Category Archives: edtech

Wizard vs. Cynic – Summary of Learning

Sorry, it’s really long. My summary of learning tries to demonstrate how there are two different perspectives for every issue discussed in class. While I seem to often stand somewhere in between (but mostly pro-tech), it was amazing to engage in such critical dialogue with peers.

I also apologize for the lack of theme music so if you need your fix:

It’s been a pleasure, people. Have a fabulous summer!

  • Koskie Out!

Filed under: 21stedchat, digitalcitizenship, eci830, Edchat, edtech

I Will Not Smile When the Battery Dies

The last ed tech debate, and the last time I will hear the sweet sweet beats of our EC&I 830 theme song, discussed the following: We have become too dependent on technology and what we really need is to unplug.

The agree side, comprised of Janelle, Kyle, and Dean, argued that people are too reliant on technology and need to step away from devices. Constantly being connected to the web can be unhealthy. While being in online communities may seem like a great way to collaborate and find genuine support, many people feel more alone when their social media use increases. This article states being online “cannot … fulfill our deep innate need for intimacy, genuine connection and real friendship.” Interesting, I guess the friends I have made over the past 15 years from online gaming cannot be “real friendships.” Sorry, guys! Really, this assertion bothers me; I don’t think Margie is the all powerful wizard who can tell you if a friendship is real or not.

Last month, a friend I met on Guild Wars, when I was 15 years old, called me. He is 28 years old, from California, and has been a soldier in war since I have known him. We have stayed in contact for 10 years. He called me to let me know he is getting compensation for everything that he has been through. We stayed on the phone for two hours — discussing Trump *barf*, dating, politics, and successes and hardships throughout the year. Without technology, this type of friendship would never be possible. Sorry to break your bubble, Margie, but I consider this a very real friendship and a genuine connection. I wish we could stop arguing connections we make online are not genuine.

8906423-illustration-of-online-friends-having-a-good-laugh

Retrieved from https://5636spring13.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/socialization-part-2/

Technology has allowed me to keep important connections with people. One of my best friends is in Calgary and we have a traditional Skype session every Sunday (or Monday to discuss GoT). Do I wish we could meet in person? Of course! But I’ll take virtual Tanille over no Tanille at all. Additionally, I tend to travel a lot and meet a lot of people along the way. Two years ago I went to New Zealand and every year I have met up with a friend from Wales in the summer (she comes to Saskatchewan in two days).

I do think technology can encourage people to communicate less with people who are around us. I think it’s important for people to be aware of how they use technology when they are around other people. I get extremely frustrated when I am hanging out with friends and they are constantly checking their phones and texting other people. I usually just tell them to put their phone away if it’s getting out of hand, which leads to some awkward silences. I have noticed an increasing amount of students sitting in the common areas around the school, playing separate games in total silence and sometimes I wonder if this habit will hurt their ability to converse verbally with others. EA Prince argues that humans do need to unplug from technology to stay healthy:

I think he brings up some valid points. Although, his message would be more powerful if he didn’t tweet nine times today.  He brings up some previously discussed topics: the pageantry of vanity, selfishness, loneliness, and instant gratification. These are all problems we need to face, but I don’t think unplugging is the answer. I will not smile when the battery dies.

Danielle Istace defines unplugging similar to how I do:

“Unplugging to me, means disconnecting from all sources of non-face to face communication. Phones. Emails. FaceTime. etc. To me, unplugging, really means, becoming totally inaccessible. And, frankly, I don’t think this is necessary in order to get the cleansing effects of not using technology.”

Tayler, Nicole and Angela argued technology is a part of who we are and we will never truly unplug from it. Casey Kept discusses how unplugging from technology is not authentic because “the goal [of unplugging] isn’t really abstinence but a return to these technologies with a renewed appreciation of how to use them. Few who unplug really want to surrender their citizenship in the land of technology; they simply want to travel outside it on temporary visas.” I think this is true. There is (maybe?) one person I know who has stayed off social media and severely limits their phone use. The rest of my friends’ Facebook pages and Twitter accounts reappear after a few days. Can stepping away from social media and heavy internet use help people regulate what they do and how often they are online? Maybe. And if that’s the case, then I guess close your accounts for a few days.

But, like my on-and-off Keto diet, going to extremities isn’t going to last very long and you are, more than likely, going to fall into your old habits (whether it be food or technology use). People are better off with moderation. Don’t eat the cake (OK, a tiny sliver of cake). Keep the phone on the table when you are with family. Leave the phone in the tent when you are camping. Get used to the feeling of having technology accessible and choosing not to use it. Bonus: It will save battery life.

  • Koskie Out!

Filed under: 21stedchat, digitalcitizenship, eci830, Edchat, edtech

Dialled in, plugged in, and loving life.

Look up“.

Great advice for some, but not all. I think in some cases, we need try to reflect on the value of looking down… and what looking down allows us to do – connect, answer, and learn. Yes, we can go to a concert and hear musicians tell us to unplug and live in the moment, and we need to, but what about getting a video of Chris Martin singing “Fix You” for your friend who couldn’t be there because they were sick?

Some moments don’t need a camera and there is value in appreciating things without a digital record… but, like every other debate we’ve had, we need balance, moderation, and an open mind. Is taking a video of a child’s first steps also not living in the moment? Or is it an opportunity to reflect and relive the moment years later? Humanity is evolving, constantly rewiring the hardware of our brains, and with this includes modern connectedness and socialization which occurs by looking down and utilizing our technology and devices. We are comfortable with looking down when it helps us learn with PLNs or to help facilitate learning and friendships, but are quick to antagonize it when people don’t appreciate moments the way we might want them to. There is a challenge to begin to recognize that who we are today involves a link between offline to online life. This is echoed by the concept of augmented reality, and as we learn about what our digital footprints are, and adjust our digital identity to improve this, we improve our IRL identity as a result… we project a better us to live up to. (But this can create pressure to please, so we need to continue to reflect and be fair to ourselves).
Optimism versus the facts against being plugged in.

“Plugging in” has been called a way to avoid dealing with loneliness,

Loneliness_(4101974109)

Loneliness via Wikimedia Commons

but perhaps it is rather an opportunity for less boredom, two states of mind that are, at times, difficult to differentiate from one another. I would seek to argue that perhaps we are more engaged and stimulated than ever before, but is there a backlash to this? We are all capable of multi-tasking and some evidence points to the idea that I am, in fact, wrong. Having too much going on at once is imposed by tech and causes higher levels of stress… including how connected we are and the inherent expectations for shorter response times. I would argue that I feel efficient when I get a lot done in a day, and am capable of getting a lot of things done thanks to technology, and have a lot of positive means of coping with the potential stress that occurs as a result. I want to be involved and I feel fulfilled when I am… or am I just afraid of missing out?

Fear of missing out is a reality for some, and some may tell you that technology is making this worse, but there is also learning to be had when struggling with this this fear. Speaking from personal experience through toddler to teenager, I have been completely wrapped up in what others are doing, and over time learned to accept the things I may be missing out on for what is more important, isn’t that what growing up is and has been for some time? Some argue that technology can be an addiction, observing others make trips home to retrieve devices that, without, individuals would feel naked. I have a hard time agreeing that technology is an addiction, we have it to connect and it is something that we feel improves or is needed in our lives. How is this different than applying the argument to being addicted to our cars or other modes of transportation? It is a part of our lives that improves our lives, and the fact that I feel that I “need” it to get to work wouldn’t be considered addiction or “bordering on obsession”, so many things would therefore border on obsession. My love of hockey, teaching, cats, and my family, borders on obsession. However, the points listed above make my life better, no question about it. Does being plugged in actually make my life better?

Does being plugged in legitimately make your life better?

Does being plugged in make your students’ lives better?

If you think it doesn’t, then stay unplugged.

For me?

I am dialled in.

I am plugged in.

I am educate-in.

And I am loving life.

 

EC&I 830, have a great summer.

Logan Petlak

 

 


Corporate Interests in Education: Standards that Should Not Be Set

The question for this week’s debate statement for the week was: Public education has sold its soul to corporate interests in what amounts to a Faustian bargain.

I don’t think it it is a coincidence Common Core Standards, and the increasing amount of textbooks schools buy to ensure students meet these standards, came out while many educators were pushing and working towards an open-source education movement.  Pearson has an overwhelming hold on educational materials that school districts purchase and the company can even profit from student failure.

It’s a terrifying thought to think companies creating educational materials rely on students to fail so they can “bring in the scrilla (it’s also terrifying I am using Glenn Beck as a source to prove something, but I guess my grandma would be proud).” For Pearson, Common Core is private profit, which means they can create standards that students will not be able to reach:

[Common Core Standards] require kindergartens to “read emergent texts with purpose and understanding.” According to the report, there is no scholarly basis for setting this bar for kindergartners. In fact, the evidence suggests, expecting children to read too early can have adverse consequences. Early childhood researchers have shown the benefits of play-based kindergarten for cognitive, social, emotional and physical development. “Children learn through playful, hands-on experiences with materials, the natural world and engaging, caring adults.” The report calls for the Common Core kindergarten standards to be withdrawn.

SUCCEED

Photo Credit: .EJW.Photography. via Compfight cc

Many educational institutions are forced to teach students too much content when students are too young to comprehend it.  Research suggests waiting for students to become older can accelerate their test scores simply because the brain is more developed. The “impact of accelerated testing has had a disproportionate impact on boys”:

When a boy who is perfectly intelligent and on target in terms of physical and mental development attempts to enter kindergarten at the usual age of five years old, he will be at a significant disadvantage relative to the older boys and especially relative to the older girls that parents have held out of kindergarten for a year.

Common Core Standards and standardized testing can do some good, in terms of keeping teachers accountable for understanding the curriculum. However, the implication with that is the curriculum is the only important knowledge (and presumably “non-bias” information) students need to understand in school.

I struggled with standardized testing this year. I am teaching English Language Arts 30 for the first time so I cannot write my own final exam.  As much as I would like to say I didn’t think about that exam while teaching, I cannot; the exam caters to a few outcomes in the curriculum and I fell into the trap of “teaching to the test.”  Saskatchewan and most school districts are moving towards outcome-based assessments, yet the standardized test for ELA 30 covers two to three outcomes. Anyone else getting mixed signals?

Photo of man with two shadows on the sidewalk indicating mixed signals

Photo Credit: mag3737 via Compfight cc

With all that being said, corporations are also helping to solve the education crisis. Many companies are not simply throwing money at the problem:

Smart companies are finding that the more they do so [lend otherwise proprietary human, technical, and intellectual capital], the more momentum and demand they create for what they provide, and the smarter they get about innovating around what’s truly needed in the education space. It’s a virtuous cycle of self-improvement.

Google for Education revolutionized my organization and teaching practice as well as how my students learn.  Having one-to-one access to Chromebooks allows me to have a more student-led classroom. I  plan knowing I am able to create innovative assessments that suit individuals’ strengths. My students can collaborate on Google Docs and I can give them descriptive feedback as they are working on assignments.

I never really thought about how Google is tracking what my students are doing in order to target advertisements towards them. I had a light bulb moment this week when Microsoft aquired LinkedIn for $26.2 biliion dollars. Why pay so much for a website that is used for adults to post work-related activity? Well, acquiring personal data is expensive and valuable. LInkedIn is a perfect platform to get relatively reliable and accurate personal data from people. No wonder there is such a corporate race to see who can become the most widely used devices, and sell the most products, in schools.

  • Koskie Out!

Filed under: 21stedchat, digitalcitizenship, eci830, Edchat, edtech

Childhood Through the Technological Age

Debate topic: Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

I have given this topic a lot of thought since becoming interested in educational technology. The agree team was comprised of Logan Petlak, Amy Scuka, and Carter Davis who made some compelling arguments that social media is harming children.

The agree team argued social media negatively affects children’s mental health. Students are consumed by online spaces where their peers continuously post highlights of their life.  Children’s exposure to technology is leading to poorer sleep quality, which impacts their physical and mental health. I don’t know about any other teachers out there, but when I am severely overtired it ain’t pretty for anyone.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to social media use since “social media rewards persistent refreshing — that’s how it’s built, and I doubt that reward system will change any time soon. If you’re already a bored insomniac, it’s tempting to stay stuck in a ‘checking’ loop, because it’s something to do.” I know the last thing I do before I go to bed is check my phone for text messages and what’s new on “the Twitter.” Children have access to technology at young ages and I worry that sleep deprivation will hinder their ability to focus in school.

However, I do not believe social media is “ruining childhood” because of sleep deprivation. Hell, child-rearing practices in the middle ages involved kids receiving harsh beatings regularly and instilling complete obedience through physical and psychological maltreatment. The definition of childhood is always changing and, while we need to be critical of what kids (and people in general) are doing, we should not compare it to our past experiences as children and say one is better than the other.

Retrieved from obstacol.com

Retrieved from obstacol.com

Simply saying “back in the good ol’ days when blah blah blahjsdfjdgaojajg” allows people to shift responsibility and not teach children skills that are needed right now. I also realllllly hope they aren’t referencing the middle ages when they say “back in the good ol’ days.”  Does social media allow for bullying to become more prevalent at home? Absolutely. Is social media sabotaging real communications? Maybe, but I personally don’t agree with this (I am skeptical any time an article uses the word “dicey” in it).

One way I do think social media is jeopardizing childhood is due to the exposure kids have to unrealistic beauty standards 24/7. Women’s ideal body types have changed throughout history:

This generation is no exception. However, have never had children (1) exposed to so many advertisements with beauty standards that are (2) literally only achievable with photo-altering programs. Now programs are allowing children to alter their appearance instantly with Snapchat. Justine Stephanson demonstrates how much these filters can change your appearance on her recent blog post. Shouldn’t we be teaching children to stop pursuing these unattainable beauty standards rather than fulfilling people’s desire to alter their appearance?  Danielle argues the “internet is aiding our children in growing up much faster than they did when [she] was a child.”

I think she may have a point. The CBC documentary “Sext Up Kids” describes girls who are learning how to sexualize themselves at a very young age. Therefore, girls being sexual and objectified by society is normalized and expected from society– a terrifying thought.

Despite my rant about the negatives of social media, I still don’t think it is ruining childhood. The disagree team (Ellen Lague and Elizabeth Therrien) provided good arguments that social media can provide a lot of benefits to students; I have seen a few of my students gain genuine support from people on these platforms.  In fact, students have become more vocal in class because they feel more supported in expressing themselves. I have mentioned the various benefits for students using social media and open education in previous blog posts but….

Basically what it comes down to (for me) is this:

  1. Social media can cause harm to children, both physically and mentally. We need to educate students about it.
  2. Social media can provide a lot of benefits to children and give them amazing opportunities. We need to show how it can empower students.
  3. It’s not going anywhere. Lets talk about it.
  • Koskie Out!

 


Filed under: 21stedchat, blendedlearning, digitalcitizenship, eci830, Edchat, edtech, Education

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.

abstract-1233873_960_720
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?

social-media-1432937_960_720
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,

ellen selfie
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.


No Fair: Does Technology Support Equity?

Technology is the promise of the future.  It is touted as the great equalizer.  The tools that will bring education to the underprivileged, those with disabilities and those on the margins of society.  It has the promise of breaking down barriers, of helping us all communicate better and of bringing equity to the world.  But, is technology living up to these promises?  What is the evidence that we have indeed begun bridging the digital divide?  In a recent Financial Post Study, evidence suggests that even in a developed country like Canada, disparity with regard to access and internet fluency not only still exist but are being exacerbated.  As is noted in the study, age and income both play significant roles in who accesses technology and also how it is used.

“People with some post-secondary education (and who were no longer students) had Internet-use rates nearly 10 per cent higher than people with just a high school diploma, and nearly 50 per cent higher than those without a diploma.” -Financial Post

TT52_Smart-Tech-Use-for-Equity_Arrow_FINAL-392x196

Source

The question has to be asked, can technology really bridge gaps such as income disparity?  After-all, at the end of the day the technology has the potential to allow access to a myriad of learning opportunities.  People have access to apps like duolingo, coursera, MOOCs, online information hubs, and translations tools.  The problem is not necessarily the programs and software but the access to internet service and hardware.  How can these services be considered equitable learning opportunities if students do not all have access to the technology?  In addition, it has become clear that technology, even when applied across a range of different socio-economic classrooms, does not benefit all students in the same way.  Harvard Education has undertaken a study outlined in the video below that indicates that the use of a platform such as wiki as an example, is disproportionately benefiting those students who come from higher income brackets and have higher socio-economic status.

So what is the solution?  Clearly the teachers and innovators need to have a strong social justice focus as we engage in these questions.  As mentioned in the video, tools that are specifically designed and targeted at low income and marginalized youth can have a greater impact than simply applying the same broad technology strokes to the entire class and expect the technology to magically transform our students.  Technology in education is an amazing gift and I use it every day and am so thankful for it, however, it can not take the place of personalized learning.  Due to issues of access and socio-economic status, we are still not able to offer the same advantages to these students as the privileged already receive.

excellence

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Growing up in Africa meant I was able to experience a different world of education than what we are accustomed to here in Canada.  My friends went to school in which they had 1 pencil for every 10 students.  This meant that as the students sat in rows on the dirt floor, the first person in the line would copy down the notes, pass the pencil on to the next person and so on and so forth.  Is it equitable that these students do not have the opportunity to experience technology in their education?  Maybe not, but it may not be that far off.  Programs like Youth Learning, and the Text to Change project are being implemented in third world countries in order to engage youth in technology and give them a voice in a digital world in which they were not citizens.

digitaldividemap

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“Technology has the potential to be a huge force for good but it is not a silver bullet, a fix-all solution to how to fix the education and employment problems for young people in developing countries,” says Kenny. “Yet one thing is clear – it will undoubtedly play an increasingly important part of millions of young people’s lives across the world.”-Charles Kenny

Kakiri Uganda 56388

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Technology has tremendous potential to affect positive change in the lives of millions of people who are not currently a part of the world you live in right now.  The ease with which we can access and share information across the world in this day and age is unprecedented.  In our own schools here in Saskatchewan, tech tools are allowing creativity to flourish in those that would not otherwise have an outlet.  They are giving hope to those can can’t access traditional learning environments, they are giving a voice to the voiceless.  But the work is not done.  As you are reading this, just remember that there are millions of others around the world right now, and probably in your city or town, who have no way to read this blog.  As educators, let us not be caught in the techno-colonial trap of presuming that as we bring technology to the poor and downtrodden of society, we will be the saviours once again.  Equity must mean more than simply providing the same tools to all.  Personalized learning is the key to success.  We must ask ourselves, what are the individual needs of this student, of this class, of this community?  For many students throughout the world, physiological needs will supersede a simple piece of technology.

maslow 1

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Then again for others…

maslow 2

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The More We Share, the More We Have

I’ve been thinking recently about openness, sharing, and their places in education.  As technology has made its way further and further into education systems across the globe, the ability to share information has been  made vastly more accessible in recent years.  With a powerful device in almost every student and teachers’ pocket, there are limitless possibilities to how information and learning can be shared.  Teachers are using sites like Twitter, Facebook, Edublogs and Wikispaces to document and share their learning with the wider world.  Open course sites like Coursera, and Massive Open Online Courses are changing the way that information is disseminated and online collaboration tools such as Google and Mindmeister have afforded people the opportunity for amazingly creative works.  This is truly the age of open source learning.  However, open source learning without sharing is moot.

So, is sharing all that it’s cracked up to be?  We now live in a world in which sharing every minute detail of each moment of our lives has become normal.  We share photos of what food we’re eating, the shoes we just bought or the thoughts that pop into our head.  With openness comes inherent dangers as this video demonstrates.

Due to these types of online sharing in which no filter is applied, I have often asked the following questions, how much sharing is too much?  Is sharing inherently dangerous?  What is the role of online sharing in education?  Do the benefits outweigh the costs?  In my teaching career thus far I have been what I would call a cautious sharer.  I have a very detailed form that goes home to parents on the first day of school explaining the different platforms we use and allowing parents to give permission for the use of student photos.  We have student blogs but they are viewable only by parents, teachers or other students.  We also have a class twitter account but tweets are composed by myself or in conjunction with students to share what we are learning in the classroom.  Often the tweets are focused not on students themselves but on the projects or learning happening in the classroom.  Is this true sharing?  I think it’s a start. However, it is limiting in many ways.  First of all, the students’ writing is seen only by classmates and a select few parents.  Opening the blogging platform to open comments would allow more readers and therefore, more feedback and engagement.  Studies have shown that as students perceive a larger readership, their writing improves.  The connections formed with other classrooms through Twitter could be strengthened by allowing more control to be passed to the students.  So why is it so hard for me to open up our learning environment and allow deeper and more meaningful connections?

165595-your-scientists-were-so-preocc-K8Ym

There are several factors that can tend to negate the full potential of connected and open online learning in classrooms.  Firstly, there are inherent risks involved with sharing information online regarding what students are doing.  Location services and GPS tracking in many apps can compromise the safety of students.  There are also many instances in which students need to be protected and anonymous do to court orders or protective custody.  Secondly, there must be an incredible amount of trust between teachers and students in order to allow students the control to share and connect openly and freely.  Obviously this looks different for various age groups.  High school students for example,  are often quite capable of deciding how to share their learning online.  However, this does necessitate some deeper conversations around what should be posted.  For younger students who lack the same discernment skills, this must be modelled and taught. Douglas Park School’s Aaron Warner is a great example of this mentality.  He routinely teaches and models the use of social media and online sharing with his Grade 7/8 class and eventually turns the reigns over to the students.  I believe this is one of the key components of open classrooms.

Education is not a secret, although aspects of good teaching practice can seem illusive at times.  It is a public and necessary part of our society.  I often cringe when parents express to me that they don’t know what is going on in their children’s classrooms.  With the tools we now have at our disposal, parents should have a clear and complete picture of their child’s experiences at school, even if the student themselves is vague on the details.  This was demonstrated during the debate with the short skit about what was being learned at school.  If there is something tangible and real to demonstrate, students will also be more engaged in the sharing process.  There is also a permanent record of what the learning goals are, steps taken to achieve them, and what the outcomes are.

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As is demonstrated by the above sets of data, teens and young adults are some of the most pervasive sharers of information online.  In addition, the reasons why people share online are telling according to the New York Times study.  Let’s look at some of the top reasons people share online and apply an educator’s lens shall we…

1.To share relevant Information…Teachers and students should both be in the habit of sharing information.  Information is wealth and whether it’s teachers sharing lessons and resources with one another, or students sharing their successes and failures (failures?..yes I said failures because this is when true learning occurs).  Application: Teachers need to model for students which information is relevant and useful to be shared as well as who to share it with (how public?).

2. To support causes or issues they care about… This seems like a no brainer.  What a great opportunity to engage students in meaningful conversations about what’s going on in the world around them.  Students can be surprisingly charismatic, caring and engaged when it comes to supporting causes in the community or around the world.  Many times the students are the first to take action, quickly suggesting a support video for Laloche students, or organizing a bake sale to raise money for Cerebral Palsy. This is how meaningful connections are made and global citizens are produced.

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Application: Let students share their passions and the things they care about.  Pick a list of causes that the class wants to connect with or support.  Discuss what it means to be a global citizen.  Challenge students to dream big and to change the world.

3. Connecting with others who share their interests… This is a great opportunity to network with other classes in your age category.  It also allows a chance to model who should be in our followers or friends lists as individuals.  Some of the best lessons I’ve used have come from connections with other classrooms in Saskatchewan and throughout the world.  As students share interests on blog sites or through Twitter, they build a wider audience and engage with the world outside the classroom.  Genius hour is a great example of this.  When we look at genius hour projects of other 7/8 classes the students up the anti.  Application: Let students explore passion projects.  Encourage students to share what they are learning or what they’ve created.  Model at first and compose Tweets or posts together as a class.

4. Expressing self identity and feeling of involvement in the world…This is an opportunity to model the permanency of our digital identity.  Students should build an awareness of how the class is perceived online and what our digital footprint will be.  Discuss with students which parts of our identity we wish to share with the world.  How involved should we be?  Application: Extend this thinking to students’ own personal sharing.  Engage them in discussions about how they should present themselves online.

Let’s take the time and get this one right.  Let’s show our students the power of positive sharing through meaningful connections.

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Sharing and openness. A moral imperative, even on social media.

Sharing is a moral imperative.

This week we debated the necessity or disservice of sharing and openness in schools in the context of social media and education technology. And, much like many of our discussions, it involves statements or hesitations from some that we could apply to other arguments about childhood and life. Observing my opening sentence, read the italicized and consider if that phrase, not in the context of social media, but rather of students of the past. Is or was sharing and openness not encouraged, with emphasis on competition instead? Perhaps not in schools, but at home?  Once upon a time, ‘openness’ and sharing emotions was discouraged as part of social pressures on males (The Mask You Live In). But in today’s world, openness and sharing is a given, a moral imperative. And sharing and openness in social media is no exception to this fundamental moral imperative. But sharing is a learning process, parents and educators need to learn themselves and guide students through the process of now understanding sharing not just in the historic sense of “Billy, let Tim play with your toys too”,

it’s become “Billy, don’t feel like you need to let Tim know about every single thing you’re doing today on Instagram”. We can share learning, or perhaps important life events, but where is the line in what we should share? Juan Enriquez presents the idea that everything we share leaves that digital tattoo. So, while I would argue we need to share, we need to be aware of the implications of what we share about ourselves and others. Much like presenting ourselves professionally in public, like at a social gathering, today social media is where humans gather and “humans are wired to share”. Rachel Botsman, makes this argument in her case for collaborative consumption.
https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/rachel_botsman_the_case_for_collaborative_consumption.html

 

Learning about sharing. How do we share better?

There are a lot of reminders out there about why we need to be aware of our digital footprint. Sometimes there is that fear about what we put into the big scary internet, but we (teachers and students) can use it to our advantage. This requires some learning to take place. In discussion with my grade nines, we stumbled onto an apparent digital citizenship learning curve. In many ways, as student’s raised in the social media age, they hit certain milestones or realizations about what is “okay” online far sooner than I ever did. Like any bit of learning, however, there are gaps. Some learn to avoid “oversharing” younger, yet fail to understand the idea of creating a positive digital footprint and post profanity or inappropriate content. As a young educator, I am fortunate to have been raised in the beginning of the social media age, but learned through mistakes and failure; different generations have different exposure and opportunity. So, rather than a trial by fire, or through personal experience depending on the generation of teachers, educators need a guideline for teaching digital citizenship in our school, thanks Alec and Katia. Find your line and use the resources to teach about openness and sharing through social media responsibly.

Where is the ideal line between sharing too much and not enough though? We can be aware of our digital footprints, but one person’s definition of a good digital footprint may be slightly different than another, much like one individual’s thoughts on sharing may be different than another. Where is your line?

Logan Petlak


Consider Taking a Break.

Debate topic for the week: Technology is making our kids unhealthy.

I don’t know about anyone else, but the first thing I thought of when hearing last week’s debate topic was a voice saying, “Kids these days don’t go outside and play” or “Hey! There’s a lake out there!”

Flashbacking (using it as a verb now) to playing Guild Wars with my brother and the moment the developers put a time reminder on this game and I hated them for it.

You have been playing Guild Wars for 2 hours. Consider taking a break.

You have been playing Guild Wars for 6 hours. Consider taking a break.

You have been playing Guild Wars for 13 hours. You really need to go outside now. What are you doing with your life? Do you feel bad about this? Because you should. Re-evaluate all life decisions that brought you to this point.

OK, the end of the last one may have been an inner dialogue…. Hahaha, just kidding. I would simply sign out of the game and come back on so it would seem like I was only playing for 1 hour and no longer had to be shamed by my computer!

Image retrieved from www.123rf.com

Computer Addict – Image retrieved from http://www.123rf.com

Technology has increased the amount of time people are sedentary. I think it’s virtually impossible to deny this. I never would have sat in an uncomfortable rolling chair for hours if I didn’t have Guild Wars or Gears of War and immerse myself in a different world.  Obesity in Children and Technology describes how one-third of American adolescents are overweight or obese and argues decreased physical activity is due to the amount of time kids are in front of a screen. However, I don’t think our sedentary lifestyle (directly caused by technology) is solely to blame for the increased obesity rates because diet has also changed significantly. Unfortunately, one of the reasons our diet has changed drastically is because children’s advertisements were deregulated in 1984. A study conducted by Frederick J. Zimmerman stated that “Commercial television pushes children to eat a large quantity of those foods they should consume least: sugary cereals, snacks, fast food and soda pop”.

Deregulation made young people the most important and profitable consumer to exist EVER. Children are constantly exposed to advertisements and generations are becoming more obsessed with material goods and foods that constantly play on television. This is especially harmful when “prior television experience continued to predict unhealthy food preferences and diet in early adulthood, and perceived taste had the most direct relationship to both healthy and unhealthy diets.” If people decide how they will eat during early adulthood, and they are exposed to unhealthy food advertisements from birth, it is not surprising obesity rates are soaring. I mean, what kind of child won’t want to eat these foods?

If eating cereal will give me a bunch of digital bear friends that dance with me, I’M IN! But seriously, I HIGHLY recommend watching Consuming Kids if you are interested in learning more about advertisements targeted towards kids and the dangers on their health and well-being.

I do think that technology is messing with our body and minds. I’m very skeptical WiFi exposure may lower men’s sperm count since there is “no official scientific consensus around the potential health risks from radiofrequencies.” However, I know that I have struggled with sleep since the start of high school. I am fairly sure this partly because my melatonin is disrupted when I am in front of a computer screen all day. Come on, melatonin! Get it together.

Mental health is also being affected by our consumption of the digital world. I know many children have to combat cyberbullying and how people who use social media “frequently have 2.7 times the likelihood of depression.”  People are comparing themselves to the “highlight reels” they find on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  I remember posting pictures of Ireland and people being amazed by how beautiful it was. I decided to upload a video of how windy it was to show people how pictures can be deceiving (it was still beautiful but we stayed there for about 5 minutes because of the weather). It’s a tiny example of a much bigger problem: You never get to see what is really going on. The picture and video below were taken minutes apart.

Cliffs of Moher Ireland

Cliffs of Moher lookin’ beauty.

[Inserting video of Cliffs of Moher here but it’s uploading]

I feel like I have gone full attack mode into how technology is terrible for our health. Obviously, there are many sides to this story. My future-debate-partner-in-crime Bob Yake describes how “technology – particularly wearable biometric technology – can have very positive effects on a person’s health. I suffer from Myasthenia Gravis, a progressive neuro-muscular disease, and I can personally attest to the value of wearable biometric devices. I use an apple watch that is paired with my phone and has been an important way for me to track my drug schedule, my energy levels, daily food intake, and my insulin dosages. I can then share this data with my family physician, neurologist, and endocrinologist so everyone is on the same page treatment-wise.” I think it’s important to look at this issue from a variety of perspectives. I have applications on my phone that remind me to take medication (which I am terrible at doing– Sorry, mom.) or keeping track of my sleep schedule and the steps I take in a day.

I think it’s amazing that new technologies are being invented every day that can help people become healthier. I don’t know what the answer is, but technology is not going anywhere so it’s important to come up with solutions to these new problems. Who knows, innovative technologies may be the answer for some of the issues it’s causing right now.

We can’t expect children and adolescence to know the harm that comes from heavy technology use. We also can’t expect children to suddenly break free from unhealthy food and technology consumption when they have grown up in a time where the digital world revolves around their every desire.

  • Koskie Out!

Filed under: 21stedchat, digitalcitizenship, eci830, Edchat, edtech, Education