Category Archives: Education

The Potential of Social Media Activism

The word activism makes me think about protests, signs, marches and fighting for change – trying to make the world a better place.  But this is only one part of the picture.

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Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue Flickr via Compfight cc

Simply defined, activism is  “taking action to effect social change” and involves efforts that “promote, impede, direct, or intervene in social, political, economic, or environmental reform“.  In other words, activism can have both positive and negative effects on the social agenda of specific groups.

For the purpose of our class, we discussed activism through social media and were asked to consider the following questions:

Can online social activism be meaningful and worthwhile? Is is possible to have productive conversations about social justice online? What is our responsibility as educators to model active citizenship online?

What is social media activism?

Social media activism is essentially using the platform of an online forum to lead or support a cause. It’s activism behind a screen.” (The Journal – Queen’s University)

“Bringing change or awareness about a cause through the use of social media, by posting or sharing ones thought about a particular event or issue.” (Life of Anna)

These definitions are very basic, but “social media activism” is somewhat self-explanatory – it is activism using social media. It could be liking or sharing a post on Facebook or using a hashtag in online posts to bring awareness to a particular issue.  If you use social media, you have probably viewed or participated in hashtag activism:

You may have added a filter to your Facebook profile picture to temporarily support a cause. Or clicked the retweet button to raise awareness while drinking your morning coffee. The question we must ask ourselves is if social media activism is meaningful and worthwhile and looking at the positive and negatives is one way to explore the answer.

Pros of Social Media Activism

“Successful maneuvering of social media platforms creates significant changes in society through the impact of an individual who cultivates awareness and makes knowledge accessible to millions.” Human Rights Education Research Outreach

Social media activism can:

  • Spread a message to a large audience very quickly
  • Organize events easily (like the Women’s March)
  • Allow marginalized groups to express their views freely

Using the power of networks, “online activism allows activists to organize events with high levels of engagement, focus and network strength” (The Conversation).  The ability to share, like and retweet instantly allows movements and causes to gain traction very quickly and draw in a large audience.  For example, when a tragic events occur, vigils are planned, shared and attended in a short time frame, all thanks to social media.  Larger events are organized in locations all over the world through hashtags and social media posts.

Greta Thunberg stops by City Hall, tells Mayor Valérie Plante she’s “still very overwhelmed” by the march today in Montreal. Calls crowd of 500,000 “unbelievable.” #climatestrikemontreal pic.twitter.com/Mz8vYrjXjU

— T’Cha Dunlevy (@TChaDunlevy) September 27, 2019

Finally, the good, badly and ugly part of the Internet is that you can post and support whatever you want at any time.  A positive example is that people all over the world can be part of Pride festivals, even if they are unable to attend in person.

One of the greatest things about social media is the platform it can give to otherwise isolated and marginalized people. Entire communities have developed and grown together over social media, and this has exponentially strengthened many activism campaigns. Social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter allow people to organize events and communicate on a medium that is accessible to anybody who has an email address, internet, and some kind of connectable device. This vastly increases potential audience size, and ultimately increases the possible effect that these campaigns can have on policies, politics, and everyday life.The Power of Social Media in Modern Activism

Cons of Social Media Activism

“The ease with which current social movements form often fails to signal an organizing capacity powerful enough to threaten those in authority.” Zeynep Tufekci

Unfortunately, social media activism has drawbacks:

  • #Slacktivism
  • Spreading misinformation
  • Unable to promote “real” change

A 2014 Maclean’s article explains that a “slacktivist is someone who believes it is more important to be seen to help than to actually help. He will wear a T-shirt to raise awareness. She will wear a wristband to demonstrate support, sign a petition to add her voice, share a video to spread the message, even pour a bucket of ice over her head.”  All of this takes place instead of offering time or money which could truly help a cause.

Image result for actions speak louder than like buttonsMy classmate Brooke dives into a deep discussion of #slacktivism and a few articles that explain and criticize the movement.  She included this image (shared in class by Dr. Couros) that highlights the problem with #slacktivism.

“If our desire for social change extends beyond the resolution of a single issue, we need to close our laptops, turn off our phones, and spend time in the presence of others.” – The Walrus

With the ease of liking and sharing posts or adding a hashtag, it is inevitable that the wrong information will be passed along.  #FakeNews is a perfect example of deliberately sharing misinformation, which was particularly problematic during the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election#Kony2012 is another example of a movement that exploded on social media without really understanding the true facts.  Social media activism has the potential to raise awareness, spread a message quickly and help grow a movement.  But it is important to not disregard the power of slow-growing, face-to-face, grassroots organization. Wael Ghonim (an Internet activist that helped organize the social media campaign during the #ArabSpring) discusses challenges facing social media today and how it can be used to promote real change:

Before we can have conversations about social justice online, I think it is important to discuss the concept of a digital citizen and to understand three different ideas of citizenship as discussed by Westheimer and Kahne in the article, “What Kind of Citizen“.

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Screen-captured image from class with Dr. Couros
  • Participatory – actively participates
  • Personally Responsible – acts responsibly in their community
  • Justice-Oriented – seeks to understand root cause

Katia Hildebrandt writes about the Digital Citizenship Guide in Saskatchewan Schools , which explains that,

“digital citizenship asks us to consider how we act as members of a network of people that includes both our next-door neighbours and individuals on the other side of the planet and requires an awareness of the ways in which technology mediates our participation in this network.” 

With this knowledge, we are able to explore the possibilities of using social media to talk about social justice issues online.  Below, I have shared Brooke’s (she made some excellent points in her post this week!) example of how each type of citizen may participate, using the food bank as an example:

The personally responsible citizen might donate money to the food bank online or share an article about how the food bank is in need of donations.

The participatory citizen might create an online fundraiser, like a GoFundMe page, where people can donate to the food bank and use their social media page to highlight some of the issues related to perceived injustices regarding food security. They may also decide to volunteer at the food bank.

The justice-oriented citizen might use their social media page to share potentially controversial articles, and viewpoints which spark discussion about the root causes of food security, inviting others to join the discussion and organizing followers to contribute to participating in working towards social change in online and offline spaces.

The conversations about social justice can happen online, but they are more effective when they are rooted in offline organizational efforts.  Another point is that online discussions should take place with the intent to promote change or raise awareness, rather than use the post for personal gratification (for example, getting lots of likes or shares).  But how do we teach our students to use social media to have meaningful conversations about social justice issues online?

Educator Responsibility

As educators teaching students who only know a world with social media, we should:

In Spring 2018, I participated in a joint Regina Public Schools/Regina Catholic Schools project called #YQRActivistArt.  The project involved bringing the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra to Regina with an opportunity for our students to see the group perform live. To participate in the project, you had to commit to producing an art project in response to a social issue.  Through planning and collaboration with other classes, our students chose social issues they wanted to explore and created an art piece to raise awareness about the issue.  Every school did something different, and my students presented their projects in a school wide gallery opening:

The reason I share this story is because of the importance of teaching activism in schools. My students were engaged, motivated and excited to spread awareness and it allowed us to have conversations about meaningful and worthwhile ways to share information about different social issues.  The guide, “Facilitating Activist Education” explains by teaching about activism, students may become “engaged citizen-activists – people who see themselves as capable of affecting positive change for social and ecological justice”.

By starting with offline activism experiences for our students, we can then move online with confidence.

“Edtech, at its very core, is about privilege” – Katia Hildebrandt

Hildebrandt explains that by participating in social media activism, we take a few things for granted, like access to educational tools, computers and the Internet.  With this privilege, she adds that “we have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to social inequities and injustices. We have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to those who have no privilege to risk.”  Furthermore, as educators we have the responsibility to teach our students about this privilege. Wasting our time with #slacktivism is not an option because we have the power and ability to promote real change with our access to edtech tools and social media to support these efforts.

Jeffrey Knutson explains that, “we need to teach digital and media literacy in the context of empathy and understanding each other’s differences. Talk about integrity, the importance of humility, and other important SEL (social and emotional learning) skills while working on digital citizenship and media literacy.” He also provides two Common Sense Education tools to lead the teaching and learning: SEL Toolkit for Educators and the Digital Citizenship and SEL Guide.

Finally, Yes Magazine shares four tips for using social media activism:

  1. Take advantage of interactive activism opportunities in online communities
  2. Make sure your activism is accessible and inclusive
  3. Remember that small steps are critical to getting the work
  4. Share the work that other activists are doing

To engage our students, we need to provide relevant tools and information to “speak their language” (using social media and edtech). Through conversations of digital citizenship and offline activism, we have the ability (and responsibility) to mold the next generation as informed and compassionate citizens who care about social justice issues.  Let’s use social media to make the conversation relevant for our youth.

“Social media activism is great for so many reasons: It is more widely accessible, it gets conversations started, it sustains momentum, and it helps empower people who may have never thought of themselves as activists.”Yes Magazine

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

Week 7: How to Play Jazz Piano (Autumn Leaves, Part I)

As we near the end of our learning projects, I started working on my final goal piece, the jazz standard “Autumn Leaves“. This has always been one of my favourites and my earliest introduction to jazz music.  After a little bit of analysis, I found that it follows the simple 2-5-1 chord progression I started working on at the beginning of my learning project.

I love that I can start transferring my new skills to different pieces! Here is my progress this week:

What I worked on:

Wins:

Fails:

  • This week was heavy on sheet music use, but I tried to use it as a tool (by analyzing the score) rather than a crutch.

Resources used:

Next week I will continue with Autumn Leaves, but I plan to go back to only using a lead sheet and begin practicing scales for improvising.

Week 6: How to Play Jazz Piano (without chord roots!)

This week was all about rootless voicings on the piano.  I carried on with my work on ‘Misty’ from last week and tried a different style of comping.  I originally planned on introducing another song this week, but I found the rootless voicings to be challenging and require more time.  I tried figuring out the voicings in my head at the piano, but it was too much to think about. So I decided to break it down by going back to the theory basics and writing out each chord, determining the root, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 13th.  Then, I wrote out the chords transitions so that there would be nice voice leading and common tones between the chords.

A side note about voice leading: I studied a lot of Bach chorales in my first and second year of music school, with the goal of understanding proper voice leading. There are lots of “rules” with voice leading, but they help with problems like:

“smoothness, independence and integrity or melodic lines, tonal fusion (the preference for simultaneous notes to form a consonant unity), variety, motion (towards a goal)” – Open Music Theory

Open Music Theory is an open source textbook (open educational resource). Cool!

In short, good voice leading makes music sound pleasing to the human ear! I really like the end result of my progress this week:

What I worked on:

  • continued with “Misty” – added a separate recording of the bass line in the left hand so I could comp using rootless voicings
  • rootless chord voicings – figuring out which notes to play and using good voice leading

Wins:

  • Starting to incorporate good voice leading
  • Overlaying multiple videos in my vlog

Fails:

  • I had to write out the chords this week (instead of figuring out the chords in my head). Although not my original plan, it allowed me to really understand the theoretical sides of rootless chords and good voice leading.

Resources Used:

Next week I am going to begin my final piece as part of my learning project. I am looking forward to learning my favourite jazz standard, “Autumn Leaves”.

Let’s Talk About OEP

This week in EC&I 831, we were fortunate to have a guest presenter, Dr. Verena Roberts, speak to us about Open Educational Practice (OEP) and examples in a K-12 educational setting. Prior to this class, my knowledge and exposure to OEP was very limited, as well as my understanding of the concept in general.  I am going to explore:

  • what is open educational practice?
  • what are the pros/cons of OEP?
  • what should OEP look like in an elementary (primary grades) school context?

What is Open Educational Practice?

First, let’s consider Dr. Roberts’ very thorough definition:

Open educational practices (OEP) in K-12 learning contexts can describe an intentional design that expands learning opportunities for all learners from formal to informal learning environments. Individualized open readiness can be demonstrated contextually, as a result of  teachers and students co-designing for personally relevant learning pathways where learners can collaboratively and individually share their learning experiences, that encourages communication of meaning through multiliteracies, that blends curriculum and competencies and that promotes community and networked interactions with other learners and nodes of learning from multiple cultural perspectives in digital and analog contexts (Roberts, 2019).

In Dr. Roberts’ presentation, she highlighted a few key elements in her definition: intentional design; expands learning opportunities; and formal to informal learning environments.  Open educational practices focus on the process over product and the idea that learning happens everywhere.  Furthermore, she discussed the importance of collaborative opportunities to create meaningful learning experiences that are personally relevant.  Finally, learning takes place in a community of networked learners blending curriculum and competencies.

To try and wrap my head around OEP, I did some more research to understand the goal of OEP.  Luckily OER Commons provided a specific definition:

The goal of Open Educational Practice (OEP) is to build the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that support and improve teaching and learning. Using open educational resources (OER) presents unique affordances for educators, as the use of OER is an invitation to adapt, personalize, and add relevancy to materials that inspire and encourage deeper learning in the classroom and across institutions. –OER Commons

This definition highlights how OEP can support teaching (as well as learning) and allow educators to differentiate open educational resources (OER) for their diverse student needs.  The key factor here is that by adapting material, teachers are able to provide relevancy that will allow for quality learning experiences.

Although this is not a review of a specific Open Educational Resource, I found OER Commons to be very useful in my perusal of OEP.  In particular, there is the ‘OER Commons Virtual Academy’ with a series a modules to help “advance your open educational practice”. I recommend checking this area out if you are not sure where to start or are new to OEP.

oer commons

A few pros of OEP:

  • ability to adapt material for relevant learning experiences
  • collaborative learning opportunities
  • high engagement among students

These are only a few of the positives of OEP, but they resonated with me as the focus is put on the learning experience of the student.  This relates back to Dr. Roberts’ explaining a flipped learning environment – from formal learning to informal environments as a way to engage students and focus on the process rather than the product. Teachers are able to design learning opportunities with students using open educational resources.   BC Campus Open Ed states:

When you use open pedagogy in your classroom, you are inviting your students to be part of the teaching process, participating in the co-creation of knowledge.

The idea of co-creating knowledge with your students sounds fulfilling and dreamy. But also a little “pie in the sky”, which leads me to some potential drawbacks of OEP.

A few cons of OEP:

  • learning curve for teachers to understand how to use OEP with students
  • limitations in certain classroom settings (ex. primary students vs. high school students)

In a small group class discussion, we talked about how exciting and meaningful these kinds of learning experiences would be with our students, but that the thought of using an OEP was a little daunting.  It feels like it would be a lot of effort to get set up using OEP with our students, and as Loreli mentioned, teachers may not have adequate time to find good open educational resources.  Teachers need to be very invested and see the potential benefits in order to take the time to learn and implement OEP.  Furthermore, it appears to be difficult to find resources appropriate for primary students compared to the vast array available for middles year and higher students.

But, luckily Dr. Roberts introduced our class to her framework, Open Learning Design Interventions (OLDI) to facilitate this process.

What should OEP look like in an elementary (primary grades) school context?

 OLDI (Roberts, 2019) takes place in four stages:

  1. Building Relationships
  2. Co-Designing Learning Pathways
  3. Building & Sharing Knowledge
  4. Building Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)

Using this framework, teachers can begin the process of incorporating OEP in their classroom.  Dr. Roberts also explains that younger learners (up to age 11) experience a “Teacher-Led Walled Garden of Open Exploration”.  This means the teacher helps provide different experiences for their students through inquiry-based learning opportunities. Some examples that could work for primary grades include: Skype in the Classroom, LiveArts Saskatchewan broadcasts and PenPal Schools.

Amanda tweeted asking her followers this question:

Including the image in her tweet helped show educators that they may already be using open educational practices without realizing it!  Amanda has some great ideas of how to use OEP in the primary classroom.

While this is by no means an exhaustive look at OEP, it is a start and will hopefully encourage you to learn more about how you can include open educational resources in your teaching practice.  We have to remember that our roles as educators are shifting to teaching students how to access, assess and apply knowledge by allowing creative learning opportunities. OEP is great direction to move towards if we want to continue to engage our students with personal, collaborative and meaningful learning opportunities.

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

 

My love-hate relationship with social media

I would consider myself an ‘early-adopter’ of technology, especially with the Internet and social media.  As a millennial (born between 1981 and 1996), I grew up in a time when using the Internet was a new way of life as I learned alongside new developments.  E-mailing, peer-to-peer music sharing websites (like Napster and Limewire) and instant messaging (MSN Messenger) were all part of my elementary school years.  I remember coming home from school, connecting to the dial-up internet (who can forget that connection sound?) and beginning a series of online chats with my friends over MSN. This was the beginning of my social media ritual that would continue and evolve over the next 20 years.

1 Millennials
Source: Forbes.com

Since I was figuring out these sites at the same time (or before) my parents, they didn’t have a lot of control or understanding of what I was doing on the Internet. An example: Yahoo Chat Rooms. One of my best friends growing up has a brother (who now makes his living creating video games like this one) who was very computer savvy. He helped us create Yahoo accounts so we could join large Yahoo chat rooms with strangers from all over the world. We even figured out how to participate in audio chat, usually with adults. Keep in mind we were young – in grades 4 and 5. All of this took place with our parents oblivious to what we were doing and before conversations about cyber safety existed. Did we tell them where we lived? Did we give out other identifying info? I don’t remember and I shudder to think of the potential dangers we could have encountered. Long story short, if there was something new on the Internet, we tried it.

Fast forward through high school (Hi5, MySpace and eventually Facebook) and I began to see the negative or bullying effects of social media. Does anyone remember the “Top Friends” feature on MySpace?

1 Todays kids
Source

Then you add in the “relationship status” feature on Facebook…sigh.  It wasn’t all terrible though, as it was a really cool way to connect with people from around the world.  In grade 12 I went on a school trip to Europe, and our group joined with another group from a small school in southern California. A decade later, I am still connected with some people from this trip and we keep in touch sharing photos of our growing families and professional endeavours.  Heading to university, I was able to join ‘Class of 2011’ groups on Facebook and ‘meet’ other students before starting classes.  This was extremely helpful to discuss everything from textbooks to the first social gatherings of the semester.

I have spent the last decade exploring successful and failed social media including Google +, YouTube, Skype, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Vine, Weebly/Blogger/Wordpress, Tumblr and Snapchat.  Some have held my interest longer than others as I feel they add value to my life.  Other apps are cool ideas, and should be really successful, but they don’t seem to have the same staying power as more popular apps (like TikTok or Vine [in it’s prime]).  For example, I used the app “Mazu” with my younger nieces, and I thought it was a really positive experience.  It was created to help teach digital citizenship and the positive power of social media.  But then they just stopped using it one day. (Possibly a reflection on the short attention spans of this new generation?)

I am now at the point with social media that I feel “too old” to learn about some new networks, like TikTok.  All I know about TikTok is my nieces and nephews had it for about 5 minutes and became WAY too obsessed that my sister (their mother) made them delete the app.  As an arts education teacher, I feel like TikTok could be useful for ‘research’ and to reach my students, because we could learn some of the dance crazes like “The Git Up” or “Hey Julie”, but that’s why I use YouTube.

Even dating apps like Tinder and Bumble came after I met my husband, so although I understand the ‘swipe right/left’, it is something I will never experience in my social media journey.

When I consider how social media has affected my personal and professional life, I have a lot of positives but a growing list of negatives. Here is an example:

Snapchat: The only way that I communicate with my 16-year old niece. We have a great relationship and tell each other everything, but if it’s not face-to-face, it’s through Snapchat.  According to my niece, it is the only way she communicates with her friends (not through texting or other messaging). Why? Because the chats are not saved unless you want to save them and also through snapstreaks. The stress of snapstreaks is something I know all too well, as I send and receive a picture of the wall every day to my niece to maintain our streak. We have been doing this for 910 days. NINE-HUNDRED AND TEN DAYS. I even have a reminder in my phone – “Snap!!!!! Streak!!!!”. What is the point of this?! It actually causes stress in my life because I am afraid of losing the streak and how it would affect our relationship. Before I gave birth to my baby, I gave my niece my Snapchat login info so she could maintain the streak when I went into labour (turns out my baby came quick and we didn’t have to worry about losing the streak).  Is this the world we live in now? I was about to give birth, but one of my concerns was maintaining the streak as I felt like it is part of my relationship with my niece.  That being said, I still do it every single day with no end in sight. (Insert shoulder shrug emoji here).

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On a positive note, social media allows me to share milestones, travel and important events with friends and family.  I can stay connected with people wherever they are in the world and maintain important relationships.  In my professional life, I used Twitter, a personal website and LinkedIn to create a following that led to a full teaching studio of piano students within a few weeks.  These positive networking experiences helped me grow and maintain my business.  I also enjoy using Twitter to connect with other educators and sharing what we are doing in the classroom.  LinkedIn has allowed me to interact with people in other industries that share common activities (like same universities and volunteer commitments).

But with these positives, there are also negatives like #fomo and feeling left out when not included in social activities.  I think this is something that is an even bigger issue with our students and something I look forward to exploring further in this course.  Also, as a new mom, I have spent A LOT of time on my phone perusing Facebook and Instagram while holding a sleeping baby. It is hard not to compare your baby to other babies and get wrapped up in the “Instagram vs. Reality” world. And then there are sponsored posts/ads (are they listening to our conversations??) that make me feel a little bit uncomfortable. Finally, as a teacher, I find that I get a lot of student follow/friend requests that I must decline.  This is not necessarily a negative, but it does require having a conversation about privacy with my students.

In a recent conversation with my sister (mother of 4 of my nieces and nephews), I said “I hate the internet! I hate social media!”.  I could see how it was affecting my sister and her kids and the daily struggles she is having with them and access to social media.  She wondered if she should unplug the wi-fi? Move to a deserted island? How can we turn this around? What has to change to make it a positive part of our daily lives?  What can teachers do to help our students navigate the constantly changing world of social media?

On that note, I have to go take a blurry picture of my face or the wall and write the letter ‘S’ to maintain a daily ritual.

1 streak

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

 

 

 

 

EC&I 830 Final Summary of Learning

My final summary of learning for EC&I 830:

The last week of EC&I 830 has arrived and I am happy with my growth as a learner and educator.  I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that I have been implementing a lot of the educational technology ideas mentioned throughout the course. But there are many practices I have not been implementing, like seeking student consent and permission to post online and only relying on a parent/guardian signed media release.

After reflecting on my current use of technology in education, I made the realization that sometimes I resort to substitution or replacement models.  It’s not always intentional, but could be because it is easy and what has always been done. An example are the very fancy projectors that were installed in my school this year.  While we had training on the various capabilities and functions (touch screen, whiteboard, saving images, etc. – similar to a SMART Board), I often found that function would not work when I needed it, so I stuck with using the tool simply as a data projector. There is nothing worse than trying to get technology to work in a room full of students, breaking the engagement and losing focus. But, one day in the fall I decide to do a little research (thanks, Google and YouTube!) and really figure out how to use the projector, including an app that could be downloaded on my phone to act as a document camera or tool to share images directly to the board.  Now with my knowledge of the TPACK and SAMR models, I am excited to use this example of technology in more innovative and exciting ways. It is as simple as taking the time to learn about the tool myself before implementing with my students.

As I reflect on the course, “Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology”, it has been apparent to me that the issues in educational technology continue to change very quickly.  With the rise of new apps, devices and technology access for young people, our roles as educators are constantly evolving. Some common themes that have been woven throughout the class discussions and debates for me:

-the importance of teaching digital citizenship

-thinking of technology as a tool

-teacher roles are shifting to the role of a facilitator

-we must teach critical thinking skills and technology can be used to assist this teaching

-technology can enhance student learning by promoting engagement and help with motivation

-educating students and families about how to create a positive digital footprint and identity online with appropriate safety and privacy measures.

I have learned a lot throughout this course, but I most excited to take away fresh and innovative technology ideas to incorporate in my teaching.  It is important to continue to focus on safety and building a positive presence online. Since students have easy access to technology all the time, our role as educators is to teach students and families proper digital citizenship and how to build positive digital identities.

For my summary of learning, I decided that the best way to share my learning as an Arts Education teacher is through song.  At the beginning of the course, I tried to use images “fairly” in videos and blog posts, but I simply relied on the fact that it was for “educational purposes” to justify my choices.  Our class discussion in the Google Plus community made me realize that I maybe don’t quite understand all the ins and outs of fair use. One of my classmates, Brooke referred to Common Sense Media in her blog post, and after a bit of Twitter following and searching on YouTube, I found this great video from Common Sense Education

I wanted my final project to fall into fair use guidelines, so I composed my own song (lyrics and music) and used my nieces and nephews to create a music video to go along with the song.  This allowed me to talk about consent and permission with their parents and the kids – explaining how the videos would be used. They were pretty excited about the idea, and I used it as an opportunity to practice how to explain building positive digital footprints for Kindergarten to Grade 9 students. Thank you to Sarah (15), James (12), Claire (7), Ella (6) and Patrick (6) for helping me create the video!

Enjoy!

@Catherine_Ready

Equality and Equity in the Digital World

This week in EC&I 830, two teams argued the statement:

Technology is a force for equity in society

The general consensus during our class discussion was that Team Disagree had a tough side to argue as nearly two thirds of the class sided with Team Agree.  That being said, Team Disagree raised some very valid and important points in their opening and closing statements and rebuttal.

The image below is the first thing I thought about when I read the debate statement. Equal distribution and use of technology will not work in our society – it can’t be a ‘one size fits all’ approach.  Instead, equitable distribution and access to technology is required to have positive and successful integration of technology.  Therefore I completely agree with the debate statement this week, provided there is equal opportunities for all.

IISC_EqualityEquity.png
A classic illustration of equality vs equity

Although my ‘agree’ opinion did not change before or after the debate, my eyes were opened to some of the negative aspects of technology and equity in society.  One of the points Team Disagree focused part of their opening statement on is the issue of gender inequality in the technology world.  In one of the suggested articles, technology is considered another avenue for men to oppress women.  In fact, many women have come together to reveal the sexist culture in Silicon Valley tech and venture capital firms.

The article also expresses the idea that, “we have to challenge the presumption that it (the workplace) is neutral and allow women to reach their potential in workplaces where they feel safe and respected”. I have never really considered the idea that technology can be biased against women, but it does make sense.  I know I don’t question the fact that certain tools like Siri are set to a woman’s voice.  Although you can change this in the settings, it is interesting that the default is often a female voice. As the article describes, we need to have a neutral technological system for gender and social equality.

download

Often a barrier for technology is limited access in some developing countries and poverty stricken areas. Facebook created Free Basics, a limited internet service for developing markets, (which) is neither serving local needs nor achieving its objective of bringing people online for the first time. Maybe the intention of this service was meant to be a great solution for developing areas that do not have internet access, but instead it narrows what users can access and search for online.  Ellery Biddle, the advocacy director of Global Voices says, “It’s building this little web that turn the user into a mostly passive consumer of mostly western corporate content. That’s digital colonialism.”

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Protesters against Facebook’s Free Basics service

The term “digital colonialism” showcases one way that our society is not making technology equitable across different socio-economic groups.  Instead of giving these groups “internet” (like Free Basics) that pushes certain messages or propaganda, Biddle explains that we need to fix, “the barriers to internet access (which) include signal availability, device ownership, education, digital literacy and electricity”.

Finally, bringing the technology access closer to home, a Huffington Post article explores access to internet in Canada.  The Canadian Internet Registration Authority’s 2014 Factbook (CIRA) states that while 95 percent of Canadians in the highest income bracket are connected to the internet only 62 percent in the lowest income bracket have internet access.  Some communities in Canada (like Nunavut) only have 27 percent of communities with internet access.  Unfortunately, the CIRA explains that Canada has no national strategy to improve access, speed and prices.

Team Disagree made some very good points in their rebuttal that for technology to be equitable in society, internet should not be a luxury. It needs to be affordable and accessible to everyone and we need to redesign systems that discriminate against social status, gender and race.  All this being said, technology is here to stay, so we need to find a way to make it equal and fair for everyone.  This issues raised in Team Disagree’s argument are a great starting point for how we can improve technology to be an even better force for equity in our society.

Team Agree opened their argument by suggesting that technology has achieved a lot in our society, like removing barriers (ex. helping people read) and connecting the world (ex. real time video chat).  Most importantly, they focused on the idea that technology is not the problem and neither is the “digital divide”.

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In my own experiences and those expressed by my classmates during our class discussion, we have seen how technology can help remove learning barriers for students in schools.  A big discussion took place on how one school division (my division) redistributed technology across all schools for equitable use among students.  During my short career so far, I have only taught in community and lower socio-economic background schools.  The equitable distribution plan has been crucial in my teaching and use of technology, because many of my students do not have access to reliable internet and technology at home.  It has also affected how I prepare lessons and assignments, as I have to assume that students will be able to complete assignments with technology at school, but not necessarily at home.

Some students have an assigned laptop (assistive technology) that follows them throughout their school career.  As a teacher, I know that I can design instruction that will allow these students to have the most success because they are guaranteed to use the assigned technology to help with their learning experience.  An example is the ‘Read&Write for Google Chrome‘ extension that is used throughout my division.  This tool has a variety of options including reading text to the student, dictation and simplifying text which has been extremely valuable with students who have reading difficulties.  A couple of years ago I taught in a school with a high EAL population, and ‘Read&Write’ helped my students (with a variety of English speaking and reading levels) to achieve their learning goals.

Another reason I agreed with the argument is the availability and affordability of online education.  A few great examples provided by Team Agree include Open Education Courses (OEC), Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Open Education Resources (OER) and Virtual Classrooms.  The suggested article explores that a process that is helping share knowledge is, “the use of ‘open education resources’ (OER) – freely available, high-quality materials that can be downloaded, edited and shared to support teaching and learning.”  Team Agree explains that open education is based on fairness (among gender, socio-economic status and ethnic origin) and inclusion (a basic minimum standard of education should be available to everyone).

During my B.E.A.D. program (Bachelor of Education After Degree) at the University of Regina, I was able to complete my program in a shorter time period and maintain working nearly full time by taking courses through Athabasca University.  This was my first experience with online education, and I do admit that it was a challenge at first.  I found that by not having classmate interaction and only assignments to complete that I needed a lot of self-discipline to stay on track.  I eventually figured out the time management piece and overall felt that the experience was positive.

My first “blended learning” course was for Standard First Aid.  The course required completion of online modules and quizzes prior to attending a one-day in class session.  This is a great model as it allows for a deeper understanding of the information and can then be applied in person during the one-day course.  I enjoyed this experience as it did not take up my entire weekend and I could work on the modules at my own pace and schedule.  My husband is currently enrolled in professional development learning through his work.  The course started with a one-week intensive in person to dive into the course material with the instructors and other classmates.  He then has one year to complete a variety of modules and assignments through an online portal.  There is continuous contact with course instructors and motivation to complete the coursework with an online course community.

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And of course,  EC&I 830 is my first “blended learning” web based academic course.  I think one of the benefits of this being an educational technology course is that there is lots of engagement online through blog comments, Google Plus community, Twitter and of course, our weekly Zoom sessions.  This keeps the motivation for learning and completing course work in a timely fashion, something I struggled with in my Athabasca courses.

This brings me to the point raised by Team Agree that the concept of open education has revolutionized the learning classroom and allowed for digital inclusion.  Instead of referring to a digital divide, the term inclusion was used to reframe the divided in a more positive way.  This can be achieved with equal and equitable access, affordability and a mindset to embrace the digital world.

A Forbes article explains that many advocates believe that digital technology has the potential to expand access to education to underserved children around the world.  In 2015, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called technology the new platform for learning at the annual South by Southwest conference and said, “technological competency is a requirement for entry into the global economy”.   For this to happen, we need to increase equity for children and communities that are historically underserved, and one way is through digital technology.  This solution almost seems too easy – to help poverty stricken communities have better education, all we need to do is supply the students with technology!  An example is the “digital school in a box” provided by the Vodafone Foundation,  which supplies a laptop and 25 tablets pre-loaded with educational software to a refugee settlement in Kenya.  I think this is an awesome initiative and it is great to see organizations looking for ways to support education around the world.  But in reality, it is a band-aid fix – as it is only a temporary solution to a problem.  What happens when the technology is out of date? What about all the other underserved areas in that community? Or the underserved areas in our own country?

The increase of technology and the digital world has give many different groups around the world a chance for better education.  I completely agree that technology is a force for equity in society, but the complicated part is how technology is distributed and used.  I think this is still a learning process and we will continue to see many trial initiatives as possible solutions to the complicated issues of technology access.  By being aware of the issues raised by Team Disagree (like inequality among different gender, race and socio-economic groups), we can continue to improve distribution, access and affordability of technology to remove the digital divide.  Technology is here to stay and grow, so it is society’s responsibility to search for solutions that close the accessibility gap.  Both teams presented great arguments this week which served as a reminder that issues that existed before technology will continue to take place with technology use.  As educators, we must continue to focus on teaching digital citizenship to develop positive online identities.  As members of society, we need to rally for equal and equitable technology access in our communities.

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

When Social Media Gets a Bad Rap … What Should We Do?

“Because of their limited capacity for self-regulation and susceptibility to peer pressure, children and adolescents are at some risk as they navigate and experiment with social media.” – The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families

For the purpose of this week’s post, we are talking about social media and whether or not it is ruining childhood. The need to make that clear is important because the conversation around social media can often lead into one about technology as a whole and they are most certainly two different things.

I’ll start right off the hop by telling you I do not agree that social media is ruining childhood but I do believe there are things that society, schools and families are doing or not doing with social media that are ruining childhood for today’s youth. I do know that kids will be kids and there are certain things we can’t control but that can be said about anything, not just social media!

“…social media has given us a way not only to speak out, but to educate ourselves and expand our minds in a way that is unprecedented.” – A Generation Zer’s Take on the Social Media Age

We could lump society, schools and parents into one conversation but I think there are things that can be done, separately on all three levels to show kids just how powerful and positive social media can be, as opposed to just the negative.

Society…

Wouldn’t it be great if our society decided to care a little less about things like the tide pod challenge, the lives of celebrities, who is wearing what and spending a little more time encouraging people to share about their real, everyday lives? Also, what if we made the decision to judge others a little less and celebrate a little more? I really think we would start to see the positives side of social media if we decide to stop saying things like, “their food posts are so annoying”, “why do they post about beachbody so often”, “I can’t stand all their baby pictures” or “no one cares about your workout”.

What happens if that one post, shared by that one person, was the one positive thing they were able to find in their day and here we are, tearing them down for it?

Schools…

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When I think about my job as a teacher and what I want my students to be able to walk away from my classroom being able to do, I think about preparing them for life outside of school, beyond their time in the K-12 education system. Some might argue that social media should not play a role in schools because it adds no value to a child’s education… I disagree. If we are preparing kids to be critical consumers, people who can work collaboratively with others and individuals who will create opportunities for themselves then I think social media needs to be part of their education. I am not saying it needs to be everything, it shouldn’t, but if we are not teaching students how to navigate social media appropriately, how are they going to manage the pressures one can feel from social media in their everyday lives?

If we bring social media into our classrooms, we allow students to explore this world in an environment that is safe, controlled and monitored. Now, this certainly looks different in different grades and the conversation changes when it comes to students with their own devices. However, when we look at modelling appropriate use through classroom accounts, we have an opportunity to show students the positive side of social media. As my classmate Shelly mentions this week, we are in Uncharted Territory and need to ask a few questions before we decide to accept or negate social media’s impact on childhood today. As always, there will be things that come up that aren’t all about the positive but those are real-world examples and most importantly, teachable moments!

When Eric Meyers, an expert on youth online behaviour weighed in on the recent tide pod challenge he pointed out that social media is in fact just a tool and not the reason for the challenge itself.

“It’s not that social media is compelling young people to do this,” Meyers said. “Social media is simply a tool by which they can do this and gain gratification by other people. So it amplifies some of the effects of young people’s natural tendency towards risk but it’s not the actual cause of risky behaviour.”

While risk is a natural part of adolescence, Meyer said parents and school officials can play a role in talking with teens about balancing risk with acceptance – but the effectiveness of the message is in the delivery.

Instead of telling them “no,” which can often “be like the forbidden fruit” scenario, Meyers said, talking with the kid about why they’re feeling they need to take part can lead to a deeper discussion about decision making and online behaviours.” Taken from B.C. expert weighs in on why kids are eating Tide pods for fun by Ashley Wadhwani

We need to find a way to bring schools and families together to help build an understanding of how youth are using social media. As educators, we have an understanding of brain development and how youth make decisions. We understand this in different ways than families, who tend to know more about how kids are making decisions based on peer influences. Bringing these two realms of understanding together can show our kids that we understand the pressures placed on them by social media and we want to work with them to help them understand and make decisions.

Families…

Every kid is different and their ability to make decisions on their own varies greatly. Honouring the terms of use set out by social media sites, monitoring sites/apps used, having set ‘no tech’ times and open lines of communication are just a few things I would suggest for creating positive experiences for youth on social media. A tweet shared by St. Alphonsus’ RC Primary School in Middlesbrough, England offers  a guide for parents wanting to talk to their kids about social media use: Image result for social media tips for parents

Social media harnesses a lot of power, how we look at it and interact with it, determines the power that it takes.

Is openness and sharing in our schools a good thing?

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

Openness and sharing in our schools is unfair to our kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**Security online is expressed using the STEP method:

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

Let me reflect on the debate statement again:

Openness and sharing in our schools is unfair to our kids

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

 

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

Meet Me In The Middle?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/nceeP8

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

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

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

Some changes I would make in my education dream world…

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

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

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