Category Archives: EC&I830: Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology

Guess the Issue! Summary or Learning EC&I830

Wow! This class has flown by, it feels like just yesterday we were voting for the debate topics and now we are done, have to love these three week classes! This class was enlightening in so many ways and has allowed me to become a lot more critical of the different learning opportunities I can and should be offering to my students moving forward in years to come!

I want to thank you all for being on this learning journey together. Without all of you preparing and debating these controversial topics I would not have gained all the knowledge I have.

To Katia, this may have been my 10th course with her through my undergrad, Inclusive Ed Certificate, and my TLL Master’s program, however, sadly I am thinking this may be my last class with her as my professor! (Unless she wants to teach the Capstone class Winter 2025, hint hint)!. A big thank you goes out to you for being such a great mentor throughout the years.

I wish everyone luck as they continue their learning journey, and I am sure I will see some of you again in the fall! Enjoy the rest of your summers.

Without further ado, my summary of learning:

Are we living in a dream world? If only…

For our final debate of this class we undertook a heavy topic: Technology has led to a more equitable society. Now, we all would like to think that this is true, and really, technology does have that potential, however are we there yet? Allysia and Taranpreet had a challenge ahead of themselves as they debated that yes, technology has led to a more equitable society. I guess the question is, out of what lens? 

Agree Side

There is no doubt that technology has opened doors for many people. Darmarin (2000) stated 5 principles to follow to create equity in the classroom: 

  1. Parsimony: Technology provides cost-effective tools to support learners. 
  2. Accessibility: Technology provides accessible learning tools for all students to be able to learn in their own individual ways. 
  3. Multiplicity: Technology has opened doors to different learning styles to fit the students interests. 
  4. Separability: Using technology, we are able to access organizational sites that separate learning tasks based on different uses and tools. 
  5. Full Utility: Technology allows students to learn different programs that will later apply in their lives. 

It is evident that through these 5 principles, equity could be possible through the use of technology. We have learned throughout many debates in this class, that there are so many resources that students and teachers alike can access to support their growth and individual needs, which would reflect the key definition of equity which means “no matter a student’s background, language, race, economic profile, gender, learning capability, disability, or family history each student has the opportunity to receive the support and resources they need to achieve their educational goals” (Western Governors Univesity). With the idea of equity essentially meeting the individual student where they are at, yes the different platforms and programs available through using technology would provide and equitable classroom, however, as mentioned by the disagree side, there are huge barriers that impact this “dream world.” 

Disagree Side

As mentioned above, their is no denying that technology has opened doors to providing a more inclusive education system through different programs that support a more individualistic learning plan for students. However, the digital divide and accessibility to technology, and furthermore wifi and connection continues to be a huge barrier to allowing technology to really help create an equitable society. The debaters provided a wonderful documentary “Without a Net” that highlighted three major challenges that the education system, and society as a whole is facing: 

  • Access to up to date technology: Many schools and students around the world yet to have access to up to date technology that can be used. Whether this be a tablet, chromebook, or computer without having access to the devices, the platforms mentioned above can not be used. One of the big problems here that continues to create the divide is that it is not all students, rather, it is certain communities lacking access to these devices, or certain school districts or divisions. 
  • Getting the devices online: the documentary then highlighted the lack of good wifi connection to get these students online. Some schools, specifically, rural schools are unable to even get devices hooked up to the wifi networks. Again, creating the divide of schools that have good connection and schools that do not. 
  • Lastly, teacher training: This has been a major theme in the other debates we discussed, and it is continuously a problem. In the documentary it made an interesting claim that in other businesses or companies they don’t role out a new program and software system, give two days of training and expect those workers to be able to implement it – why does that happen in the education system? Goes back to the debate of technology enhancing learning, if it is not used well and teachers don’t have the right education to implement these programs, then no it is just going to replace learning not enrich it. Throughout this class there have been different classmates that brought up the idea of teachers taking it upon themselves to educate themselves on these different devices and how to use them in the classroom, however, I think that is easier said then done. Just like our students being a different places, teachers are all at different places and have different situations impacting their lives and careers, we want to find equity through using technology, then we need to provide an equitable opportunity for teachers to gain this training. 

Overall, it is clear to me that technology at this time in our lives is not creating an equitable society, instead it continues to widen the gap between students. However, if our dream world was to become a reality and we would have enough devices, strong wifi connection, and teachers trained to “coach” the students in using these devices, then yes, maybe we would begin to see how technology could provide an equitable society. I just don’t know when or how we can get there.

*Enter Middle School Ringtone Here*

DING. BUZZ. BEEP. (These are supposed to be ringtone sounds, harder than one would think to spell out)! However, these are the noises that I continually hear from my lockers in my grade 7 classroom. I am sure you can guess what happens next “OOOh, Snapchat alert!” “Hey! Where did that come from,” “Ms. McGrath, what if it is my mom!” Even though our elementary school has clear guidelines that students are not to be on their phones during school hours, the distraction is still there from the comfort of their backpacks. The simple sound that one phone can make during instruction time, has all students turned around, and my lesson being interrupted. So where do we go from there? 

Yesterday, we engaged in a passionate debate around cellphones place in the classrooms. Both sides brought many valuable points to support their claims. This debate was the first one where I didn’t have to think about my stance during the pre-vote, it was clear to me that I believed cellphones did not need a place in the classroom. The side that agreed that cellphones should be banned from classrooms gave clear evidence to support my stance: 

Cell phones should be banned from classrooms arguments

  • Phones create a sense of urgency, even when phones are off or stored in a different location, students still have the desire to always want to check on it (Edutopia). 
  • Too many texts are impacting students concentration, education, and mental health. Every time the student is distracted from something on their phone, it takes them at least 20 minutes to focus back in. (KSL News
  • Inappropriate use – through the use of cellphones in schools, we are not only now responsible for what they are doing in person, but also what they are doing on their phones. This is a lot harder to policy than students using school devices. 

With these main points being discussed, my stance wasn’t changing. Cellphones just offer too much distraction, I couldn’t see how they could positively support the learning of students. However, the other side of the debate got me thinking, and had me maybe open to shifting my perspectives: 

Cell phones should not be banned from classrooms arguments: 

  • Provide an additional tool for learning – this supports 1:1 ratio of tech to students when schools may not have enough devices. (Science and Literacy) 
  • Provides opportunity for diverse learners through: 
  • Using educational learning apps 
  • Incorporating digital platforms into lesson 
  • Providing easy access to more information 

(OxFord Learning)

Although the team that debated cellphones should not be banned in classrooms provided great reasons to support their claim, I was not fully convinced. Seeing the negative impacts continuously in my classroom made it hard for me to see the opportunities cellphones could have. However, I think this debate topic is very situational. I am speaking from my little box being a grade 7 teacher, where students are just getting used to having phones, and they don’t always know the importance of being in the moment. I also come from a school that has technology that students can use to access different learning apps and additional information they can not get out of textbook, so for my situation, I really don’t see a place in needing cellphones in my elementary school setting. 


With that being said, I do think banning cellphones completely from schools is not going to be the answer. We tell young people they can’t do something, that makes them want to do it more. They are going to find ways to access their phones through the school day, whether it be going to the washroom, hiding it in their desks, etc. The conversation in class also reflected the idea that just telling them they can’t use it does not build any skills for the students to help them in the future. We tell them they can’t use phones in high school, they then get to university or post secondary school and it is now their job to figure out how to navigate that. I think it is important we try and teach them these skills in a controlled setting to set them up best for success. In the video “Too Many Texts” researchers gave the suggestion that we need to teach students how to exist with the technology. How can we teach them that the cellphone is there, we can use it for emergencies but it does not need to consume us. Being a model may be the place to start, my students every morning see me flip my phone around, turn it on silent (and lots of times forget where I left it). If parents and teachers can work together in modelling what effective phone use could look like, there may be opportunity to eventually start integrating phones into the classroom for educational use, however, until we start teaching them the do’s and don’ts of using the cellphones, nothing is going to change. As discussed in class, one good place to start is to have the staff on board with the policy to be implemented. With whatever decision is made, it needs to be followed through. When discrepancy happens between staff members, students pick up on it and the guidelines are often not followed.

“Do you know an emotionally intelligent robot?”

This single quote made me giggle throughout this week’s debate around AI revolutionizing education for the better. I can say that entering this debate, I really did not know what side I would go with. I was caught in the middle, as I use different AI tools in my everyday job whether it be using MagicSchoolAI to help me with my rubric and report card comments or if it is finding ways to integrate it into my teaching through image generating for short stories. On the other hand, I do also see how one would be nervous about this new form of technology as it can also be used in very negative ways, for example, throughout the debate we heard a lot of concerns around students just using AI to do the assignments for them instead of using AI as a tool to support them through their assignments. Let’s look at some of the facts before I make my final decision around AI “revolutinizing” the education system. 

Pros: 

The agree side started strong by representing their stance as AI as a tool. In the video “6 Ways AI will Revolutionize Education” the creators made some valid points: 

  • Allows for individualized learning plans (your style, your pace, your needs) 
  • AI can be used as a tutor to support students learning. 
  • Through using AI ensures students are ready for careers outside of the traditional school and reshape curriculums. 
  • AI allows for great translation tools to bridge the language gaps. 

Cons:

The disagree side of this debate, did a wonderful job at bringing in the realistic problems the education system is facing due to AI being incorporated, and these problems cannot be overlooked. Some major concerns that were introduced throughout their side of the debate included the worry of AI dehumanizing education, how it impacts student privacy, and the potential that AI may hold bias. Some of the major concerns that were brought up throughout this week’s readings included: 

  • Errors and misinformation 
  • Cheating and plagiarism through certain programs 
  • Isolation from social activities 

(Walden University

Conclusion: 

So where do we go from here? There is reason to integrate AI into the classroom, but also reason to be nervous to do so. With it ever changing and being so advanced many of us throughout the class conversation brought up the concern of little knowledge around using AI and don’t have the policies in place to be able to manage how it is used in the classroom. How do we form policy around AI to ensure it is used for its intended purposes? In the article “The future of learning: How AI is revolutionizing education 4.0” highlight that if this form of technology is going to be used, then some factors need to be accounted for: 

  • Ensure the design provides equity amongst students 
  • Enhance human-led pedagogy instead of replace human-led pedagogy 
  • Teaching about AI is equally crucial to teaching with AI. 
  • Ensure there is access – if you are using these tools, can all students equitably access the programs. 

As mentioned in the video and articles, by using AI to guide and support human-led instruction, it sounds pretty good. Doing tasks for us to lessen the workload is never a bad thing, however, there are still many factors that need to be considered prior to bringing AI fully into the classroom. Without that, I believe that AI could have a lot of potential to revolutionize and change the face of education, however, we have a long way to go to get there. I believe it would be beneficial to provide teachers with more Professional Development opportunity to use these types of programs, and to know what programs are even good to be using in the classroom. As well, I would like to see some kind of policy be implemented to protect teachers when they notice students solely relying on AI to complete the work for them. As mentioned in class it is often hard to use programs to detect cheating and plagarism through AI, as professionals we need a plan to how we will address these problems because they will arise throughout teaching young minds. 

Technology enhancing learning? Well, maybe…

I feel like I have had this ongoing debate since I started my career. Completing my undergrad about 4 years ago now, I have always learned and used technology in my classroom as throughout my university program, we were shown how valuable technology can be in the classroom. However, sharing this with my colleagues, the opinions usually differ immensely. If you would have asked me 4 years ago when I was a brand new teacher, I would have said yes, technology DOES enhance learning. However, now through personal experience and taking part in last weeks first debate, my answer is a lot more complicated. 

I am going to discuss what I have noticed lately in my classroom, and try and connect it to the key points brough up in this week’s debate and readings. I will state however, that some of the problems I am facing may be me simply needing to shift and change my own teaching practice. 

Pros

When teaching middle school for the first time this year I did not have an abundance of teaching resources left in the classroom for me. As we all know, the textbooks are outdated, the stories are irrelevant to children’s lives now, let alone, we don’t even have enough of those textbooks to give to students due to large class sizes. Furthermore, we all are facing a crisis where our classes sizes are large, support is limited, and students continue to be at varying ability levels based on a variety of different reasons. With that, I turned to using different programs on the iPads and Chromebooks to help bridge some of these gaps. Through doing inquiry projects in different subject areas, using iPads and tools such as Mentimeter for quick check ins, competing individual and group projects through shared documents and connecting students and families at home were all easily completed through the use of some device. Technology does not only support the students in completing their work, but also it helps me in providing instruction. Through using different templates such as Canva, Google Slides, and YouTube just to name a few, I am able to provide not only spoken instruction, but also meet more students’ learning needs through also providing visuals to support their learning. All of these ways to use technology were supported in the readings and debate this week. The article “7 Reasons Why Students Need Technology in the Classroom” supported why technology does enhance learning for these different reasons: 

  • Allows students to access information and resources 
  • Connects the classroom to the real world 
  • Prepares students for the modern workplace
  • Supports different types of learning styles 
  • Teaches students how to navigate the online world 

With these reasons being stated, it is clear that technology can enhance learning, but does it always? 

Cons

As my school year progressed, I began seeing some noticeable shifts in the way students were using technology to complete assignments. I found that many of my students were almost getting too dependent on using technology for their learning. It was turning into:

 “Ms. McGrath, can I use a Chromebook to draw in my sketchbook?”

 “Ms. McGrath Google didn’t give me the answer when I typed in the question.”

 “Ms. McGrath why do I have to write this paper when other people already have on Google?”

These statements became more and more frequent as the year went on and I was beginning to think that maybe I was not using technology to actually enhance the learning. I began to get nervous if my students were truly learning anything from the inquiry lessons we would do, or if they were simply just writing down what the first answer was off Google. I thought to myself how many lessons and modeling do I do to show them have to navigate websites, summarize, paraphrase? Was it really valuable? 

These thoughts that I was reflecting heavily with the disagree side of this week’s debate. Purcell, et al. (2013) discussed how through using technology their needs to be a bigger emphasis on plagiarism and support students in navigating these issues. It seemed that as I taught my students new ways to use technology to support their learning, it was turning into them wanting tech to just do the learning for them and give them the answers. I thought technology was there to support creativity and curiosity, however, I began seeing a shift where they just wanted the answers to be given to them. When reading the article “10 negative effects of technology on education and individual wellbeing” these main points stuck out to me: 

  • Technology kills creativity – Google gives all the answers, why do I need to think of it myself? 
  • Wrong information or inaccurate information misguides students learning – there are so many different sites on Google, hard for students to understand what is true and what is fake. 
  • Extinction of good writing skills 

So where do we go from here? Does technology just need to leave school forever, or is there a way around these difficulties? 


As mentioned in my previous blog around social media, it is safe to say that technology is not going anywhere. It would be a disservice to our younger generation if we just decided to pull technology from the classrooms. However, it is important that we as teachers provide ways to effectively incorporate technology into the classroom. Instead of just handing the students the device and telling them what to research, we actually need to be teaching these skills. I think all too often we believe students just know how to use technology because they were raised with it, but they still need to gain the skills to effectively use it. With that, technology has a place in the classroom and it CAN enhance learning, as long as it is taught how to be used in the correct way. Moving forward in my own career, I know I have to do a better job at ensuring I look at my assignments that use technology and say, is this going to enhance the learning, or is it just replacing a textbook.

What is the answer for Social Media and Child Development?

For debate number 2, Stacey and myself debated against Amy and Josh around the topic, is social media ruining childhood. Stacey and I took that stance that yes, social media is ruining childhood, and to be honest, entering the research process for this project, I agreed with my stance. From my personal experience working with middle school aged students, I daily see the negative impacts that social media has on the students. Many of the problems with friendships and social skills that are seen in the hours of school often are connected to events and situations that have occurred through online communication amongst one another or amongst people that they have never met. This year opened my eyes to how vulnerable children are when it comes to social media and with that, to an extent I do believe that social media is impacting childhood for a variety of reasons, some of the main points we discussed are: 

  • “In a way texting and online communicating puts everybody in a context where body language, facial expression, and even the smallest kinds of vocal reactions are rendered invisible” – Through main communication being through a screen students are unable to form strong social skills to navigate conversations outside of the screen. (Catherine Steiner-Adair). 
  • Social media creates a skewed self-image: Children get a false reality of what their lives should look like, or what they should look like. This usage can bring on anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues. 
  • Social media use reduces the amount of interaction people have with others which can damage relationships including friendships and family relationships. (Goldfield, et al., 2020

After completing this research it was clear that social media could have a heavy impact on children’s lives, however, what really put these facts into perspective, was when I read and listened to some statistics. 

  • 52% increase of adolescents reported symptoms of major depression from 2005 to 2017. 
  • Between 2012 and 2015 – depression in boys increased 21% and girls increased 50%, what also grew in 2015 was 92% of adolescents owned smartphones. 
  • Suicide rates for teenager girls rose 65% in 2017, child suicide rates increased 150% 
  • Self-harm by girls ages 10-14 nearly tripled that year. 

(The Social Dilemma

When reading these statistics, and then sharing them with the class, some of the conversations that occurred were very interesting. Specifically, one of our classmates made the comment that if there is such an increase in suicide rates, why has there not been bigger changes to make this problem decline, and I think it comes back to where would one even begin. 

Now, after concluding my research, I was pretty set on my stance, yes, social media is ruining childhood. However, Amy and Josh brought light to some different perspectives that were important to consider. Some of the main points that they discussed included: 

  • 81% of teens report that social media allows them to feel more connected to their friends. Through the use of social media, students are able to make connections with people that share the same interests as them, especially when it may be hard to make connections in their own communities. (Nesi, 2020)
  • Teens are able to access more supports to help them navigate their lives, especially when they may not have a strong support system at home. (Prothero, 2024)

There is no doubt that social media can open doors for children to make connections outside of the places they live, however, throughout the debate I could not help but continue going back to all of the negatives that also often accompany social media use including cyberbullying, child trafficking, catfishing, and the list goes on. However, as we approached the end of our debate I can say with confidence that all of the debaters may have come to an agreement. Social media IS impacting childhood, and it is up to parents, teachers, and adults to begin helping navigate social media to make it a more positive experience for our youth. Amy and Josh made many compelling arguments and stated that social media is not going anywhere, just like magazines, books, movies that all at one point were highlighted as items that were ruining childhood. With that, instead of telling students not to use it (because we all know that will make them use it more), we need to find ways to help them learn how to effectively use it for the purposes that they were intended to be used for. So how might we do that? 

  • Ensure children understand that a post is forever, and explicitly teach them about what positive posting may look like. 
  • Empathy is important online: ensure that children understand that their words still mean something if it is typed or said, consequences for both should look the same 
  • Educate your child about the capabilities of modern image editing software – that way they will be able to understand that online is not always reality. 
  • Designate “screen free” zones in your household to give everyone a break from screens. 
  • Be the example: instead of telling your child to put their phone down and go outside, instead plan and do an activity all together to show them there is more to do then just sitting on a phone. After doing these different activities, children will begin to choose those activities over sitting on a phone. 

(Advanced Psychology Services) 

To conclude, I still do not love the direction and way social media is being used amongst our youth, however, I have come to understand that social media is not going anywhere so instead of fighting it, we in turn need to find a way to teach about it to support students in forming digital literacy skills that will help them make good decisions online in the future. So yes, social media IS impacting childhood, however, we as adults have the responsibility to help ensure that it is impacting childhood for the better, not the worse. 

Technology in the Classroom? Yes, please!

I always find this question interesting to answer when it comes to my teaching philosophy. Graduating from my undergrad amidst the global pandemic and beginning my teaching career when we needed to have online options ready to go at a flick of a switch I have never taught without using technology in some way. Now, as the pandemic is behind us and we are back to our “normal” classroom teaching and learning, I can say not much has changed. 

Beginning my teaching career as mentioned I needed to have my online tools ready to go. I have always loved using Google extension so teaching Grade 5 an easy place to start was setting up a Google Classroom. This worked wonderfully, I was able to have my students and parents attached to the classroom, they could access my Google meet, assignments, and ask questions all in one place. This platform worked well during the uncertain times, as when we were put online my students already knew how to navigate the tool and post their assignments with ease. 

Flash forward to today, I still love Google products however, my resources and tools have grown. Through taking many different Edtech classes through my education, I feel I have grown a depth of knowledge of different ways to incorporate technology into my teaching. Through these classes I have learned that it is important to use technology to enhance learning instead of just replace older learning styles. With that, I try and find different ways for students to represent their learning and create their own learning projects through different genius hour projects, and using different sources such as Canva. By giving students the affordance to take their learning in their own direction (with some parameters) have allowed me to see some great products. 

When it comes to interacting with others, I heavily rely on our school division tool Edsby. It took me a little bit of time and exploration to love Edsby, however now that I know how to navigate the program it is great! Using Edsby has allowed me to connect with families and students with ease whether it be through direct messages, posting to the class page (assignments, lessons), sending who class reminders, or posting and sharing in my gradebook. Through using this tool in many different ways has supported my communication and connection with the families I work with and allows for no surprises when interviews and report cards are sent home. 

Overall, when it comes to my professional career I value the way technology can enhance my teaching and the learning for my students. Through using technology, I am able to provide differentiation for students’ needs (visual learners, multimedia lessons, quick check ins, etc.). As a new teacher without having this access to these forms of technology, it would be a lot harder to provide students with creative and engaging lessons that are applicable to their interests and lives in the present and the future. By beginning my career with these different technology tools, I am interested to see how my teaching shifts in the years to come as technology continues to become more advanced! Any predictions?