Category Archives: Educational Technology

Learning to Love the Machine

 

Over the course of this brief, but info-jam-packed term, a consistent theme has come out again and again: Technology is a tool that can be used for good or evil, and the more educated you are in using said tech safely and effectively, the fewer negative things will occur.

Moving into this week’s discussion, lets again put this overriding theme to the test, namely Have we become too dependent upon technology, and what we really need to do is unplug.

There are two thoughts that pop up in succession when I hear this: 1) That sounds like a great idea because I see so and so always on their device and it’s annoying to talk to them face to face; 2) If we all decide to bin our smart devices, then what? It’s not like this solves anything.

It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that technology is ruining the way we as humans have built and maintained relationships since we began as a race, namely face to face communities of individuals. Sherry Turkle, is the mouthpiece for this view that we are alienating ourselves more and more through technology, and need to take a serious step back and reassess what we are becoming.

I can agree with her perspective to an extent. In my mind nothing is more sacred than quality face to face time with my family and friends, where we can have physical, face to face interactions where body language, an important part of how we as humans interact with one another, is in play. Check out Dr. Larry Rozen’s iDisorder for an in-depth look at this.

However, simply turning our backs on all the ills social media has caused to a variety of unfortunate individuals and groups will not make this issue go away, but in fact will allow said issues to proliferate. If anything, you are further alienating yourself from the world at large, like an older individual who swears off learning how to use a computer, then ‘contents’ themselves for the rest of their days watching the Weather Network and doing the same puzzle over and over. You are missing out on a lot, and have no frame of reference when trying to understand the way contemporary society interacts.

That said, there needs to be a balance put into place between how much screen time we give ourselves, and to be educated in how to do this.

Last fall, in ECI832, we discussed at length whether there continues to exist a dualism between ‘in real life’ or IRL, and the digital. Nathan Jurgenson’s ‘The IRL Fetish’ does a great job of digging deeper into whether unplugging is actually even a possibility, as in our current age, especially if we have been using social media to any extent, this duality between ‘real’ and ‘digital’ doesn’t actually exist. Rather, we are more aware than ever before of our ‘real’ interactions, and “to obsess over the offline and deny all the ways we routinely remain disconnected is to fetishize this disconnection.”

So, to conclude, I hope everyone, after taking this class, has been able to reflect and come to the same conclusion I presented at the beginning of this post, namely that education plays a role in creating a healthy balance, and recognizes the benefits of technology outweigh the potential negatives. As educators (and parents) we have the responsibility to assist our children to learn how to use the tech responsibly and effectively so they are able to independently make positive choices that will assist rather than hinder.

 

 


ECI830 Summary of Learning

What a crazy quick class! I was glad to have the opportunity to make another video, and although time was a crunch, I think it turned out pretty well. As promised, here are the links to all the clips/audio I used:

Video

Fensler GIJoe PSA: Carnival

Fensler GIJoe PSA: Dance

If Google Was A Guy

Apple Promo Video (Early 90’s)

Are Parents A Threat To Children’s Privacy?

Faust I to Go

The Dirt Bike Kid

Using Twitter Effectively in Education (Alec Couros)

Alec Couros at BLC14 – Using Social Media in Education

 

Audio

Matoko Matsushida – First Light

 

Let me know what you think!


Let’s Iron Out the Details Before We Throw Our Educational System to the Wolves

Growing up in Regina, I can think back to the time when our high school received a new scoreboard in our gym; the Coca-Cola logo brightly emblazoned above, taking up a third of the scoreboard overall. I remember at that time as well, hearing parents and teachers grumbling about the decision to accept the sponsorship, and that it was hypocritical to market a soft drink company in a gymnasium.

…whether you like it or not

This was my first thought prior to listening to the debate, and my eyes were further opened to all the deals school boards themselves had made, and continue to make that aren’t simply in the gyms or the halls, but in the classrooms, putting both negative and positive pressures on how content is taught, and to what ends.

I personally use Google and it’s attached app suite (docs, slides, classroom, etc.) extensively in my classroom. It being offered as free to individual clients, I hadn’t considered that divisions would be buying licenses to use them. Now, I don’t have a problem with Google and it’s perceived influence in the classroom. Google, to me, has innovation for the betterment of all as it’s main focus, and certainly, students have had much more of an opportunity to create, in an unencumbered way, as for the first time (in my knowledge), students can collaborate and share without the need to problem solve working through making changes to file extensions, etc. It’s also allowed my classroom to be largely paperless, which has been fantastic. Google offers a wide range of case studies that support the benefits of incorporating their tech into your school, and sure, it is Google providing the data, they do make a good many arguments.

So, Google in the classroom to be is a benefit, and if school boards need to pay to use these products, then so be it.

Pearson, not so much. My experience with Pearson products have never been positive. And according to all the woes being experienced in the United States thanks to their stranglehold over the education system, I’m not the only one.

Pearson is not about creating, it is solely about entering, compiling, and assessing data. A new product I have been encouraged to use with my students, Pearson Successmaker, is a levelled online reading program that allows students to work through texts and answer comprehension questions. The program tracks the data, and over time shows the [lack] of progress students have made. The issue with the program is, unlike Google, or other education apps like Duolingo, the program is not offering feedback to the user, rather it is solely for the teacher/admin/division. Even the data being accumulated for each student isn’t focusing specifically on specific reading difficulties, and unless the student is using it for 30 minutes, 4-5 days a week, the child falls behind, and there is no way to catch up so that the data shows gains. Rather, all my students, who through another assessment Fountas & Pinell (which has it’s own issues: different standards from SK curriculum) and my own anecdotal records have shown significant growth, Successmaker still shows them as being far below.

Any parent wanting to see the results of their child’s hard earned work at home then doesn’t provide an accurate depiction, and both parent and child end up feeling like all that effort was all for naught. Because, a graph still sadly trumps the teacher’s word. Science, right?!

Audrey Watters gave us a lot of food for thought, the first being that the relationship between schools and corporations has always existed, however the relationship has changed over time. The one that struck me most forcefully though was how the success of schools has always been put into question, and that by adopting a scientific model of management, consistency and efficiency could be maximized.

Almost better than the NES design wise, but in all other areas a big embarrassment.

Ah, Scantron, how I hated you. While I loved the opportunity to colour in some oval shapes to determine my fate on any given test, I always felt cheated because it never offered me any feedback, nor did it provide me the opportunity to use the content I had acquired in any real practical way.

It turns out Scantron, and the multiple choice test, was one of the first ways in which academic assessment was ‘legitimized’ by science. This data collection, and the scripted standardized tests provided to students were the first large scale means of collecting information that might provide insights into how schools and districts were performing. I’d like to think that the reason we don’t give kids Scantron tests anymore is because we’ve realized that these tests offer little but to justify higher up positions in ministries and to justify spending on education (or lack thereof), but sadly new technologies, namely the computer, have replaced the now antiquated Scantron.

After grading my students’ RAD tests (reading comprehension assessment, also sadly owned by Pearson) I then get the fun job of putting all the data into Pearson Inform, a convoluted program that makes a bunch of flashy graphs. And thankfully the RAD offers a lot of assessment that I can use alongside each student to build reading proficiency, but Inform does little for the individual student. If you don’t believe me, read Launa Hall’s excellent essay in which she speaks to how this data is being encouraged to be shared as a ‘data wall’ in classrooms and hallways which allow everyone to see one another’s scores as a means to motivate, but from her perspective has brought on nothing but shame, and further exposes those students who are at the bottom of Mazlow’s Hierarchy.

 

I know all my student’s abilities, and the growth they have made (teachers are professionals after all, right?) but entering this data into an overpriced piece of glitchy software seemingly justifies, and gives higher ups and the larger public the opportunity to either gloat, or condemn teachers/schools/divisions, without the personal touch of actually visiting said classroom/school/division or taking into account all the external factors that affect individual student success. This, as Audrey pointed out, is reliant upon the ongoing belief that started the scientific data collection in the first place: data collection is seen as objective and true, while teachers continue to be viewed as subjective and sympathetic; a poor litmus test of actual achievement.

So, from a teacher’s perspective, I can understand the gains a publicly funded school can benefit from creating partnerships with companies. Especially with the forever ongoing cuts to education in this province, we can gain a lot from partnering with companies that will offer us discounts to access technology such as Chromebooks, that allow more students the opportunity to create and explore in ways previously unthought of. When the purpose of said collaboration has the end goal of benefitting student learning, it’s for sure a win. However, when our school boards invest a huge chunk of their budget to companies like Pearson, the goal isn’t student success, so much as it is the need for classroom/school/division accountability in the eyes of whatever higher power that calls the shots/holds the purse strings, and the ongoing goal of using data as a means to make classrooms/schools/divisions run more efficiently.

Moving towards a LEAN model will only exacerbate this issue. Creating a more ‘efficient’ way to run our education in the province is not focused on the quality of education being provided, rather it is a means to create a model that is less of a ‘burden’ on taxpayers. But by using this data, provided by Pearson’s costly assessments, has never been, and will never be an accurate assessment of how students are really doing, and should never be used to justify how money is allocated to schools.

Of all the debates and presentations we have heard so far in this class, this one had me the most worried, if because it made me think about the big picture of how education is funded in our province, and how, should we continue down the path we have been headed, we might end up offering a publicly funded education model that mirrors the United States, namely one that uses standardized assessments extensively to make decisions, that at their heart, are not in the student’s best interests. For further reading on this depressing subject, be sure to check out the excellent blog of Daniel Katz who writes extensively about these issues.


Use Some Logic: Social Media isn’t Really Ruining Childhood

Is social media really ruining childhood? I would say that this is an overblown belief. While certainly we as a society are continually playing catch up with learning how to use social media in a socially appropriate way, we as teachers, do have the tools and curriculum to help make a change in how the perceived negative effects of social media can be greatly overturned.

So much speculation due to lack of experience with the technology, and the combined nostalgia of our own childhoods provide most families and teachers with a negative impression that social media constitutes solely of trolling and hate, without any positive aspects. Much like how murder and scandal make the headlines, as a society we tend to overemphasize and even exaggerate the negative, without thinking of the positives. As you’re likely a teacher reading this, you would agree that teachers making selfless contributions to the community/school don’t make the news.

It is this type of speculation and exaggeration that dominated the debate, with many people in the class weighing in on how terrible social media is, with either personal anecdotes, or to share a story they have heard. What was missing was that, caught up in the fervor of pitchfork raising, we failed to think critically about the positives, and most importantly how we can work towards educating students in how to navigate the turbulent seas of the internet. Social media is here, and doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. So, rather than simply getting caught up in how much better life was when we were kids (it probably wasn’t), let’s instead teach children how to use this technology responsibly, in a controlled and monitored fashion, through gradual release.

The agree side of the argument had the tidal wave of fear mongering on their side, and it was easy to be sucked under and pinned down by such examples. I totally agree with the fact that kids today are being subjected to the naked raw experience of the internet, with little in the way to filter out being subjected to anything that can be typed into the Google searchbar. Youtube comments are full of random comments, the majority of them positive, but many of them are negative in nature. The internet has provided everyone a voice in which to share their opinion to the masses, and yes, as a result, we are going to have a lot of people throwing up negative diatribes, or simply using it as a means to troll others. On the other hand, High Tech Dad (yeah, I know, the name of the site is brutal)  offers some good reasons why we should encourage children to use social media. 

As a parent to a child getting closer and closer to the age where they will have the opportunity to experience the aforementioned ‘horrors’ for themselves, I feel the fear. But, instead of getting stuck in obsessing over the issues, I’d sooner try and find potential solutions to the problem. In thinking about my own son’s future experience, I’m not going to simply allow him to go onto whatever sites he wants. Using the Common Sense Media curriculum, I can easily find direction into how to best monitor and support my child as they make their first clicks online.

As a teacher and a parent, I can also advocate for my school/school board to ensure that a digital citizenship curriculum is being taught from an early age, and not simply a one hour presentation when the students are in Grade 7. If cyberbullying and other related issues are happening, wouldn’t it be better to provide every young child with a comprehensive understanding of how to use the internet wisely, and what to do when put in an uncompromising situation? I would argue that were all students provided this ongoing education, the rates of online bullying would dissipate, as more students would be aware of their rights, and would either know how to document the attacks in order to make a case against the bully, or wouldn’t be as willing to join in on bullying another student.

I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to think this through from the perspective of my own son, as it has strengthened my resolve that this is an important topic not being covered to the extent that it needs to in schools. Much like Treaty Education, if we choose to ignore to teach this curriculum to our students, we are continuing to perpetuate stereotypes and myths, which inevitably will have the ongoing effect of keeping up the status quo, and ignoring the very real problems that are affecting individuals, as well as the greater community/society.
Thankfully I have taken ECI832, and have had the opportunity to disseminate the new digital citizenship curriculum in my school, and I will continue to advocate that this is something that NEEDS to be integrated into the classroom and the schools at large. To not do so will put our students at a serious disadvantage of repeating the same avoidable mistakes over and over again. 


Is Technology Truly Creating An Equitable Landscape in the Classroom?

Tonight’s first debate offered a wonderful way of looking at how technology has or hasn’t created a more equitable playing field in education.

The agree side had great points, all of which had me considering my own position as a teacher making every effort to meet the needs of the many students in my classroom. Certainly I have seen firsthand how much technology has improved the motivation and academic output of the students in my classroom. Students, for example, who are unable to read grade level texts, are capable of using apps and other tech that will allow them to listen to the text in order to understand content. Students are also able to use similar tech to record their voice, or to use speech to text to show comprehension or to express themselves. Several students who, prior to the use of this tech, were unmotivated and had to often rely on the teacher for scribe, which in a classroom with little support, gave the student little opportunity to work through problems with the teacher.

Aside from students using assistive technology, using this technology allows for greater opportunities for learning outside of the classroom. The use of Google Classroom, for example, allows teachers to provide videos and online applications that students can access outside of school time. This flipped design gives the students a better grasp of content, so class time can then be spent working on inquiry projects, and more time for students who still struggle with content and need further support.

This sounds idyllic, and easy to imagine just how much better achievement rates will improve based on these opportunities. However, the disagree side of the debate effectively threw a branch through the spokes of this smooth ride.

Thinking critically be like…

 

Ian’s side argued that these supports, that my classroom can afford to provide to its students, rely upon a number of factors, that when unmet, cannot meet the idyllic equitable situation the agree side argues technology provides.

In reflecting upon my own classroom’s success in finding an equitable balance of tech to meet and support all students learning, I pinpointed the following:

  1. Teacher training: I am one of the ‘tech’ teachers in the school, and have made it a priority to search out and learn how to use the best tools to meet my students needs. Many other teachers though, either do not have a technological aptitude, or have not taken the time  to understand how to use the technology provided to their students’ academic needs.
    This reminds me of a recent re-tweet shared to our Google + community, where George Couros speaks to the idea that teachers need to be responsible for their own PD, and this type of problem solving will make for a mastery that one cannot necessarily achieve by simply being told the step by steps. I totally agree with this sentiment, but I’m also quick to check that this type of thinking doesn’t support teachers struggling with technology, as well as it doesn’t take into account the time and pd opportunities that will need to be provided by schools in order to ensure all teachers are capable of achieving mastery.

  2. Student training: Without having a competent instructor teaching and monitoring the learning of how to effectively use the assistive technologies being offered, students will not be able to effectively take advantage of the tools to meet their greatest potential. As we all know, simply giving a student a laptop will not automatically equal success. Specific apps such as Google Read and Write will not be used to their fullest potential unless students are provided direct instruction into how best to use the tech for different end goals.
    As well, unless there exists consistent procedures and consequences regarding tech use, students will inevitably use the technology in ways that are distracting to learning.
     
  3. Access: My school, located in Regina (small, but nevertheless a city), is part of a school board that has made it a priority to provide schools with the infrastructure to access high speed internet, as well as equitable tech support for students that have been assessed as needing the technology. This makes it easy to forget that in rural areas or on reserves, either the funding, or the location, makes it impossible for students to access the technology the students need. 
  4. Access in homes: Many of my students now have computers and access to the internet. Ian’s group pointed out however, that there is a divide in how the technology is being used by students, depending on factors such as socioeconomic status, to lack of parent’s understanding on how to support their child at home to use the technology effectively to support their child’s learning. I realized that this point held true, as some students with families who are more affluent have shown more growth versus other students whose parents may be not around (due to work, etc) to monitor student’s use of online tech. 
  5. Technology does not replace one-to-one support: Many schools are currently caught up in the fervor of technosolutionism, which has led to the belief that all students, regardless of disability, will be able to find success using technology. The issue is that not all disabilities offer technological supports that provide an equitable seat in the classroom. With the increased push for an all integrated classroom, combined with a budget crunch, many school boards are simply replacing EA’s and TA’s with laptops. I have seen firsthand how this model works wonderfully when the technology meets some children’s needs (and they have all the above supports in place), but fails miserably when a student is incapable of working independently, and the technology is not fit to support their specific needs.      

So while technology certainly is working towards creating an equity that didn’t exist in the past, we still have a long way to go before assuming that technology is the catch-all solution to all learning challenges in and out of the classroom.

Banner image: MIN STEMME


Start the conversation…. Sharing Matters

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

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

If you are interested here’s our opening arguments.

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

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

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Image from Meme Generator

 

 

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

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

Mike Ribble Retweet.JPG

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

These resources are a great place to start.

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

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

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

What legacy do you want to leave behind?

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

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

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

 

 

 


Opening up: How Digital Citizenship Education Can Assist In Avoiding Costly Mistakes

Tonight’s debate centered around the idea of whether opening up the classroom and sharing in schools is unfair to our children. The agree side initially had a strong argument from the angle that the permanency of the web, and the digital footprint that now follows individuals around for life is a dangerous one that has caused, and continues to cause issues for people in their personal, and especially their professional lives. The term bouncing was new to me, although the concept was something I was familiar with. This is the concept where an individual or group shares some personal information, or photo, and that is then used by another and put into an entirely different context. 

Here’s a great example of how a simple photo taken by a mom turned into the Scumbag Steve meme:

Bouncing in many ways has become the popular way in which to gain followers when posting memes on Instagram. Accounts such as champagneemojis (follow at your own peril) simply find photos, vines, or short videos online, and caption over top of them, either for comedic, or more often in order to troll. Of the friends who I speak to who have Instagram, the majority of them subscribe to such accounts for the “LOLZ.” 

The agree team also had a good point in that the majority of parents and educators who are responsible for providing positive feedback and modeling proper behaviour simply aren’t doing a great job. I would agree that most families likely don’t think how their own actions have an influence over their children’s use, and teachers as well are making snafoos in terms of sharing photos of their students through their personal Twitter or Facebook accounts.

Made with http://generator-meme.com/

 

This brings us to the salient points provided by the disagree team. The disagree team argued that in providing students an opportunity to practice digital citizenship in a safe, monitored environment, students will be more aware and comfortable in when and what to share, and how to navigate situations where their privacy or integrity might be compromised. Kyle gave us a great example of how a photo of him was captured of him, in what looked like a compromising situation. I would argue that said student who captured the photo of Kyle would have thought about the consequences of his sharing the photo were he to have had an education in digital citizenship.

Now, to jump back to the concern over parents and teachers not being competent enough to teach these digital skills. Like any other curriculum mandate, such as Treaty education, teachers are expected to then keep up to date with this curriculum in order to best meet the needs of their children. And thankfully, unlike much of the resources provided by boards in regard to Treaty ed that then must be significantly adapted to meet the needs of their students (in elementary classrooms, from my perspective), there are a TON of great resources that are student friendly, easily understandable for teachers to administer, and that are current. Here are the two best:

An Overview of the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship – A breakdown of Mike Ribble’s 9 Elements, all including links to relevant activities and lessons.

Common Sense Media’s Scope and Sequence Digital Citizenship Curriculum – Hands down the best reference for lessons and activities specific to grade level.

These websites also offer a lot of great information for parents specific to modeling and supporting in a positive way:

The Parents Section on digitalcitizenedu has a lot of great information for parents to better understand digital citizenship, as well as how to support their child as well as to be more aware of their own online habits.

Another solid argument the disagree team had was the idea of strengthening connections between the classroom and home, and how such a connection would further build on a child’s ability to retain information and activate higher level thinking processes. This reminded me a lot of the concept of the flipped classroom, where students have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with content ahead of class, as as to quickly bypass lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, so students can begin to apply and evaluate content.

 

CC: Vanderbilt University

Providing a window for parents into their child’s daily school activities will further enable parents to support their children in better understanding the concepts being covered in class. And, yes, not all parents will do this. Not everyone will. So how do we get parents thinking more about their child’s interactions with digital citizenship and sharing, as well as how they can support their child’s learning outside of the classroom?

Easy! At the beginning of the year, during the meet/greet teacher night, hold a quick run through of digital citizenship (you’ll be teaching it throughout the year, so I’m sure you’ll want to let the parents know, just as you would tell them about all your exciting math units), and provide parents with information online that will help them out. This will at the very least put the bug in their ear, and will hopefully get them thinking about their own digital citizenship related habits.

Another way of facilitating this would be to encourage your admin to look through the SK Digital Citizenship Curriculum with you, and to start the conversation on how to roll this out school wide. If all staff were offered a crash course in how to teach digital citizenship, as well as provided resources in how to facilitate it, fewer teachers could use the crutch that they don’t think they should be responsible for teaching it, or don’t know how. In tandem with a school-wide roll out, a digital citizenship primer for parents could be set up. Providing links to relevant resources on the classroom or school website would help support parents when making the important decision to support their child in making the right choices when sharing and using online tools.


Poor Health and Technology: A Big Fat Text Claw of an Exaggeration

It is tempting to simply jump headfirst into all the aspects of how technology has been shown to negatively affect children (and adults alike), both physically and mentally. In the Huffington Post article Sneaky Ways Technology is Messing with Your Mind  they offer quite a few reasons why overdoing it with technology can lead to negative affects on your body (spine, ‘text claw,’ blemishes, lowered sperm count, etc.) and mind (anxiety and stress, sleep disruption, rewired brains and impulse control).

Hearing these issues laid out can send one into a panic and it’s tempting to blindly believe such a rap sheet, without taking the time to think through the fact that the majority of these issues occurring have a direct correlation with the overuse of technology. All of these issues, as well as obesity and societal withdrawl are occuring because people are choosing (or are addicted) to spend vast hours in front of screens, both for work and leisure activities. Having the opportunity, not only to hear the consequences of their actions, but more importantly to recognize healthy ways in which to find a balance between screen time and other interpersonal and physical pursuits will be important to help reduce issues surrounding the (over)use of tech.

This brings us to the issue around who is going to do it though. This came up in the chat during the debate, and it seemed somewhat clear that most teachers don’t feel that this is something they necessarily feel they should be tasked with doing. While I agree that teachers already have a plate near to overflowing, this is still something that requires attention in the classroom. Teaching and modeling proper use of technology is of the utmost importance, as we have seen eariler, for ensuring the technology being used for learning is actually beneficial and not another distraction. Giving students the opportunity to practice positive use of technology in the classroom is the first step towards positive habbits that they can carry on into their future lives.

Not to say that this will necessarily help them to stop jumping onto the computer or PS4 right after they come home from school. It is here where we need to recognize that parents/guardians also shoulder a big part of the responsibility when it comes to modeling, and monitoring their children’s screen usage. The issue is, many parents are either still unaware of the repurcussions the excessive screen time is having on their children (and most likely themselves), or can’t commit to being around their children due to having to work excessive hours, etc.

Here is where we as teachers can assist in helping plant the seed to make the parents aware of how they might better support their children’s online use. Last fall, in ECI832, I created a website that would assist schools, teachers, and parents in implementing a positive digital citizenship focus in schools and at home. Looking specifically at parents, I created a number of resources parents could use towards being more mindful of their families’ use of tech, and different methods of ensuring children were making the right choices when heading online.

I am a digital citizen offers a number of researched resources that will offer parents a better understanding of how to to support their child with their screen time and digital citizenship.

Technology then, if used appropriately, doesn’t correlate to negative physical, mental, and social problems, but rather offers a myriad of different ways to become more in tune with making positive changes to mind, body, and social activities.

Physically, with the ability to track steps using a Fitbit, or tracking Km’s using an iPhone’s GPS on the Nike running app, we can effortlessly log our movement, and share it with friends as a means of motivation. Since acquiring a Fitbit a month ago, I have really made a conscious effort to exercise much more regularly, not only for the positive stimulation that comes from comparing old progress to current, but also to be able to keep up with friends who I am competing against through the Fitbit app. When it’s raining and windy, normally I’d just find an indoor activity and veg out, but with the Fitbit, I’m getting out there regardless.

Some naysayers say that this obsessiveness is actually unhealthy, but honestly to me, if this tool can motivate me to push myself harder, than it’s worth the 10 extra times I check my phone to see where I am on the leaderboard. We all need different means of motivating ourselves, and for me this is it.

Socially, technology offers a lot pitfalls, all of which can be curbed with a better understanding of how to be a good digital citizen. I’ve also created a variety of lessons (and a lot of links to better sites :)) that address these issues here. Bonnie Stewart also weighed in on this last year when I lucked out on her lecturing during ECI831. She reminded us that the benefits of social networking outweigh any negatives, especially when armed with an understanding of how to properly navigate such spaces.

So, long and short of it is, were students to have a good understanding of digital citizenship, taught to them and supported by teachers and parents/guardians, the majority of health issues students might encounter as a result of using technology is mitigated. So, let the next Facebook post or local tv spot on the perils of technology remind you that as teachers we have a responsibility to ensure our children are prepared for their future, which includes prepping them in responsible use of technology.


Just Google It?

Tonight’s first debate was over whether schools should be teaching anything that can be Googled. This was an excellent debate topic as it is very relevant to the frustrations I have as a teacher in my own classroom. Process to me needs to be the main focus in the ways teachers are teaching, however, it would be callous to assume that on the other hand students shouldn’t be required to memorize basic facts that support higher levels of thinking and computation.

One thing the debate topic doesn’t address is the fact that nearly everything taught in the classroom, from basic skills to specific facts on a specialized topic, is accessible in some form through Google. Basic skills need to be taught, learned, and memorized in order for a child to then later work upon this base to develop specialized skills that are specific to their interests and set goals.

In our current education model, teachers have the ability to offer a flipped classroom where students can access and learn the basic content off of a website, and even practice the skill using a Google searched, or teacher recommended online app. The only issue, as was pointed out in the debate is that this ideal model ignores the social inequity that exists in our society. Personally I have seen this model work very well for students who have 1) access to online tech at home, 2) Have consistent support and routines at home that support extended learning outside the classroom, 3) Are at a level of Bloom’s taxonomy where purposeful practice and study is diligent and is being achieved independent of a guide or mentor overseeing this progress. Unfortunately, the majority of students in my classroom do not necessarily have the support, or the dedication to push themselves to learn and practice simply through technology.

Technology, as we argued last week, is simply a tool, that when used effectively (both in and out of the classroom) can pay dividends towards motivation, memorization, and application of any particular skill, whether it be the multiplication table, Japanese, grammar, etc. This isn’t to say that it is always the ideal means of teaching however, but can be a lead or supplemental to the understanding of any given topic.

I will attempt to add Xzibit memes to every blog post from here on in…

 

Curriculums are moving away from the memorization of facts, and are pushing for experiential and hands-on ways of applying basic skills towards higher level thinking processes. This provides students with the opportunity to put these basic skills, learned both through online sources and in the classroom, through  a variety of different applications, moving towards increasingly challenging and more abstract (outside of the initial frame of reference to which it was taught/learned) applications.

So, let’s remind ourselves as teachers that first of all, students need to learn how to use the tools effectively to maximize their learning, and to realize that Google is not the end all of knowledge: in order to develop and master any particular skill, we must apply the skill in a variety of situations to help us refine the skill to use it most effectively. Do we need to do this all the time? No. There are many random facts, such as knowledge of all state capitals or how to fix a broken PS3 that are one time uses which don’t offer much in the way of a starting point for further exploration. However, with a skill based question in mind, Google serves as a jumping off point to take and refine ideas to improve one’s own skill set. Take cooking for example. When I need to find a killer recipe, I head over to seriouseats, as through researching different sites, I find their writing and recipes consistently motivating, challenging and, well, tasty! This interest though, while it certainly started through the use of seriouseats moved me into ordering cookbooks, talking to and cooking meals with others, getting feedback from friends and family, etc. Through using Google as a means of acquiring skill and culinary information, I have build up a level of skill that has been refined through ongoing practical application and real world feedback.

Anders Ericsson was the scientist behind Malcom Gladwell’s popularization of the fact that it simply takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, whether it be composition, to basketball. Giving students easy access to technology that will allow them to better research and practice any given chosen skill is then very beneficial for motivation in working towards achieving these 10,000 hours.

While driving home from the lake this weekend I was listening to a Freakonomics podcast about this very same topic, and it turns out, it isn’t simply the 10,000 hours that makes a master. Rather it is the deliberate practice of a skill, or rather the meta-cognitive understanding of how the skill is put together that matters most, paired with a mentor who is consistently ensuring that the deliberate practice is maintained and is working toward meeting the ongoing SMART goals being set.

I enjoyed listening to this as it kept me from falling asleep at the wheel, and that it again cements the idea that technology is a very effective tool when used appropriately. Like anything, if the tool and the process is not being used effectively, growth will not occur. Simply going out and running at a slow rate for a long period of time will not push the body to create the changes that will enable you to become a better, faster runner. Instead, doing the research into what the most effective means of running for the specific goal you have in mind, paired with a way of tracking and monitoring growth will enable your body to make the necessary adaptations through stress.

Google is amazing, but it isn’t the end of the road.


WEEK 1 RECAP: Technology in the Classroom Enhances Learning

Wow, what a fun week! I am always a little apprehensive about group work, especially when time is of the essence, but I have to say I lucked out with two fantastic partners in Erin and Kyle. The format of the debate was also new to me, as I hadn’t done any formal debate since high school in history class. Rather than simply talk for the first 5 minutes, we decided to do it in style, showcasing just how much more a visually engaging video might provide a better platform for our opening argument. Check it out below:

In the end we came up with a fairly comprehensive list of what we believed were solid strengths for technology being an asset towards learning:

  • Decreased learning challenges for LD and EAL learners
  • Increased collaboration (between peers, between teacher and students, and on a global scale)
  • Connects students to experts within different fields (i.e. via Twitter)
  • Increase student engagement
  • Supports personalized learning
  • Gives a voice to those uncomfortable sharing face-to-face
  • Provides students with an increased audience (blogging)
  • Allows students to be producers and not only consumers of knowledge (shift from read-only culture to read-write culture)
  • Open source resources mean students are learning from up to date sources, not outdated textbooks
  • Allows students to create a positive digital presence which will be beneficial beyond the K-12 school experience
  • Breaks down geographical barriers (distance learning for individuals from remote communities)

While much of this was culled from simple online searches and the personal experience we have had with technology on our own learning and that of our students, there do exist many studies that conclusively show the benefits of technological aids on learning. Adebisi, Liman, & Longpoe’s (2015) article on Using assistive technology in teaching children with learning disabilities in the 21st century provides not only a solid overview of the benefits of assistive tech as well as many options available to the learning environment, but as well a reminder that this technology is but a tool, and needs to be used appropriately to enhance learning:

• Assistive technology can only enhance basic skills, and not replacing them. It should be used as part of the educational process, and can be used to teach basic skills.

• Assistive technology for children with disabilities is more than an educational tool; it is a fundamental work tool that is comparable to pencil and paper for non-disabled children.

• Children with disabilities use assistive technology to access and use standard tools, complete educational tasks, and participate on an equal basis with their developing peers in the regular educational environment.

• The use of assistive technology does not automatically make educational and commercial software/tools accessible or usable.

• An assistive technology evaluation conducted by a professional, knowledgeable in regular and assistive technology, is needed to determine whether a child requires assistive technology devices and services and should be specified in the children’s instructional plans.

 

• Assistive technology evaluation must address the alternative and augmentative communication needs, that is, ability to communicate needs and change the environment for children with disabilities.

• To be effective, an assistive technology evaluation should be ongoing process.

It is in these points that I believe our awesome adversaries (that had the arduous position to argue against tech as a benefit to learning) had some strong arguments. Technology, in the form of PC’s, tablets, etc. has become more and more prevalent in the classroom, each with their own variety of educational apps. The issue, which I also agree with, is that without explicit instruction on how to use the apps appropriately, tied with tech support in the classroom and solid classroom management, technology can and will be used inappropriately, resulting in distraction and less overall effort toward completing tasks.

I think Kyle’s counterargument, in that technology as a tool has been used for centuries, and that teachers need to rise to the occasion and become competent in understanding and using the same tech as their students in order to teach them to use it effectively, and to assist them in using their tools and their time effectively.

In case you were wondering how the video was made:

After meeting and deciding on three focuses, we each recorded our separate sections using the voice record on our phones, and sent them up into the cloud. I then used an app called Clip Grab to pull videos off of online sites that fit the content of the voice recordings. Using iMovie, I then cut all the clips to appropriate sizes, removing irrelevant content that didn’t fit with the content. Sticking the audio clips in the audio track, I then cobbled together all the smaller clips into a narrative. Finally I added the titles which had relevant quotes and information I felt were necessary to get the point across.
To wrap up, here’s an interesting article I found that corresponds to how much more effective visual ads are in catching the attention of a viewer, over traditional text or speech based forms of advertisement.

Oh, one last thing, Ian (and Urkel) has done a fantastic job of working through the pros and cons. Check it out here