Thank you for a wonderful semester. I was both enlightened and challenged, the perfect mix of what a class should be.
Thank you for a wonderful semester. I was both enlightened and challenged, the perfect mix of what a class should be.
The Use of AI in our Classrooms: Will it, or will it not enhance learning?
Will AI enhance learning? How much is too much? Are our, like many other professions, jobs at risk of being taken over by machines or robots? This week’s debate caused a whirlwind of thoughts that swirled around and I could not land on a hard yes or no. Perhaps if I was a robot, I could make this decision more easily.
I think that just as any new technology has brought initial resistance to learning, so has the use of AI.
Each type of technology that we have been presented with or have utilized in our classrooms has brought initial resistance, but we have consistently attempted to work through it to find a balanced approach of traditional methods and tech-based learning.
It is undeniable that there are utterly astonishing things AI is capable of in the field of education:
“AI is quickly gaining popularity in education, and it incorporates embedded computer systems to transcend the traditional view of AI as a supercomputer. For example, artificial intelligence (AI), computers, and integrated support equipments may be utilised to develop robots that enhance students’ educational experiences, starting with as basic as early childhood education.Timms – reports that cobots, which are robots that work alongside teachers, are used to teach young people the fundamental skills like orthography and pronunciation while adapting to the students’ capacities. . Additionally, web-based and online education has evolved beyond simply providing students with online or online material for downloading, studying, and completing assignments to include intelligent and adaptive Web-based systems that learn from instructor and student behaviour and adapt to improve the educational experience . According to Chassignol and colleagues, AI has been integrated into school administration, instruction, and teaching and learning .” (Alam)
More personalization and customization, and more effective distribution of course material are other undeniably beneficial points of AI’s capacities in education.
This all being said, I still find it all a tad frightening. We still need human contact, conversations, debates, free-thought, mistakes, and a bit of disorganization and mess.
Yes, teachers do have a responsibility to promote social justice using social media. To me, this is just a “no-brainer.”
Of course, we all want a better world for the next generation, so why not use our platforms, our voices, or any means possible to promote things that may improve the state of the world. We know that as teachers, we want our students to be good people and to be positive, contributing members of society.
We also know that our students’ main form of communication these days IS social media, so what better way to get these important messages across?
I know that it is our responsibility to educate our students on social justice issues using social media, because it is “speaking their language”, it is easily accessible, and addressing these issues are vital to the betterment of society.
Whether the issues covered are “touchy subjects’ or we fear backlash from parents for addressing taboo topics, we cannot deny that open communication about any given topic betters the situation.
As Jeff stated during our debate, “The world is not a safe place.”
It just isn’t. However, by advocating for social justice rights and by having these conversations, we can perhaps make it a little bit better.
We can prepare our students for the real world by teaching them to advocate for important human rights and then hopefully become activists to make the world a better place.
We do not want apathy.
We want to create a better society. We want advocates. We want leaders. We want helpers.
If we can achieve this in any way, we should. We see the example of the student-initiated protests in Chile and the success they had there. We also see the success of Great Thunberg’s climate change centered activism, and the snowball effect her efforts have had on countless youth around the globe. There are thousands of other examples of student led activism that has happened with the help of social media.
Despite being strongly in favour of using social media to promote social justice, I enjoyed debating this week and saw things from a new perspective during the live debate. Ramsel’s conversation surrounding the fact that neutrality can create critical thinkers was an especially good point.
However, we were still able to refute this point. We believe that you can post on social media about social justice issues WHILE maintaining neutrality.
Also, saying nothing IS saying something.
We feel like we can still be neutral, but still demonstrate to our students how to have a voice and to stand up for what they believe in regarding social justice issues.
We also know that yes, teachers do have a place on social media this day in age. Perhaps 10 years ago, this was the case, but now we see many instances of teachers vibrantly and successfully engaging in their classrooms on social media.
Yes, we may be primarily “curriculum deliverers” however we also have a responsibility to use social media to promote social justice.
Lastly, to borrow from last week’s debate, we know that it is not the sole responsibility of teachers to promote social justice, via social media or otherwise. It takes experts on the topics, parents AND teachers. Again,
“It takes a village.“
“Raise your hand if at twenty years old you were the most wholesome version of yourself” (Korf, 2017)
No, no I was not. Chances you weren’t, either. Nor at sixteen, or thirteen…
Imagine you are thirteen years old again. Greenday is blaring on your stereo in the background, and you’re scribbling in your diary with all of the teen angst you can muster. You go in to grand detail about your crush, your changing body, and your deepest and darkest desires. You feel a little bit better after writing out the day’s frustrations. You feel even better knowing that no one will ever read your diary, because you have a super clever hiding spot for it in the back of your closet, and an even more clever hiding spot for the key.
Now, imagine doing that in modern times. All of those embarrassing personal thoughts, published automatically for all to see…because instead of a journal, you have a cellphone at your disposal at all times. And you use that cellphone to type out your every thought, frustration, and whim on social media or via Snapchat. You likely don’t realize, as a teenager, that these posts likely will not remain private forever.
We have all looked back at posts from our early days on social media and “cringed.” Similarly, we have all had to discuss these types of things with our own students during “acceptable use” moments regarding technology.
Knowing this, and perhaps learning from our own experiences in the early days of social media, we should absolutely begin to help our students develop a positive digital footprint at a very early age.
As quoted by Keegan Korf in her Ted Talk, “it takes village to raise a child.”
In this debate, that adage most certainly rings true. Even though it is not the sole responsibility of educators, I firmly believe we as teachers do help play an important role. I am of the mindset that it takes guidance from a few areas of a students’ life. Parents or caregivers, teachers, their peers, and their own independent thoughts will all contribute to the development of their digital footprints.
Before this week’s debate, I knew what an active and passive digital footprint was, but I had never actually heard those terms. Hearing them labeled as such made me consider all of the multi-faceted aspects of a digital footprint, and how important it truly is to educate our students on the consequences of their actions online.
Now, I am not using the term “consequence” as a solely negative one. In this case, we can demonstrate all of the wonderful and positive outcomes that a digital footprint can create. Of course, there are lots of examples of how a negative footprint can cause harm, however leaving a positive footprint can be a good thing for a student’s future as well.
A quick Google search also led me to discover that there are tools to help track your current digital footprint, whether for personal use or your company. Websites such as:
came up when I searched for ways to track your online presence. I did not create an account to check my own, but I may one day. It could potentially become a teaching tool to have students check their own footprints, as well.
Keegan’s Ted Talk had so many other points that further convinced me that it is our responsibility as educators to help our students develop a digital footprint. She was honest, truthful, spoke from personal experience and concise. I also loved her positive outlook:
“What I’m trying to say is that there are simple things that can be done early on to demonstrate students the positive side of utilizing the internet, such as leaving a positive digital footprint as opposed to all the negative things they should continuously be on the lookout for.”
In short, I do believe that we can provide some guidance to help our students develop their digital footprints, but as stated in the “teenage bill of rights” we should also allow them to make some mistakes, and be a little forgiving to these young minds who are not currently “the most wholesome versions of themselves.”
“Technology has led to a more equitable society”
Oh, how wonderful would it be if this statement rang true. I knew from the get-go the answer, but yet I listened with rose-coloured anticipation, hoping to be convinced otherwise.
The potential that educational technology has to enhance learning, especially for those with varying abilities or for those in remote areas is limitless. There is one overarching hindrance, though:
Cash flow, funding, dollar dollar bills…however you word it, it is what is needed to have technology live up to its fullest potential in educational equity.
The possibilities in assistive technology alone would be enough to close this argument, but alas. Funding in the Education Sector, or lack thereof, holds us back.
One specific time in my teaching career came to mind immediately when this debate began. During remote learning while Covid had schools shut down, my students’ level of success directly correlated with their family’s income. It was just how it was.
We, of course, did everything in our power to help those students who did not have access to devices or strong internet, but we absolutely saw a glaring gap emerge between the students in the “have” and the students in the “have not” categories.
We provided devices to families who had none, and Sasktel even stepped up and provided internet to rural areas and farms without a solid internet connection. Nevertheless, the families with limited access all saw their kids struggle to keep up with assignments and access the scheduled meetings. Especially did we witness families with multiple kids who had to all share time on the device struggle in this case.
In “Bridging the Technological Divide in Education” from the Harvard Political Review, Alyvia Bruce further explores this dynamic and divide:
“The income inequality furthered by the advent of technology has propelled another troubling trend: educational inequality. Sean Reardon, a Stanford sociologist, identifies that educational achievement differences are more closely aligned with family income than any other demographic factor. Researchers have also shown that these achievement gaps have already begun growing by the time lower-income children reach kindergarten.
When all three of these phenomena — income inequality, the rise of technology, and education gaps — collide, it leads to troubling impacts on youth. The digital divide has especially pronounced effects on children, whose parents’ socioeconomic situation determines their ability to engage with increasingly technology-reliant educational materials. Nearly all schools across the US require at least some form of technology to complete assignments outside of the classroom. COVID-19, which has forced classrooms to adopt remote-learning softwares such as Zoom or Google Meet, has only accelerated this trend.”
It is sad but true to note that these economic divides are widespread all over the world, and likely even moreso in places outside of Canada. The ones that can afford technology will always have a leg up on gathering information, completing assignments faster, and being able to research more efficiently.
I want to see technology create a more equitable society, and I truly hope that one day it can.
The key takeaway from this week’s debate, for me, is that everything is okay in moderation. Social media is a fantastic tool for so many reasons. Most specifically, for creating connections in ways that never used to be possible. The negatives may currently seem to be outweighing the positive aspects, but this is an opportunity for some teachable moments about finding a balance between virtual reality and regular reality.
Social media may not be “ruining” childhood, but things will never be like the “good old days” again. My only thought is that of course, we can’t completely ban social media, however we as adults and educators need to help our children find a balance between their real and their virtual identities. The theme of identity comes up in the middle years curriculums, and more so now than ever, has the idea of an online presence been a factor in thinking about identity. Our job is to include and foster that aspect of their lives, but to continue to encourage making face to face connections, and developing speaking and language skills as well.
My generation is the last to have known life both pre social media and post. I grew up in the 1990s where things definitely seemed simpler, people were more connected, and our world seemed safer in general.
We used to play outdoors all evening, with our only guidance being: “Make sure you’re home by the time the streetlamps came on.” Now, the internet and social media makes the sharing of information so much easier and rapid, that instances of crime or predators in your neighborhood are much more widely known. This is a benefit, of course, however growing up without the ever looming thought of doom was kind of nice, I suppose: ignorance can be bliss.
At family gatherings, we would visit, learn cribbage, help in the kitchen, and play. There wasn’t a piece of technology in sight, except maybe a movie on in the background on The Wonderful World of Disney on CBC or a Blue Jays game. Now, I watch my younger cousins be glued to their Nintendo Switches or making TikTok dances instead of just being present.
At school, we’d explore the playground. Or we’d just sit and talk on the baseball bleachers. We would play kickball and grounders at recess, or tetherball, or skip rope. Now, my middle years students generally spend their recesses scrolling their apps, huddled in a corner.
We’d stare out the window on road trips with nothing but the flat Saskatchewan terrain to look at for 4 hours straight (and the odd cow)…On second thought, maybe it would have been nice to have some apps to scroll instead of that particular example.Otherwise, I can say I wholeheartedly enjoyed growing up in an era sans social media. In the spirit of remaining remain positive, I do believe that the height of social media may have recently peaked, and that we are now beginning to witness apps have time restrictions, and support for social media addictions. Hopefully, we have learned from watching the height of social media’s evil side and we can now educate our children and students to both use it in a positive way, and to limit our use. This will hopefully, in turn, lead to a more balanced approach and functional society.
An article I found while doing some research for this topic offers a perspective from a former high-up employee of Facebook:
“Speaking at a recent event at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Chamath Palihapitiya – a former vice president for user growth at Facebook – expressed a concern that social media platforms have become “tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” said Palihapitiya, according to a report from The Verge. Interactions such as ‘liking’ a photograph or ‘favoriting’ a tweet are perhaps more about short-term gratification than the basis for meaningful communication and relationships, Palihapitiya suggested.”
It really says something if the VP of user growth at Facebook’s opinion is this, or that the CEO of Tiktok doesn’t let his kids use the app at all:
After watching Eva Amin’s Ted Talk “Social Media isn’t bad: you’re just using it wrong” my thoughts about limiting use and finding a balance were further exemplified. I agree with her argument that social media itself is not the problem, and can be used to “support personal fulfillment and professional success – if used judiciously.” I thought her guidelines and the way the she outlined how it can be a helpful, and even inspiring, tool were a very positive take on this matter. She spoke about following people that inspire you, challenge you to be a better person , or to follow accounts that make you happy. I am all for this, and that is why my social media timelines are full of puppies and recipes
So, let’s all encourage each other and our students to get outside a little more, connect face to face a little more; but also that a little bit of mindful scrolling and connecting virtually is okay, too.
Balance is key!
Technology definitely enhances learning. Technology doesn’t ALWAYS enhance learning, but it definitely does enhance it…most of the time…some of the time…wait, no. Technology should be banned in schools. Let’s go back to the basics…
Wait…what about students with exceptional abilities? They need technology to support their learning. Yes, schools should definitely have tech available for all students. But…wait. What about factoring in privilege, accessibility, and perhaps the biggest hinderance to many school districts: funding? Oh, and furthermore…what about addiction related to technology? Online bullying? Too much screen time? These conflicting thoughts and aspects of this multi-faceted argument ping-ponged in my mind as I weighed both sides.
I took the week to ponder and attempt to reach to a firm conclusion. At first, I was very adamantly on the side of “yes, of course technology definitely and most certainly always enhances learning.” I thought it was a complete no-brainer. However, as I listened to the two sides of the debate and the coinciding Ted Talks, and read this week’s articles, I became more of a fence-sitter.
I have certainly witnessed technology as a huge use for tackling the task of teaching in a triple-grade classroom. When I taught in rural Saskatchewan, this was the only way to successfully cover the majority of three curriculums for three entire grades in one school year. Two grades could be working on an assignment previously posted on Google classroom, while I taught the other grade, and we could rotate through this way to fill our day. Of course, there’s also the usefulness when it comes to assisted learning efforts. I have seen this virtually every year as a useful tool, and each year in completely new and further advanced way.
“Some educators noted that technology helped them provide additional flexibility in sharing education materials and tracking assignments. For example, the use of individual learning programs can offer students the ability to work at their own pace. It allows them to reread lessons with written and visual cues to ensure the material is fully understood and digested. This is of particular benefit for those with mild learning disabilities, particularly in the areas of reading or writing. The use of assistive technology is another clear example of how students with disabilities can benefit. Interviewees specifically noted that broader integration of technology in the classroom removes the stigma of assistive technology for students with functional needs for education. While 10 years ago, technology may have been an identifier of a student with a disability, today, it can unite and bring students together. A common example is text-to-speech software, which can help students who have difficulties reading standard print.81 Educational software offerings from the large technology companies in this space are also working to improve accessibility through the use of a variety of features such as high-contrast modes, screen magnifying/resolution options, predictive text, and guided access for those with autism or other attention or sensory challenges. 82 83 This was experienced first-hand by one Canadian educator interviewed in this study who noted witnessing verbal translation (via voice-to-text software) help bridge the communication divide for a deaf student who was also learning English.”
These examples are just a few of hundreds of ways that teachers use technology to enhance and support learning. I am still a member of this side of the argument, but I did waver a bit after reading the articles and listening to the argument on the other side…especially after learning that some members of Silicon Valley’s tech world send their own children to schools that have a no tech policy.
As Wexler comments, technology can often just become a distraction, or be used to siphon misinformation from the vast world wide web. It can also lead to laziness where students may have the attitude of “I’ll just Google it” instead of memorizing facts.
These few bits made me rethink my stance, and while valid, don’t supersede the general helpfulness of technology in classrooms.
Viva la tech!
Approaching ‘Digital Citizenship’ in my classroom has become as normal as defining classroom expectations at the start of each school year. I have the students give their input for defining classroom expectations both in person and online for the year. They usually come up with the same answers each time we do this, with some guidance or prompting from me. They know the difference between right and wrong (generally) by the time they reach the middle years, they just lose their way sometimes (I blame hormones). Beyond our own personal regulations that students help define, our school division has a “BYOT” policy (bring your own technology) where the students and their parents can sign forms that include a list of rules and expectations for the school year. These policies include appropriate use, and general “Netiquette.”
The overarching goal: Educating our students to be as kind online as they would be in real life. Or even moreso.
Besides general rules and guidelines, I feel as though it is also important to discuss topics like online relationship building. Commenting (or not commenting) on each other’s social media posts is a huge deal to kids at this vulnerable age. They do things like maintain ‘Snapstreaks’, form private group chats, post stories and photos, and ‘like’ or ‘comment’ on each other’s posts with things like hearts or fire emojis to show signs of approval or inclusion. Things that may seem miniscule to adults can weigh on their minds and make them feel included or left out at the mere click of a button.
Becoming citizens in their online community will also help them to foster relationships with people that have similar interests. I see this being a huge benefit, especially in small rural schools with small populations. The chances of having the exact same interests as someone in a class of 8 are slim to none…so they can turn to the wonderful and expansive internet to seek out companionship.
We as teachers should also aim to assist our students in structuring their identities, and then to nurture or foster growth in a responsible manner. Also, to challenge their critical thinking, and to help them to create as an outlet.
Lastly, for the betterment of society! We live online, so let’s utilize it for the better, and teach our students to do the same.
My initial reaction to ChatGPT and other forms of conversational AI is one of sheer amazement. It has been one of those things that since we began discussing it, I have literally noticed it everywhere. The various and extensive abilities it already has are impressive. Though impressive, comments and perspectives around the web are heavily present with looming thoughts of “will it eventually replace me or my job?” or “How can it do that so realistically and efficiently?” or “Why do the images it produces look so demonic?…”
Here are a few of the things I have spotted recently…
Write a children’s book:
Pass a medical license and MBA exam:
Generate images of people (that have never existed) at a party (that never happened):
Compose a song:
Compose music “in the style of” a number of specific artists,
or The Beatles:
All of this is simultaneously remarkable and a bit terrifying. I am interested in watching its capacities in various fields, and specifically in education evolve even more, however cautiously so. I am undecided if the end result will be more so beneficial or detrimental to learning but for now, all we can do is embrace it and not view it as the enemy…yes…we should absolutely stay on its “good side.”
Hello, everyone. I am excited to begin this interactive & educational endeavor in the wonderful world of blogging! I am a graduate of The University of Regina, having completed my undergraduate degree in 2010 in the Arts Education program with a major in Visual Art and a minor in Literature. I have been a teacher for 12 years, and have taught everything from Kindergarten to Grade 12. Most recently, I taught a middle years classroom for seven years at James Hamblin School in Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan. I am working on my Masters Degree remotely, while on maternity leave. I currently reside in Calgary with my fiancé, daughter, dog, and cat. These four members of my family may periodically appear in the background of our Zoom meetings (especially Gordo the dachshund, he’s my shadow).
I am thankful for this opportunity to continue my education alongside you all and to learn about contemporary issues in educational technology. I am fairly comfortable with technology, but its ever evolving nature makes me highly aware that there is always so much more to learn. The constant “newness” is what draws me to tech-based teaching, as there is always something that sparks my middle year’s students interests in its relevance. My current “day in the life” related to technology includes many hours of “Bluey” on the Disney+ app, Violet the “Leap and Learn” talking robot dog, and navigating the rest of new baby tech, from monitors to Blue tooth Baby Brezza bottle warmers. The technology present in the baby industry is absolutely wild.
As for my regular life outside of new mom-ness, and more related to teaching and learning, the tools I used were well-received in my classroom. Teaching middle years, they kept me updated with “what’s trending” on apps like Tiktok and Snapchat. These tools helped in discussions on current events or contributed fun prompts for drama, music, and dance. We use Google Classroom, and our Smartboard all day, every day. Since the influx of Covid and the hybrid learning situations that ensued, I just got in the habit of posting all assignments directly to Google Classroom. This helped significantly, especially with absent students and their homework. It was so easy for them to just log on from anywhere and complete their missing work. They could also easily send me a note for any needed clarification, which was also great. Other than my professional uses for technology, I gravitate toward either Instagram, Twitter, or Reddit to scroll through in my down-time and to connect with like-minded people.
I look forward to learning alongside you all during this semester!