Category Archives: Education

Educational Technology

What Is Technology? Before we can dive into educational technology, I feel that it is important to discuss what technology itself entails. According to Dictionary.com, technology actually has 5 different definitions: These definitions indicate that the traditional, often main definition of technology (see definition 1), is not the only one to exist. Technology does notContinue reading "Educational Technology"

Culmination of Learning…and a Thousand Paper Cuts

If there was no time limit this video would have been at least 15 minutes. The writer in me got a little carried away, that lead to cuts, then more cuts and more cuts. All the little lines I treasured got tossed to the side. Even then it’s a few seconds over (15 with citations). There’s a reason my film degree was not in production.

On a side note the music I used from WeVideo gave me a copyright strike. First video ever uploaded and I got a copyright strike. Seems fitting.

Best of luck to everyone, whether you are done your masters journey or just beginning.

Topic #7: Educators and schools have a responsibility to help their students develop a digital footprint. 

Educators in schools have a responsibility to help their students develop a digital footprint. Indeed we are in the 21st century where technology is booming, and mostly every student (in Saskatchewan) has access to technology in some form. I struggle with the wording of the debate topics (but hey that’s what makes it a debate), and in this particular topic I struggle with the word responsibility. Before I get too ahead of myself I want to acknowledge that I am all for helping students develop a digital footprint, and helping them understand what a digital footprint is. Where I get stuck is whose responsibility is it to help youth develop their digital footprint. Additionally, within the chat of the debate someone addressed the fact that some parents do not understand technology or digital footprints, conversely some teachers may not either. So I ask again, whose responsibility is helping develop a digital footprint for youth?

Youth are on social media more than ever and it is essential for educators to help guide students as to what is safe and not safe to share. The impacts of not helping guide students to help form their digital footprint, and furthermore their digital identity could negatively impact students. In the early years of students education we should be talking about terms such as digital identity, digital footprint and digital citizenship to provide awareness of the negative implications on various platforms like social media. Furthermore, I think it is essential for others to know how they could impact someone else’s digital footprint from posting a video of one of their friends on social media. Not everyone wants to air their “dirty laundry” on social media (besides the embarrassment factor).

Does developing students digital footprint solely rest on teachers? Some households do not have any technology within, therefore it would be difficult for parents to teach this essential skill with not all the tools or the know how. With the lack of knowledge parents would be ill equipped to educate their children about their digital footprint. Besides this, digital identity, digital citizenship and digital footprint are all relatively new terms that I am sure a large percentage would not know the meanings of. That being said, do teachers have the skill set to teach these newly coined words? Professional development needs to be pushed to understand how to merge these essential topics into the curriculum to help develop students’ digital footprint. Teachers also may need to be given more information to best inform their students. Teachers are not well-prepared to have these conversations with their students nor will they feel comfortable to do so unless there are some guidelines surrounding digital footprints and their effects. Teaching students to develop their own digital footprint is a collective responsibility between parents, teachers, the ministry and school divisions alike, certainly this responsibility should not just rest on the shoulders of teachers.

There are resources out there that helps embed digital citizenship into various curriculums as well as lesson plans on how to do so as Dawn McGuckin describes these steps in her article. With teachers already overloaded and with catching up from other years there is not a lot of time in the day to always learn these concepts, and furthermore take matters into your own hands. In the article, Post no photos, leave no trace: Children’s digital footprint management strategies students attested to their parents, in most cases, did not teach or talk to them about social media. Two of those students did say their parents ask them if there is something troubling them about social media and the other student said their account is linked with their parents so they can see their activity online. This proves that parents also need assistance in teaching about the harms of social media, and how their digital footprint can follow them around, with negative ramifications.

Final Thoughts

Teaching students how to develop their digital footprint does not solely rest on the shoulders of the teacher, besides teachers don’t have the resources they need to effectively teach these skills. Parents, teachers, school divisions, and the ministry are all responsible for providing resources and PD opportunities to help aid teachers in these undertakings – it takes a village. Digital citizenship, digital identity, and digital footprints are all important learnings in 21st century education, which students should receive the education they need to reduce negative implications in their future!

Digital Footprints in the Snow: Debate #7

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Years ago in my home town it was a snowy day two teenagers were breaking into cars and stealing items from inside. A man noticed them sneaking around in the dark while sitting in his car. He slouched down and thought, “There is no way they’d be stupid enough to not see me and open the door.” They were. They were seen. They ran. The police followed their footprints right to their front door.

As both sides discussed many children start their digital footprint before they are even aware of the world around them.  I am just as guilty, happily posting a picture of my son on social media shortly after he was born. It is also difficult not to have at least a few tidbits of information about individuals online (at least in the western world).  That is why I initially voted yes for educators having a responsibility to help students develop a digital footprint.

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Agree described teachers as being in an ideal position to help students develop and control (at least partially) their presences online. Buchanan et al., (2017) found that while children were avid uses of the internet they thought of their digital footprint as a source of fear, rather than a tool. They concluded that teaching children how to “curate” their footprint to build towards their future goals.  In the same way we teach the basics of math to prepare them for higher grades, we could teach them how to use the virtual space to help them achieve their goals. Schools have policies that are meant to protect them and we can build a safe and controlled situation to help build their fundamental digital skills. Agree further mentioned that we can help guide impulsive kids as they take their early steps into the virtual space. We also must acknowledge that parents are often not teaching their kids how to approach their presence online.

Buchanan et. al., (2017) found that there was no consistency with how involved parents were with their children’s use of devices, leaving them without the skills to properly interact online.  One only has to read a few stories of “cancelled” people to see why carefully choosing your posts and tweets is so important.  The internet never forgets.

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Disagree later chipped away at some of these points.  Those school policies and release forms we have parents sign, how much do they really understand?  What about the student’s choice to regulate their own online presence?  Personally I am asked to take pictures of students and submit them for uploads to our school website.  While I always make sure those students have had a release form signed, I do not always ask students permission before taking pictures.  Although I carefully cultivate what I email or upload to Edsby, it is a fair comment that I should include the students more in that decision. Anson-Smith (2021) found that a number of schools used student images as marketing.  Not to mention the amount of information that companies and individuals can collect. If schools and teachers are making these mistakes, can we honestly say we are currently prepared to educate our students on the same topic?

As I bounced between sides my own thoughts asked if we hand over technology that could be used to create a digital foot print, should I be responsible to teach them how to manage its use? Furthermore, do I indirectly do this through health and media literacy lessons?  There are numerous times throughout the year when we have discussed why it is important to be careful what you put online and what you share with others.

Where disagree won me over was reminding me of that word “responsibility,” indicating we had to do this.  As they mentioned, we are not trained to support students in this situation. McGuckin (2018) presents to educators and she continually sees how little we know about the abilities and ramifications of social media. Yet we are expected to teach our students, who often know far more than us.  We are not backed by government or divisions directly, although some may assume or encourage us to take on this responsibility anyway.  This also pushes the responsibility onto students who may not be ready to nurture their online presence.  It may present a false confidence in parents that teachers have this and remove themselves from the responsibility of checking in on their children.

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That is not to say I do not think it is a good idea to help students understand what they are/can do with their use of digital technology.  I want my students to understand that a tweet or a discord chat room may seem like a small step, but it can have huge implications. However placing that responsibility entirely on educator’s shoulders is unfair and dangerous.  It sets a precedent for assuming we will pick up the pieces that government, corporations, and parents should be carrying. Until teachers have been properly trained, education policies and programs are designed, and parents are made more aware of what is happening, it is not fair to place this responsibility on teachers.  As Disagree said, making the responsibility of developing their student’s digital footprint is a reactive approach.  It creates and unstable platform on which an important part of our students futures rest

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Debate #7 – Educators Have a Responsibility to Help Their Students Develop a Digital Footprint

The first debate of the night this week was very interesting! I find that (similar to other weeks) the topic is a bit vague and there are many ways that it might be interpreted. For example, the debaters focused on the digital footprint itself, but the open discussion time kept heading towards the general ideaContinue reading "Debate #7 – Educators Have a Responsibility to Help Their Students Develop a Digital Footprint"

Debate #6 – Should Cellphones Be Banned in the Classroom?

Although both teams put up some good arguments and many relevant viewpoints came up during this debate, I’ll have to admit that my original opinion of “agree” with this topic has not really waivered. I feel that where people stand on this topic may have a lot to do with the schools they work at,Continue reading "Debate #6 – Should Cellphones Be Banned in the Classroom?"

Debate #5- Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

When we initially began this debate, I was leaning more towards the agree side. Looking back, I fondly remember (perhaps with rose tinted glasses) a childhood filled with playing outside, camping, and spending hours on our bikes until the street lights came on. I also remember certain technologies being introduced throughout my youth (Nintendo, GameContinue reading "Debate #5- Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?"

Debate #4 – Do Educators Have a Responsibility to Use Technology/Social Media to Promote Social Justice?

I think that debate #4 touched the nerves of a few people this week as things seemed to have gotten a little spicy- and rightfully so. I feel that this topic is one that is more so based on opinion and beliefs rather than research, facts, and statistics. There has always been much debate surroundingContinue reading "Debate #4 – Do Educators Have a Responsibility to Use Technology/Social Media to Promote Social Justice?"

Listening for Silence

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Usually I try to get these posts up quickly after the debate, but I needed to sit with this one for a bit. I tried typing my thoughts, deleted them, tried again then walked away. Sometimes time helps clarify and measure thoughts. The fact that I have wrestled with some of these thoughts in my past didn’t necessarily help.

It took me a while to decide if what I, and lots of other people in my position do is right. More on that later.

Debate #3: Fundamentals vs. Future

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It is important to recognize when a skill still holds relevance and when it is safe to leave another behind. This debate may even be split on generational lines, with those before preaching the benefits and those after calling it unnecessary.

Agree made some valid points about how a majority of us use technology in some way to “ensure accuracy,” like doing taxes. Personally I use word or google docs to check spelling and grammar. The issue I have with this is technology is not perfect and with most languages there are intricacies that programs may struggle with (their, there, they’re) or formats that may play with structure intentionally. As programs develop, this may be a harder point to argue in the future.

The argument of using technology to create more class time is accurate.  I spend the first few weeks of each school year reviewing the basics.  If I handed out calculators I would have enough time for an additional unit. My students that struggle with the basics could also more easily keep up with those that excel. My retort to that would be that I can provide calculators to specific students who require that modification.

They listed the following quote from Alberta’s top math bureaucrat, “Memorization doesn’t necessarily mean we understand what we’re doing. This is true in the same way some students can read a text perfectly, but have no idea what it is talking about; fluency vs. comprehension.

I would argue the same can be said for the use of a calculator.  I often tell my students a calculator can get you the wrong answer quick. As disagree stated, being too reliant on a calculator diminishes understanding.  To be fair this can also be the case using traditional formulas. Students know the formula works, but do not know why.

Without knowledge of the fundamentals we lose the ability to recognize when something is not right, either through the technologies mistake or one that was created from our own misuse. For example, knowing the rough amount your groceries cost could save you hundreds of dollars when a mistake has been made.

Trusting technology to always be right means you can blindly follow it off a cliff.  I’m reminded of stories of people who have followed GPS instructions directly into a lake.

Image from autoevolution.com

Disagree also focused on spelling and cursive hand writing.  I am split on this.  I see spelling in a similar way to mathematics fundamentals. Practice with spelling can internalize rules and make your brain perk up when it sees something that appears wrong. It can also improve your intellectual appearance when you are presenting written work on a board (although this is limited to specific situations).  You could point out that this is a result of discrimination, rather than a fair assessment of ones skills.

As for cursive, I agree that it allows your writing to keep up with your thoughts over print, however I feel less inclined to say it is a necessary part of our education system.  On a personal note, my cursive writing was not legible and once people began borrowing my notes in university I switched to print, a habit I have yet to break. Print was more universally understood than cursive and the same can be said for many of our students.  Even though cursive is part of some indicators in our curriculum, it has been put aside in many classrooms to make room for other instruction.  It does feel like the weeks I spent in school learning cursive, could have been reallocated.  The lack of cursive understanding has created a new type of language barrier, as instructors write in cursive and those who never learned it struggle. As Mason, Shaw, and Zhang (2019) state:

Probably the greatest impediment to teachers adopting or adapting digital technologies for student learning is the significant inertia that exists in trying to bring about a cultural change, particularly changes in entrenched practices.

Mason, Shaw, Zhang (2019)

While I would miss that style that cursive signatures bring, I would morn it more for a lost art than a huge addition to education.  I can see how it improves hand-eye coordination, but so does typing. Speaking of which, typing has been shown to be an easier alternative than pencil to paper scribing.

Both sides have good arguments, but with so many of these debates a combination used with best practice is probably the answer.  Providing a mix of opportunities will allow students to develop their skills and scaffold their learning.  Working with Agree rightfully stated that we need to consider skills needed for the future.  

Fundamentals will deepen understanding and provide working skills and strategies when technology fails.  We have seen the past few weeks how reliant we are and how unprepared we can be when our electronic support structure is taken away.

Debate #4: Anonymous Advocate?

Students have been advocates for change long before social media, weather participating in protest marches and student walk-outs or as simply writing a letter asking for better food in the cafeteria.

2018-Student Protest- The New York Times

My students are familiar with advocacy.  We have discussed residential schools and systemic racism. They have written letters to the Prime Minister demanding action on better access to medical support and clean water and local politicians to change streets named after problematic historical figures.  We have done research on gender discrimination in video games and how to challenge it. Many of them participate in speaking out against actions in Palestine and joining marches and protests on discrimination and violence against Muslims. At home my students and their families will engage in social media to promote personal causes.

As Agree mentioned advocacy through social media can expand your world view. This is something that can be limited in a culturally sheltered school. We battle this by reading current events and discussing local news to slowly broaden their world view.  Liang, et al., (2010) suggest joining students online communities to “teach and mentor each other.” This is not a boundary I feel comfortable crossing. To maintain a professional distance I would rather demonstrate and display how social media can and is used to participate in advocacy and democracy. Liang, et al (2010) goes on to discuss how using a social media program can improve competence, confidence, connection, character, and caring. In addition to engaging and empowering youth, I would suggest this is possible outside of social media as well.

Agree argued that there is no such thing as neutrality in education, that you cannot stand aside when someone is targeted. This is in line with Angela Watson (2019) who states: “There is no such thing as a “neutral” standpoint on issues of human rights or social justice, and it is a function of privilege to pretend that there is, and to simply opt-out of those discussions.” This is a compelling argument, but what happens when it conflicts with something else Watson says.

“Should you force your personal beliefs on your students: No.”

Angela Watson (2019)

Disagree also made a number of persuasive arguments. Mandatory participation in advocacy would become “preformative activism.” In the classroom this could be worked around by providing students with a choice on a subject for their advocacy.  Choosing something they are passionate about could create authentic results which are far more likely to engage students than assigning them something they are apathetic or directly opposed to. “Slacktivism” as Disagree described it, is something I need to combat in my personal life.  I donate to causes, participate in walks, and sign petitions, but there is always more I could do.

There is also a large potential for conflicts with parent and community viewpoints. My political views often do not mesh with the communities I work in. Sometimes that is easy to forget when my peers are typically more in line with my beliefs. As Madeline Will (2020) notes that there is growing divide where taking a stand on political issues can create a lot of difficulty and lead some parents to believe teachers are indoctrinated their kids.

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While I agree that teaching advocacy is important, I do not agree that I should push my opinion on my students. When we have class debates I will admit to them my biases, and I do my best to present multiple sides to an argument so they can make an informed decision.

 I work in a school that has very clear objections to communities that I support. My students are aware of this and I am aware of the environment I work in. I support their rights while reminding them I demand respect for everyone.  I shutdown any verbal slurs of any group, and have been available to students who want to share concerns that could create a conflict in their community.  For the most part this never comes up, and when it does I treat it carefully. At the same time I have made it a personal policy to never lie to my students. In my private life I can engage in any advocacy. I am not afraid to wear a pride shirt, but I would be lying if I said it wouldn’t be uncomfortable if I ran into a parent. The school also knows that most of the staff are allies. They do not push an agenda on us but they do ask us to keep our home life at home.

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If I encourage students to discuss these topics in class I will not only endanger my position I will create an unsafe situation for my students. Imagine a scenario where I create a project that promotes advocacy for a group that the community disagrees with.  The community will ask for my removal.  The students will know why I am gone; most will agree that I should be.  A few will make note of what happened to me and decide they need to hide; it’s not worth the risk.  This is not hyperbole.

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This is what I chose to do.  I promote advocacy for situations that are safe for my students to participate in (clean water, truth and reconciliation, community support) and those that are building but still challenging to some (feminism). I teach them about the tools that are available and how they can be used safely and effectively. They are aware of the power outreach can have, it is part of their faith. I look at the great things they promote and I struggle with those they do not. I do not push them aside because we conflict on some things, and I am not denying some of them are major. I’d like to think that I am someone my students can turn to and I worry that if I am not there they will lose that person.  I know I am not the only one to struggle with this.

I also know that some people consider this cowardice, but sometimes listening is confused with silence.

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