Category Archives: Learning and Reflections

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner… Face-to-Face Learning or Zoom Learning?

Debate Topic – Online education is detrimental to the social and academic development of children.

Our final debate centered on whether online education is detrimental to the social and academic development of children. I struggled with choosing a side in this debate. Again, the topic felt “muddied” because I had a hard time separating myself as a learner, taking an online course, versus online learning for children. Another issue with the topic was my ability to separate pandemic learning and online learning that is created and taught intentionally. As I have mentioned before, teaching during the Covid-19 pandemic was extremely challenging. Sadly, many of my students did not participate due to internet access issues, as well as personal reasons. 

On the agree side of this debate was the team of Colton, Britney S., and Kayla. They made some compelling arguments as to why online education negatively impacts students. And on the disagree side of this debate was Arkin, Kat, and Chris. This team also had a well-rounded argument. There were many facets to this discussion topic. 

Let’s have a look at both sides… 

Agree

1. Online education furthers digital access inequities.

Students who have a low socioeconomic status may not have access to internet or devices. The effectiveness of an online schooling program assumes that all students have equal access. As we saw during the pandemic, many families struggled with learning due to poor wifi, no devices, not enough devices or inadequate devices. Try doing assignments or working off of a tiny phone or tablet each day for a few months! Not fun. This digital divide will only separate the “have’s” from the “have-nots.” From a personal perspective, this digital divide impacted many of my students. Some of them live in a rural area in Southern Saskatchewan and were not able to join our zoom sessions. Some drove to a family members home just to join in. Others had spotty connections and had to deal with the frustrations of lost connections. Sadly, I also ran into a mom in the grocery store a few weeks into online teaching and she was saving money to purchase a Chromebook for her son. The impacts on low socioeconomic status youth was described by Onstad in the article, The miserable truth about online school. Here, Onstad describes how students were developing headaches from typing full essays on a tablet. Some were tired from being logged on early in the morning until evening time, while others relying on Tim Horton’s wifi. The challenges faced by many students were vast.

2. Online learning provides a lack of programming variety.

Some argue that it is not possible to provide the same type of programming in an online version as in-person classes. Classes with practical, social or group component may not be delivered with the same quality as in person courses. As a self-professed “hands-on learner,” I would have felt slighted if I had to miss out on in-person physical education classes, art or science classes. 

3. Schools provide social encounters and safety.

At the start of the pandemic and during online learning, concerns arose over the missing social aspect of online learning. Specifically, early years teachers were concerned about providing adequate programing and recreating classroom experiences online. For older students, in middle years and high school, this meant more “socializing” over a screen. Hardly ideal. For others, including some of my own students, the school day was yearned for. Schools are safe spaces where students are loved and get attention that they may not get at home. Certainly, I recognize the flipside of this, where schools are not-so-safe spaces for students who may be bullied or lack friends or “community.”

Disagree

1. Online learning is flexible.

Online learning can provide flexibility to students who have medical needs, participate in sports or arts that pull them away from school, or for older learners who may need to work to support their families. 

2. Online learning develops important skills.

In their video, the disagree team noted that online learning teaches students time management, self-discipline, self-motivation and communication skills. All of these are important and transferable to the workplace. 

3. Online learning is customizable.

Students who require specific programming can find courses that suit their unique learning needs. Whether it be courses that are offered at certain times of the year, courses offered for diverse learning styles, or simply courses on certain topics, online learning can provide unique learning opportunities. As I mentioned previously, online learning could be a good fit for athletes, artists, and those with varying family dynamics.

4. Online learning benefits those with health challenges and differing abilities.

Students with mobility challenges, chronic diseases and illnesses, visual and hearing impairments, and those with different learning needs may find the online learning environments more convenient, comfortable and supportive. In the article titled, ‘How Online Education Can Benefit Students With Disabilities,’ it is noted that it is important for students to “still have an opportunity to connect with teachers in other ways while attending online courses” and luckily, they can do that through the use of email, discussion boards, messaging and video conferencing. Furthermore, online learning could be beneficial for those with mental health challenges like anxiety, those who are impacted by bullying, or those dealing with grief and loss. Having the ability to transfer to online learning for a short period of time or for longer durations could benefit students dealing with any number of life’s challenges. 

Final Thoughts

In summary, when deciding whether online learning is detrimental to student social and academic development it is important to look at each individual student’s situation. Online learning can certainly hinder a Kindergarten student’s social development and likewise, online learning can be difficult for a high school student who is not a self-starter and lacks time management skills. In the end, we need to look at what is best for each individual student. As educators, we know that one size does not fit all when it comes to learning. Online classes, if done well, can be beneficial to some students.

The digital trail in and out of our classrooms…

This weeks debate topic – Educators should help students build a digital footprint.

This week, Funmilola and I debated in opposition to Kim and Gertrude on the topic of whether educators and schools should help students build a digital footprint. Great job to Kim and Gertrude. I loved the thoughtfulness and creativity in your “Unsolved Mysteries” style video and your comprehensive resources. I will admit, this debate topic got a bit “muddied,” as the wording shifted from digital footprint to digital citizenship and back again. I found it challenging to separate digital footprints from digital citizenship and even digital literacy. I believe they go hand in hand. A “good” digital citizen is someone who has a “good” digital footprint or online identity. If we believe that educators should model and teach digital citizenship, then we are essentially modelling and teaching students to build a digital footprint within the classroom.

The comprehensive definition of a digital footprint is key as well. 

A digital footprint is a trail left by your interactions in the online world including:

  • your use of TV
  • your use of mobile phones
  • wearing tech devices like FitBits and Smart Watches
  • your browsing history
  • the comments you leave on social networks and gaming sites
  • your shopping history
  • what you read on your Kindle
  • films you watch
  • and the music you access. 
Photo Credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-girl-wearing-face-mask-looking-at-the-screen-of-the-tablet-5306507

Let’s get into my thoughts on this topic looking at the arguments for and against.

Agree Arguments

1. Teachers and schools are best positioned to undertake this work for ALL students.

We can’t assume all families/caregivers can do this work at home. Many students will not have access to devices or internet access at home. And furthermore, parents/caregivers may not be equipped with the knowledge or skills to teach their children to build positive digital footprints. As mentioned in Buchanan et al. parents tend to focus on educating their children on the negative ramifications of a digital identity, rather than building a positive footprint.

2. Teachers and schools have a responsibility to keep students safe online.

This is especially true, as students are often issued division supported email addresses as early as Kindergarten. This means that as soon as our students are given a division issued email to logon to a device, they are creating an education-based digital footprint. Whether it be purposeful, through using educational apps like Seesaw, RAZkids, or Mathletics… or passive, through the websites they visit and the videos they watch, our students are creating an online identity. 

3. Family/community engagement is key.

Educators and schools can host digital literacy workshops to help engage families in digital citizenship and ultimately, helping students build a positive digital footprint. When the message is the same at school and at home, students’ understanding of building a positive digital footprint will be clear.

Disagree Arguments

1. Students’ digital footprints are already developed before they get to school.

Many children’s digital footprints begin in-utero, as families post ultrasound pictures of their babies to social media. Their digital footprint continues to grow before they arrive at school. In the article by Steinberg, the topic of “Sharenting” is discussed as the oversharing of personal information by parents potentially putting children at risk. What rights do parents have to share? And what about the child’s right to privacy and autonomy? 

2. Building a digital footprint is reactive rather than proactive.

The onus should not be on parents or educators, but on government and policy-makers to ensure students’ identities are being protected.  Both sides presented information stating that Canada needs to do better. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has issued guidelines surrounding protecting children’s data, but it is not enforceable by Canadian Law.

3. Schools are not protecting the data of students adequately.

Do we really know where our data is being stored? With the recent hack on Regina Public Schools, it is concerning to know that the data created by educators and students is not safe. More needs to be done by government to protect the data created by EdTech products and digital medias. In the article, “How Dare They Peep into My Private Life?” Children’s Rights Violations by Governments that Endorsed Online Learning During the Covid-19 Pandemic, research found that EdTech products that were being used during pandemic learning targeted children with behavioural advertising. Children were targeted with content and ads that followed them across the internet. This is concerning as students were in a vulnerable emotional and cognitive state during that time and may have been more easily influenced.

4. Teachers do not feel trained or equipped to do this work.

Professional development in educational technology is not mandatory for all teachers. Consequently, many teachers simply do not know about digital citizenship (in general), nor do they feel supported to do this work by their schools and coworkers.

Final Thoughts

Although the wording of this debate was muddied, both sides have some valid arguments. In the end, I believe that educators should play a role in educating students about their digital footprints, their online identities and how to be good digital citizens. I do not necessarily agree that we need to help them develop a “large, comprehensive, positive” digital footprint aimed at employers and educational institutions per se. However, I do think that if we are using technology in our classrooms, we have a duty to protect them online and that means guiding them as they create an “educational digital footprint.” In the past, I do believe I have been careful about what I have posted online concerning my students. However, after learning more about EdTech products targeting students, I am concerned and worried.

Share your thoughts with me on this debate topic.

  1. Do your students purposefully create positive online content? Is it made public or kept “private” for only family, teachers and the student to see?

Cellphones in the classroom: A brain drain? Or a 21st century tool?

Cellphones should be banned in the classroom. Agree or disagree.

This debate spurred some great conversations. The agree team, Echo, Lovepreet and Amanpreet made some great points in their video and throughout the discussion on why cellphones are a distraction in the classroom. The disagree team, Bret, Reid and Leona brought forth some great reasons for keeping cellphones accessible in the classroom. In the end, as I have mentioned, many times during this course, balance is key. Educators need to effectively manage cellphone use in the classroom if they choose to incorporate them. It certainly cannot be a free-for-all. Balance, policies, agreements and modelling is necessary.

Here are my takeaways from both sides.

Agree: Cellphones should be banned in the classroom. 

1. Cellphones are a distraction!

Just like I mentioned in my last blog post on social media impacting childhood, cellphones are no doubt distracting, just like social media. Cellphones provide us with near instant information leading to instant gratification. Gone are the days of waiting to chat with a friend until you see them at soccer practice, waiting to watch that latest episode, or even waiting to go shopping. I know for myself, if I hear my phone “buzz,” I instinctively go check it. For students, cellphones become their main focus when they are nearby. It’s hard not to think about one’s cellphone when you are constantly getting messages, snaps, and notifications.

2. Cellphone management is tough!

Managing cellphones in the classroom is difficult. Using “cellphone hotels” and creating strong “acceptable use” policies at the start of the year is important. However, even with the best management and pedagogy, educators can still get caught in tough situations when students bring their own devices to class. During our debate discussion, a classmate shared a personal experience from her school division whereby cellphones in the classroom led to some difficulties. She shared that a student used a cellphone inappropriately to photograph a new substitute teacher. The students shared a meme of the substitute and it created issues where other subs did not want to come to that school because of that incident. Finding a balance is key when using cellphones in the classroom, one that “requires a community-wide approach involving parents, teachers, school boards, ministries of education, and broader social awareness” (Smale et. al, 2021). In this situation, it would be helpful for teachers to clearly outline the cellphone policy for subs, and ensure that students have signed an acceptable use agreement.

3. Cellphone access in classrooms widens the equity gap.

Even if all of your students bring a cellphone to school, not all of their cellphones will function the same way. Some may have data, others will require wifi. Some students may have an older phone that lacks storage and therefore they cannot download apps to create content. And for the kiddo’s that do not have a phone, teachers need to consider the way they will be singled out in the classroom during activities. 

Photo by RODNAE Productions: https://www.pexels.com/photo/students-sitting-inside-the-classroom-while-using-their-smartphone-6936137

Disagree: Cellphones should be banned in the classroom. 

1. Let’s embrace cellphones as tools to learn.

I will be the first to admit it, cellphones are amazing tools and I am so thankful to be able to use one. They are pocket sized libraries, cameras, video cameras, news outlets, weather stations, recipe books etc. This list could go on and on…My 7 and 8 year old students do not have cellphones, so I cannot comment from experience using them as tools in the classroom. However, if I taught middle years or high school students, I would certainly consider incorporating them as learning tools. The ISTE offers some interesting ways to incorporate cellphones for learning including:

  • Moblogging (aka mobile blogging) – Using a moblog, students can reflect on small group activities as they work. Moblogging allows students to post to a blog from a cellphone.This way, teachers gain real-time insight into the learning taking place in each small group. 
  • Text Alerts – Text Pals – Pair up students with a buddy in a different grade or classroom. Teachers can be on the two-way text alert to monitor the pen pal-type messages.
  • Oral History Recording – Students can capture oral histories using a cellphone through interviews with community members. These oral histories can then be uploaded to a blog.

Cellphones, along with tablets, can be used to engage students in learning, rather than be a distraction. 

2. Cellphones can create equitable learning environments.

Like I mentioned before, devices like cellphones can help students who need assistive technologies like speech-to-text, screen reading, word prediction, calculators and reminder apps. Cellphones can also provide music to students who need it while working independently or who may use it for calming purposes. Furthermore, in the article, Cell Phones at School: Should They Be Allowed?, we learn that students may require a cellphone to stay in touch with a family member for medical reasons like diabetes. Additionally, I can’t help but think about the many students who have anxiety about the recent mass shootings feeling more secure about having a cellphone to stay in touch or use for emergency purposes. We did, however, discuss how troublesome cellphones can become in emergency situations as students can quickly spread misinformation in a situation like this. 

3. Cellphones are simply a part of 21st century learning.

Cellphones connect us. They are undoubtedly a large part of the world today. Students need to learn how to appropriately engage with cellphones. It is a skill that needs to be modelled and honed throughout a child’s school years. When students own their own cellphone and enter the workforce, they need to know how to use it, when to use, and how to stay safe. Students need to learn how to balance technology and educators have a responsibility to teach them. 

Final Thoughts

Though both sides of this argument have valid concerns, I do believe cellphones can be used in the classroom with proper education and policy. Teachers, students, parents and schools need to have agreements in place that clearly outline acceptable use of cellphones. School-wide policies may be the best approach, although this can be problematic, too. School-wide expectations will help to clear the waters so students understand the rules and consequences that apply to everyone. 

Share your thoughts with me.

  1. Does your school have a school-wide cellphone use policy? Or does each teacher have their own rules?

What time is it Mr. Wolf? It’s screen time… What time is it Mr. Wolf? It’s green time… What time is it Mr. Wolf? Dinner time.

Is social media ruining childhood?

The BIG. BAD. WOLF… Why is the wolf always the bad one? He huffs and puffs and blows the buildings down. He uses all the trickery to catch his dinner. Can we liken social media to the big bad wolf!? Is it a deep, dark and scary place? This week our two debate teams argued for and against that social media is ruining childhood. On the agree side we heard great arguments from Fasiha, Gunpreesh and Dami. And on the disagree side, we heard some equally compelling arguments from Jennifer, Shivali and Mike. Great job to both teams!

Here is a look at my takeaways from some of the arguments.

Agree: Social media is ruining childhood.

1. Social media is addicting.

It’s true. Social media can consume a lot of people’s time and energy. It can also be addictive, whereby people can’t stop scrolling, reading and looking for that next post. People pull out their phones on their work breaks just to get the latest updates. Teens are gathered around a table at DQ – all of them looking at their phones. I will never forget a one-on-one conversation with one of my elementary students –

Student: “My dad is coming home this weekend!”

Me: “Oh that’s awesome! What are you going to do with your dad?”

Student: “Oh, probably nothing.”

Me: “Why is that?”

Student: “My dad just sits on his phone – he’s always on FaceBook. I ask him to read books and he doesn’t want to.”

Let me tell you. Hearing that from my student was like a punch to the gut. I won’t forget it. It has changed my perspective on digital technology as both a parent and a teacher. I put my phone away as much as possible when I’m with my kiddos. I prioritize play time. Play time can incorporate technology. I want my sons to have all the memories of playing, reading books and spending time with ME,! Not seeing me on my phone or feeling like I am snubbing them.

2. Social media impacts children’s development.

It’s true. Children grow up way too fast! It never fails to amaze me as I watch my students grow up right before my eyes. Children who spend too much time on social media are missing out on face-to-face interactions, thereby impacting their ability to foster communication skills. 

Recently, I have heard more and more stories from fellow educator friends who are noticing students are lacking social skills. They have seen an increase in anxieties, depression and coping skills from tweens and teens. It is believed this has stemmed from an increased use of social media during the pandemic. One recent example I have heard, is teens are backing out of public speaking duties at graduation ceremonies. Now that grad ceremonies have returned in full force, I have heard stories of teens expressing extreme anxieties about introducing their friends at grad, or having to make a speech. Now, I recognize that public speaking is the foe of many people, but this is an important skill.

Personally, I think it is important for parents and caregivers to take on a more active role in supervising what their children are producing and consuming on social media. If families start having conversations with our children early, they can have a positive influence on their social media interactions. Perhaps, they can even create content together. Though I would never do this with my own children, parents and musicians Gianni Nicassio and Sarah Blackwood from the band Walk off the Earth, have started making videos with their son Romeo. The web series is called Romeo Eats. On the show, they chronicle Romeo eating and cooking with a variety of foods. Their goal is to inspire other toddlers and young kids to eat a variety of foods and to take an active role in cooking at home. Further, in the video, “Wake Up! Social Media is Ruining our Kids (TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, etc.),”  Dr. Brenna Hicks talks about the plethora of “junk” on social media that is having a negative impact on our kids. She discusses how many parents don’t even know how to check or monitor their kids’ accounts. She states that taking control is necessary and it will be hard to do, but is necessary for our kids. 

Photo Credit: https://mobile.twitter.com/RomeoEats/header_photo

3. Social media leads to cyber-bullying and crime.

In some extreme cases, social media does ruin children’s lives. Cyber-bullying has claimed the lives of many children and teens. The case of Amanda Todd is back in the news, as the accused is now on trial in B.C. There is no doubt that social media has been used for criminal activity. Children can be subject to 24/7 harassment and threats online. It can be difficult for children caught up in cyber-bullying to escape the constant bullying. Sadly, social media has allowed some to hide behind a screen, under the guise of a false name, and attack others. 

Disagree: Social media is not ruining childhood.

1. Using social media for change.

Yes, social media and teens get a bad rap. Between cyber-bullying, sexting, inappropriate postings, teens don’t make the smartest choices when consuming and producing content on social media. In the online article, 18 Teens Using Social Media for Change, we see some inspiring stories of kids using social media to enact real change through accessibility apps, kindness apps, podcasts etc. For example, in the “Be the change” podcast, Canadian Hannah Alper describes her advocacy work. She describes that it is important to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, which is easy to do on social media. Some examples she shared in fighting homelessness in Toronto are to take a gift card with you to give to someone in need, or to purchase and give a sandwich to someone in need. 

2. Social media creates and connects communities.

Social media can lead to people building strong and lasting friendships. It can help people keep in touch in our crazy, busy lives. Groups can find people who have similarities and build connections. For example, the family of my niece who has a chromosomal deletion has found a community of kiddos who have the same rare condition. They can keep in touch with other kids and families all over the world. Through this group, they are even able to gather at a conference to meet each other in person. 

3. Digital technologies are here to stay and social media prepares kids for the future.

Growing up in the 21st century means that children’s lives are inextricably linked to digital technologies and social media. Students in the middle years (some even younger) are more and more likely to have personal devices and have social media accounts, despite the minimum age being 13. Parents ultimately have control over whether their children are on social media. Social media is undoubtedly part of our children’s lives and this is why we NEED to teach digital citizenship from a young age. And parents need to play an active role in monitoring their children’s online activities.

Final Thoughts

Well… in the end, I find it incredibly difficult to choose a side on this debate. I understand the complexities of both arguments. On one hand I think that children need way more “green time” – time spent outdoors, frolicking in nature. And on the other hand, I see that social media isn’t going anywhere and I don’t think I can say that it is “ruining” childhood completely. Social media is here to stay and we need to educate ourselves and our kids on how to balance its use. Most importantly, I think that we, ADULTS, need to monitor our own use of digital technologies. Social media isn’t the only big bad wolf out there. We need to model appropriate use and set positive examples. We need to walk the walk. 

Let me know what you think!

  1. Do you think that each generation will continue to say “kids these days?”
  2. Would you create online content alongside your children as a way of modelling appropriate online behaviour?

Nuancing the Personal and the Professional in Online Spaces

Debate Topic #4 – Educators have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice.

This debate was the most lively by far this semester. What a great job by both teams! With the rise of social media, educators have been encouraged to be cautious in their online activity. Building and managing a positive digital footprint is essential for new teachers. Your online presence can be seen by hiring teams, parents and students. So the question of this debate is – Should teachers be responsible to use technology and social media to promote social justice?

Let’s have a look at the agree arguments…

First off, the “Teacher Tech Talk” video by Kari, Jessica, and Jenny W. was really well done. I loved the daytime talk show vibe and their coffee mugs!

1. Change doesn’t happen if we stay neutral.

Teachers strive to be change-makers. We model inclusivity with the hope of changing the dominant narratives of our society. We want our students to be “kind, thoughtful, inclusive, and courageous,” so how can we not model it? We teach about social justice issues in the classroom and we should model that outside of the classroom as well. Staying silent, arguably, only continues the oppression of minority groups in our society. Teachers can model positive digital citizenship through online spaces. We can show our students that we are building a positive community online by following people who have different ethnic backgrounds from us, teach different subjects/grades than us and teach in other countries etc. 

2. Fostering Youth Relationships using Social Media

In recent years, social media has led to negative impacts on the mental health of youth. Problems like anxiety, depression and cyber-bullying have increased. Educators can teach about these issues and use all the scare-tactics known to us to combat negative issues, but the reality is, social media is here to stay and our students will engage on social platforms. Thus, we need a different approach. In the article Using Social Media to Engage Youth: Education, Social Justice, & Humanitarianism, the authors share that social media can inspire youth toward fighting social justice issues. Our students have amazing skills that we can leverage to create social communities that help make a difference. Furthermore, the authors argue that we can create online communities that are “growth-fostering” where students feel empowered, engaged, authentic, and effective in their relationships with others. 

3. Social media connects communities

Social media platforms have allowed communities to connect. Small communities can share information and connect those with similar interests. Social justice movements have gained momentum online leading to increased awareness and larger followings. 

Now for the disagree arguments…

Dalton and Brooke’s video parody of a Rick Mercer report was very creative. I was surprised at how well the video suited the debate video and the argument that teachers do not need to promote social justice issues online.

1. Be a professional. Keep your personal life private.

Teachers in Saskatchewan are bound by the STF Code of Professional Ethics and we are required to act as professionals “at all times.” As such, many teachers are reluctant to put themselves out there online. After all, posting online can lead to unwanted comments and attention in one’s community. New teacher’s may be overly cautious about their digital footprints as they don’t want to tarnish their reputation while trying to get hired. After all, recruiters are sure to check them out online before hiring. 

2. Slacktivism

Slacktivism is a term used to describe the actions (or very minimal actions) people take online to protest or advocate for a cause. This can be through the use of hashtags, liking, subscribing, sharing and even signing online petitions, but does little to actually support the cause. I’m sure you have seen friends and family members change their social media profile picture on occasion in support of a cause. Some argue that this isn’t really making a change. In the article Genuine Social Media Activism: A Guide for Going Beyond the Hashtag, the difference between slacktivism and genuine social media activism is explored further. Genuine social media activism is supported by concrete actions, donations, and measurable commitments to change. 

3. Mental Health Matters

One of Dalton’s video comments struck me – he said that teacher’s shouldn’t be required to teach all day only to go home and continue the fight online. Teacher’s are busy already, and being pressured to keep up with issues online, create content and comment will only exacerbate burnout and lead to mental health struggles.

4. Community Context Matters

Another issue discussed in the small group chats and larger group discussion was the fact that some teachers teach in communities where people have different beliefs and/or political views. This can be in rural settings, or in larger centers like private schools. This can lead teachers to keep their views offline as a precaution. Teachers will continue to provide sources and information on topics in the classroom, but may not feel comfortable promoting issues publicly in their communities. In the article, Teachers, Politics and Social Media: A Volatile Mix, Madeline Will notes that educators may not want to jeopardize their relationships with students, parents or even their colleagues by posting about views that are different from theirs. 

Final Thoughts

Photo by Lisa Fotios: https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-printer-paper-with-be-kind-text-on-plants-3972441/

Online platforms are great places to communicate, build relationships and community, and promote awareness for social justice issues. Many teachers feel comfortable promoting and advocating for issues online. Others may not be as comfortable putting themselves out there. Local Regina teacher @steve boots has proven that it is possible to be political online, where he is active on TikTok and Twitter. I think the important thing is for teachers to continue to educate themselves, unlearn and relearn biases and help their students to do the same. We will continue to educate our students and discuss issues in the classroom as we have always done, and continue to teach students to evaluate and critically reflect on information. Educators, let’s continue to do what we do best – teach our kids to be allies, upstanders, volunteers, supporters and most importantly, kind humans, whether that be online and/or offline. 

Should we push technology skills forward or stick with the tried and true?

Debate Topic #3 – Schools should no longer teach skills that can be easily carried out by technology (e.g., cursive writing, multiplication tables, spelling). Agree or Disagree?

First off, both sides of this debate did a great job presenting their arguments through their videos, fielding questions during the debate and during their rebuttals. Many kudos to you all. There was passion and poise shown from both sides. Prior to the debate, I was leaning slightly towards the disagree side on this topic, as I do teach cursive writing and I do have my students learn multiplication tables. Alyssa, Kelly and Durston brought forth persuasive arguments here. However, Sushmeet and Leah also brought forth some great reasons to ditch the cursive writing and rote memorization of math facts. 

Now that I have had some time to digest the information, let’s have a look at the arguments…

Agree

1. We rely on technology because it is convenient and makes our life easier. Education needs to adapt to this emergence. 

In their intro video, Sushmeet and Leah provided the results of their class poll. They asked a series of questions related to technology use. Every respondent stated that they use technology on a daily basis. And over ninety percent stated that they use their calculator on their phone to calculate rather than calculate orally. Despite this being a small sample size and a quick classroom poll, the results were quite compelling. Check out some of the other questions and results here

In the TedTalk by David Middlebeck, David explains that while working in the technology industry, he recognized a need for change… change in education. He states that technology is racing ahead and evolving at a rapid pace, and education isn’t keeping up. He believes that a combination of blended learning, personalized learning and community will help students learn for the future.

As societies evolve and adapt, so education systems and approaches also need to change and adapt. We can see this happening around us; as industry and work changes, as farms become increasingly mechanised, as robots take over the mundane, dangerous and repetitive tasks, as gadgets provide connectivity to artificial intelligence.

Mason et. al. (2019)

Education needs to adapt and continue to improve, and technology is going to play a central role in the future of education, just as it has proven to be present in our society.

2. Remove menial tasks… spend your time on more meaningful tasks

I am reminded of the personal life of Steve Jobs. As the leader of one of the world’s most successful companies, Steve reportedly embraced a sort of minimalism in his life. He wore the same turtlenecks and jeans each day rather than having a large wardrobe to choose from. By keeping these menial decisions easy he could concentrate and focus on the plethora of other decisions he would have to make and the tasks he would have to complete. Personally, I believe this could be beneficial to students. If we limit the amount of energy they need to spend on certain tasks, this could lead to a rise in higher order thinking on Bloom’s Taxonomy –  like evaluating and creating. Could this lead to more creativity and critical thinking in our classrooms? Possibly. Insert “Genius Hour” and “Passion Projects…”

3. Assistive Tech

Technology in the classroom can help students who have learning challenges. In last weeks post, I listed some of the ways technology assists students in education by providing tools to focus on student-centered learning. I also noted the ways technology creates inequities within our society. We learn in the article, Shifting Pedagogies and Digital Technologies Shaping Futures in Education, teachers should be aware of the benefits and dangers as technology trends emerge but have a willingness to explore the innovations. 

Disagree

As I mentioned earlier, the disagree side focused on reasons why it is important to teach skills that some consider are outdated, like grammar and spelling, multiplication facts and cursive writing. Some of the reasons we should still focus on these skills include:

1. These are skills that are still required in the workforce today.

Skills like spelling and grammar, as well as reading and writing cursive are still important, and several professions require these skills, like Nicole W. mentioned during the debate. As a nursing educator, she mentioned that nurses need to quickly use these skills, often in high-pressure situations in acute care settings. For example, the ability to read cursive may be needed to read medical notes, prescriptions and even personal notes. In addition, Kelly noted that her partner requires sharp mental math skills as an electrician in order to stay safe in dangerous situations. Lastly, some print literature is still printed in cursive as entire books, excerpts, historical notes etc. It is important for students to at least be able to read handwriting. 

Photo by RF._.studio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-women-at-the-meeting-3811082/

Technology may slowly be affecting a decline in cursive handwriting, but in the article What We Lose With the Decline of Cursive, Tom Berger notes that cursive improves “students’ composition, reading comprehension, brain function, and motor skills and that students who take notes by hand instead of on a laptop process the information better.” Personally, I prefer to take notes by hand instead of on a laptop, when I need to take notes. I process the information better and I retain it better. I want to mention that I am not a proponent of note-taking. It does not lead to critical and creative thinking. That being said, there is a time and place for taking a few notes to jog your memory and to get started on projects. Like everything else, we need to have a balance in teaching and learning.

2. We can’t rely on technology.

How many times has technology failed you in your professional work? I’m willing to bet, at least a few times. Computers like to “act up,” power sources fail us, connections become lost, or even “user errors” get in the way of being productive. As teachers, we plan for the unexpected and we pivot on the fly, but that isn’t always possible. In the case of Regina Public Schools the past few weeks, a major network breach has caused disruptions for teachers and students. This proves that we should still be teaching skills that allow us to work WITHOUT technology. 

3. Societal inequities will continue to impact the disadvantaged

Technology privileges people who have access to it and as such, a digital divide is created where students without access to devices and assistive technologies fall further behind. In my blog post last week, I mentioned my non-verbal niece who uses a tablet to communicate. She is privileged to have the financial resources to access her device, as many kiddos who need assistive technology do not have funding and supports. Furthermore, we need to teach our students basic math and literacy skills, so they can use those skills to gain employment, calculate unit prices at the grocery store and even understand budget and financial literacies. 

Final Thoughts

In the end, I feel that teaching to the individual learner is most important. If a learner struggles with their multiplication tables, then sure, let’s teach them to use a calculator if that will eliminate any barriers they have to learning. If you struggle with spelling, let’s use spell check or an online dictionary to look up that word. I do still believe that students should be taught basic mathematical and language skills because we all know that spell check may not catch a word used in the wrong context.

Share your thoughts on an interesting idea from this topic…

  1. Would you ditch the menial task of choosing an outfit each day and embrace a simple wardrobe if it meant you were more creative and productive?
  2. Do you do something similar to help make your life easier?

Technology is changing lives… but many are left behind.

I want to begin by giving kudos to both teams on each side of this debate topic. As I mentioned in my last blog post, going first is a difficult task, and these teams knocked it out of the park. Great job! On the agree side of this debate was Tracy, Nicole W. and Stephen and on the disagree side Christina, Amaya and Matthew. Both sides made valid points to argue their side, but ultimately, I do agree – technology has led to a more equitable society. 

Some reasons for the agree side…

Technology supports those living with different abilities

First off, I want to practice using inclusive language, so instead of using the term disability, which implies a lacking of, or something that is missing, I would rather use the term different abilities. Individuals have abilities that are different and using inclusive language is a step in the right direction.

The biggest reason supporting this statement is the way technology supports people with different abilities. For many people, technology has given them the ability to live life in a more inclusive and independent way. In society, we see supports like wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, glasses, and hearing aids.

Technology supports in education

In education, assistive technologies like magnifiers, large print, software programs with speech recognition, and microphones help to make our classrooms more inclusive. These technologies make learning more equitable for students who benefit from them. Often times, these assistive technologies will benefit more students than we originally think. Adaptations like large print, magnifiers and microphones benefit all students. As an example, I wear a microphone in my classroom for all of my students as no one in particular requires it, though all of my students appreciate it. It allows the students in different areas of the classroom to hear me clearly. 

Technology supports in the workplace

In Kymberly DeLoatche’s TEDTalk How Technology Can Level the Playing Field in the Workplace, John, a non-verbal greeter at Panera, has changed the culture of his workplace by using a microphone to communicate with customers. John presses a button on the device which says, “Hello, my name is John. Welcome to Panera!” In this story, the business noted an uptick in sales during the time John was at work. What is more inspiring though, is how Kymberly describes John’s smile. I can only imagine how John feels as a contributing member of his work team. 

Kymberly also notes how her son is able to dance by watching videos over and over again. Technology allows him to express himself in a new way. The videos support his unique needs, unlike traditional serve and return communication, which is not as effective for his learning. 

Kymberly mentions that only 1 in 5 persons with different abilities works a meaningful job. Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could hear more stories like John’s? I believe that technology can help with that. Employers can hire persons with different skills and abilities to improve the climate of their workplaces and help support this often marginalized community of people. In Saskatchewan, SaskAbilities and Inclusion Saskatchewan help link employers with people looking for employment. 

Global access to technology

Education shifted dramatically for some time due to the pandemic. Online learning allowed many to continue learning during this time, albeit, not everyone was so lucky to continue their learning this way (more to come in the disagree reflection below). In Jenner’s article, Increasing Access to Education is Incremental, we learn that the advancement of technology over the years has provided access to education for many people all over the world. This has in turn improved their quality of life and led to a more equitable society for more and more people. When we examine the metrics listed in the article, we see that in a span of 10 years (2007-2017), the number of countries providing over 10 years of education to people grew from 57 countries to 173 countries. This shows that millions of people are receiving quality education and globally, we are trending towards the prospect of lifelong learning for more and more people. 

Now to highlight some reasons for the disagree side…

The Digital Divide

Not everyone has access to technology, whether it be connections to the internet or devices. This reality was highlighted during the pandemic for me, personally. I was teaching Grade 5/6 in a rural school and many of my students did not have access to the internet in their area of Spring Valley, SK. It is simply a dead zone for some of the farms out there. As such, some of these students did not participate in online learning or if they did begin, the hassle of bad connections gradually led them to quit. Additionally, for families that had access to the internet, access to devices became an issue. Whether it was large families with only a few devices, or single parents who could not afford devices to learn it was a challenge. As a school we delivered and offered “paper packages” to be picked up at the school for students to continue learning to suit the needs of our community. This was certainly challenging for students, parents and teachers.

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on pexels.com

Another challenge for me, personally, is access to devices in the classroom. I have taught in schools with 1:1 devices and in schools with far less than that. As a teacher who tries to incorporate digital literacy in my classroom, not having equal access to devices for my students makes my job more difficult and impacts my students’ learning as well.  

In the article by Weeden and Kelly, The Digital Divide Has Become a Chasm Here’s How We Bridge The Gap, digital policy initiatives are proposed to support the argument that digital equity is needed in Canada. This includes getting digital broadband infrastructure right to including rural leaders in digital policy-making. I am hopeful changes will be made sooner rather than later for the sake of our province’s rural students who need better access to internet.

Final Thoughts

Despite there being a digital divide when it comes to technology, I have to agree on this debate topic – Technology has led to a more equitable society. Hearing stories like that of John’s, knowing my students appreciate the microphone I use in my classroom and seeing non-verbal students communicate using apps makes my heart happy. Technology is enabling those with differing abilities to thrive in our society. In addition, technology is connecting people around the world to knowledge, despite there needing to be more work done to connect those who are disadvantaged for a variety of reasons.

Let me know what you think…

  1. What is your biggest reason to agree or disagree with this statement?

The keyword here is… CAN – Technology CAN Enhance Learning

First off, I want to acknowledge that both sides did a fantastic job on this debate topic – Technology in the classroom enhances learning, agree or disagree. Being the first group to go is no easy task, and this group did a great job setting the bar high! It was interesting to see how the pre-vote and post-vote panned out, and I admit, I was sitting on the fence for this topic. I agree with Megan and Brittney that technology CAN enhance learning, but it does not always enhance learning without proper pedagogy. And on the flipside, technology can certainly get in the way of learning, just as Nicole R. and Daryl argued. It is imperative that teachers recognize the negative implications of technology use and are trained on proper use of technology in the classroom. 

Technology CAN Enhance Learning

When push comes to shove, I do agree, technology CAN enhance learning. Some of the arguments that resonated with me include:

  • Technology Is The Future

Technology can enhance learning because students are becoming increasingly more tech savvy. They are using technology at home, at school and in many extra-curricular pursuits. Let’s face it, technology is everywhere and students need to learn how to use it in order to succeed in the future. Technology will drive a large portion of their lives at home, at work, and as their entertainment. Using it in a controlled classroom environment will afford students the opportunity to hone their skills safely and effectively. 

  • Engaging Students

Technology engages students so students can learn at their own pace and using resources that fit their needs. Megan and Brittany shared the article by Emma Cullen talking about Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) as any technology that enhances the learning experience. Today, this mostly refers to software and educational apps that teachers and families use to engage students in the learning process. I have witnessed several students respond positively to educational technology applications to increase literacy and numeracy skills, simply because they were engaged by the app. Not to mention several inquiry projects and projects to foster collaboration between students. I have seen students with low-needs to high-needs who require supports for conditions like apraxia, dyslexia and non-verbal students succeed when using technology supports.

  • Tailored Resources

By incorporating technology wisely, educators are able to tailor learning to each individual student and thus, help them achieve their goals in a way that is meaningful to them. Technology also helps educators find resources and provide the best possible learning for their students. I have to admit, without technology, my job would look a lot different and I argue would be more difficult. The ease with which I can find resources online, communicate with families, and collaborate with my colleagues is a privilege. I can also provide tailored feedback to my students that they can share with their families. For example, I have now started using recorded feedback for student work through Seesaw. I love that my students can hear my voice and refer back to my feedback as needed. In addition, families can see and hear my feedback. Using recorded feedback, I can connect with my quiet students by providing them with discreet personalized feedback. My outgoing students have pushed their creative limits using technology and I am able to encourage them to try new skills. And finally, my students with behavioural needs have been able to open up in a low pressure environment. This was reiterated in the study by McKnight et. al. – Teaching in a Digital Age: How Educators Use Technology to Improve Student Learning where students with needs and shyer students had more frequent interactions with their teachers and peers using discussion boards and chats. Here, students are able to post their responses and reflections online. I see technology helping in many areas of the school from the library, to athletics, to the classroom. 

  • Adaptations

Teachers know that every learner is unique and as such we make accommodations and adaptations for all learners. And just like our students who use glasses to see or hearing aids to hear, educational technology can help our students who need adaptations like: text-to-speech software, voice recognition software, spell check and visual search engines. As an example, I have a niece who uses a personal tablet with the program Proloquo to communicate. This has been life changing for her and her family. Prior to her using this app, she communicated using sign language. This was difficult, as the only people who could fully communicate with her in our family were her parents and her Grandma. Now that she uses the tablet, she is able to communicate with her younger siblings, extended family members, teachers and friends. Being able to communicate with ease has enabled her to grow as a learner. She has improved her academic skills and her behaviour has improved dramatically, as she is able to tell her family, caregivers and teachers what her needs are. 

The Negative Side of Technology

On the flipside, I want to acknowledge Nicole and Daryl’s debate side that technology does not enhance learning. As our debaters mentioned, technology hinders learning in several ways.

  • Digital Distractions

I am guilty of it. You are likely guilty of it. Our students are guilty of it… becoming distracted while using technology. Our minds wander, we see an advertisement, we click on a link and go down the proverbial rabbit hole and bam – you’ve wasted time consuming content you’d rather not have. Students are no different. Without proper modelling, training and monitoring, students will get distracted while using technology apps. 

  • Screen Time vs Green Time

In the study, “The Negative Effects of Technology for Students and Educators” by Amanda Strom, it is noted that according to the Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines, children should spend less than 2 hours a day watching a screened device, but students usually spend over that 2 hours and that is simply to complete schoolwork. Personally, I have seen students prefer screen time over getting outside and being active. The number of indoor recesses we had this year was high due to a very cold winter. The students would cheer at the announcement of an indoor recess! I get it, it can be cold outside, but my kiddos seemed to think they should be inside all winter. It was almost a guarantee that I would have one of my students ask me if they could use an iPad during the indoor recess. I aim to instill the idea that snow and the winter is awesome and we can get outside and have lots of fun. Given a small nudge, my kiddo’s loved spending time outdoors when we could. It’s all about a healthy balance. We all need physical activity!

Photo source: Pexels
  • Child Development

Children’s development and attention spans are negatively affected by technology use. Parents and educators need to limit screen time and social interactions. When incorporating screen time like videos, and video games, it is important for children to be engaged with. If you let your child watch television, watch a show with them and talk about it. If they play video games, play with them and have some fun – keep them engaged with another human being. Chances are, they will love it, and you will love the time spent together. 

  • Mental Health Concerns

Mental health and well-being concerns have risen during the pandemic. Concerns include anxiety, depression, inability to cope with stressful situations and sadly, suicide. Thankfully, I feel these concerns are being talked about more openly, though the need for on-going supports and funding remains. 

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned at the beginning, I was very much on the fence for this topic. The main reason that I had to agree that technology enhances learning is my niece. Her life has certainly been enhanced being able to communicate with her loved ones and her teachers using her tablet. I do however believe that technology has a lot of negative impacts on learning. Teachers and parents are familiar with many of them.

Let me know what you think…

  1. What is your main reason for agreeing or disagreeing with this topic?

Digitally Lit – A Personal Ed Tech Tagline

Can you hear me now? Think Different. Because you’re worth it. I’m lovin it. Just Do It.

Hi everyone… this blog starts off another Ed Tech course, the fourth course in my Masters of Curriculum and Instruction journey. In the past year, I have taken two Ed Tech courses and have gained much confidence in employing educational technology in my classroom. Last semester, I began teaching my students about digital citizenship using the Common Sense Education series of lessons and curriculum. I’m not only looking forward to our upcoming series of Great Ed Tech Debates, but I am excited to see my classmates debate both sides of the assigned controversial Ed Tech topics. 

I started off this blog differently than usual. I usually begin by reading the prompt and start structuring my thoughts. This time, I was compelled to think of a REALLY catchy blog title first. One that would grab your attention and make you want to read my blog. I began by thinking about some famous company taglines. Just Do It. Think Different. I’m Lovin It. Can you hear me now? And, Because you’re worth it. Strangely, as I read the taglines, I immediately began making connections to my tech life and my Ed Tech life. More on the taglines and my reflections in a bit…

These days…

These days, the ways I use technology are personal, as I am on maternity leave. I use my iPhone to check the news, check the weather, check my email, connect with family, friends, and classmates through text messaging, FaceTime and Discord. I take photos – way too many photos of my kiddos. I use technology to learn online. I watch TV and stream shows. I listen to music. I dabble in some online shopping. And finally, I occasionally check my new Twitter and Instagram accounts. I have become more engaged on these two platforms as part of these masters courses. I’m sure there are other ways I am using technology too.

Photo by Content Pixie: https://www.pexels.com/photo/yellow-mug-besides-laptop-2967810/

Tech and Taglines

As I thought about the taglines that stood out to me, I began to make some connections to my past tech life and my current tech life. 

Verizon Wireless – Can you hear me now? 

This tagline brings back memories of past technologies that have shaped my life. From the first computer my family owned that I used a joystick to play games on, to the new and colourful iMac’s in my elementary schools computer lab, to the trendy baby blue peanut phones my friends and I had, and finally to the first wireless home phone whose battery would die after a couple of hours chatting with my friends. Oh how far technology has come in my lifetime… good times. 

Apple – Think Different

The apple craze. Oh yes. As I finished high school and began university, Apple began its rise in popularity. From iPods (RIP), to iMac’s, MacBooks and iPhones. I, along with my friends, were hooked. We could listen to music, research, and begin to connect on a whole new level. Apple products were the epitome of cool. I spent my hard-earned part-time job money buying Apple products.

McDonald’s – I’m Lovin It. 

Who doesn’t love a McDonald’s meal once in a while? This tagline has served throughout my life, but has the most meaning right now. My master’s journey has coincided with me being a new mom and navigating being a new’ish teacher, having moved schools and teaching assignments each year. Although life is crazy and moving way too fast, I am loving every minute. ‘I’m Lovin It’ is the perfect tagline to describe my crazy tech-enhanced life. I love the conveniences that technology affords me. I also recognize my privilege in having access to technology and being able to enjoy how it serves me. 

Nike – Just Do It 

This is one motto that sticks. Just Do It. As a busy wife, mom and teacher, I often put things on hold or say “I’ll do that later.” This tag line reminds me to prioritize spending time with my family and make memories. Technology makes it possible to do things, but it can also get in the way. I have to check myself when I am on my phone and my toddler son tugs at me for attention. Whether it means heading out for a walk, going to play at the park, or planning a summer vacation to visit some ballparks, life is short and this tagline reminds me to put down my phone, break away from reading the news and connect with the people I love. 

L’Oreal Paris – Because you’re worth it.

This tagline reminds me to take care of myself by both using technology and putting it away. Many of us are guilty of putting our needs on hold, students included. Social media and other technologies can sometimes pull people into a negative world of being sedentary, binge-watching, scrolling, and comparing ourselves to others. Self care is essential. You are worth it. We need to make an effort each day to exercise, go for a walk, and take the time to take some deep mindful breaths. I encourage you, the one reading my blog, to do some self care today.

My Personal Tagline – Digitally Lit

In slang terms, when something is “lit” it means it is awesome, cool, or exciting. Lit is also the abbreviation for the terms literate and literacy. Through the Ed Tech courses I have taken this year, I am learning ways to become more digitally literate myself, and ways I can encourage my students to become digitally literate. Circling back, I have also come to realize that I am not as cool or awesome in the digital world, as I once thought. I have fallen behind. I was once cool, Apple-loving and pretty tech savvy. Now, my iMac is old and slow, my iPod rests in peace in the bottom of my nightstand, and I sport a Dell laptop (whomp whomp). MacBooks aren’t in the budget for teachers.

As someone who is not an overly active participant on social media, this reflection of taglines has me realizing that I am in need of an update… or regular updates. Staying up to date with technology is important for the sake of my teaching and my students. I’m looking forward to learning, critically examining, and honing my Ed Tech skills in this class.

Let me know what you think…

  • Do any famous taglines resonate with your use of technology (past or present)?
  • Do you connect with any of the taglines I mentioned?
  • What would your “Ed Tech Tagline” be?

I look forward to hearing from you.