Summary of Learning for ECI830

It is hard to believe that another class has come and gone.  This semester has been one with plenty of sharing, learning, and debating.  I am grateful for the knowledge of my classmates, and Alec who has guided us through many of the difficult conversations that were had.  Thank you all for being a part of my learning.

For my summary of learning, I decided to use WeVideo as a tool. A tool that I have never used, but was eager to try after watching many excellent videos from classmates.  In my video, I feature my 7 key learnings from the class through personal reflections, the debate videos, and some recommended viewings.

Enjoy!

 

Debate #7: Social Media and Social Justice

June 11th’s debate was on the topic of educators have a responsibility to use tech and social media to promote social justice.  Mike and Jacquie on the agree side, Brad and Michala on the disagree side.  On the prevote, I voted with the agree side of the debate.  However, as a few days have passed I am doing more reflecting on the conversations that have been had.

Mike and Jacquie argued the following points.

  • Equip students with the tools and skills for a more equitable world
  • Challenge, confronts, and disrupts misconceptions, untruths, and stereotypes.
  • Provides students with resources needed to their full potential
  • Draws on all student’s talents and strengths.
  • Promotes critical thinking and supports agency for social change.

Brad and Michala countered with the following.

  • Using students as tiny foot soldiers to push the educator’s own personal agenda.
  • There is a need to stay neutral and get students to use critical thinking to determine for themselves.
  • “Picking fights with people”, and the creation of internet trolls.

The Main Take-Aways

My main take-aways from this debate stemmed from the important conversations that we are had in our group conversation.  For me, the conversation is in two different places.  The role of teachers using social media for social justice.  As well as the role of educators using social media with students for social justice.

Role of Teachers Using Social Media for Social Justice

In the blogpost, Teachers Must Hold Themselves Accountable for Dismantling Racial Oppression, Kelisa Wang states, “educators have a responsibility to hold themselves responsible, and hold others mutually accountable to repair of our country and race relations”.  Although the article focuses on race relations in the United States, I believe that we have a responsibility as educators in Canada to reconcile and abide by the calls to action within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Social media can be a way that we can help to reflect and share some of those learnings and steps towards reconciliation. Kelisa Wang provides three ways that we as educators can change the narrative.

  1. Holding ourselves individually and mutually accountable – Educators need to say something when they see it.  As a person with the privilege, we need to challenge everyday bias head-on.
  2. Ensuring representation is at the forefront – Challenge to ensure that people who are not currently at the table are represented on your committee.
  3. Caring about more than ourselves – This is not about personal merit.  It is about representing and providing equity for those who do not have the privilege.

I do believe that teachers need to responsible for using social media and social justice.  However, it needs to be done thoughtfully as we have all seen the impact of someone who has been someone who was attacked by someone with an opposing view.  Eductors do have a responsibility to do this work beyond social media.  Educators have to do the work of educating ourselves about the impacts of colonialism and racism.

Role of Teachers Using Social Media with Students for Social Justice

In the TedTalk video Social Justice Belongs in Our Schools, which was shared as one of the viewings, Sydney Chaffee said it best, “We don’t just teach subjects, we teach people”.  We want our students to become active citizens.  When I was in the classroom, I was mindful to empower students to articulate their own opinions. Chaffee stated the importance of teaching multiple perspectives of history.  I think this is key.  We need to have representation in our classroom, diverse literature, furthermore decolonizing our libraries.  However, the key is to “empower students to articulate their own opinions.” Much of the work of teaching social justice is rooted already in the curriculum. We have opportunities to have these meaningful conversations and essential key learnings, but we need to provide multiple perspectives and multiple narratives.

Do we use social media to teach these narratives?  I personally don’t think social media is the correct approach to teaching social justice.  As I said above:

  • Multiple perspectives, and narratives
  • Allow students to form their own opinions
  • Representation in the classroom
  • Effective teaching of social justice within the curriculum.

In Conclusion

Do educators have a role to play personally when it comes to social media and social justice?  Yes, they do.  But do they have a responsibility to move beyond social justice and social media? Absolutely.  Whether or not educators are posting on social media, the importance is that they are doing to work beyond social media.  Listening, reading, and learning.

Do educators use social media as a means to teach students about social justice? Not necessarily.  Chaffee states the goal is working for justice, and it can create the following: As educators, let’s do the work of diversifying and decolonizing our work.  It is our responsibility to shoulder this work.

 

Debate #6: Is Openness and Sharing in Schools is Unfair to Our Kids?

June 9th’s debate was on openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our students.  We had Melinda and Altan on the agree side, and Sherrie and Dean on the disagree side.  I tended to lean on the disagree side of the debate (With some reservations, find out more below).

Melinda and Altan did a great job highlighting the reasons we should be cautious when we encourage sharing and openness in the classroom.  Their argument was around the following points.

  1. Privacy Issues
    • Language Barrier
    • Social Media
    • Children’s Input
    • Sharenting
  2. Challenges of Openness
    • Digital Etiquette
    • Digital Rights
    • Digital Literacy
    • Digital Divide
  3. Use of Cellphones
    • Digital Communication

Dean and Sherrie countered with an excellent Newscast and the Sherrie Meredith Report.  These were some of their main points of persuading the viewers to lean to their side of the argument.

  1. Openness and Sharing provides more meaningful learning opportunities
  2. Learning on your own terms
  3. Take opportunities to teach about digital footprints
  4. Openness allows for opportunities for the 4Cs (and Connectivity)
  5. Educate to be informed posters
  6. The need to model for students good digital citizenship.
  7. Opportunities to connect globally.
  8. Learn at your own convenience

The Main Take-Aways

Throughout this debate, I pondered many of the points that were brought up on both sides. The inequity of the media release form for EAL families, openness and sharing and the 4Cs, educating students to become informed posters, consulting with students about posting online, and sharenting.

The Inequity of the Media Release Forms for EAL families

This resonated with me.  Melinda and Altan highlighted that for the media release forms, parents are not always aware of what the media release form means and implies.  I taught my first two years of teaching in Ogema, Saskatchewan. A small rural community with a large Filipino population, roughly 50% of our students.  To be honest this situation never occurred to me.  Melinda and Altan addressed this issue through some key points.

  • These include translation apps (Such as my favourite, Microsoft Translate)
  • Rewriting the form using a clear, simple explanation
  • Examples, such as photos
  • Educating about negative consequences.

These points are something that I will keep in mind while implementing and writing policies for parents around the implementation of technology in schools and the classroom.  It will also provide opportunities to work and collaborate with our EAL consultant.

The Sherrie Meredith Report

I knew going into this blog post I would have to highlight Sherrie’s rant.  Many of the points that she was sharing reiterate the importance of the underlying theme.  The NEED for educators to implement and teach digital citizenship.

Sherrie addressing many points in her rant, but these are the ones that stood out to me.

Openness and sharing encourages the 4Cs

Sherrie discusses how openness and sharing encourage connectivity, communication, creativity, and collaboration.  I would also argue that it allows for critical thinking as these are the skills that students will need to know in a world that promotes openness and sharing of resources.

We see numerous opportunities for openness and sharing and the connection of the 4Cs to global projects such as The Global Read AloudThis project encourages classrooms to connect with one another and complete and reflect globally with different classrooms using tools such as Google Hangouts, Skype/Teams, Flipgrid, and Seesaw.

Educate Students to Become informed Online Posters

As educators, we need to be role models for our students and allow them to be informed posters online.  This comes from the thoughtful implementation of digital citizenship embedded throughout the curriculum, as well as modeling for students.

Vicki Davis talks about the two essential approaches to digital citizenship curriculum.  Proactive Knowledge and Experiential Knowledge.  For more on the 9 Key Ps of proactive knowledge check out my previous blog post.  Vicky highlights as educators we need to move beyond providing just touching on the points of “proactive” digital citizenship.  Our students need to have experiences to become effective digital citizenship.  Opportunities to teach these skills in blogging, and collaborating with others inside and outside of the school division.  These opportunities allow for openness and sharing, while also providing teaching moments around digital citizenship.

Consulting with Students about posting online

This is something that I need to do better.  As a consultant, I often go into classrooms and gain the teacher’s permission to take pictures of the students that I am working with.  However, Sherrie brings up an excellent point on the importance of ensuring that we have asked the child for their permission to take pictures and the purpose of taking the pictures.

Melinda and Altan posted an article Posting About Your Kids Online Could Damage Their Futures. This article talks about how a child’s digital footprint starts before birth. Usually starting with ultrasound photos and due date announcements.  The article discusses the term “Sharenting”, the act of parents putting information about their children online. I believe the threat of this concern is very real as much of children’s lives are documented on social media.  This ties into Sherrie’s argument about ensuring that students know and understand the implications of posting online.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, I tended to lean more to the disagree side, as I believe that openness and sharing provide excellent opportunities for digital citizenship conversations.  It allows for the teaching of the 4Cs and to prepare students for the 21st Century.  We have to be mindful.  Mindful of what we are posting online, mindful that we are equitable, and everyone has the same understanding around policies around openness and sharing.  As educators, we must still ask for permission from students if it is okay to take their picture, and we must teach them the implications of sharing data online.  With the practices that Dean and Sherrie, and Altan and Melinda highlight we can provide opportunities for students to share in healthy digital spaces.

Debate #5: Should Cellphones be Banned in the Classroom?

June 4th’s topic was on Should Cellphones be Banned in the Classroom? Jill and Tarina on the agree side and Skyler and Alyssa on the disagree side.  In this debate, I voted on the disagree side.  I firmly believed that cellphones in the classroom can be used as a tool for learning.

Jill and Tarina highlight the following reasons why they believed social media was ruining childhood.

  1. Cellphones are Distracting
  2. School Devices are Safer
  3. Cellphones increase negative behaviours
  4. Detachment from Personal Device

On the contrary, Skyler, and Alyssa highlight their stance in a very catchy slogan Don’t make a BAN, have a PLAN.  They highlighted the following:

  1. Medical and Emergency Use
  2. Educational Purposes
  3. Digital Citizenship Skills

The Main Take-Aways

In this debate, my main takeaways and reflections occurred from the discussion that we were having as a class.  The concept of BYOD and the pros and cons of having a BYOD policy.  Melinda brought up the point of having a cellphone policy that discouraged cellphone use in class, but students were allowed to have access to cellphones at breaks, and lunch hour. I also discuss the importance of having an acceptable use policy while implementing any technology in the classroom.

BYOD

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

Our discussion on Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is one of my big takeaways. This is a concept that I have been familiar with since taking my university undergrad degree.  If you have a personal device bring it to school and essentially your class will become a 1-to-1 classroom. On the surface, I always thought that this was a great solution to the issue of not having enough devices in the classroom.  However, in a blog that was shared with our class BYOD – Worst Idea of the 21st Century? It highlights somethings that we need to keep in mind.  This being said many of the points that are highlighted I do not agree with.  I also recognize that some of the information in the blog is dated as it was written back in 2011.

Points that I agree with:

BYOD enshrines inequity.  The article discusses that for education to be equitable each student needs to have access to the same materials and learning opportunities.  I recognize that often our students do not have access to devices because of the digital divide.  This could cause pressure on parents to provide access to devices when they are unable to do so.

BYOD contributes to the growing narrative that education is not worthy of investment. The article highlights that education cannot be viewed as a competitive, commercial, an “every man for himself” enterprise.  I believe that this point is a major issue and concern.  As educators that implement a BYOD policy, are we doing more harm? Is this another way that we allow governments to not provide adequate funding? As is teachers spend a lot of their own money currently on their classrooms and students. I believe that BYOD does not send the message of an increase of funding for devices in the classroom, but rather the opposite.  Ultimately the message that could be sent is that teachers are making do with what they have, and ultimately that is good enough.

Points I Disagree With:

Cellphones are not computers. I disagree with this statement.  Keeping in mind that the article was written in 2011.  Today cellphones can do many of the functions that a computer would do for the average classroom.  Skyler and Alyssa highlight many of these functions in the article they shared with the class on 20 Smartphone Apps for the Classroom.

BYOD narrows the learning process to information access and chat. The article discusses how information access, note-taking, and communication are “low-hanging fruit” of education.  I would agree with this statement.  On the SAMR model, this would be the substitution stage.  I believe that BYOD allows students to expand further, and be creative.  By using devices we can hit the other levels of the SAMR model. This is highlighted in Holly Clark’s blog on What is an Infused Classroom. Sure, information access is part of the learning process, but as a 21st-century teacher, we need to expand this to enhance student learning.

BYOD increases teacher anxiety. I disagree with the statement that teachers have largely failed with implementing technology in the classroom.  I do believe that teachers may not have the skill set or know how to implement some of the technology, and I do believe that it is holding some teachers back from implementing technology in the classroom.  However, if COVID-19 and remote learning has taught us anything, it has allowed teachers to become more comfortable with technology if there was guidance or the opportunities to try the technology in a risk-free setting.  Many teachers experience anxiety when they alter anything within their teaching practice.  However, with effective technology plans and support, this can assist teacher anxiety.

Effective Cellphone Policies

As educators, we need to have effective cellphone policies in our classrooms.  This could be modeled in an activity such as “What does my classroom look like, sound like, feel like?” or through a “Responsible Use Policy” that is co-created with students. According to Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools, below highlights the difference between an acceptable use policy and a responsible use policy.  Furthermore, Skyler and Alyssa highlight the importance of teaching the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship.   These skills need to be taught in conjunction with having an effective policy and guidelines in place for cellphone use.

Melinda highlighted an excellent point in our class discussion around the idea that we often find problems with inappropriate cellphone use when students are accessing these devices at breaks, lunch hours, or at home.   Often this is paired with teachers who do not allow cellphones in classrooms, and therefore students do not receive quality digital citizenship from schools.  Regardless of whether or not cellphones are allowed in schools, we must not sweep the issues under the rug.  Digital citizenship is an important topic that needs to be addressed regardless.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, should we ban cellphones in classrooms? Absolutely NOT. I believe that as educators we should always be hesitant when we use the word ban.  Even if we restrict the use of cellphones in the classroom it does not give us the option of opting out of important teaching moments of digital citizenship, and the conversation of acceptable use in regards to cellphones.

I believe that teachers can learn to leverage these devices as learning tools. As Holly Clark states in her article What is an Infused Classroom? , “Infused Classrooms, the teaching and learning outcomes are the most important aspect, and technology simply enhances an already purposeful learning environment”.  In other words, the use of cellphones in the classroom needs to be purposeful. The use of personal devices can help us use technology as a vehicle for learning.

Debate #4: Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

Yesterday’s topic on the great debate was Is Social Media Ruining Childhood? It was Laurie and Christina agreeing with the statement and Amy and Dean on the opposing side. Coming into the debate, I sat somewhere on the fence (as I seem to often do).

Laurie and Christina highlighted the following reasons why they believed social media was ruining childhood.

  1. Affects Mental Health
  2. Cyberbullying
  3. Safety Concerns

Amy and Dean highlighted the following points on the opposing side of the argument.  Their main argument focuses on,

  1. Allows for the spread of positive messaging and intentions
  2. The ability to connect with social media
  3. Social Media as a tool for creativity
  4. Kids who use social media are less lonely than others who use social media.
  5. Using social media to promote student voice
  6. Social Media isn’t ruining lives but changing how we interact in society

The Main Take-Aways:

Being an avid social media user myself,  I was very torn between the two debates.  I was able to relate to both of the debates quite well.  Both videos provided excellent points on the positives and negatives of the topic.  However, I am going to focus on two in-depth. Social media and mental health and social media for student voice.

Social Media’s Effects on Mental Health

Laurie and Christina highlighted the effect of social media on mental health.  This is a valid concern, I’ve experienced it. To give you some light on a bit of social media and the life of Curtis.  I was in middle school when Facebook and Twitter took off.  I was in Grade 7 when I downloaded Facebook.  I’ve grown up with social media as a major part of my life.  Now, in the beginning, my main use of social media was to tell everyone the most mundane things (I’d like to think I’ve improved, even in the slightest). Check out the following most ridiculous Facebook statuses.

 

 

Oh, the things I would say to “younger” Curtis… (13-Year-Old Curtis must have enjoyed his party).

Although these posts make me cringe today (and hopefully some of you laugh), I think it provides me an opportunity to reflect on my personal social media use.

Social media HAS affected my mental health.  Often I find times where I need to take a break from social media.  I often take this unplugged time at the end of a semester of a masters class because I get burnt out.  Furthermore, I believe that social media often highlights the “highlight reel” of someone’s life.  This curation of online life leads to comparison amongst each other, which in turn, leads to negative effects on mental health.  I am guilty myself of falling in the trap of “social currency” where I have seemed validation through likes, retweets, etc.  I have experienced the FOMO (fear of missing out). I have also experienced online harassment.

Bailey Parnell in Is Social Media is Hurting Your Mental Health? highlights all of these effects from social media.  I would recommend that you look at Daina’s blog because she provides a concise summary of the following stressors in detail.

It is crucial to look at the four steps Parnell provides to fix it.

  1. Recognize the problem
  2. Audit your social media diet
  3. Create a better online experience
  4. Model good behaviour

Personally, since I know better, I do better. I believe that I have taken the four steps above to address my mental health in regards to social media. Daina, provides some wise words on the matter:

I can understand how as adults we can use these steps to edit our social media habits in order to improve our mental health, but what about our students?

Furthermore, In a previous blog post, I highlighted an article by CBC that found that researchers at Sainte-Justine Hospital in Montreal “found over and over the effects of social media (on mental health) were much larger than other types of digital screen time”.  As educators, we need to be mindful of the stressors so we can provide support for our students.

Social Media for Activism and Student Voice

Throughout our discussion around the topic of social media, I think that it important to acknowledge the opportunity social media allows for activism and providing our students with a voice.  Two examples of this include Autumn Peltier, a 15-year-old Canadian Water Activist.  Autumn can spread her message through social media to reach a larger audience.

An article by the Washington Post illustrates that young people may share political information online, or use social media to get others to join a protest – such as during the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Black Lives Matter movement. Social Media provides virtual spaces that allow discussion and allow Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) to get information through social media.  According to a 2013 survey, “young people from socioeconomically disadvantaged households are more likely to get their political information from new online media sources than young people from households with more abundant resources”.  The reality is that many millennials, including our students who are using social media to stay connected.  This is increasingly evident with the BlackLivesMatter hashtag, as this hashtag allows the critical organization and information to be shared (hence why #BlackoutTuesday turned out to backfire, more about that here).

Dean and Amy’s post on 10 Examples of the Positive Impact of Social Media also highlight the ability for students to develop a voice of advocacy.  Often this reinforces a sense of belonging and can be a positive influence when youth are exposed to the right outlets.

In Conclusion:

I’m still torn.  I see this from both angles. But the reality is social media is not going away.  We as educators need to embrace the technology and teach our students proper digital citizenship education. Perhaps looking at Mike Ribble’s 9 Elements for Digital Citizenship. Also, we need to be mindful of media wellness for ourselves and our students. However, we need to be mindful.  Mindful of the platform and voice that social media provides.  We may as well embrace it effectively, our students are using it.

 

The Great Debate

This post was co-written with Lisa Frazer and also appears on her blog.

VS

Schools should not focus on teaching things that can be easily googled.

Our debate was on Thursday, and due to the double negative, we both argued the same side of the debate (the best side).  We based our argument around the Levels of Teaching Innovation (LoTi) model as we feel strongly that this is the type of classroom that is needed in the 21st century in order for students to become the best lifelong learners they can be.  

Daina and Jocelyn brought up some key points as well. Some fit in with our argument. The first being that Google does not expose students to the learning process which is what we based our whole argument on.  They also added that students would not be motivated to remember information as easily because they have such quick, easy access to it with google.  They then went on to state that students needed to get “Back to the Basics” but then brought up a very valid point, “What are the Basics”? 

They stated one very specific key point that we feel should be the key assessment piece in learning— “If you can explain it, you understand it”. This led to a discussion on what assessment should look like. We feel that authentic assessment should be based around a conversation piece with a student in a conference-style manner or small group where students can explain their learning in multiple ways. Traditional teaching models do not necessarily fit this mold as students tend to just regurgitate information without really understanding. Therefore, they are not involved in the learning process.

Our research also found that 21st-century skills favor student-centered work, such as problem-based learning, project-based learning, and hands-on learning.  The LoTi model places great importance on ensuring that learning is student-centered and therefore students are exposed to the learning process. 

We read the book Why Do I Need a Teacher When I’ve Got Google by Ian Gilbert.  This book highlights the need for students to inadvertently learn the 6 skills (Positivity, Bravery, Determination, Self-Belief, Creativity, and Sheer Energy) that will enable them to be well-rounded individuals. Google cannot teach any of these skills. These skills can be taught in a 21st-century classroom using a model such as LoTi (Levels of Teaching Innovation) where technology is only APART of the learning. 

The LoTi Framework focuses on the balance of assessment, instruction and effective use of digital as well as other essential resources to promote the essential skills of higher-order thinking, engaged student learning, and authentic assessment practices.  The framework allows educators to ensure the learning process automatically flows. Teachers can reflect on their teaching practice to promote student-directed learning as opposed to teacher-directed learning.  

It is crucial that students be involved in the learning process and dig into their learning using the 4 C’s (Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity). 

  • Critical Thinking – empowers students to discover the truth, and separating fact from opinion.
  • Creativity – thinking outside the box. This means looking at a problem from multiple perspectives, including those that others might not see. 
  • Collaboration – virtually every job requires you to work with people, this skill is something that you cannot find from the internet. 
  • Communication – In the age of text-based communication, it is so important for students to learn how to convey their thoughts in a way that others understand them. 

We argue the importance of the teacher as a facilitator of learning.  A 21st-century teacher is now becoming a facilitator or the guide to help the students in their learning. This means shifting roles from a lecturer to a facilitator who provides resources, monitors progress, and encourages students to solve a problem. They help the student in the learning process to guide students to be able to apply the learning in real-life situations, making the learning meaningful and relevant. If the learning is meaningful, they will remember it, know when to apply it, how to put it together, and once practiced students can get creative with it.

We also argue the point that learning should be multi-sensory. We have 5 senses in which we can learn and each person learns a different way or a multitude of ways. Learning becomes much more tactile when you can see it, touch it, manipulate it in a multitude of ways. Real-life applications such as hands-on learning or land-based learning where students take ownership of their learning by doing things such as planting a garden is a much more relevant and beneficial way to learn. Students develop so many more skills through this type of process rather than to just learn about the plants themselves through googling it.

We stated the importance of deepening the learning process by utilizing experts such as elders, knowledge keepers, support experts, professionals, community members in the classroom. This process enables mastery of subjects while also providing students relevance to their own learning. It is also beneficial to students as they are exposed to positive role models in their community.

In Conclusion:

 

 

Debate #2: Technology a Force for Equity

Yesterday’s topic on the Great EdTech Debate was Technology is a force for equity in society. Nataly and Kalyn on the agree side, and Victoria and Jasmine on the disagree side.  Coming into the debate I voted in favour of the topic, however, I was unsure how I would feel by the end of this debate.  I was truly on the fence on this one.

Nataly and Kalyn highlighted three main reasons why technology is a force for equity in society.

  1. Greater access to information
  2. Personalized learning
  3. Helps people with disabilities

Victoria and Jasmine took on the opposing side, also made many excellent points on the other side. Their main arguments focus on

  1. The Digital Divide
  2. Techno-Colonialism
  3. The Non-Neutrality of Technology
The Main Take-Aways:

Being on the fence before the debate, after watching the debate left me even more stuck in the middle.  Both duos provided excellent points that highlighted the pros and cons of the topic.

Open Educational Resources (OERs)

Kalyn and Nataly discussed OERs.  OERs are a way to provide high-quality educational resources will no cost.  This would be invaluable to students and educators.  According to RMIT University, OERs provide opportunities for self-learning, and also include literacy skills such as searching, reusing, dissemination, branding, and networking.  All important skills we would want society to have.

Furthermore, in our group discussion we brought up the website Coursera, Coursera is a platform that offers many different university courses for free.  This on the surface appears to be a great equitable idea and service.  However, our discussion pointed out that it was often the most privileged in society that would use these courses.  My thought is that many of the courses still use academic language, and require skills that many people have not had the opportunities to acquire.

Assistive Technology

Kalyn and Nataly also brought up the excellent point of assistive technology.   Assistive Technology provides many for our students to learn.  Tools such as Google Read and Write, and Microsoft’s Immersive Reader provide opportunities to try to “Level the playing field” for students.

In the discussion, we discussed the importance of Universal Design for Learning.  I believe for technology to be truly equitable within Assistive Technology we need to approach if from a UDL perspective.  This means teaching the whole class how to use a program such as Microsoft’s Immersive Reader.  This is because many students would benefit from the tool regardless of ability.  This also allows students to not feel singled out.  Students pieces that they need to be successful.

The Digital Divide

We need to acknowledge the digital divide.

Affordability, the fact is that many cannot afford the technology needed to be successful. However, I do believe that this is becoming more and more realistic in the future as technology costs continue to be driven down.

Accessibility, as Victoria and Jasmine note, many rural areas do not have access to technology.  In our discussion in class we discussed that although we classify high-speed internet at 5mbps, the reality is that we often need a lot more than 5mbps for us to be effective online.  The reality is that often those with the least amount of accessibility are the people who are considered the most vulnerable. This includes northern Saskatchewan and many reserves.

Varying ability,  many people do not have the technical skills required to be efficient users of technology.  This could be due to previous issues with affordability, or accessibility of technology, or could be due to not having the skills taught. Jennifer Casa-Todd explains that there is an intergenerational divide, parents are not fully understanding the tools that their kids are using.

Last semester I also look into the digital divide, another form of inequity is the idea of empowerment divide.  According to the Nielsen Norman Group, when people participate online 90% of people do not contribute, 9% contribute sporadically, and 1% of users contribute often.

In Conclusion,

Overall, I swayed a bit to the disagree side.  I think that often that I become blinded by the fact that I am privileged enough to not recognize the impacts of the digital divide because I have never had to worry about not having access to technology.  I believe for us to truly become equitable these issues need to be addressed.  In the Hechinger Report Should Schools Teach Anyone Who Can Get Online of No One At All that Jasmine and Victoria highlight, “We should be thinking about internet connectivity as a utility right now,” he said. “We  would be horrified if 30 percent of our families didn’t have electricity or water in their homes.”  We need to ensure that our students have internet access outside of school.  Kalyn and Nataly shared an article called How Access to Technology Can Create Equity in Schools, it compares having access to physical technology and having no internet to having a car with no road.  The car is still useful, but it is a lot easier if a road is built.  In the end, I believe that technology can provide equity in many situations, but as a society, we are not there yet.

Debate #1: Does Technology Enhance Classroom Learning?

On Tuesday we started the great Edtech debate. Nancy and Amanda arguing that technology in the classroom enhances learning, whereas Trevor and Matt arguing against the same claim.  Both of the videos were creative and engaging.  Kudos to both duos for setting the bar so high.

Prior to the debate, I would side very much so on the pro-technology side of the argument.  I believe that there needs to be a balance of technology in the classroom.  Technology needs to have a purpose, it cannot be the goal.  Technology is the vehicle for learning.   Being such a pro-technology person and teacher I was excited to hear the opposing argument.

Nancy and Amanda brought up some great points in the video.  Some of the main points that resonated with me include.  The aspect of connecting when a physical connection is taken away.  Currently, we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This has changed our daily lives.  I am curious if this happened forty or fifty years ago, would the lack of technology, resulting in a lack of connection, lead to further mental health problems? The ability to connect is the 5th C that technology allows us to have communication with others that would otherwise be unsafe, or impossible in the past. Nancy and Amanda highlighted that the best part of online learning is that it can happen anywhere and at any time.  We have the ability to collaborate with one another, and we don’t even need to be in the same place.  With technology, schools can go beyond the traditional walls and reach a larger audience, which provides more engagement for our students.

Nancy and Amanda shared an inspiration video that shows the importance of connection.  This video highlights how technology can bring people together.  It also further promotes the ability for us to reach a larger audience.  Imagine the connections that we can have in the classroom if we connect with other classrooms globally.  We have so much that we can learn from each other.

Matt and Trevor did bring up many good counterpoints. Many classroom teachers use unnecessary technology in education.  In this claim often I see teachers using technology for the purpose of using technology.  Your finished your assignment, here is an iPad to consume the rest of the class.  Furthermore, Trevor and Matt explain this technology does not have any pedagogical value if used without purpose.  In addition, Trevor and Matt include that screentime and technology addition are downfalls of technology that can harm student’s wellbeing.

In the article, The Digital Gap Between the Rich and Poor Is Not What We Expected, it is highlighted an interesting perspective of the need to go back to screen-free lifestyles.  The article brings up the new digital divide, stating that more affluent families with children will experience less screen time than those of poorer and middle-class families.  The argument states that there is a concern that children will not know how to interact with other people, and the need to revert to play-based learning.

Within the class discussion, I found some key points that were being shared.  We discussed that often with technology, schools and school divisions do not have the infrastructure, time, or money to provide meaningful training for the apps and programs that they use.  Alec brought up an excellent point suggesting that 50% split between hardware and training.  I shared in the class that I find that technology can provide a voice for those who are more unwilling to share in the classroom setting.  Jill countered my claim stating that she is finding the opposite.  She found in online classroom students are more likely to sit and be passive learners not willing to share as often as in the classroom. Melinda brought up an excellent point, often these tools can reduce some of the anxieties that students have.  A tool like Flipgrid could allow students multiple chances to redo their response until it was something that they were comfortable with sharing.

Another post that Nancy and Amanda directed us to is George Couros‘s Myths of Technology Series specifically the myth That Technology Equals Engagement.  I found this interesting as it gives validity to both sides of the debate.  Often we hear that students are so engaged when they are using technology.  As educators, we need to recognize the difference between “engagement” and “novelty”.  As educators, we need to view this from a different lens. We need to move from engaging students to empowering them.  George highlights the difference between compliance, engagement, and empowerment.

  • Compliance – Do this because I told you.
  • Engagement – Do this because you are excited.
  • Empowerment – Do this because you have the power to do something meaningful for yourself.

In conclusion, technology needs to be used as a tool FOR learning, and must have a purpose. The debate was able to highlight both sides of the argument.  Being so pro-technology in the classroom I believe it is important educators try to understand why some teachers are reluctant to use the technology in the classroom.  Trevor and Matt did a great job of highlighting these pieces.

My mind has slightly changed, I will always promote the use of technology in responsible ways in the classroom, but will be more mindful when I do.

I leave you with this quote from George’s series of myths.

If we can develop meaningful learning opportunities that empower our students to make a difference, our impact will go beyond their time they spent in our classrooms.  Technology alone will never provide this.

– George Couros

A Day in the Life of a Instructional Technology Consultant

My Technology-Infused Traditional COVID-19  Day

My day with technology has altered a fair bit due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This is how I interact with technology for most of my day.  Since I am working from home my day often starts with touching base with my colleagues on Microsoft Teams.  It operates as our virtual staff room.  I then meet with my coordinator and the other two instructional technology consultants and we make a plan for the day to help support teachers with supplemental learning.  Being a Microsoft based school division we use the Microsoft 365 online suite that contains the traditional Word, PowerPoint, Excel, but also more unknown tools such as Stream, Sway, and Forms.   Often I will have tasks such as developing a guide for teachers to follow or creating a quick video that teachers can refer to regarding a certain app or feature that our division is promoting, all while searching and looking at teacher’s needs and wants.  We have to be proactive in our planning to support teachers at this time.  Part of my job is responding to the teacher’s specific needs.  I also field a lot of questions and support requests from teachers that are looking for support with Microsoft Teams and how to best implement the program with their students.  We are also currently looking ahead to the next school year and beginning to prepare our end of year technology responsibilities to continue in the fall.

Currently, our school division has rolled out online Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).  These areas provide our teachers an hour a week to meet together and discuss, and collaborate in any way that they need.  These areas are a great way for our teachers to connect with one another as many of them do not get the opportunity to collaborate with other teachers.  Hopefully, the ability to connect with others continues after COVID-19 ends.

My Technology-Infused Traditional Non-COVID-19  Day

Prior to COVID-19 my days would consist of me going to schools and working with teachers, and infusing technology in what the teachers are already doing in their classroom.  This is how I would imagine that people would think about my job.

Our Instructional Technology Team follows the ISTE standards when we are working with teachers both during the pandemic and prior to the pandemic.  These standards are:

Each one of these outcomes features a video series for each one of the outcomes and each learning goals. We try hard to use these standards and curriculum standards as the foundation for all the lessons that we use with teachers.  More in-depth, I often do a lot of coding with students, through Hour of Code, and Scratch.  We are also diving into robotics specifically with the Micro:Bits, Spheros, mBots, Makey Makeys, and Ozobots.  Teachers will request that I come out to their classrooms and ask that I support them in these areas using these tools. Part of my everyday job is to also support and help troubleshoot with teachers during reporting times.

How do I use Technology Personally?

Personally, I use technology to connect with friends, whether it be by connecting through gaming with them.  I also use many different social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.  For professional growth, I use Twitter as my main platform.  I enjoy developing my personal learning network (PLN), connecting with other educators, and participating in Twitter chats.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Amanda Brace posted on Twitter asking how many apps people have been using since the start of the workday.  I decided to make a list of all the apps that  I used on a daily basis.  I am sure there is more, but I tried to write them down as I was using them.  My grand total was 26 different applications that I have accessed in the past 8 hours.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

My screentime has definitely gone up over the past 7 weeks, but these times have provided me to grow as an educator by participating in webinars and connecting with others.  Hopefully this connection continues after COVID-19.

ECI832 Major Project Wrap Up: Curtis Bourassa EdTech Reviews

Over the course of the semester, I have created and curated a project that allowed me to explore three apps TikTok, Seesaw and Wakelet. In each of the apps, I provided an overview of the app, a look at the Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, a personal review, and educational review, key features, and additional resources.

My journey started by jumping right into TikTok.  I discovered that TikTok was a great way to waste time, as it was so easy to be immersed in the short videos.  I researched the privacy policy in-depth for TikTok due to the controversy that surrounds the app.  I provided a personal review of the app, created a summary of the personal review on an infographic that I had created. For the educational review, I took research that I had found online about how educators are using the tool in the classroom setting, as well as how teachers are using it for professional growth.  I finalized the review of the app with some key features that are found within TikTok, and some additional resources with a link to a Wakelet collection of some of the articles that I have studied.

My journey with Seesaw.  Seesaw was an app that I was using prior to the course, but I was not utilizing it to the best of my ability. Again, I worked through all the parts of my project.  One of the major highlights of this project was my ability to speak to two educators and one tech coach from Texas on how they are implementing this app in their schools or school districts. I also became a Seesaw Ambassador during this semester.  This allowed me with the inside scoop of everything Seesaw, and ultimately has assisted in my support for teachers during this pandemic.  The school division has ultimately named me as the Seesaw go-to person for remote-learning.

Wakelet.  Wakelet is an app that I was using occasionally before the course.  But I did not use the app to its full potential.  I held a meeting with Dean Vendramin on how he implements Wakelet in his high school classroom.  This was the highlight of my study with Wakelet.  Dean provided many thoughtful ideas on how to implement the app in the classroom and how it is important that we use tools to curate knowledge, but also have for students to help them read laterally.

Check out the website that I have created for my final project.  Or for an overview check out the vlog that was created with Dean Vendramin and Matteo Di Muro For a quick overview of my website that I have created.