Category Archives: Education

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,

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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

 

 


In the blink of an eye

This semester seemed to go by in the blink of an eye! I forgot about just how quickly spring classes fly by. For my summary of learning I decided to try something different and make a movie using iMovie. I haven’t used iMovie since I was an undergrad 10 years ago and I am definitely rusty. My editing skills peaked at the 10 second mark and went downhill from there (ha ha) but I did my best to make it work.

With this being my third class with Alec & Katia you would think that doing the summary of learning would get easier but IT DOESN’T! At least not for me. I find that each semester everyone sets the bar higher and higher which is fantastic for my viewing and learning pleasure, but not so fantastic for me when it comes to creating my own summary. From what I have seen so far everyone has done an AMAZING job of not only summarizing your learning, but doing it in a creative way! You’ll see from my video that my artistic abilities are nothing to write home about especially after seeing what Dre can do (talk about talented)! I always find it so difficult to sum up my learning into a short video and to match the video/pictures up with my voiceover. I tried to focus on the points that stood out to me in the class rather than trying to talk about EVERYTHING (because that seems impossible). I do find the whole thing challenging in so many ways, but I am happy with my final product.

Thanks to everyone for sharing your knowledge throughout the semester and presenting such awesome arguments during the debate. Personally I thought the debates were a great way to encourage us to view an issue from both sides and to critically discuss both sides of the issue. I like that it forced everyone to get involved and allowed us to have some pretty powerful discussions. I’m looking forward to the fall semester and hope to see some of you in the Zoom room again! Have a  great summer everyone!

 


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

 


Can We Fight the Future?

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In many ways I’m disappointed that this class has come to an end.  Discussing edtech issues with fellow educators from all over the country has been a privilege.  I have definitely had to evaluate my point of view and it has undergone changes again and again.  I have been challenged to think critically about how I use technology in my classroom and I have even been presented with issues that I had not previously considered.  It was intriguing to speak with fellow educators who have very different viewpoints on educational technology.  It was very encouraging to discover that whether teachers are for or against edtech, a genuine love for students and a concentration on their needs was foremost.  Throughout the course I came to several key realizations which I will attempt to summarize here.

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The first debate covered the merits of technology in the classroom and I came to the conclusion that technology for the sake of itself is a perilous venture.  Each integration of technology in the classroom must be weighed and measured for it’s ability to enhance the learning for students.  Teachers should not be scared to abandon certain aspects of their edtech strategy if it proves inefficient or contrary to learning.  Secondly, we discussed whether we should be teaching content that can be found on Google.  I came to a strong realization that there are certain pieces of information that must be scaffolded and therefore must be memorized.  However, I also am a strong believer in challenging students with critical questions and real world problems that cannot be simply searched.  Practical application and skill development are key skills for the 21st century.  When it comes to the role of technology in our health and wellness, I came away with the notion that in many ways screen time, online bullying, and the stresses placed upon children due to technology are indeed affecting our youth.  Although there are many instances in which technology can provide health benefits, if we are truly considering all health aspects including mental health, it seems as though a balanced approach to tech use with youth is warranted.  Ian makes a great point about the resiliency of kids which i think is necessary to keep in mind.   In the fourth debate we tackled the question of openness and sharing in educational settings.  I am still of the opinion that we need to do right by our students and be cautious with how and why we share on social media.  However, some of the greatest lightbulb moments in my classroom have come from making connections with classrooms and individuals from around the world.  It has truly opened my students eyes to a different worldview.

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Tech for equity was another tough topic to tackle but due to my experiences overseas, I still had to come to the conclusion that although technology has made great strides for equity and that the bar continues to be raised, there is still much work to be done.  There are definitely many more marginalized voices being heard because of technology but at the same time, without equal access for all, it can hardly be equitable.  Social media is a huge reason why so many more people are interconnected.  However, it is also clearly playing a major role in the development of children in our society.  As previously mentioned, the sheer number of hours spent in front of screens on social media is staggering compared to even 5 years ago.  In my opinion, this is also an area teachers must approach with good modelling and a balanced strategy.  The appropriate use of social media for positivity must be a part of every classroom.  As Andy states in his summary, “with the right dosage and application, technology has the ability to enrich our lives, not harm them, but it must be used appropriately, responsibly, and we must be explicitly taught directions for use.”  If not, we will continue to see students who are depressed, overweight, stressed out, lacking sleep and unable to communicate face to face.

Lastly we discussed the corporatization of education and the role that companies now play in the future of our children.  Once again I was reminded that these types of decisions must always be made with students’ best interests in mind.  Education is a market that is ready to be tapped by many companies that would love a piece of the pie.  We need to ask ourselves, what’s the cost to our kids? and is it worth it?  I’m looking forward to discussing the overuse of technology and the necessity of unplugging from time to time as well.

In general I have come away with several key learnings from the course this term.  I’m calling these Luke’s Keys to Edtech Use.  Although they may seem simple, when applied to the issues discussed above, they have proven to be extremely good reminders when implemented in practice.  In essence, we will not be able to fight the future.  This is the way the world is headed.  What we can do is insure that students are first and foremost, that we are giving kids a balanced education, and that we are modelling what it means to live in a digital world.  Can we fight the future?  I certainly think we would be foolish to try.

Luke’s Keys to Edtech Issues

  1. Keep Kids First
  2. Take a Balanced Approach
  3. Model Model Model

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In the spirit of the debate format of the class, Steve and I decided to record a podcast in which we tackled and summarized some of the issues presented in this course. We expound upon these in the following podcast.  We also researched some helpful links in our show notes to further explore these topics.  Please enjoy the debut episode of “Steve’s Wrong vs. No I’m Not”


It’s Just Business: Corporations in Schools

There is no shortage of examples of ways in which corporations have partnered with education over the years to offer financial support.  Coca-cola, Crayola, Apple, Microsoft, Nike, Addidas…the list goes on and on.  Financial support is something that, in this day and age, schools cannot afford to turn away.  Government funding for public education has been dismally low ever since the recession and as is evidenced in the recent decision by the Sask Party government to renege on their earlier funding promise.  School districts are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to funding, especially in the United States.  In many districts, funding is granted due to performance of the school or district in question on various academic and standardized tests.  This makes great business sense for companies because they are able to build community relationships, while also garnering support from partnerships.  In Calgary Public schools for example, the Board of Education is entertaining the possibility of more corporate involvement in their system.  The truth is that corporations want to be involved in public education but they also want some recognition.  The important consideration becomes whether the corporate involvement in schools is actually providing enhanced learning for students.  In many instances this decision may come down to a trade off of funding or support for corporations in exchange for some advertising exposure for students.  So what is it that corporations want in partnerships with public education?

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This depends on the individual situation.  There are legitimate companies who truly want to bring educational improvements to the classroom but it is a rare occurrence to find situations in which funding or support is given without any expectancy of return.  The returns wanted from these companies vary but they can prove to be detrimental to the learning happening at the classroom level.  One of the biggest negatives in these situations is the possibility of creating ‘haves and have nots.’  For example, if Coca-Cola is going to provide funding for a new school gymnasium, they will want their name to be associated with a successful school.  Therefore, schools who already have success in academics or athletics will probably unfairly attract corporate sponsors.  This leads to a disparity in school districts and the further alienation of at risk students.  Another problem arises from the advertisements and marketing geared toward students.  In one instance, M and M’s produces a primary level math text book that teaches students to count using their candy.  McDonald’s sponsors the Go-Active Fitness Challenge which, to me seems quite ironic.  Unless the goal of the challenge is to work off the calories from your latest Big Mac.  These kinds of programs encourage consumerism among students.  The strategy is called Trojan-Horse Marketing and it gives companies access to one of the biggest untapped markets of future buyers.

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Many parents are worried about the public schools having these types of business relationships because of the potential impacts on kids.  In this documentary called Corporations in the Classroom, teachers and administrators both share differing views on the role of businesses in the community.  Some in the education community feel as though having corporate sponsors is a necessary evil in order to be able to fund the programs and learning experiences that truly inspire students.  On the other hand, some feel that although companies should feel a responsibility to schools and communities, support should come without strings attached.

The other issue in corporate involvement becomes apparent when corporate educational partners have a vested interest in testing.  Pearson has become a hot button issue with many educators due to their involvement in virtually all aspects of our education system in Canada.  The standardized tests are often written and provided by companies like Pearson, who also provide textbooks and learning resources for schools.  In these instances, especially in the US, standardized test scores are linked to government funding.  Therefore, once again, the schools from higher socio-economic areas will tend to score higher on these tests thereby resulting in more funding.  The No Child Left Behind policy resulted in increased testing for students with funding linked to success on these tests.  Dean Shareski would certainly argue that the Pearson example in Canada is an extreme one and that the majority of corporations involved with schools are invested in improving education and enhancing learning.  As he stated during the debate on Tuesday, “it is naive for educators and school divisions to think that we can do this on our own.”  I think it is a telling sign of where public education ranks on the list of societies’ priorities in this day and age.  If a little bit of extra advertising is what we are concerned about, the question should be asked, how much advertising are our students exposed to on a daily basis?

Is it really so bad that we have corporations vying for a spot at the table of learning?  It seems as though the balance must always be struck but the key question has to be are we putting students first?  That’s the bottom line.  Every monetary decision must be framed in this way.  Are we doing a disservice to students or are we enhancing the learning that is happening in the classroom?  Once we lose sight of students best interests, it may be too late and the soul of education will already be gone.  Have we gone too far?

Featured Image Credit


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?

 

 


Should you sell your educating soul for the right reason (students)?

I have such a hard time trusting corporations or people in power.

Maybe it’s from watching V for Vendetta, Fight Club, or Mr. Robot too many times, but my default assumption on individuals who are extremely wealthy or powerful is mistrust and doubt.

What did you do to get there?

Why are you so wealthy?

Do you believe you need that much more money than others?

What motivates your decision making?

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Big Business via socawlege

And sorry to those of you who are well-off (which is a loaded comment in and of itself) that this may offend…

But can you blame me?

We obviously can’t paint every company with the same brush but when it comes down to students and learning, but what resources and deals that we as teachers, administrators school boards and divisions make are actually valuable to students and what is simply fuelled by greed or is filling the pockets of those that we are obligated to appease?

Soft drink and food companies push to get their brands into the school with some “noble” marketing. Textbook companies even cash in on the curriculum and testing system in some states south of our borders. While there are examples of positive and noble gestures by certain groups, there is a large monopoly on learning and its associated resources. When I consider the impact these corporations have on the learning I attempt to facilitate in my classroom I’m not sure I know where to begin. Textbooks, laptops, projectors and SMARTboards are the obvious ones, but can we not extend this to the desks, air conditioning (if so fortunate), the phones they use and the gymnasiums and facilities the student train and compete in? The line is pretty ambiguous. Is it okay to use desks but not textbooks?

This presents the idea of the Faustian bargain in education. Do we allow for companies to exhibit some forms of dominance and investment in the learning process for the sake of better resources? Does saying yes mean you’ve sold your soul? You can see in comics and media examples of “selling your soul” for the right reasons, and I would argue this applies here, much like Dean Shareski argued in our debate, highlighting that we kind of have to and it happens whether we like it or not. Our goal is student learning and as long as we do not become obligated or bound to do something unethical in the process of receiving what these companies provide to our students, we should be able to accept a pizza hut lunch day at school. Or free Google Chromebooks to all students. It is “free marketing” for those companies, but they are still providing a service to students with the potential to enhance learning and we need to utilize it that way. As Audrey Watters reminded us, this isn’t a new problem, capitalizing on education has been happening for over a hundred years but our ideologies on education have changed. Regardless, this has been happening for a long time. It doesn’t mean we completely trust these corporations, but we can at least see the value in what private companies can provide. We can’t be afraid to use the resources if it is for our students to learn (it is important to note I don’t mean “do anything for the sake of learning”).

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Once again in ECI 830 we ask, where is the line? What is the balance? Education needs funding… and in times of lower provincial revenue, what do our leaders turn to? Maybe we do need outside funding, as Andres reminds us, but I would posit the idea that we aren’t selling our souls to do so when it is done for a morally just reason.

Connecting to my opinion statement referencing movies and comics as well as my post from last week on doing what is morally right, I will close on a Ghost Rider reference when discussing selling our souls for education. In this comic, the antihero sells his soul to the devil to save his father… who ends up dying anyway.

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Ghost Rider by Clayton Crain via Tumblr

We want to avoid dying (getting manipulated by businesses) at all costs, and by being aware of these potential effects on our children, we can. But as educators, we, like Ghost Rider, can take comfort knowing that embracing the positives can lead to achieving what is right and just for ourselves, and more importantly for others (our students).

Thoughts, comments? Share below.

Logan Petlak

 


Good intentions and what is morally just make EdTech equitable.

Equity versus equality.

Equity involves an attempt to level the playing field for all as exemplified in the picture below.

equality doesnt mean equity

Health Equity via CommunityView.ca

The importance of this concept was made more apparent in the presence of “straight pride week” posters and social media posts appearing recently in light of pride week… and people sometimes fail to make the connection that equality is not equality without equity. And despite the use of social media to spread this hate and discrimination, technology still can be used as a force for equity.

straight pride

Straight Pride Posters Removed via Worldnow

 

 

Equity, education, technology and well-intentioned actions.

Technology can be a force for equity in society. It can provide health and learning alternatives for those at risk or at a disadvantage and seek to level the playing field for individuals. These actions are practised with good intentions for helping others. Some emphasize that using these technologies widens the achievement gap between rich and poor students and that may be the case in some instances, exacerbating socio-economic divides. Well-intentioned actions (more on this next week) can lead to further issues and may place importance on skills related to certain forms of technology that may make individuals more equipped for life in another culture rather than helping them to develop their own. As it applies to education, every effort needs to be made to educate our youth to put them in the best position to be successful learners and citizens, and while there are potential repercussions, decisions made in good conscience/faith need to be encouraged while productive feedback is provided. Well-intentioned actions may be flawed, but with the students in mind and the potential for enhancement of their learning, the process of integrating these technologies is worth practising. Technology, apps, robots and devices are developed with the intention to serve a need in society and many of these needs today are to bridge gaps, regardless of the paycheck associated with it (there is a host of issues with that as well, however). Just as there are needs in society, there are needs in the classroom. Literary needs, language needs, even motor skill needs. 

Socio-economic divides, do these technologies actually help?

Technology in the classroom may not actually improve performance in classrooms. And the introduction of these new technologies when made available to all will likely only be used by those with the resources to acquire it. This doesn’t mean it isn’t worth creating or practising. By that logic, a new, expensive, potentially life-saving practice for heart disease shouldn’t be allowed or encouraged as it will further push the divide as rich people with heart disease will be able to live longer while those who cannot afford it may not be able to. Morally, all should have access to it, but is our reality consistent with this? No. And there is the potential that this technology can someday be made more accessible for all. But for now, one student, even if there are rich that has a learning disability and there is an app that helps them learn, it’s worth it. I understand the associated issues with what the creation and subsequent use of technologies provide, but what is the potential solution then? Equal/equitable access for all so that these technologies may not be privatised? Complete societal upheaval and restructuring? It’s not feasible. I don’t intend to be pessimistic, mind you, quite the contrary. The creation and use of these technologies for health and learning present an opportunity for learning and well-being… and when these occur, equity can follow and I am optimistic despite potential short-term gap widening, the benefits and morality of equitable tech casts a shadow over it.

 

The moral question I ask is: Is an act done with good intentions and is morally just, but has potential consequences, wrong?

A loaded question. And while bad decisions have been made in the past with good intentions, with the right research and preparation, the moral good that technology can provide in the learning and health for some outweighs the potential gap-widening problems.

Debatable, no doubt. Thoughts?

Logan Petlak


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

Is Social Media Making us Unsocial?

Growing up in the 21st century means that childhood is defined by, and inextricably linked to, social media.  Children as young as grade 2 or 3 now have personal devices.  Children in elementary and middle school have multiple social media accounts even though many of these require minimum ages of 13 or 14.  It has become a way to connect, to chat, to post our thoughts, feelings and emotions.  It provides answers to questions, gives feedback, and affirms or negates our feelings.  It acts like a catalog of all the information available to us which is shared by others.  It documents our lives in incredible detail if need be.  Social media helps students connect with other students across the globe, collaborate together, post progress and receive feedback.  It is a force of the 21st century world and it is a crucial part of our lives that cannot be ignored.

one does not simply

However, can we accept blindly every new app and innovation that comes along without knowing how they impact us?  Of course we should right?  I mean, technology is always good, it always moves us forward, it always makes life easier and simpler.  After-all, many of today’s modern conveniences were once new inventions as well.  The difference here lies in the deeply personal aspects of these social media platforms.

As Alison Graham explains, the goals of social media platforms are connections and socialization but it seems that the more we participate, the less social we actually become. Personalized technology that becomes so ingrained in our psyches that we literally become addicted to the likes that somehow indicate we have worth in this world.  Herein lies the problem, with the blind acceptance of social media platforms, it shifts focus away from others and onto the self.  As time goes on, the socializing aspect for which the apps were designed ceases to be the true driving force behind their use.  The self often becomes the true reason for the constant posting and checking for likes.  One researcher even tells of a young man who’s desire to take the perfect selfie drove him to suicidal tendencies.   It tends to drive narcissism to the point where phycological trauma can occur.

afdeacc271ace1302137d6b250a31c5f

Source

People will argue that these anxieties have always existed and that alarmists are making too much of what we call social media addictions.  When I was growing up, social time with friends was just that…time to socialize.  Talking and laughing about what had happened that day, riding our bikes to another friend’s house to see if we could organize a soccer game.  Some would argue that we look back at our childhood through rose coloured glasses in which we see a delightful world free of stress and anxiety.  Of course stress and anxiety still existed before the age of social media.  However, the difference lies in transparency of lives lived completely in the online environment. If your social status, well being, and self worth comes completely from what is said about you on social media, it’s little wonder that students can not handle being without their phones.  A recent CNN documentary called #Being 13 looked at 13 year olds across the United States and their lives lived on social media.

  • 61% of teens said they wanted to see if their online posts are getting likes and comments.
  • 36% of teens said they wanted to see if their friends are doing things without them.
  • 21% of teens said they wanted to make sure no one was saying mean things about them.

o-HUFFPOST-UK-570

Source

The Huffington Post released a study in which parents were asked if children were more susceptible to mental health problems in this day and age.  The results indicated that social media was one of the driving forces behind mental health issues for youth.  This is something that cannot be escaped whether it’s negative feedback on a selfie, bullying comments posted on your Facebook wall, or being left out of a group of friends.  The digital online life follows students back to the privacy of their homes each night. Compulsively checking and rechecking to see what others have said about them has become normal for many teens.  This new phenomenon, which has been deemed lurking,  tends to lead to late night with little sleep as students scroll through feeds, answer texts or hit like and follow to show that they are “socially engaged” in popular culture.

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So what does this all mean?  First of all, as adults in a digital world it once again comes back to the idea of modelling proper social media use.  What warrants a post or picture being placed online?  Who will we allow to see it?  What message are we trying to convey with this content?  I always ask my students to THINK before they post anything.

think

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Secondly, it’s important to set limits for social media use.  This falls on the shoulders of the parents but it is something that can be discussed at school as well.  Have students reflect meaningfully on how much they are online.  What are they doing during those hours and are they balancing for a healthy lifestyle that involves enough sleep and exercise?  It’s perhaps unfair to compare our childhood with the one in which students now find themselves.  However, it is more than fair to help students find a balanced and healthy approach to life.