does what it needs to do for me and I will continue to use Google and Sharepoint and Microsoft… but I do wonder now more than ever…

[perhaps that’s a result of 22 months of Educational Technology and Design Masters program or the great conversations I’ve had the opportunity to have with professors and fellow students.]

I do wonder… what is it that I really need to worry about in terms of service, in where my info goes and who has it…. or how much have my current choices been influenced by my choice of educational institutions.  We all make choices every day.  We do the best we can with what we have and as long as each day we learn more and try to do better than the day before.  We will learn from the journey we are on and maybe just maybe we can relax on that high speed training knowing what’s whizzing by outside and that in the end it will help get us to our destination and our next learning adventure.

We were fortunate to have Audrey Watters of Hack Education join us for our #ECI830 class and if you haven’t checked out her Hack Education blog it’s well worth your time.  In fact, be sure to take a look at “Ed-Tech and the Commercialization of School” follow up post to our class conversation. Watters (2016) reminded us that testing is a part of the Ed-Tech and corporate interests web.  Just think about the business of testing.

She also contended that we seem to develop

“an amnesia of sorts. We forget all history – all history of technology, all history of education. Everything is new. Every problem is new. Every product is new. We’re the first to experience the world this way; we’re the first to try to devise solutions.” (Hack Education, 2016)

Both Watters and Shareski pointed out that we’ve always had a relationship with the corporate sector. In fact it’s been a part of life for schools since we’ve needed things like pens, pencils, phones, chalkboards or books. In particular, I was intrigued by her references to the stories we tell ourselves.  Stories resonate with me and it’s how we make sense of and remember the world… perhaps not always accurately as our stories are influenced by our own perspectives.

apple-256261_960_720Pixabay – jarmoluk –  CC0 Public Domain

Watters noted that we need to look at how

“the relationship between public schools and vendors has changed over time: what’s being sold, who’s doing the selling, and how all that influences what happens in the classroom and what happens in the stories society tells itself about education.” (Hack Education, 2016)

She cautioned us that schools have always been failing and business models and the faith that data will save us is not new.  We just have more ways to collect data, process the data and to look at the data. There’s a innate discrepancy of being efficient and the messiness of learning.  It’s an important reminder to all of us “Humans are not widgets.  The cultivation of the mind cannot be mechanized. It should not be mechanized” (Watters, 2016)

I’m thankful to have crossed paths with Audrey Watters, hers is a blog I will continue to read as it provides a thoughtful lens with which to consider our world. I leave you with her closing lines:

“The money matters. But I’d contend that the narratives that powerful people tell about education and technology might matter even more.”(Hack Education, 2016)

It’s about the stories we share and we have, now more than ever before, a way to share our stories.  And so I leave you with:

this is my story, but what’s yours?

 

 


Social Media & Childhood – Smooth Sailing or the Perfect Storm

Attempted my first podcast version of my blog:

 

Are you ready for this week’s bus trip?  Debate number two of our ECI 830 class featured the controversial question,

Is Social Media ruining childhood?

girl-1328416_960_720Geralt at Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

Now here’s the power of a learning network and reflection… just when you think you know where you stand and that as a parent and an educator you are doing the best you can … you jump into a debate about social media.

Is it ruining childhood?
                  That seems to be a pretty extreme statement at first.

Is social media childhood?
                  It’s certainty part of it is…

I think we have to acknowledge as Rick Lavoie shared in a workshop I attended, that we need to recognize the childhood our students and children are experiencing is nothing like the childhood we experienced. He cautioned us to think about how we respond to students…

“I know what it’s like to be a kid”

boys-1149665_960_720
Unsplash @ Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

… he reminded us we don’t.  Our environment has changed significantly. Now I realize that statement begins to date me a bit and that’s okay.  For the majority of educators, I would venture a guess that we didn’t grow up with social media, mobile devices, the internet or computers.

In fact, I remember when our family got it’s first computer…. wait before that I remember commodore-528139_960_720the Commodore 64 computer that used to be wheeled around on a cart between the classrooms and when it was your turn you were allowed to play on it for a few minutes… concentration or maybe later on Oregon Trail. Our family computer featured a green monochrome monitor and a dot matrix printer that we could use to type up our school assignments.   Then later in my high school years it was the cell phone… it came in a bag… it was only for emergencies or to take with you in the tractor so you could call home when you had finished cultivating the field and needed to be picked up.  It cost a lot for the convenience of mobility.
(Image from Cstibi @Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain)

Social media involved stopping at the local Turbo gas station to check in with your friends so you could figure out where everyone was on a Friday night.  Photos generally only existed if people actually developed the film and there was a good chance the picture may not have turned out, the biggest risk there was in a small town … you had to drop off your film at a local store to be developed and someone’s Mom might work there.

Flash forward to today’s school… we appear to be more connected through all of our devices than ever before, but are we authentically connected?  Perhaps today’s bus trip is more of a boat ride in the social media stream.  Kudos to both teams for sharing thoughtful points on the impacts of social media.  It’s really made me think about the impacts of social media not just on our children but on adults as well.  After all, today’s adults are modelling the behavior for our children and buying them the devices.

As it seems each time we dig into a thoughtfully crafted ECI 830 debate statement, I find myself in the boat looking back and forth between the beautiful blue waters with the sunny shore in the distance and the dark grey waters of the open ocean where the waves exist but don’t always show themselves.

seaside-1149687_960_720   ocean-926261_960_720
Images from Unsplash & Stocksnap @ Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

Now I’m a fan of the rock the boat theory.  Yes sometimes when you work with people you have to go on a metaphorical boat trip (a real life rocking boat would stress me out way too much).  Sometimes you have to ask questions or suggest strategies that may rock the boat a bit because the only way to see the other side is to catch a wave that scares you but let’s you see what’s out there.

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Image from geralt @ Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

I think the moral of this week’s debate is social media is not going away and we have to find a way to support our children and build their toolbox of strategies before they get to far out on the boat and drift away.

In “Social Media Affects Child Mental Health Through Increased Stress, Sleep Derpivation, Cyberbullying, Experts Say” George Bowden wrote about the risks of social media use by children.  There are many sharks in the waters for our children to face.  If they want to be connected for FOMO (fear of missing out), they are going to go out in a boat that’s ill equipped to support them during stormy times.  Bowden in fact warned of how ” a potent mix of cyberbullying, increased anxiety, stress and sleep deprivation are increasingly linked to mental illness in children.”

shark-892669_960_720Image from shahart @Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

Bowden shared the story of Rebecca who explained that not only was she bullied at school, it followed her home because of social media.  In our desire to be connected we continue to turn to the platform that helps us connect.  The problem arises when the ratio of positive to negative interaction tips into a extreme range and our face to face and online life reinforce the same negative attention.  It causes the mob mentality of a feeding frenzy.  Now your boat is really more like a shark cage and you are holding dinner.  No matter where you turn someone is rushing in to take a piece out of you. It’s exhausting and scary. Scary to think that even in the safety of our homes our children are still subject to attack.

In the Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell reflected on the broken windows effect. “If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge.” Gladwell explained in several examples how small changes in the environment can tip larger epidemics. If your boat trip drifts into some murkier waters and people treat each other negatively and that’s seen as okay, it certainly opens the flood gates for some larger predators to swim through. I would guess that he majority of online bystanders that join the bullying mob rationalize from the context that their behavior will help them fit in.  The individuals themselves would likely be able to distinguish right from wrong quite distinctly. It’s the context that causes the individual to tip.

In a Social Life, Kerith Lemon questioned whether or not our online life is “a carefully curated brand.

While it’s important to think before you post, just how much are we consciously branding our online persona into the life we think we should have versus the one we actually live.  It’s really about the balance. “This presents an unprecedented paradox. With all the powerful social technologies at our fingertips, we are more connected – and potentially more disconnected – than ever before” (Tardanico, 2012)

Susan Tardanico emphasized,

“As human beings, our only real method of connection is through authentic communication. Studies show that only 7% of communication is based on the written or verbal word. A whopping 93% is based on nonverbal body language. Indeed, it’s only when we can hear a tone of voice or look into someone’s eyes that we’re able to know when “I’m fine” doesn’t mean they’re fine at all…or when “I’m in” doesn’t mean they’re bought in at all.”

So just how do you increase the know, like and trust factor of online interactions when it’s a visual yet text based interaction?  It’s a conversation I’ve had with Carla Gradin, body language trainer, wardrobe stylist and creator of the Killer Confidence Course.  How you take pictures and frame the video matters. Body language truly does impact how we interact with others.  In fact, it affects your primal brain causing you to respond in ways you don’t even consciously think about.

Feel like you’re in a rubber dingy floating out to see as it’s getting dark?  Don’t fear, social media can also have a deeply positive effect on your emotional state. The UCLA Center Mental Health in Schools noted 6 explicit benefits of social networking for peer relationships including building a sense of community for those more isolated, creating closer bonds and building positive relationships.  Caroline Knorr explained social media can help provide genuine support, enable them to express themselves, while offering a sense of belonging (5 Reasons You Don’t Need to Worry About Kids and Social Media, 2015)

So perhaps we’re not alone in the boat, maybe we are part of a flotilla which is part of a larger fleet.  For as many sharks and predators that swim in the ocean there are billions of plankton that form the foundation of the food web.  Perhaps we are surrounded by the good we just have to be in the right context to see it?

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Image from geralt @Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

As Jan Rezab explained Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are just platforms.  It’s the people that make the difference and what a difference one person can make in our connected world. Rezab shared the Arab springs example, along with how the Turkish government blocked Twitter and Facebook.  To that he added how in Turkey, more people posted to Twitter when it was banned than ever before. He reminded us how now more than ever individuals have a voice that can be heard and how together we can impact change at a government or organizational level.

The power of amplification.

What social media really did was give us the power to connect with others on a larger scale.  Think about events organized on Facebook and the ripple effect it has on the number of people involved.

Rezab asked instead of retweeting the famous Oscar Selfie,

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Screenshot from Twitter

why not retweet things that can change our world.  As Bowden  quoted, “We need to realize young people are on social media and that’s here to stay,” Russell says. “Now, it’s about giving them the skills to manage their online lives and the resilience to bounce back.”

And to that I would add it’s not just about giving our children the skills and tools to be resilient online it’s about helping us as parents learn how to help our children.  So when the boat trip gets a little rough, our children know that we are here to help. And when the time comes from them to leave the safe harbor and sail out into the ocean, we know they are prepared with the most resilient tool box possible and maybe a phone to call home.


Start the conversation…. Sharing Matters

 If you teach them how to share it’s more than fair!

This week the Great EdTech debate challenge fell to our team.   We represented the Disagree side of the debate which focused on: Openness and sharing in schools unfair to our kids.

If you are interested here’s our opening arguments.

As I first read through the questions, I wondered is it fair not to share?  Teaching in and of itself is sharing of knowledge.  Our goal as educators is to share our knowledge of a concept in a variety of ways that encourages deeper understanding in our students.  As Wiley and Green (2012) pointed out in Why Openness in Education, we even judge educators on their ability to share and impart understanding to students (para. 5 & 6).

So sharing is part of what we do as educators…. rather it’s the what, how and where we share that we really need to think about?  If you think back to when you were growing up, some of us perhaps, didn’t have to worry about the photo someone snapped at a gathering or comment that was shared.  Our networks were smaller.  Perhaps your embarrassing photo made the yearbook or a friend actually had the roll of film developed.  The chances of widespread distribution and repercussions were on a smaller scale.  Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t fun if the wrong person got a hold of a photo or some how continued to share things.  It wasn’t however on the same scale as social media provides today.  So keep in mind that many of us who are now parents didn’t grow up in a world with social media or cell phones (mobile phones came in bags and you could only use then in case of emergency because who could afford the cost per minute).

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Image from Meme Generator

 

 

Is the answer to attempt to remove technology from our lives and avoid any device that could capture our image so that facial recognition software can’t identify us?  I guess you can try but for the large majority of us it’s not practical; moreover, sticking our head in the proverbial sand won’t make the issue go away, but someone might make a nice meme out of it.

In my experience it’s about having the courage to step into the conversation with students and talk about what’s going on.  Is oversharing happening?  What type of images are being posted?  What if you just like or comment – does that make you part of it?  It also means that we need to model or attempt thoughtful digital citizenship the best we can.  This means that we need to know what engaged, thoughtful digital citizens do.  While we may not all have access to Digital Learning Consultants and I have to say thank-you to Thad, Kirk and Robert for their ongoing encouragement and support during my years as a teacher and consultant.  It makes a difference to have knowledgeable and reflective people to talk to about digital issues.  So as the Agree team mentioned during the debate, we live in the real world and ongoing to access to PD and support people may not always be possible; however, we do live in an age where there is ample helpful information online about digital citizenship and digital footprints. I first learned about the elements of Digital Citizenship on Mike Ribble’s website.

Mike Ribble Retweet.JPG

What about oversharing?  You know it’s going to happen and it’s like a digital tattoo.  It has the potential to fade but never really go away. How do you prevent it?  I think it begins with open communication with our children.  As educators and parents,  we have a great opportunity to talk about the pictures we take and how we share them.  When you snap that pic and post it to Facebook, do you talk to your child about where you are posting it?  Am I posting it publicly for everyone to see on my profile or am I sharing it with a select group of people in a secret Facebook group?  Think about the conversation potential that exists with our Pre-K and K teachers as they document and share student learning with parents.  I’ve seen our early learning teachers engage in thoughtful conversations about what they are sharing and who will see it.  As a parent, I really appreciate getting the updates of what my daughter is doing in class.  Plus hearing her voice as she explains it is priceless. Sharing matters.

Worried about oversharing?  It’s happening all around us and it may be impacting our lives more than we know.

 

On the flip side, I remember back to a time when I was co-teaching my Bio 30 class with a teacher of a grade 5 class in a different community.  We skyped everyday and each grade 12 was paired with a grade 5 student in the 1:1 learning project.  We talked often about the expectations and how we needed to be engaged digital citizens, yet a grade 5 overshared info – nothing earth shattering but enough that the Bio 30 student was concerned.  What it did do was generate a healthy discussion about what was appropriate to share in our wikispace discussions and how we can learn from the experience.  We were working in a safe private space, so it was a great learning opportunity for all of us.  One that will hopefully remind us all to think before we share.

So starting the conversation early will help engage students and teachers in thoughtfully sharing positive experiences to grow their digital footprint, which in turn helps model the practice to parents and family that may not have considered those aspects.  Kathy Cassidy shared in her video that yes what we share in social media is permanent but because of that it’s a great way to look back and see how much we have grown. She also talked about the value of modeling how to use social media and in doing so how we influence student’s understanding of the world and practice empathy.

 

Steven W. Anderson shared Meredith Stewart’s tweet, “If you aren’t controlling your footprint, others are.”  He encouraged readers to start building their brand – their digital identity.  You do this by sharing and creating positive online footprints, but as the Agree team pointed out – you need to watch out for bouncing.  When a photo that you have shared gets used for something else. As Anderson pointed out, not only do you have to actively build a positive identity you have to monitor it.  Alec Couros noted in our follow up conversation that just googling our names doesn’t truly include all of our digital footprint.  We need to consider the data that is tracked in all the apps that we use.

Alec discussed how facial recognition technology is now available and when he showed us how it worked with his own images, we realized just how many people there are out there that look just like him.  We have to learn how to be aware of the footprints we are actively creating, as well as those that are being created without our consent.

Should all of this scare you as an educator away from sharing? or considering the sharing of student work?  It’s important to consider the positive impacts of sharing. Rather than only relying on standardized assessments to ensure academic standards are being met. Bence asked “what if learner work were shared on a wider level so that the work could speak for itself.  She shared examples of how being transparent with what’s happening in the classroom has added “another layer of authenticity to education” (para. 4). Learners have become more active participants in their own education especially when they know the audience is more than just the classroom.  As with any online venture in education, Bence encouraged educators to check with their schools and districts to ensure practices align with responsible use.

Here’s part of our closing arguments from Tuesday night – sharing matters and it’s important to teach our children how to share.

You are welcome to check out our team’s resource list.  We’ve selected a number of articles and guides to help educators grow their understanding of sharing.

These resources are a great place to start.

What will matter in the future as our Facebook babies grow up and realize just what their parents and teachers have shared?  I can only imagine where we will be when I think about how things have evolved in the first half of my teaching career… or even in the last 5 years for that matter.

What matters today is that we start the conversation. Hopefully if we start today and engaging in ongoing conversations about digital citizenship, we will all learn to pause before we post and think about the potential ripple effect.

Regardless of social media or old fashioned information sharing asking ourselves the following question will impact how we try to live our lives.

What legacy do you want to leave behind?

Special thanks to Lisa and Haiming!  What a great team – glad to have had the chance to work with you!

As I’ve had a chance to read through other blog posts, these are a few that have stood out to me:

  • Jeremy Black  explained we all need to engage in digital citizenship education.  He suggested introducing it to parents at meet the teacher nights as a way to engage parents.  He noted that it’s also about sharing the resources we have with parents.
  • Erin Benjamin shared her decision to share student work using Seesaw and how she shared expectations with parents and students.  It’s making the time to explicitly teach the students about digital citizenship and then apply it to their learning that truly makes a difference. Learning about digital citizenship in authentic situations truly makes a difference.