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Summary of Learning

25 Jun

How on earth is this semester already over?!

I am so thankful for all the learning jammed into these 8 weeks, it has been both fun, and extremely engaging in the debate format!

For my summary of learning, I tried to focus more on some goals that I want to mindfully take into my teaching next year, as I feel that is the true testament of learning – when our practice grows and transforms. I apologize for it being a bit long!

Enjoy!

Summary of Learning

 

 

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Equity for Inclusion

25 Jun

It is so hard to believe that I am writing about our 5th and final debate! This last debate topic focused on the question of whether technology is a force for equity in society.

Team agree made up of Jen, Dawn, and Sapna started off with a strong opening statement. They argued points about the barriers technology breaks down, the connection it helps create, and also brought up a great point of viewing the the term digital divide as digital inclusion.

Team disagree made up of Amy S. and Rakan, also had an informative opening statement, which brought up things I had never even considered or knew about. The stats regarding racism and sexism online were alarming, as well as the facial recognition and AI biases and issues that exist towards marginalized groups.

I stayed solid in my opinion before, during, and after the debate that I agree that technology is a force for equity in society. One of the major points that came up a lot in our group discussion was the number of technology resources and access various schools have. In many schools/divisions, this is not nearly enough, and sometimes schools are even capped on how much technology they can have regardless of the socio-economic status of their community in an attempt to even things out. As I was thinking about this, the quote/idea “what’s fair isn’t always equal” came to my mind. We need to do a better job in providing technology access and resources to those in the most need.

equity

Image found HERE.

I don’t really think it’s about having the best or latest chromebook, computer or iPad, but more so the access to information, skills to be good digital citizens and media literate individuals, and of course connection to the greater world around them that technology can cultivate. Schools need to make sure that they can provide enough technology, including wifi access and bandwidth, that students AND teachers, have an opportunity to practice digital citizenship into their classrooms, and begin learning skills they will use at home or work one day. Again, I don’t feel this needs to be 1:1 devices, and teachers once again play a huge role in knowing what and how much their students, families, and community have in terms of technology resources and access.

I also feel that mobile smart phones are going to be the reality for many students and families for how they are accessing information for and from schools. Some of the argument of the disagree group centered around cost, and the fact that lower income students, families, and schools struggle to receive all the technology benefits, as they simply do not have the resources, but I think mobile phones are a way to gain more access. The agree group shared stats from this TechCrunch report, which highlights these number of smartphone owners with an average income of $15,000 or less.

-Aged 18-24 = 56%

-Aged 25-34 = 43%

-Aged 35-44 = 31%

Although there are no stats for high school students, I would guesstimate in my school about 80% of students in my classes have a smartphone. Many of them are just a device, and do not have a data plan, but they are able to access the internet with wifi.

This article does a great job of addressing many issues created by the digital divide, and provides some suggestions to help teachers navigate equity in this area. Doing your research, and knowing what access your students and families have is vital, planning thoughtful lessons that use technology (based on what you already found out), putting extra efforts into teaching digital literacy, providing extra opportunities to access, and as we always do, advocating for more resources in our buildings.

If we take every opportunity we have to provide our students exposure and interactions with whatever technology resources we have, and bring the focus back to digital citizenship and media literacy, I believe we will foster both equity and inclusion for our students.

Embracing childhood today

17 Jun

This week’s EC&I 830 debate topic focused on whether or not social media is ruining childhood. I haven’t been this solid on my opinion in a debate since the first week’s debate when I fully agreed that technology enhances learning.  I was super excited for this debate, as I wholeheartedly disagree. From Twitter conversations ahead of class, I knew I would be in the minority, and I was eager to participate on team disagree’s side and hopefully sway some opinions.

Via GIPHY

Team agree made up of Melinda, Alyssa, and Lori started the debate off with their opening statement. Decline in mental health, acceptance from peers, cyber bullying and other unhealthy behavior were all points team agree brought up. These are all valid issues that we know are plaguing children and teens today.

Team disagree made up of Erin, Brooke, and Daniel, highlighted major positive aspects of social media in children’s lives which included strengthening relationships, providing support for those who may be struggling or marginalized, encouraging learning, and giving students an opportunity to make a positive impact on the world in their opening statement.

I understand the concern teachers, parents, and society in general has when it comes to social media, technology in general and our children’s mental health. Although social media and smart phones are still relatively new in terms of technology, research is being done on increased mental health issues as well as increased screen time. I often wonder if these are related because of causation or correlation, and if the increasing diagnoses of depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mental health disorders may be due to advancement and knowledge in these areas. As a high school teacher, I see the state of mental health in our teens and schools which alarms me, but I also see amazing action taking place with Bell Let’s Talk, local organization The UnderstandUs, and a general increase in understanding and acceptance. As I see taking care of your mental health becoming a focus in schools through courses and things like Wellness days, I also see an ever-increasing need for a focus on digital health.

Last semester in EC&I 832, I dedicated my major project to learning more about digital health and wellness. What started from a viewpoint similar to team agree’s on all the ways social media (and technology) is harming kids, quickly changed into a more positive outlook as I began reading and learning more about ways it can benefit and can be used for so much good. On a large scale, it’s amazing to see how social media has inspired, and driven movements such as March For Our Lives, but it’s important not to forget on a smaller scale how powerful it can be for isolated or struggling kids to reach out and find a connection somewhere. To know there is someone or a group of people out there who are just like you, can bring hope to someone who has never felt like they fit in.

“When I think of technology, I don’t just see it as a tool. I see it as a way for kids to be seen. For kids to be found. For kids to not be alone. And for adults too. Someone out there values us. Someone out there, who wonders whether they have worth, is waiting for all of us. Technology means we don’t have to be alone anymore.” –Ripp, 2018

All this good, doesn’t mean that bad isn’t happening at the same time. Cyber bullying is real, and prominent in the lives of many. It is harmful and hurtful in many ways, and the anonymity and viral-ness of it is what makes it so challenging. But bullying has always been real, and has always been hurtful, and regardless of what form, it is always going to occur in some manner. Taking social media away from bullies is not going to make them less of a bully. Just as taking phones away from kids is not going to make them less invested in the online world they live in. Rather than focusing on the negatives of social media, or the bullies, I truly believe we need to focus on building our students to be upstanders, and overall outstanding digital citizens.

Rather than just waiting for digital citizenship education and curriculum changes to occur….

waiting

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We need to be proactive as teachers in bringing digital citizenship topics such as digital etiquette and digital health into our classrooms, and have these conversations with our students about social media and technology use. These conversations do not always need to be formal or part of the days lesson plan. When a student asks me to take a phone call during class from their work and I say yes, I use this opportunity to address it with the rest of the class as to why that is okay, and actually a responsible thing to do. We also talk about when might not be okay during class time, and how you can bridge that conversation with your boss when you call back on your break.

Although a small example, this is an important part of how we as teachers can begin to change the culture in schools which is seemingly shifting to banning phones, and hoping parents will teach their kids how to navigate the online world. While some schools are reporting benefits of banning phones, I think by doing this we are missing the boat huge on preparing students to be active participants and citizens in society, as so much of today’s information, communication, and connecting is now done online. As Nathan Jurgenson writes about the IRL fetish, we no longer really have a separate identity, or life, the digital world is the real world. To be our true genuine selves, both online and off, in every interaction, is exactly what we need to be teaching students.

“We may never fully log off, but this in no way implies the loss of the face-to-face, the slow, the analog, the deep introspection, the long walks, or the subtle appreciation of life sans screen. We enjoy all of this more than ever before” – Jurgenson

It is clear our world has changed with the advent of social media. My childhood was vastly different than my parent’s – the time I spent on MSN messenger and playing Mario Party was so strange to them. My adulthood is also vastly different. Although my mom embraces Facebook, my dad and I quote, thinks “Book-Face is the devil”. My student’s childhood is also completely different, and I am trying to prepare them for an adulthood that will be ever-changing as the workforce and society continues to become more connected and social. The only way childhood is being ruined is if we are resistant to letting kids be kids. We must foster and help grow a sense of imagination, the importance of play time, healthy risk-taking, and connection with peers. I believe all of these aspects can be grown both online and offline, and they must be – in order to raise strong, resilient, creative, and inspiring leaders to come in our world today.

 

 

 

To share or not to share… ‘please tell me how’ is the question

15 Jun

Last week’s debate posed the question “Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids.” Now, I’m not going to lie, the way in which the question was worded had me confused on where I stood (I think it’s fair… so I actually then disagree with the statement right?!), and my own confusion of where I stood continued to grow as we heard compelling arguments from classmates on both sides of the debate.

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The agree team of Amy, Dani, and Joe presented a super creative opening statement, outlining some problems and concerns when it comes to how much we share online whether as ourselves, parents, or teachers. Some of the stats shared in regards to dangers online truly made my shiver.

The disagree team of Kari, Esther, and Shelly, also prepared a compelling opening statement in which they highlighted many positives of sharing such as promoting connectivity between parents, teachers and students, and helping students to begin building a positive digital footprint.

Before the debate, and after, my opinion still stands that I disagree with the statement. I think as schools we need to promote and support more openness and sharing. Whether it is open source software or material, sharing resources between teachers, our students amazing work, with the community on Instagram or Twitter, or with families through apps such as Seesaw, there are so many possibilities for both teachers and students to grow.

As a high school teacher, I have no experience using Seesaw, but I know many classmates use it in their elementary school classrooms, and I have friends and colleagues who use it because their own child’s teacher uses it and I have heard nothing but great things about its power to connect and build digital citizenship skills with young learners. I think the openness and sharing an app like Seesaw creates is so beneficial to teachers, students, and parents, and opens the door to beginning to build a positive digital footprint at a young age in a safe, protected way. (If you want to learn more about Seesaw, check out my classmate Channing’s project from a few classes back in which she explored and detailed her experiences using Seesaw!)

What I struggle with (and it seemed like I am not the only one from our class discussion), is the policies or lack of, in place in regards to sharing and privacy, as well as the vast difference in expectations around sharing from school to school between divisions or districts. I know this is new territory we are often forging ahead in, and I am 100% behind the “it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission” saying in a lot of cases, but when it comes to something as serious as our students’ privacy and digital identities… is this okay?

We discussed how many of our policies are reactive vs. proactive as we just do not know what potential issues are until it’s too late sometimes. But even harmless mistakes in sharing, can lead to big consequences. I know in talking with other teachers, there has been some mixed messaging sent in terms of what information we can put into google docs because it has the potential of one wrong share click sending out private data, and also what we share on school and personal social media feeds. The ambiguity can be frustrating, and I also feel creates fear in teachers that leads them further from sharing. There have been times I haven’t shared what I think are great things in fear of it being against a policy.

I have been trying to overcome this fear, and share more about what I am doing in my classroom and school on my Twitter account and my school’s Instagram & Twitter, because I honestly think my students and school are AMAZING, and I believe in the power of social media to build positive movements towards change in society. My school’s social media presence isn’t widest spread, especially in comparison to other schools in Regina, but it is growing slowly! I like to think of it as building our own digital footprint as a school! With a little more clarity in terms of policies going forward, I believe a continued push for openness and sharing in schools is only going to continue to grow and benefit students, teachers, and education as a whole.

 

Thinking (and googling) critically

4 Jun

To be honest… I procrastinated this blog post. A lot.

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Every time I sat down to write it, I was completely stuck where to go.  Our second class debate of whether schools should not focus on teaching things that can be googled, had me doubting my opinion. My pre-debate vote was that I disagreed, but after watching the opening statements of the agree group Nicole, Channing & Jodie, I found myself totally agreeing with every statement they said! Then, Catherine, Amanda, and Shelby, came back with their opening statement, and I again, found myself agreeing with everything they said. How was this happening?!

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Both groups presented valid arguments to start, and the counter arguments and discussion to follow with our class had me still flip flopping, and to be honest confused at times who was on which side. There were so many similar points — students need to think critically, be able to navigate a fake news world, and learn in new and exciting ways, which we as teachers, need to create beyond our traditional four classroom walls.

One of the points the disagree group brought up that I agree with, is that memorization can be an important part of building higher thinking skills for kids. Now I’m not talking about the “memorizing” I did studying last minute (procrastination…it’s never changed) for my University exams, which only stayed briefly in my brain, but the repetitions required for spelling, writing, basic math, and even physical activity. With a last name like Rosenkranz, I probably practiced spelling my last name hundreds of times before I could remember it. My mom eventually made up a song to help me learn…and I was finally about to remember it. How did you learn to tie your shoes? Catch a ball? Times tables? Most likely through a lot of repetition, which ultimately committed this to memory. Now I am not naiive that many learners struggle with memorization, but with proper supports and adaptations, students can still practice recall skills.

Even in our ever-changing world of technology, repetition will continue to be an important part of building skills to a mastery level in any subject area. I’ve said this before, but when we think about building our students digital citizenship abilities, they need the opportunity to practice these skills, we can’t just assume they will get this knowledge at home, and when it comes to this debate, we can’t just assume our students will get this knowledge from google. The need for digital citizenship to be taught in schools tells me this. Our students will always need the opportunity to practice, explore, and navigate in a safe, guided space regardless of what the content is.

Questioning the content that we teach and the existence of curriculum at all, was also brought up last week. I keep thinking about this, and how I really do feel a need for changes in our archaic education system, but I don’t think eliminating curriculum is what is needed. If we truly want students to be able to think critically, as both groups suggested, we need content for them to think critically about. One of the articles the disagree group shared, talked about critical thinking and how to using technology to support it. Some of the skills it talks about that critical thinkers are able to do are:

  • Communication
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Problem-solving
  • Evaluation
  • Reflection

Without content… how can one do any of these things? Yes students can find their own content that interests them through google, but students are not trained to set up learning activities in which they could analyze content, vs. choose content more suited to synthesize. This is why teachers exist! Like I talked about in my last blog post about why technology enhances learning, teachers play a vital role, and cannot and should not be replaced with technology. As teachers, we can do a better job to choose more interesting, new, and relevant content, and perhaps many of our old curriculums could be updated (is Shakespeare really necessary still?), and that is truly the beauty of google – we have so much more access to resources beyond an old tattered textbook.

We need to be there to help guide our students through the learning journey they are on, and prepare them to continue this journey on their own for the rest of their lives. Yes, that means we need to teach differently then we were taught, and we need to use the plethora of information available to us and our students. But I truly believe our students are not ready to dive into this vast sea of information alone. We need to set up learning opportunities, and build skills that prepare students to not only choose their own content – but to be digitally saavy, media literate, critical thinkers of the 21st century.

Pro Tech

26 May

Each week in EC&I 830 with Dr. Alec Couros, we are taking on a debate topic regarding contemporary issues with educational technology. Myself and my rockstar partners Jana and Kristen were the lucky group to take on the first week’s topic of whether technology in the classroom enhances learning, and our stance was AGREE!

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Agreeing that technology does enhance learning is consistent with my long-time personal opinion, so I was super happy to take on this side of the argument. As a “pro-tech” person, it is easy to say that I agree with this, but to actually convince others and hopefully win (I am very competitive), I felt pressure to put together a solid argument, and understand the big picture of what it means to actually effectively use technology to enhance learning. I truly enjoyed the challenge of researching and developing our opening debate statement, as well as actual in class debate and counter arguments that followed. Kyla, Wendy, and Amy who took on the disagree stance of the debate, did an absolutely amazing job supporting the ways in which technology can be a detriment to learning, and their research and arguments were extremely valid.

When thinking about whether technology enhances learning, I think the most important thing to consider is the role of the teacher. The research and opinions on the disagree side of things often say that technology is being haphazardly thrown into lessons or used ineffectively to do tasks in which it is not actually needed. Technology is a tool, not a replacement for a teacher. Setting up appropriate learning activities and providing guidance, structure and opportunities to use technology to bring learning to a whole new level is a huge part of what teachers do in their classrooms. The SAMR model, is a great way for teachers to consider how they are using technology and to what level it is actually effecting the learning for students.

SAMR

Image found HERE.

Teaching in a Digital Age: How Educators Use Technology to Improve Student Learning by Katherine McKnight, Kimberly O’Malley, Roxanne Ruzic, Maria Kelly Horsley, John J. Franey & Katherine Bassett was the main research article my group gravitated to as they so perfectly describe the ways in which technology not only enhances learning, but increases student engagement. The article describes in detail how technology:

  1. Improves access
  2. Enhances communication and feedback
  3. Extends purpose and audience for student work
  4. Shifts teacher and student roles
  5. Restructures teacher time

These 5 roles technology plays undoubtedly transforms the ways in which teachers and students are interacting, communicating and learning together.  So many barriers are broken down when traditional roles of not only the student and teacher shift, but also when the ‘textbook’, materials, output and assessment are vastly improved.

Preparing students for their future education and careers in the 21st century should also be at the forefront of education, and as we’ve read about Future Work Skills 2020, students need skills like cognitive load management and virtual collaboration, in order to engage in diverse spaces and media they will encounter. One of the arguments of the disagree side was that multi-tasking is detrimental to student learning, and that technology can be quite the distraction for students. Thinking back to my learning and experience in EC&I 832 and a blog post I wrote, schools need to be providing students opportunity to learn digital etiquette, manage distractions, and ultimately  become better digital citizens. If schools do not play this role and provide students a chance to master these skills, how will they ever succeed in the technology driven world around them?

Not only does technology enhance learning in a classroom setting, but technology IS the way students communicate, share, and spend their time. If students are using technology to live so many moments of their lives, we should be seeking to use it to enhance as many moments of their learning as we can.