Author Archives: Valeska Porras

Should educators take on the responsibility of using technology and social media to promote social justice?🤔

Technology has most certainly engrained itself in the present lives of our youths. Teens are becoming more and more dependent on technology and we can not deny that there is a fascination among our youths today that is centered around social media. A huge part of how teens interact with one another nowadays is linked to the use of different social media platforms and the accessibility to information has been ramped up by technology. People are using social media to communicate, share, connect, and even advocate for one another. We are seeing more people advocating for different social justice issues online and taking a stance on a variety of topics. We can not dispute that “ technology is accelerating the rate at which ideas, relationships, and information are shared and that mass distribution [as well as] the ability to effortlessly share information has influenced many facets of modern life, changing the way we think about, connect to, and engage with social justice and activism” (Marville University, 2023). With the increase in the use of technology, educators are now left pondering whether they have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice.

 

While finishing my undergraduate degree, it was voiced by many professors and colleagues that I should be careful with what I chose to share on social media with others and it was stressed that privacy could be hard to attain because we were continuously in the public eye. I quickly came to understand that educators are held to a high standard and every little thing we say or do is being analyzed and critiqued by the public. Every school year I have students that tell me upon meeting me that they or their parents went searching for me on social media and on the internet; some of them do a deep dive and will pull up information that I had even forgotten about or was not aware was somewhere online. Part of me can sympathize with parents that are curious to get to know their child’s teacher and make sure they are responsible citizens. However, there is another part of me that feels exposed and vulnerable because I can not have a little more privacy in my daily life. It is also very common to run into students/families when doing different errands or going out for supper with friends and family, thus educators need to be mindful of their behaviour as well as how they portray themselves when they are out and about. It seems that educators are often being observed underneath a magnifying glass and any stance we take on differing issues is ready to be highlighted.

 

At the beginning of my career, I was very concerned that parents would think I had an agenda when it came to the different topics I taught in class; this was particularly true when it came to any controversial topics that were taught in the classroom. As a woman pertaining to a racialized group, I had this fear that parents would think I was teaching with an agenda in mind – especially when we discussed issues of race or topics relating to Truth and Reconciliation. I would even triple-check to make sure what I was teaching reflected the outcomes in the curriculum. Additionally, I made certain that my administration was on board with what I was teaching and was always aware of the different topics being discussed in class. Having my administration back me up was reassuring and gave me the confidence to discuss controversial topics freely in my classroom. As a new teacher, I recall it was important for me to remain “neutral” on a variety of topics – in retrospect, I can link this feeling of uncertainty about what was appropriate to teach in the classroom to a fear of backlash and inexperience.

 

Now that I have more experience teaching, I have come to understand that teachers hold power and infinite amounts of responsibility. I believe it is our job to teach our students to act responsibly and think critically for themselves. On many occasions, we use the classroom as a starting point to discuss controversial topics and it is in the classroom where we pass on various morals and values to students that we hope will make them better overall human beings in the future. From a young age, we teach children at school that we do not lie, we do not steal, we do not hit/hurt others and we treat others how we would like to be treated. We discuss the concept of bullying and intimidation and teach students to embrace the concept of acceptance while celebrating our differences and unique attributes. Additionally, we teach students to not only respect others but to also take a stand when injustices are taking place; we also strive to ensure our students show empathy and compassion for others. Educators do all this in a guiding manner to help students reach these outcomes of their own volition.

 

I believe that educators can discuss controversial subjects with their students while voicing their stance on the issues at hand. The trick is to create a safe classroom environment where students feel they can express themselves wholeheartedly without fear of repercussions and that all students feel like their voices are being heard as well as their contributions in class discussions are valued. I feel strongly that educators have the responsibility to teach for social justice in their classrooms – especially considering the times we are currently living in. Furthermore, I consider the use of social media to introduce different instances of social justice taking place worldwide an excellent alternative.

“Social media has provided a dynamic avenue for activists to spread their messages and reach a wider audience on the global stage… [Social media provides a] sense of togetherness and collective consciousness allows individuals to be seen and to be heard by others and encourages people to share their own stories without fear of judgment or that they are alone in their struggles” (Gehr, 2021).

Taking into consideration the huge role social media plays in our students’ day-to-day life, I think it would be wise that we use this avenue to promote social justice initiatives while building on the sense of community.

Who should be responsible for helping children develop their digital footprints?🤔

In today’s class, we discussed the fact that teachers hold a lot of power and thus, have control over what we consider a priority – what is important – in our classrooms. There is no doubt that technology has become quite predominant in education over the past couple of decades. As educators strive to remain innovative, engaging, and relevant in their profession, technology has become a tool that allows them to reach these goals when teaching their students. I do not believe anyone in the education sector is questioning the relevance of using technology in the classroom. However, as we examined in class today, there is a question pertaining to the role educators play when introducing different technologies to their students; more precisely, are we as educators responsible for teaching our students to act accordingly online while helping them establish a digital footprint?

 

Jeffrey Rosen article entitled The Web Means the End of Forgetting pushes us to consider “how to live our lives in a world where the Internet records everything and forgets nothing — where every online photo, status update, Twitter post and blog entry by and about us can be stored forever” (2010). This statement is powerful, and I feel our children/youth need to understand that their digital trails and digital footprints can not be erased and can be accessed long after they might not want them to be available. Something I discuss with my daughter and have gone over with her since she started using technology was that once something is on the Web, it is there for good and can not be removed. In a way, it is sad that teens at present need to come to terms that the internet along with their digital footprints prohibit their behaviour and actions from staying under the radar. I have always voiced that I am glad we did not have social media when I was younger to broadcast our daily activities and many of my friends share this sentiment along with the opinion that we had privacy growing up. It is no secret that children/teenagers do not have the best judgment and that it is during those stages of life that children/adolescents make many mistakes while transitioning to adulthood. No one is perfect and we can all attest that on our way to becoming respected members of society, we committed many mistakes; the difference between my generation and that of our youth today is that their mistakes are being continuously recorded and broadcasted which does not allow people to forget or forgive their transgressions (Rosen, 2010).

 

Paul Davis’ TEdTalk “Accountability & Responsibility in a Digital World” also provided some insightful information regarding digital trails and digital footprints. He starts off his video with a simple question and encourages his audience to consider the reasons that children might get in trouble when using technology. When I started to reflect on the previous question, I came up with one predominant answer that revolved around the notion that children are not being taught or guided to act responsibly when establishing their digital trails and digital footprints. Parents teach and guide their children whenever they are encountering something new. For example, I taught my daughter how to cross the street – I taught her how to stop and look both ways before crossing and we practiced numerous times before she was “old” enough to do it on her own. I held her hand and guided her so she would be prepared to cross the street responsibly on her own when the time came. The same principle applies to teaching and guiding our children to use technology responsibly. Davis explains that it is parents’ responsibility to guide children when engaging with technology because they put the technology into their hands. He also highlights the importance of explaining the concepts of responsibility and accountability to kids. It is important for kids to understand that they are responsible for their actions and that they should want to act responsibly when dealing with technology while considering if their actions would make their parents proud. Furthermore, he proceeds to explain that adults have an ethical and moral obligation to guide children when dealing with technology.

 

I feel that parents should be responsible for helping their children create their digital footprints. Parents can help guide kids toward creating the kind of footprint they can be proud of by following these steps: 1) being a role model to their children; 2) explaining the use of privacy settings to protect their information; 3) discussing the type of image they would like to portray online; and 4) taking turns to search yourselves to see what information pops up” (Common Sense Media, 2018). I wholeheartedly believe that educators play a role in teaching digital citizenship at school and can set guidelines for students when using technology at school. Nonetheless, the task of helping kids develop a digital footprint should be the responsibility of parents and should start at home. Teachers can assist, teach, and guide students while they are at school, but once children leave the classroom their online activity is out of our hands. In all honesty, once kids gain access to technology, their online activity is out of our hands and that is why it is crucial that adults take on the responsibility of teaching and guiding children to develop their digital footprints in a responsible manner where they are being held accountable for their actions.

Trying to bring digital equity into the classroom to create meaningful learning opportunities for students 😊

The concept of an equitable society is one that the education sector strives to embrace while fully understanding that at times it can be unattainable in certain circumstances. “Equity [can be defined as] just and fair inclusion; an equitable society is one in which all can participate and prosper. [Furthermore], the goals of equity must be to create conditions that allow all to reach their full potential” (Natural Resources Defense Council, 2019). I believe that all educators have a common goal to try to attain an equitable society that is free from oppression and discrimination. Therein lies the challenge of schools trying to overcome “ the prejudice and discrimination of one social group against another [that is] backed by institutional power [which allows] oppression [to take place where] one group is able to enforce its prejudice and discrimination throughout society because it controls the institutions” (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2017, p. 61). As educators, we are constantly looking for tools that can lead us to a more equitable society where all students can flourish and reach their full potential and this week’s debate encouraged us to consider the role that technology plays regarding equity within education. As with most of the debates presented in class up to this point, I can appreciate both sides of this argument. On the one hand, I can understand that for many individuals educational technologies have allowed for equity to take place within the classroom while for others technology has further enhanced the educational technology gap among students.

 

For starters, I am fortunate to work at a school that houses a Junior and Senior FIAP (The Functional Integrated Academic Program) program. The programming and instruction of our FIAP programs are quite different from our other classrooms in the school. The needs of our FIAP students are diverse and each has a unique plan – based on their needs – in place to ensure that they can be successful at school. For instance, I have witnessed how technology can assist nonverbal students to communicate in a class setting and partake in daily activities. I have also observed how students with visual impairments have used a braille reading system at school to follow along in classroom activities and used applications to read instructions/stories to them. Furthermore, I am lucky to work at a school that values the use of technology at school and hence, we have different educational technology available to teachers and students because of this stance regarding technology in the classroom. We have a couple of computer carts and an iPad cart that staff can sign out and use daily if they want to as well as a few smartboards spread out throughout the school. These technology carts are a nice tool to have when students have work periods and it allows students to complete different assignments at school if they do not have access to technology at home. There is no doubt in my mind that if we were to ask teachers that have used some of the aforementioned educational technology to enhance their students’ experience at school, they would all express that educational technology has brought forth equity in some capacity to their students’ learning.

 

 

While it is a great thing to underline all the opportunities educational technology can grant our students, it is also important to take note of the different instances where technology might be unbalancing the “education playing field” for our students. Teaching virtually during the pandemic confirmed the current problem we have concerning the digital learning gap and highlighted various inequalities within our classrooms. When we were pushed to teach online during the pandemic, we became aware that not all students had access to the same technology which causes inequity when being asked to complete assignments online and to participate in virtual meetings on Zoom or Google Meet. Many of our younger students were not always able to log on to virtual meetings if their caregivers were not present to help them maneuver all the technology they were being asked to use and many did not always complete the assignments. Not to mention, all students do not always have access to the internet when they are at home and we need to understand that socioeconomic status can play a role in accessibility to the internet as well. Additionally, Bruce explains that “while socioeconomic status and race play a role in a child’s ability to access the internet at home, so does location. When household income is held constant, students who live in rural areas are less likely to have internet access than students who live in urban areas” (2020). I can not deny that there is indeed an educational technology gap that seems to be present in schools and it is important that educators contemplate this issue when incorporating technology into their teaching to ensure all their students have a quality education founded on equity for all.

 

It is crucial to consider what could hinder achieving equity in the classroom so that we can identify these inequalities and begin to bridge the educational technology gap. I do not believe that this will be an easy fix seeing as we have huge issues that affect equity in the classroom that is deep-rooted in the institution of education. To truly free ourselves from oppressive tendencies in education and level the playing field for all students we would have to dismantle the institution of education as a whole and build it back up. Bruce proposes the following suggestion to aid in bridging the educational technology gap: “the goal of providing everyone with an equal, high-level education cannot occur within the current system. The root of the issue lies in the need for a foundational educational reform nationwide. Everyone deserves a fair chance at educational success, and the only way to achieve this for all students is by reforming educational institutions from the ground up” (2020). Reforming educational institutions from the ground up might take some time, but there are steps educators can take to try to bridge the educational technological gap in the meantime. We could try the following to help develop digital equity within our classroom: 1) understand our current students’ tech capabilities and concerns; 2) try out new apps and platforms before having students use them for assignments/homework; 3) create a tech equity vision with students; and 4) reconsider homework policies that deal with technology (Common Sense Education, 2019). I also believe that consistency among classrooms within a school could be beneficial when establishing policies linked to the use of technology and that collaborating with colleagues or simply just having a dialogue to ensure that all our students are receiving the same information will be helpful to create digital equity within a school. For example, in our primary classrooms, we have decided to use three literacy-based applications with our students and have ensured to create accounts for all our students to these platforms that are used in class and can be used at home as well. All primary teachers have tried out these applications to help troubleshoot in the future and to make sure that they are user-friendly for students with minimal glitches. It is also very helpful that we have a schoolwide digital policy that we send home at the beginning of the year and parents as well as their children have to sign it before having access to the technology that is available at school. I am in no way saying we can fix the digital equity problem at present with these few suggestions. I am simply looking for different opportunities to try to bring digital equity into my classroom and to create meaningful learning opportunities for my students that are growing up in a digital age surrounded by endless amounts of technology.

Social media has the potential to be a powerful tool in education when used accordingly

Social media has developed into something quite powerful and predominant in the lives of youth nowadays. These digital natives born in an era where they are surrounded by technology, rely heavily on social media as a way to stay connected and informed. Almost all teens have some form of social media they are signed up to use and we can attest to the fact that they use it regularly. Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and Facebook seem to be among some of the more popular platforms; watching online videos is also ranked as a favourite pastime for both tweens and teens (Common Sense Census, 2021). Whether or not we understand our youth’s fascination with social media, I think we can all agree that over the years the interest in social media platforms has increased and will most likely continue to increase in the future.

 

Social Media is fast becoming a popular communication tool used worldwide. In 2021, the Common Sense Census revealed that 94% of tweens and teens had a smartphone which facilitates having access to different social media platforms. Smartphones and social media platforms are creating opportunities for our youth to stay connected with one another and as it was mentioned in this week’s debate, social media platforms are providing our teens with opportunities to engage in different social interactions with each other. Having a big chunk of my family in South America, I can vouch for how social media platforms have allowed me to connect with family members across the globe and to get a glimpse at their lives even though we’re not in the same country. During our debate this week, it was mentioned that social media can also build a sense of community while providing instances of support to teens from vulnerable groups. Furthermore, we are seeing more instances of youth having their voices heard, advocating for others, and coming together to organize movements for change through the use of social media in this digital age. In my EC&I 822 class last semester we revealed

“that young people perceive social media as a platform for expression and communication” (Cortés-Ramos et al., 2021, p. 10).

Additionally, “given [our] social nature, human beings have a constant need for interacting, cooperating, and communicating with others to work towards [satisfying our] multiple needs” (Cortés-Ramos et al., 2021, p. 1). The possibilities seem endless when we consider all the favourable opportunities that can arise from using social media.

 

However, with endless amounts of possibilities, comes an abundant amount of risks as well. As discussed during our debate this week, ensuring our children’s online safety becomes an issue when dealing with social media and it can be difficult to determine the context of our youth’s interactions on these platforms. While some children are engaging in healthy forms of interactions on social media by lending their support to others and various social movements, many children use this platform to engage in cyberbullying. “In a national study of over 1500 students aged 10-15, 33% experienced online harassment [over the course of the] year” (Charmaraman et. al., 2021). Additionally, Sebastián Bortnik’s TED Talk explains the troubling truth behind grooming and how it is linked to the use of social media. This TED Talk explains the risks our children and teens can encounter using the internet and it mentions how easily we are allowing strangers to have access to our children through social media. Researchers are also expressing their concern about social media lending to anxiety disorders, depression, suicides, and problematic attachment behaviours to social media such as FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out) where teens are compulsively checking their phones constantly. Finally, there are also some discrepancies when we consider younger children bypassing age restrictions to allow them access to different social media platforms; “a UK study found that 73% of 10-12-year-olds had signed up for social media despite the age restrictions” (Charmaraman et. al., 2021).

 

Social media is rapidly becoming an integral part of our children’s lives. Everywhere we turn there seems to be a new social media platform being launched that is calling out to youth to try it out. I honestly do not see our children ceasing to use social media in the future. If we refer to the Common Sense Census from 2021, the average entertainment screen time used by tweens and teens was 8 hours and 39 minutes per day and it was up 17% from 2019. I do feel like eight hours is a little excessive when we are talking about healthy screen time use for youth and I believe that a healthy balance between tech time use and non-tech time use would benefit children in the long run. Most importantly, I believe parents and educators have an important role in helping kids understand different social media platforms and how to engage with them responsibly. Digital citizenship is something that should be taught in collaboration with both parents and teachers focusing on explaining healthy, safe, and responsible behaviors when maneuvering all the different social media platforms that are accessible. It would be best that we try to understand the current fascination our youth has regarding social media and use this new platform to our advantage to reach as well as connect with youth today.

Educational technology can be the perfect tool to enhance learning in the classroom

A popular debate that we have pondered over the years would have to be regarding educational technology and whether it is indeed more beneficial to our students or more harmful to them. The reality is we can argue both sides of this argument and when it comes to technology there are always advantages and disadvantages. This is also true when we consider educational technology used in the classroom to enhance our students’ learning. Our students are being brought up in a digital age and are exposed to technology and surrounded by it from childhood. These digital natives are immersed in technology from an early age and have the difficult task of learning how to maneuver all these different types of informational technologies while learning to decipher all the positives and negatives linked to the technology they are learning to navigate.

 

This week’s debate focussed on analyzing the use of technology in the classroom and whether it enhances our students’ learning. Both debate teams did an excellent job of presenting different benefits and drawbacks when we consider using technology in our classrooms and made valid arguments regarding the ability of educational technology to enhance our students’ learning. If we have ever used technology in the classroom with our students, we can agree that technology is a great tool that engages our students, promotes collaboration amongst students, and adds a fun factor to our teaching (Himmelbach, 2022). We can also agree that technology allows our students to easily access information and it helps various students follow along and further their understanding when introduced properly (Explorance, 2022). On the other hand, anyone that has ever used technology in the classroom can attest to the fact that technology is amazing until it does not work, and we encounter technical problems. Some researchers argue that technology serves as a distraction in the classroom and can overstimulate some students. Technology can also be quite pricey which leads to drawbacks in dealing with expenses and can bring forth issues with equity. I truly believe we could side with either argument presented in class and our final answer concerning this discussion will depend greatly on our personal experiences with technology as well as our beliefs pertaining to technology in the classroom.

 

Technology is something that has kept evolving over the years and we have been able to bare witness to this when we observe how educational technology has evolved over the course of time. If I compare what my experience with educational technology in the classroom was like to that of my students currently, it is two very different worlds of possibilities.

The learning environment is more dynamic than ever before, and as a result, today’s learners are learning in a way that [is] very different from how our educational system was originally designed” (Explorance, 2022).

Looking back at my experience with technology in the classroom as a student, I recall us having a computer lab where we would get the chance to work with typing software, spelling games, and a computer game called Math Blaster. The majority of our research was done in a school library and the internet was something relatively new that we started exploring in high school. Nowadays, students have a plethora of educational technology that is available to them that they can use to further their learning in the classroom. Numerous educational apps, educational software, assessment tools, and audio-visual tools are available for educators to use to enhance their students’ learning when introduced and incorporated into their teaching with meaning and purpose.

 

As an educator, I use technology with my students on a daily basis to enhance their learning and enrich my teaching. For example, we use a projector daily so that my kiddos can follow along and stay focused on our lessons. I use PowerPoint and Canva to create visual-aid tools for my students in French. I also use YouTube and the internet to gain access to teaching resources in French – which in the past used to be harder to find and the selection of resources was very limited and at times outdated. Furthermore, I love using different educational apps – such as Kahoot or Quizlet – as assessment tools in our classroom to track the kiddos’ progress and assess their level of understanding. I also use Boom Cards to introduce new concepts/vocabulary to my students in French and I am a big fan of creating QR codes to support literacy and numeracy centers in my classroom which turns our classroom iPads into digital workbooks. For me, it is a no-brainer and I full-heartedly believe technology enhances our students’ learning in the classroom. I will say though that if you choose to integrate technology into your teaching, you need to ensure that you are preparing your material (and testing it out) ahead of time and finding ways to incorporate technology in meaningful ways that will further your students’ learning. We can not just use technology for the sake of saying we use it – technology needs to be integrated into our teaching with purpose so that our students can get the most out of it and they can enhance their learning through the use of technology.

 

Scott Wedman’s TED Talk explains that technology is ever-evolving and that it is here to stay. As educators, we are required to stay relevant and up-to-date with teaching tools and strategies. Teaching in the 21st century leads us to consider the responsibility we have as educators to present our students with a variety of educational technology throughout their academic career since they are an integral part of their lives and as educators, we need to consider teaching our students to be responsible when using all these different types of technology. Seeing as technology is not going anywhere anytime soon, educators should be focussing on the different educational technology currently available to them that could be used in the classroom to enhance their students’ learning as well as teaching digital citizenship in the classroom to ensure students are safe and responsible when engaging with technology.

What is my role in the classroom regarding digital citizenship? 🤔

We currently live in a digital age where we are surrounded by technology everywhere we look. Our children are considered to be digital natives that are being brought up in a society that heavily relies on the use of technology to function and we can not dispute the fact that technology plays a leading role in the lives of our younger generations. Looking back at my own experiences as a student, I can honestly admit there has been a significant shift in the use of technology in the classroom and I am noticing that we rely on technology more and more every day. Things have certainly changed over the past 30 years when it comes to technology and “with this rapid change comes the need [educate ourselves on] digital citizenship – the roles, responsibilities, and skills for navigating digital life” (Future Learn, 2021).

Since technology plays such an integral role in the development of our student’s lives, it would only make sense that schools take on the task of teaching digital citizenship within the classroom. I believe that a key concept to consider when teaching digital citizenship to children is to highlight the importance of acting responsibly while staying safe. As Susan Halfpenny from the University of York explains

“On a simplistic level, we might take digital citizenship as the ability to access digital technologies and stay safe…However, we also need to consider and understand the complexities of citizenship as we start to become a digital citizen, using digital media to actively participate in society and political life” (Future Learn, 2021).

Therefore, we are not only wanting to teach our children how to access digital technologies in a responsible and safe manner, but we are also encouraging them to be respectful members of society – whether they are offline or online. In the grand scheme of things, I feel that educators are striving to ensure their students not only become digital citizens that can access different digital technologies responsibly, but educators are also attempting to help their students become good digital citizens “who [are] informed about the various issues that come with the incredible benefits of technology” (Future Learn, 2021).

I believe that every teacher will introduce the topic of digital citizenship in their classroom in their own unique way to fit the needs of their students. Teaching digital citizenship is a very delicate concept and there can be many approaches one can take when teaching it to different groups of students. My students are a little bit younger and I consider what I teach them regarding digital citizenship to be more of a stepping point/introduction to digital citizenship that my colleagues can, later on, elaborate on in the following years. When I first introduce any new technology or app to my students, I ensure to walk them through step by step while reiterating my expectations numerous times. For example, when we try out Kahoot for the first time, we do this as a whole group from accessing the website to logging in and starting to play the game together; we wait to ensure that everyone is logged on and on the correct website (and I love to watch how classmates that manage to log-on quicker than others, will try to help out their classmates if they are getting frustrated). Those first few times, we also discuss the importance of selecting appropriate nicknames and avatars. When they are so young, you have to ensure to explain everything from locating the URL bar to getting them to accurately input websites and log-in information (this sounds like an easy task, but I can not tell you how many times I have provided my kiddos with websites/log-in info and they are not able to log-in because they have input their information incorrectly lol). With my Grade 2’s, I am trying to help them become independent while also encouraging them to act responsibly so that I can trust them when they are accessing different technologies during class time. It is impossible to think I will be able to keep track of 23 students during tech time and be able to watch over all of them at all times; hence, it is extremely important that I can trust my kiddos to act responsibly and respectfully while we are engaging with different digital technologies in class. It is essential for my students to understand that they need to make good choices when it comes to using technology within our classroom. We go over repeatedly what my expectations are when it comes to how they behave online/offline and how they treat others. Being respectful and responsible is huge for this age group when we begin to introduce digital citizenship in the classroom. I also find it incredibly helpful that any website I am sharing with my kiddos and giving them access to, I have already explored ahead of time to ensure it is appropriate while coinciding with our curricular objectives. Within our school, we also send home a contract at the beginning of the school year regarding the use of technology that parents (and students) must read and sign before their child gains access to different technologies available at school.

With our ever-growing use of technology, it makes the most sense that schools would take on the role of preparing students to interact with all these different technologies accordingly. It is certainly a demanding task that educators have been entrusted with. We are asking educators to introduce students to a variety of digital technologies, teach our kids how to access them responsibly, remain safe while interacting with them, and be respectful members of society (online and offline). I do not believe there is one specific way we properly teach digital citizenship – as I mentioned earlier in this post, how we approach the topic of digital citizenship within our classroom will vary greatly depending on the group of students and their needs. What I can communicate confidently is that schools do have a responsibility to introduce the concept of digital citizenship and set up our kids to become good digital citizens that can think critically about all the positives as well as the negatives that are linked to the abundant amount of technology we have at our fingertips.

AI Tools could encourage us to change the teaching game

When exploring technology, one key concept that jumps to the forefront is that it is ever-evolving. This holds to be true when we examine the abundant amount of educational technology we have at our fingertips and all the diversity it encompasses. There always seems to be a new program, software, or application that is being released. The technology that is available to educators and students nowadays is very different from what was available 30 years ago in the classroom. At times, it can feel a little overwhelming to try and stay current with all this new technology while figuring out ways to incorporate it into the curriculum. As more and more technology becomes available, I find myself analyzing the role that technology plays in our everyday lives and I can’t help to consider all the different advantages and disadvantages that can be linked to technology.

Following our lecture this week, we were encouraged to familiarize ourselves with one of the different AI tools presented in class. I will be honest, this was the first I was hearing of all the different AI tools we discussed in class (i.e. ChatGPT, Dall-E , or Tome). I was just blown away by the concept of ChatGPT. The idea that we can have this unlimited amount of information easily accessible to anyone and made available to us within seconds was mindboggling to me. I started exploring ChatGPT right after class to understand what this tool was all about. “ChatGPT [is a] website [where you] can ask the chatbot a question on any topic and get a speedy, detailed response in paragraph form. (GPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer)” (Jimenez, 2023).  One of the first things I wanted to do when I signed in to ChatGPT was to see if it would be able to retrieve information as well as produce material in other languages. As a French Immersion teacher, we have previously deterred our students from using Google Translate when completing assignments in other languages due to its lack of accuracy when translating from one language to another. Well, let me tell you that ChatGPT did not disappoint in terms of accuracy when producing material in different languages. I feel it did an excellent job of respecting grammatical rules in Spanish and in French, and the level of precision was very accurate. I got my teen to try out ChatGPT with me as well as my parents by asking them to type in random questions/prompts into the search engine to see what they could come up with. We all agreed that it was easy to sign in and get started seeing as we all had a Google account. There was no fee associated with this program and no limited number of searches from what we could tell. Furthermore, there do not seem to be any restrictions relating to accessing all the different functions within the tool. Additionally, we tried inputting specific prompts that we felt would be hard to research and were pretty impressed that this tool could produce the material we asked for within seconds. It was also convenient that if you wanted to elaborate on your initial prompt and ask for additional information, you could do that. Side note, we were curious to find out if this tool held any limitations in terms of citations and if it would be capable of researching different citations and inputting them right into the text produced accurately; that is something we could continue to explore later on.

Overall, I am impressed with ChatGPT and what it can produce in such a small amount of time; having access to unlimited information is definitely appealing. However, I can’t help but think that there are also various disadvantages we could link to this AI tool as well. As I engaged in different conversations with colleagues, we all could evidently see the commodity this type of tool could bring forth; nevertheless, when thinking critically about this AI tool, many concerns linked to teaching popped up as well. As Kayla Jimenez mentions in her article published this week “[t]eachers and professors are concerned [this] technology makes it far too easy for students to use it as a shortcut for essays or other writing assignments and exams and that it generates content in a way that can bypass software that detects when students use information that’s not their own work” (2023). This same sentiment was reiterated among my work colleagues and they voiced that there was a risk that students would be missing out on enhancing their research skills and improving their writing/grammatical skills. Moreover, Jimenez’s article also explains that “the chatbot occasionally generates incorrect information and produces harmful instructions or biased content [and it has] limited knowledge of world and events after 2021” (2023). Lastly, I feel that there will be students who choose to use tools such as ChatGPT while others will choose to complete their work independently relying on their abilities. This may pose a problem if students who use the iBot start to academically surpass the students completing the work independently.

Whatever your stance may be on AI tools, it is pretty clear that this type of technology is here to stay. “[Given that] AI technology will be a part of our youth’s future, it should be part of their [education]” (Jimenez, 2023). As educators, we may have to rethink our previous methods of evaluations and see how we could incorporate this type of tool in the classroom to enhance our students’ learning.

Excited to be here! 😊

Hi everyone!

My name is Valeska Porras and I am really excited to be taking EC&I 830 this semester with all of you. I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge when it comes to educational technology and learning about new technology that could be used in the classroom to help engage my students.

I am a French Immersion teacher with Regina Public Schools, and I have been teaching with this division for the past ten years. Currently, I am the Grade 2 French Immersion teacher at École Centennial School.  I started my graduate program last winter and this is my sixth course toward my Master’s in Education. Like many of you, I am enrolled in the Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Program. This is my 2nd technology course and I am excited to see what I can learn this semester so that I can, later on, integrate it into my teaching.

Technology is very present in my daily routines at work. From the moment we start the school day I am needing to rely on technology to teach and to meet all my responsibilities throughout the day. I am using technology from the moment I take attendance up until the moment when I check my work e-mail before heading home for the day. I also rely heavily on my projector at school and I use it daily. We have class sets of Chromebooks and iPads as well that are available for teachers to use with their students throughout the day. We also use Edsby daily at school to communicate with our families and to document our student’s progress. Obtaining resources for French Immersion can be challenging and our resources can be limited; having the internet opens up more possibilities for us to find useful and relevant resources in French to use with our students. We can search for different songs, videos, and stories in French on YouTube which is super helpful. We can also gain access to reading material in French with applications such as: 1) Je lis je lis; 2) Lalilo and 3) Boukili. I also enjoy using Kahoot and Quizlet with my kiddos in class to enhance what we are learning. Additionally, I became familiar with Google Classroom when we had to teach online during the pandemic. To prepare for my lessons, I love to use PowerPoint, Word, and Canva.

At home, I have a 16-year-old teenager who uses technology daily. She uses technology to interact with her friends and does most of her homework on her laptop and iPad. We try to maintain a healthy balance when it comes to technology while we are at home. We do not use technology while we are eating, hanging out, or having a conversation. However, we do use lots of technology when we are both doing homework or getting material ready for school. We also use technology to communicate with family back home in South America – videoconferencing has definitely made it easier to connect and communicate with people in different parts of the world.

I look forward to getting to know you all this semester and learning from you! Happy blogging team!

Valeska

Summary of Learning – That’s a wrap! 😊

It’s hard to believe that the semester is coming to an end. As I am posting my “Summary of Learning” to my blog, I am excited to see where my tech journey will take me in the future! I went a little out of my comfort zone with my final project and I researched something new that I have wanted to try out for years now. I figured now is the time to go for it when I was feeling inspired to create. For my final project in EC & I 833, I decided to create my own virtual classroom! I can’t tell you how many tutorials I watched to get my Bitmoji Classroom set up just the way I wanted (haha – it was defintely a few! Thank goodness for tutorials on YouTube 😂). I still have lots to learn when it comes to this technology, but I am motivated to continue to use this virtual classroom I set up with my kiddos. I will say you can defintely take hours playing around with setting up a virtual classroom and there’s many possibilities to what you can include in your virtual classroom. Just “start the slideshow”, then look for my Bitmoji and click on it on each slide to get started and be redirected to a video presentation. When you make it to the different “Group Presentations” (starting on Slide 7), click on the notebooks for reading material and click on the “laptop” for videos. Once you make it to the last slide in the slideshow, you will have different logos of different technology you can use in the classroom or with your students – if you click on the logos, you will be redirected to the appropriate websites. Thank you Katia for a wonderful and informative semester and thanks to everyone in this class for being part of my tech journey and allowing me to be a part of yours! I hope our paths will cross again at some point! 😊

Summary of Learning – EC&I 833 Bitmoji Classroom

What can we achieve by bringing in VR or AR into the classroom? 🤔

When I think back to my first experiences with the concept of Virtual Reality as a child, the “View Master” camera comes to mind where we could “[bring] our favourite movie scenes to life [or we could be transported] to some of the best scenic landmarks in the world with the push of a button” (Retro Dodo). It was one of the toys I enjoyed the most and I was constantly bugging my parents to purchase new slides for me to use with this camera. There was something very appealing as preschooler to be able to see different scenes through a camera and have a scenery up so close that you felt you could almost touch it. I also recall heading over to Disney World with my family when I was about 8 years old and there was this Bermuda Triangle Simulation ride at Epcot which for the time was intense and very lifelike. It is impressive to see how much progress we have made in the world of Virtual Reality since the 80’s/90’s. At present, this technology is capable of entering the classroom to enhance our learning experience in different ways.

 

After our presentation this week, I came to reflect on ways that I may have already incorporated the concept of virtual reality in my own teaching. During the pandemic when we went to online teaching for a bit, I did get to engage and play around with the notion of virtual reality with my students. With a few of my other colleagues at school, we came up with the idea to incorporate virtual field trips into our online teaching curriculum. We tried planning one virtual field trip a week and added it into our Google Classroom. Amongst the places we “visited” virtually were aquariums, museums, famous landmarks, natural landmarks, zoos, space, and even amusement parks. Many of our students during the pandemic did not get to experience any field trips at all, therefore planning virtual field trips allowed them to partake in the idea of field trips virtually when we could not physically visit these places. Furthermore, it allowed them to experience and explore famous landmarks and natural landmarks that under normal circumstances, they may never get the chance to visit (we got to explore an active volcano virtually without having to leave the comfort and safety of our homes which was pretty cool); it made lots of different landmarks easily accessible to students.

 

Following our presentation this week, I went to explore what VR technology was available to educators and students that could possibly be incorporated into the classroom. I came across an article entitled “ 10 Best Examples of VR and AR in the Classroom” (Marr, 2021)  that provided a list of different programs and apps we could use with our students relating to VR and AR resources for the classroom. There are quite a few applications I would be interested in trying out with my students. I think my students would enjoy if I used augmented reality to bring different science concepts to life such as a tornado for example. Google Expeditions would also be another engaging program to try out with my students where I could take them on a series of highly immersive field trips. With Google Expeditions, I could explore “The Deep Sea”, different countries, iconic sites such as Machu Picchu or even learn about different school subjects with my students. Additionally, I would also be interested in looking into Mondly where students can partake in an immersive language learning experience where you can have real conversations with real people.

 

There are some great VR and AR options for educators that could seamlessly be integrated into our teaching. The key would be to give yourself enough time to explore all these different options and to try them out before you plan on using them with your students. “There’s so much potential for bringing the curriculum to life using virtual and augmented reality experiences, from visiting far-flung corners of the world to holding the human heart in your hands. [It is important for educators to keep in mind that] VR and AR can have a remarkable impact in all areas of learning stemming from comprehension skills all the way to digital literacy” (Virtual and Augmented Reality in Education: Age 7 to 11 years).