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We are not digitally well…yet…and we never will be if we don’t start letting kids practice appropriate use in school

13 Feb

Very early this semester we were introduced to Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship as we began to ponder our major projects and what avenue we might explore to best guide a large part of our personal learning over the next four months. I was immediately drawn to one element in particular – Digital Health & Wellness and after a lot of deliberation, I was able to somewhat coherently outline what exactly I was hoping to accomplish in my first blog post back.

Since then, I have spent a lot of time reading, and sharing articles on Twitter having to do with all things related to Digital Health & Wellness.  I have tried to use #digitalwellness, and I am actually starting to see more and more things come up, so I am hoping this trend can continue! I have also tried to view all of our learning so far in class sessions as well as through reading others blogs and following #digcit and #eci832, through a lens of digital wellness, and trying to always connect back.

I am still mostly on the same track with the things I originally outlined that I wanted to complete for my major project.

  • A closer look at my own digital health and wellness. I don’t feel I lead a balanced lifestyle with digital technology. What would balance look like and how do I find it? I wrote one blog post so far about my own issues revolving quitting social media, and I plan to continue to write and reflect on this.What example am I setting as a teacher – and are we setting as adults and parents for our students? I also realize that my project and this specific portion relates to digital etiquette, which is another of Ribble’s elements and I begin to look at this area later in this post.
  • Survey/collect information on digital health and wellness from ECI&I 832 classmates, Twitter followers, and students. Is our technology affecting how we sleep? How we view our bodies? Do we feel “addicted” to our technology? Addicted to social media?
    I haven’t got here yet, but I still plan to do this!
  • A variety of online resources centered around teaching students about digital citizenship, specifically digital health and wellness such as Common Sense Education, and use these resources as a starting point to curate my own. I have been exploring and saving galore!
  • Develop a presentation/session on digital health and wellness for F. W. Johnson‘s Wellness Day in March which is a day dedicated to Grade 10 students and positively impacting and improving their overall well-being. I haven’t developed my presentation yet but am mulling over ideas. I want it to be based on building healthy social media and tech habits, vs. “scare” tactics on how their mental health is at risk. I am scheduled in for two presentation time slots! I just need to come up with a creative title for my session so kids want to sign up… any thoughts?

The one area I feel like I have shifted on in my major project is moving towards positive digital health, vs. highlighting all the ways our digital health is being affected negatively. I feel like I started off pretty strong with a mindset that we need to drastically improve our digital health, and that our students are experiencing difficulties in many areas of their lives because they are not digitally well. Not to say that I don’t believe this anymore–because I definitely do think many of us are not digitally well, but I do think there is a lot of hope…perhaps you could call it a “cure” for the sickness we are currently faced with.

I could give you, or quite easily you could find for yourself, a long list of articles stating the dire circumstances of our kids’ mental health currently (and trust me, I see this everyday in schools and it worries me as I wrote about last week), and how the rising rates of depression, anxiety, and self-image issues are explicitly linked to the rising rates of smartphones, social media, and technology in the hands of our youth. But instead of just scaring ourselves – like our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were scared of the the radio, the television and video games – and blaming this actually very new in the grand scheme of things technology – why are we not doing more to learn with our kids about it?

This leads me into the realization that although my project focuses on digital health and wellness, it also relates to one of the other 9 elements which is digital etiquette .

“We recognize inappropriate behavior when we see it, but before people use technology they do not learn digital etiquette (i.e., appropriate conduct). Many people feel uncomfortable talking to others about their digital etiquette. Often rules and regulations are created or the technology is simply banned to stop inappropriate use. It is not enough to create rules and policy, we must teach everyone to become responsible digital citizens in this new society.” (Ribble, 2017).

I believe digital etiquette is really one of the first areas we need to start teaching, modeling, and talking about in our schools and classrooms, and ultimately this will connect us to digital well-being. Banning cellphones seems to be the direction where fed up teachers and schools are heading, trying to engage students in learning, and disengage them from their phones. The Toronto Principal in the above article who just banned cellphones states the reason being “to minimize distractions in the classroom and reduce the inappropriate uses of the devices during the school day.” The grade 7 and 8 students can use them at lunch but there are ridiculous (in my mind) restrictions.  “…the rules will be: no social media, no texting, no taking or viewing photos and videos.” So…. playing candy crush is cool, but basically you cannot use your device for any of the other ways it is able to communicate with the world around you. I have so many problems with this.

Banning cellphones, is something I completely disagree with. Many teachers express their frustration with kids not being able to focus on the lesson, or getting their work done because they are so focused on their cellphone. Whether it is keeping up a snap-streak, chatting on Facebook messenger, or scrolling vines, they are evidently disengaged from class, and locked into  that device in their hand. There are a few issues at hand here  that connect to digital etiquette. Obviously, conversations need to be had between teachers and students about who/what/when/where/why they can be on their cellphones during those 60 minutes of class (and no, the answer shouldn’t be never). If we just starting taking kids phones away without setting clear guidelines, we shouldn’t be surprised if they get upset at us for doing so.

My refusal to take away a phone stems from the fact that that is a $500-$1000 (or even more) device that I have no business or desire to be responsible for. I don’t want it falling off my desk and having a screen shatter, or seeing anything (inadvertently or not) pop up on their screen that isn’t meant for my eyes. I would much rather ask a student to put their phone away in their pocket, or binder, if I am really concerned with their inappropriate usage of it at the time. If my phone cannot be out at all in a meeting, or in a graduate class, I would expect the person in charge to tell me that. I am a responsible adult (okay sometimes), and I feel like I possess proper digital etiquette skills that I know I could check my phone, reply to a message or email, or even take an important call during a meeting or class in a respectful manner, at an appropriate time. Teachers do this in staff meetings, heck teachers do this during the classes they are teaching. Because sometimes you need to reply or answer that call, and that is acceptable. We need to allow our kids to do the same.

Students will ultimately struggle with judgement and being able to know what needs to be replied to, versus what doesn’t need to be replied to at that very moment. Can they wait until you are done your lecture (please reflect on the amount of time you’re lecturing if you are…), or until you are done  an activity, or until you are done having a class discussion? Yes, it most likely can. But if they don’t begin to practice this appropriate use, how do we expect them to master it? We all know mastery of a skill (or a behavior) doesn’t happen without opportunities to try and try again, and we can expect students to start at a low level of acquisition, and with our help and guidance perhaps move to progressing, to meeting, to hopefully exceeding our expectations! We need to give them this chance.

We as teachers can not only talk about appropriate use and set out guidelines in our classrooms, but we can model it as well. My cellphone is either in my pocket, or on my desk at all times. I don’t lock it away – I’m not scared of it being stolen, nor am I uncomfortable with students seeing me check my phone, and *gasp* reply to a message or email. No, I am not going to do this mid-math example or during a workout in Phys.Ed, but I am going to do it at an appropriate time. And students need to see this, if they have any hope of beginning to understand appropriate use as we ween them off the idea and current reality of checking it every 5 seconds.

Someone in class (sorry I can’t remember!) had mentioned teachers in their building modelling digital etiquette and for example not walking down the hallways looking only at their phone, as many of our kids are. This is such a simple suggestion, but I think can totally be effective and is important for teachers to be aware of in creating a climate of appropriate use. It reminded me of this PSA that Luke had shared on Twitter a few weeks ago.

I know I am guilty of walking inside and outside of school at my phone, and could easily be one of these people in the video! I think this video appeals to kids with humor, but it also sends a serious message about the dangers of being glued to our phones not only when we are walking, but especially when we are driving. Texting and driving, Snapchatting and driving (seriously it’s crazy), scrolling Instragram and driving, really anything that has you looking at your phone screen is a huge distraction and relevant issues for not only all drivers, but especially today’s teens learning to drive.

I remember my parents being very worried about my  music being too loud to distract me, and when I got my license was also when they introduced the only “one friend” in the vehicle rule for new drivers in Saskatchewan. With all the distractions that can take place on the one little device that we probably don’t want to send our kids on the road without (in case of an emergency), it doesn’t matter how many people or how loud the music, the danger is right in their hands.

We have 5-6 hours a day with our students, and instead of treating that time as time that needs to be spent away from their phones, maybe we need to shift our mindset to time spent with their phones. No, not 6 hours on being glued to their phone screen, but 6 hours that we can help them begin to learn and understand appropriate use and etiquette. Cellphones, social media, and instant communication is here to stay, and it is only going to become more prevalent, more normal, and more engrained in the fabric of our students lives. We need to work towards helping them achieve mastery of appropriate use, just as we want them to achieve mastery of every other skill we teach.


Don’t Quit Social Media for the Wrong Reasons — Stay for the Right Ones

2 Feb

The focus of my major project for EC&I 832 is digital health and wellness, and one of the things I intend to do is investigate and reflect on my own personal digital well-being. I came across this article on Twitter, which offers 3 ‘resolutions’ – which are more like practical ideas/tips for optimizing your digital health – staying organized, communicating purposefully, and remaining authentic. My original intent for this blog post was to explore these ideas and reflect on how I am currently doing and in these areas, and also ponder how I could improve. (That was derailed when I began writing… stay tuned I still intend to write that post!)

Before the article gets into explaining the 3 resolutions, it addresses an idea – and now I am thinking perhaps a misconception –  that I have held for a few years now about improving my digital well-being. Deleting social media, leaving your devices away, or as the article calls it “quitting cold turkey” has always been my go-to in the past. When I feel like I am endlessly scrolling, monopolizing valuable time I could be spent doing other things, and especially feeling down from comparing myself to the #fitgirls or seeing all the cute couple posts, the obvious answer (I thought) was to delete my social media.

Now, I am not as intense as others out there– I do love Facebook and Instagram for so many reasons and enjoy using them to connect and share with my friends and family — so actually deleting my accounts is off the table. What I have done is taken a “social media break” and deleted the apps from my phone, and thus essentially not allowed myself to go on them for specific time periods. Of course this wasn’t done without posting a clever status about “disconnecting to reconnect” or leaving a carefully planned “candid” photo, letting everyone know I would be offline for a while. But the more I read and explore this topic of digital health, the more I realize that my connection to social media isn’t broken through taking this break, and neither am I more connected to my “real” life.


Road between Monteverde and La Fortuna in the Cloud Forest in Costa Rica. So candid right?!

“The IRL Fetish” by Nathan Jurgenson, and his idea of “digital dualism” attests to this. We are never really offline. The more we fantasize, obsess, or even boast about spending time offline or disconnected to our devices actually fuels our online activity. I have backpacked through 12 countries, and have had the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful views in the world (seriously) with my own two, real life, eyes.


Wolfgangsee, Austria. These colors… wow.

But while I have been losing my breath from the beauty around me, experiencing a completely different culture, or having a beer in a pub across the ocean with strangers who are becoming lifelong friends, I have been so excited to share that online. My thoughts have gone to wondering when I would get wifi next, so I could post the picture, share the status, or even make the friendship Facebook official – and I wanted my friends and family to be a part of that, even if that meant online.


John Lennon wall in Prague, Czech Repbulic. My sister is the biggest Beatles fan – couldn’t wait to show her!

“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

Even though I may share – or sometimes over-share – on my vacations, or from other special moments in my life through pictures or posts on social media, I don’t feel like I am enjoying those moments any less. In fact, I am often disappointed that a picture cannot truly capture the moment I want my friends and family to also be able to experience, since they cannot be with me. Spending ridiculous amounts of time (hours?) trying to get the perfect filter (Valenica, obviously), level of contrast, or crop for the best angle is something that becomes an issue of wanting to portray perfection vs. share a moment. Being mindful of this is important – you can’t share what’s not there.

chasing waterfalls

Montezuma, Costa Rica. The water was really that brown. But if you could hear the amazing sounds of the water crashing and feel the mist…

I do think it is really important to be cognizant about how you feel after you post or share. If you are feeling disappointed because you only get __# of likes, or a specific person doesn’t like it (you were maybe posting that for them to specifically see, and that is a whole other issue to explore), than your digital well-being is at risk, and maybe not as optimal as it could be. If  you are constantly deleting/re-adding posts, or changing your captions because you are worried they don’t make you look popular enough/cool enough because you don’t get the initial reaction/’hype’ you wanted, than I also feel like that is a a sign of some potentially unhealthy digital behavior.

I have caught myself exhibiting these behaviors before, and I know they have led me to feel negatively about not only myself, but also social media. Being aware of my actions, reactions, and attitudes towards what I am sharing and who/what I am following has been a really important step towards building a healthy relationship with social media for me, and ultimately a step towards optimizing my digital health. I was actually considering starting 2018 with deleting my social media apps, and I am so happy that I didn’t, and that I have embarked on this journey to improve my digital wellness. I already have found myself feeling an improved sense of control, enjoyment, and understanding of my digital health, and I look forward to continuing to share this journey with you!

look up

The perfect picture to symbolize starting a journey. In Ban Pok, just outside Chiang Mai, Thailand




Looking at Digital Health and Wellness

23 Jan

I had a really hard time deciding what I actually wanted to do for my major project in EC&I 832. I am very connected–probably too connected (hint: more to come on this), to my phone, computer, and all the social media, apps & digital tools that I have come to know and love. Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, MyFitnessPal, Fitbit, Kahoot, Plickers, and Google Classroom, are all apps that I use almost every day in different aspects to interact with either friends, family, colleagues, students or the social world around me. I didn’t feel that exploring apps – whether for personal or educational use was the right path for me to truly engage with the content in this course, self-reflection, and the overall learning journey through digital citizenship.

It was upon reading Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship, and reflecting on my own behavior and knowledge in these areas of my own life online, that I really began thinking about Digital Health and Wellness. Digital Health and Wellness is the 8th element in Saskatchewan’s Digital Citizenship Policy Planning Guide, which includes both physical and psychological health concerns/issues related to digital technology use.

As a Phys. Ed/Health 9, and Wellness 10 teacher, I see so many connections to the Dimensions of Wellness (what and how many dimensions there are varies by source). Physical, Psychological, Social and Spiritual Wellness are all important contributors to one’s overall health, and well-being.  Digital health has clear impacts on all areas – from physical concerns like ergonomics, to psychological concerns like internet or social media addiction. As we continue to spend so much of our time and build more aspects of our lives online, maybe Digital Wellness should be an entire dimension of it’s own?

In looking at Saskatchewan’s Digital Citizenship Continuum for Digital Health and Wellness below, I am intrigued as a high school teacher by what Grade 10-12 students should understand and do. For my project, I would like to focus on how I can help students learn, understand, and implement these key ideas. I am especially interested in helping students (and myself…) live a balanced lifestyle with their technology and digital tools that are at their fingertips 24/7.

Source: Saskatchewan Ministry of Education, 2015. Saskatchewan’s Digital Citizenship Continuum

Things are not completely organized, or set in stone for this project, but some of the things I want to explore are:

  • A closer look at my own digital health and wellness. I don’t feel I lead a balanced lifestyle with digital technology. What would balance look like and how do I find it? What example am I setting as a teacher – and are we setting as adults and parents for our students?
  • Survey/collect information on digital health and wellness from ECI&I 832 classmates, Twitter followers, and students. Is our technology affecting how we sleep? How we view our bodies? Do we feel “addicted” to our technology? Addicted to social media?
  • A variety of online resources centered around teaching students about digital citizenship, specifically digital health and wellness such as Common Sense Education, and use these resources as a starting point to curate my own.
  • Develop a presentation/session on digital health and wellness for F. W. Johnson‘s Wellness Day in March which is a day dedicated to Grade 10 students and positively impacting and improving their overall well-being.

I am looking forward to the learning journey I am about to embark on, and I would love any feedback, ideas, or resources that any readers feel would enhance my project!