Should we just pull the plug already?

SOURCE:GIPHY

Well, here we are, my final EC&I 830 blog post. Our quick semester flew right by us, leaving me a lot more prepared to begin my next school year in September. With the help of the discussions we’ve had throughout the past month and a half, I have developed a few new ideas relating to how I’m going to be integrating technology in my classroom from now on.

Ironically enough however, our debate topic for our last class focused on society’s dependency on technology, and whether or not we should just unplug completely.

Unplugging completely is quite an extreme measure to take at a time where technology has completely grasped every aspect of society. Just yesterday I was talking to my class about how I saw a $300 tooth brush at the store the other day that could hook up to an Iphone app via Bluetooth. I’m sure the device is great, and tracking my brushing time could definitely have some benefits…I guess.

“Brushing our teeth the OLD SCHOOL WAY!”

I guess this is as good of an example as any, but I would definitely agree that we’ve become quite dependent on technology. Of course, this goes beyond the idea of a three-hundred dollar toothbrush. It’s the fact that we need to keep track of every personal stat for every workout; it’s us needing to post a picture of every dinner and lunch that we have; or having to share every single thought that comes to our heads.

In true fashion of all the EC&I 830 debates, I have managed to land in the grey area of this question once again. On one side, technology is taking over our lives, disrupting our real-life interactions and chipping away at our social skills. Just the other day, we were having a discussion in my class about how difficult it is to have conversations with people when they are more pre-occupied with their phones, than they are with your conversation. Then, we’ve got the other side, where technology can simply be viewed as a tool, rather than a necessity, that facilitates daily tasks.

For my final debate reflection, I decided to go to the source. I decided to take this question, and actually ask the very people that we’re so concerned about. Our students.

I’ve spent the past week and a half discussing some of the debate topics we had in our EC&I 830 class, with my grade 5/6 class. May sound a little weird, considering some of the questions brought up some heavy topics, but they were extremely co-operative and more than willing to answer the questions we were exploring.

We started off talking about what technology even is. I wrote a list of different objects, spanning from a stapler, a rake, a spear, a typewriter, paper, pencils, tablets, laptops, virtual reality, space crafts, the Large Hadron Collider, and many others.

I proceeded by asking them “What do all of these things have in common?”

Kids made associations between some objects, saying how pencils and papers had things in common, as well as spears and rakes, and computers and laptops. We spent a great deal of time breaking down the list, but none of the students made the connection that all of these objects are considered technology.

We explored the concept of technology, and how it’s evolved and become bigger and more exciting things. To them, technology obviously refers to electronics, devices, social media; this is what they were brought up with, this is what their definition of technology is to them.

We compared our grandparents’ childhoods, with their childhoods. We talked about what we do differently today. But then I asked them “What is something you wish you could experience that your grandparents or older generations have told you about when they were your age.” The answer were interesting. The most common answer I got back from them was “not having technology” and “being free to do anything you want, and not being connected to everything and everyone all the time”.

I proceeded to ask them why they felt this way, and many of them told me that the reason they wish to leave these things, is because they find that they are spending too much time on their devices. They found that their parents and grandparents had more interesting upbringings than them, and that they wish they could do some of the things their family members did when they were young. One of my students told me that there are too many rules nowadays, and he can’t just “go outside”. He told the class that he wishes phones didn’t keep track of where people are and how you can get a hold of anyone at any time. He identified some of the risks of not being connected, like being kidnapped or getting hurt or lost and not having anyone find him. He also mentioned how people like his grandfather got in all sorts of trouble, but nothing ever really happened to him.

Of course, not all the kids had the same answers, many of them thought the past wasn’t that exciting at all and they didn’t really want to experience a life without the technology we have now.

I then asked the class to do a quick role play. I stood in front of the class and chose a volunteer. I handed my volunteer my IPhone and told them to pretend I was someone from 1916. I told the class that my character I was playing had no knowledge of what a cell phone was. The question leading up to this activity was: “Imagine you could go back to the past, and show someone from 1916 a device from the future. What would you show them?”

So I told my volunteer to pretend that they were showing me, the man from the past, a device from the future. My student showed me the device and told me what it was.

Student: “This is a cell phone”

Me: “What’s a cell phone?”

Student: “It’s a device that you can go on social media and talk to your friends”

Me: “What’s a device? What’s social media? What do you mean I can just talk to them?”

Student: “Well, it’s a phone, so you can talk to anyone?”

Me: “A phone….?”

Student: “Yeah, you know, a telephone!”

Me: “Ohhhh, you mean those things that are attached to the wall that the rich folk have in their homes? But how is this a telephone? Why isn’t it attached to the wall?”

Throughout the role play, the student was getting frustrated, because he wasn’t able to explain all of the cool features this device was capable of doing.

Me: “So what is this social media that you speak of?”

Student: “Well… social media is something where you…. It’s an app.”

Me: “What’s an app?”

Student: “It’s kind of like a program that goes on your phone.”

Me: “A program? Like a schedule for an event?”

Needless to say, this went on for a while and the student (eventually students, because my first volunteer gave up midway) experienced a lot of trouble explaining the features and appeal of this amazing device. The purpose of this experiment was to show my class how different our lives really are compared to older generations(and even people who DON’T have these devices). Putting these things into perspective helped them see how difficult it is for people who aren’t connected to understand the things that we’re so infatuated with.

We ended up making a pros and cons list of technology. The results are surprising:

"Cons"
“Cons”
"Pros"
“Pros”

According to my class, there are far more cons to technology than pros. When I asked them to beef up the pros list, they really couldn’t. They told me that although technology is helpful, they often find it difficult to use it appropriately. They said it’s a distraction, and even if they try not to overuse it, they always end up doing so anyway. So the kids that are growing up with tech are coming up with some of the same conclusions many people are making on topic. It’s always interesting to see what your students really think.

We started talking about being connected, and I asked my class who would be able to fully drop technology. Most of my students said they would never abandon technology altogether. Some of them said they’d be more than willing to get rid of social media, but not other things like video games or their phones.

We proceeded to watch the Paul Miller story, the man who stopped using the Internet for a whole year. For many of the reasons my own students identified, Paul abandoned the internet for many of these same reasons.

When I asked my students again if they could abandon technology and fully disconnect, only two students said they could do it. Most of my class said that they would never unplug because there’s no need to unplug. Watching the video of Paul showed them that although he seemed happier at the end of the experiment, he still didn’t end up doing a lot of the things he had the intentions of doing with an entire year of “FREE TIME”. Some of my students said that the busier they are, the more they get done. Some of my students said that they can take or leave technology, because they still enjoy being outside and playing with their friends. Many of my students made the distinction between digital and real-life interactions, saying how they are both different types of interactions. Although they like socializing online, nothing will compare to real-life interactions.

I could go on forever, but at the end of the day, the message that came out was moderation. Once again, we find ourselves in this gray area of the debate. Technology, although quite harmful in many ways, is still something a lot of us are unwilling to completely abandon. Even me, unless I HAD to, I would never be able to just drop tech. What I learned from my students however, is that they are fully aware of the dangers and the negative aspects of tech, and as far as they see, their solution is moderation and backing off and taking a break from time to time.

I don’t think I answered this question, as much as I just took a better look at it. Unplugging, as I said, is so extreme. Is it possible? Of course it is, but what I find is that at this point in my life (where my job, schooling and social life depend on tech), it would actually make my life a lot harder to manage if I didn’t have these things. I, like my students, also believe in moderation and being able to step back when you have to. I almost feel defeated by technology, but perhaps we shouldn’t look at it this way…

This class was a huge learning experience for me and I’m really happy I got to share a lot of my thoughts with all of you. Thanks for everyone’s input every week, your comments challenged me and gave me the extra push to further explore my thoughts.

Great job everyone! I hope you all have a great summer.

Cheers,

Dre

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And just like that, it’s over: My Summary of Learning

How’s it going everyone!

Well, just like that, our EC&I 830 class came to a close. In the past couple of weeks, I learned some incredible things I was completely overlooking about Ed.Tech. Before taking this class, I often struggled to successfully find useful and innovative ways of integrating technology into my classroom. What I found was that without acknowledging some of the potential issues technology can bring into a classroom, Ed. Tech. can go from being an incredible learning tool, to simply a nuisance.

But we can’t look at technology as a nuisance though. Tech is not only a revolutionary tool, but it’s also an integral part of Western life, woven into the very fabric of our society. Although devices and social media can be distracting and can sometimes lead to bigger social problems for individuals (such as cyber bullying, anxiety or depression), we need to prepare ourselves with the proper knowledge, tools and resources to address these issues in the classroom. As teachers, if we aren’t keeping up with what our students are doing online, we’re only distancing ourselves more from younger generations.

“Can’t stop, won’t stop.”
SOURCE: GIPHY

Most of us use technology in the classroom in straight-forward and “traditional” ways. Whether we’re using tech to gather information for a research assignment, or using it to make our PowerPoint presentations, we’re not really challenging the limitations of this technology . These tools are capable of breaking down all sorts of walls and social barriers. We can see and talk to virtually anyone around the world, at lightning fast speeds. And now, with virtual reality taking the world by storm, we can even “GO” and see anything and any place we want. I mean, how crazy is that? Imagine “going” to MARS with your class at the end of your space unit? That’s pretty crazy.

“Mars, you say?”

The SAMR model is definitely something I’m taking away with me. We can use these tools in various ways to help us, but unless we’re trying to “redefine” the way we put these things to use, we might as well just be using a pen and pencil.

SOURCE: Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D.

Technology has advanced so quickly in the past decade, that many of us are sort of just getting up to speed with the whole thing. I believe that for this exact reason, many of us are having a hard time understanding just how much of an effect this is having on society. Many of us judge the youth of today for obsessing over their smart phones and not going outside; but truthfully speaking, we can’t expect these kids to be outside playing with sticks the way we did when we were kids. First of all, why play with a stick, when you have devices that can virtually make anything possible? Sure, kids may not be using their imaginations in THE SAME WAY we would have twenty or thirty years ago, but maybe…just MAYBE, given the right circumstances, they could start using these tools in more productive and constructive ways than we could ever imagine. It’s also important to put things into perspective: What if WE had these tools when we were young? As much as we judge kids these days, chances are, we would probably do the same things these kids are doing right now if we were handed a device. Furthermore, do we even know what kids are DOING with tech? For all we know, they might be blogging, coding or participating in a social upstanding movement. We really can’t be judging unless we are proactively learning about the things they are doing. Even social media doesn’t always have to be the demon that we play it up to be.

For me, the common theme that emerged from all of the debates was adjustment. I believe that society needs to be embracing these social changes, learning from them and understanding them as much as possible. Right now, we’ve got a large portion of our society that is resisting tech, but if we want to fully realize technologies potential, we need to set it free.

Yo, check out my new state-of-the-art answering machine”

For my final assignment, I made a video showcasing my summary of learning for this class. I focused on some of the bigger issues I found the most important in our weekly debates, including some of the things I just mentioned.

I would like to thank all my readers and all of my classmates. You all contributed greatly in my learning this semester, and if it wasn’t for everyone’s engagement in the class, I’m sure I wouldn’t have come out learning so much.

I hope you all have a great summer and I look forward to seeing all of your final projects as well.

Good luck everyone, and happy summer!

Peace out,

Dre

SOURCE: GIPHY

Have we sold our souls to corporate greed?

Has public education sold its soul to corporate interests?

Satan: Alright man, if you just sign here and here, we should be good to go.

Saint Augustine: So when exactly will I get my complimentary breakfast? Is it before or AFTER I sign off my soul? I heard they make their hollondaise IN HOUSE, no one does that anymore!

SOURCE: Michael Pacher

Last night’s debate was extremely interesting because it asked a question that I’ve wondered a lot about myself. Our guest speaker, Community Manager of Discover Education , Dean Shareski made some strong points for the disagreeing side of the debate, saying how it would be rather arrogant for schools to claim that they do not need outside funding and support to meet their needs. In a lot of ways, Dean is absolutely right. Schools are definitely underfunded and sometimes the only real answer IS external funding. This goes without saying that the nature of these transactions aren’t at least questionable.

The agreeing team made some huge points that only solidified what I already believed. Companies such as Pearson are giant businesses that are cashing-in on standardized testing and essentially running the show with our curriculums. Articles such as this one show us how big businesses and corporations have quite the power over what is happening in our classrooms.

Kind of humiliating ain’t it?
SOURCE: GIPHY

Furthermore, with all these companies dictating what we’re doing in our classrooms, I can’t help but wonder at what point does the integrity of our work get compromised? How are these factors affecting WHAT we teach? And who is this going to benefit in the long-run? At what point do corporate interests begin to mold and map out our curriculums to comply with THEIR motives?

I couldn’t help but wonder about the nature of these markets and why Pearson for example, has such a strong grip on our education programs. I question this a lot because at the end of the day, this is a corporation. Companies such as Pearson may be offering and complying with a lot of the things our school boards are looking for, but at the end of the day, who’s making the big bucks? The schools sure aren’t, and if this isn’t problematic to you, then you may not be looking at the bigger picture.

We need to be honest here, education is a mind-bogglingly large market, NOT taping into it would be absurd, which is why I agree that we’ve definitely sold our souls to corporate interests.

Who can say no to MORE money?
SOURCE: GIPHY

In many ways, I think we sort of have to. Partnerships with soda companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi CAN have their benefits. The following article describes some of the perks of signing a contract with big soda companies. This particular example comes from the U.S. but it gives us a good idea of how things work:

“Under the existing 10-year contract, Coca-Cola paid the district $4 million upfront and an additional $350,000 a year to sell its beverages in schools. The annual payments have funded field trips, gym uniforms, SMART Boards and other frills that individual school budgets may not otherwise have afforded.”

Sure, partnerships with these companies may be providing much-needed funding for schools, BUT we can’t be blindsided by these things alone. Again, this is a giant company; and not just any company either, this is COCA COLA, literally one of the BIGGEST corporations in the world. Sure, they may be helping the schools, but in no way are they doing this out of the kindness of their hearts. They have a lot of money to spare, and truthfully speaking, they’re not only building a business relationship with school districts, but they are also creating new clients with the students. This is an investment for THEIR future. If this isn’t an incredible business opportunity, then what is? It’s not like these companies are coming out empty handed, they are creating customer loyalty and making a lot of money while doing it.

“Sorry, no refunds” – Coca Cola
SOURCE: GIPHY

Not only that, but how is this affecting our kids? For one, these products are extremely unhealthy and are responsible for spikes in obesity and other health concerns. Many would also argue that advertising and product placement has no place in the classroom either. But everywhere we look, our classrooms are exclusive to brands. At my school (and all others really), any tablet that we may have is definitely going to be an Apple product. The same can be said with our laptops. Our school has replaced everything we had with Google Chrome books, on which we use Google apps to do everything from our homework, emailing, presentations and blogging.

Although companies such as Google, Microsoft and Apple have contributed greatly to developing modern Ed. tech that a great majority of us use on a daily basis, we can’t assume these companies are developing these tools solely for the good of our students. Education is an ENORMOUS market that IS going to be exploited, whether we want to see it that way or not.

And then we have universities. We’re told everyday about the value of education, yet we rarely ever question the nature of these institutions and how they work.

I love school. I wouldn’t be taking my master’s in education right now if I didn’t, but I know how universities make a hefty profit off all of us. I’m not going to get into all the logistics of how Universities have turned into giant corporations (but check out this link and this one) but the nature of these institutions is to make a profit.

And if that wasn’t enough, we take it a step further by offering services such as private schools and high-profile, elite universities. After all, there’s always going to be someone who “wants the best of the best”. So why not cater to these clients? At the end of the day, we can make a big buck off them anyway.

So, have we sold our souls to the devil so to speak? Have we compromised the integrity of our work and our kids’ health and safety from corporate greed for some extra funding? Unfortunately, I think we have. Is there much we can do about it? At this point, I don’t really think there’s much we can do to avoid these things other than become more aware of them. Unfortunately, even then, the fact is, we live in a capitalist society and regardless of how “sacred” something may be, we’re always going to find a way to make a profit out of it.

So… who’s got a pen?

SOURCE: GIPHY

Thanks for reading everyone,

Dre

What’s the point of comparing childhoods? Let’s get with the times!

If we’re gonna blame social media for all of society’s problems, shouldn’t we be blaming Slimer for teaching us such poor table manners?
SOURCE:GIPHY

I grew up in the 90’s. I was obsessed with Ghostbusters, I collected “Pogs”, I had devil sticks and I watched “Are you Afraid of the Dark” on YTV every Saturday night. One of my favorite things was staying up late to watch all of my favorite music videos on Much Music and MTV. Oh, and who can forget, when I wanted to play with my friends, I knew that phoning their house at 9:00 pm would possibly result in getting yelled at by their parents for calling so late.

Okay good, he’s in a good mood this time!
SOURCE: GIPHY

The struggle was real.

Yet, nowadays, I look at kids, and I have no idea what to think of the trends that they’re into.

What happened to skateboards? Why is everyone longboarding now

Dub step? Really? Have you HEARD of 90’s hip hop, people?!

PewDiePie? I mean really? You’d rather WATCH someone play a videogame on YOUTUBE than actually play the game yourself?

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you PewDiePie. I still don’t get it…
SOURCE: GIPHY

I just… don’t get it.

Maybe… just maybe…

No… it can’t be.

I think it finally happened guys… I’m officially OLD.

Ah man…I should have seen it coming.
SOURCE: GIPHY

So where does this come into our EC&I 830 class? Well, that’s a great question. This week we had two great debates, one of which asked the question “is social media ruining childhood?”

Although this question is tackling a modern-day issue, we’ve seen many versions of this argument come up in history. Whether it was Elvis being blamed for corrupting the youth of the 50’s with his dance moves, to people pointing the finger at violent videogames and Marilyn Manson for causing the Columbine shootings, we’re always seeking someone or something to blame on our kids’ actions.

The devil is… Elvis?
SOURCE:GIPHY

Nowadays, it’s social media that’s in the spot light. They say that it’s taking away our kids’ innocence. Kids are growing up faster, are being sexualized sooner, and are being exposed to extremely graphic content earlier than ever. Social media (and the internet) are ruining our kids’ childhoods.

Although I definitely agree that some aspects of social media are definitely contributing to children’s shift in behaviors, my classmate Amy made a couple of great points in her blog that are worth considering:

“To me, blaming social media for the arbitrary “moral decline” which is apparently occurring is reminiscent of ‘shooting the messenger’. It is the scape goat, used by those in power to place blame away from a real issue, which is social inequality that leads to the hyper-sexualization of our children and the objectifying of our young girls.”

My other classmate Shannon , takes a similar angle and examines the way companies are finding ways to market towards tweens.

“More concerning to me, however, is the increased sexuality placed on this age group. The pressure for girls of this age to look and act like teenagers is overwhelming.”

Great point!

I never really considered the capitalist side of the argument, but if we’re trying to sell anything to kids nowadays, let’s be honest here, it’s become a hundred times easier than ever before. Social media feeds on sites such as Facebook and Instagram are now littered with personally-tailored ads. Not only are we being fed ads constantly, the ads are actually curated and geared towards your specific age, sex, demographic and personal interests. Companies have so many new and effective ways of reaching their audiences, that avoiding it is becoming harder and harder.

The same can be said about graphic content. Although parental locks can be enabled, these systems are not fool-proof, and content such as pornography can be incredibly easily accessed by kids. Social media feeds aren’t perfect either, and are often crammed with sexually-charged, vulgar or explicit content. If kids want to see it, they’re going to see it (even if they aren’t looking for it).

Amy makes another interesting point by stating how our knowledge is constantly evolving and how important it is that we adjust to these changes. She uses a great example that really stuck with me. Before people knew how bad smoking was, we were smoking indoors in restaurants, airplanes and even schools. Her argument is that once our knowledge shifted, and we became aware of how bad smoking was for everyone, these social norms changed dramatically. In Canada, you’re not going to see a smoking section in a restaurant anymore, and we’re more than likely not going to go back to our old ways now that we know the damage smoking causes.

Social media is one of these changes that we need to adjust to. We’re aware of how much it’s distracting us, we’re aware of the amount of online risks we’re being exposed to, how much time they are spending in front of screens, we know it can negatively affect our mental and physical health (here and here), and we’re aware of the social effects it’s having on our communication skills.

SOURCE:GIPHY

So what are we going to do about it?

Shannon mentions how it’s absolutely crucial that parents play an active role in what their kids are seeing and how they are using social media and the internet. If we don’t want our kids glued to the computer screens, we’re going to have to start modeling better behavior, and that obviously starts with parents and teachers.
Another part of the solution would be for older generations to learn how to use and apply these tools. If our kids are using social media constantly, shouldn’t we know how to use it too? Furthermore, with my following example, I think another big adjustment we need to make is actually addressing social media with our kids as early as possible.

On Friday, I asked several of my classes what they knew about social media. The answers weren’t surprising: they knew everything about it. Why? Because this is what it’s like growing up in 2016; everyone is connected and everyone is using social media, especially kids. What surprised me the most however was when I asked my grade 4/5 class to list off all the social media sites that they either knew about, or used. I’m officially out of the loop. My youngest group of students created a list of 20+ social media sites. They even started listing dating sites. I actually had to ask them what some of these sites were. I was completely dumbfounded.

What I did find out from my little experiment is that this specific group of kids has already dealt with a lot of the risks you’d come to expect from the internet. Many kids have received messages from older strangers; some kids have been asked to share their phone numbers, pictures or personal information with people they don’t know; most of them know what pornography is; and many have seen graphic or explicit content through social media.

Now, when I look back at my grade 4/5 years of schooling, neither of those years included much of any of those things I just mentioned.

Of course, I wasn’t using social media at that age either, and whatever internet I did have, definitely wasn’t capable of producing some of the things they are being exposed to now. This is very important information to consider. My childhood was extremely different, even though I have spent half my life on social media, these kids were born straight into it. What this tells me is that we do need to start addressing these issues at a much younger age. Yes, social media is definitely making our kids grow up quicker, but part of the issue is that we need to start looking at it for what it is, and not comparing it to what we had when we were younger. Times have changed, and with this change, we need to also change with it.

Ask any older generation and they will all tell you something different about their childhoods. I feel like I can’t even say anything about generation Z’s childhood, because quite frankly, I don’t really have any place in it. What I can do however is learn from them, talk to them and discover what growing up in 2016 is really like. Part of the reason I often find myself not “getting” kids, is because I’m slowly being left behind. If I didn’t proactively try to learn as much as possible from these kids, I’d have no idea what half the trends nowadays are about.

In closing, I really don’t think social media alone can be blamed for ruining our kids childhoods. First of all, we’re living in a time where social media is everywhere. This is how people communicate with each other now. It’s not like we’re going to go back to using land lines and getting yelled at by our friend’s parents for calling too late. We’ve got this technology in front of us and kids are using it more than ever now, it’s time to accept it and shift with it.

Maybe kids these days will never know what it was like growing up without internet, cellphones or social media, but let’s be honest, do they really have to? Isn’t this all just the natural progression of humanity and technology? Maybe instead of living in the past, we start learning about these things ourselves, start using them and understanding them. I mean, we might as well see what all the fuss is about right?

Thanks for reading everyone,

Dre

Technology only levels the playing field if its accessible to everyone

This week’s first debate asked the question: is technology a force for equity in society? This is a rather tricky question, especially if you consider the bigger question of how accessible technology is in society (and who has access to it). In order for technology to “level the playing field” for students, shouldn’t everyone have access to it…at all times? And what’s all this talk about equity? What exactly is fair?

SOURCE: WWOnline

In a school setting, availability of technology for all students plays out in many different ways. All schools have different needs, and we need to address these needs accordingly. As my classmate Dean mentions in his blog, “fair isn’t always equal”, stating that being “fair” is more so a question of leveling the playing field, rather than giving everyone an allotted and equal amount of tools and resources for each school. Dean makes another great point by saying that you’re not going to give a school of 200, the same amount of computers you would give to a school with 600 students. In this sense, “fair” would mean allowing students between different schools (and to a bigger extent, communities) to have the same quality and access to these tools.

SOURCE: Giovanni Rufino—CW Network courtesy Everett Collection

During my brief year of subbing, I definitely noticed big differences between higher income schools and community schools. For one, students from “richer schools” have much easier access to technology inside and outside of school. Not only did I see more school IPads and laptop carts, I also noticed that many students in these schools brought their own laptops or tablets to class as well. I work at a community school now, and B.Y.O.D. definitely looks a lot different. For one, when students bring their devices to school, they aren’t bringing laptops or tablets. Most devices come in the form of a smartphone, and this is only if kids are even bringing anything at all.

SOURCE: GOOGLE IMAGES

Another important thing to consider is that although having access to any device is better than having no access at all, there’s a lot to say about the quality of work you can get done on a laptop rather than a small touch screen phone. Although my students get by with a cell phone if they have to get work done, it’s not ideal and it’s definitely not AS practical as having a laptop or a tablet. This is something I always consider, because I’ve made the mistake in the past of assuming that my students have a computer to work on at home. The truth is, this isn’t always the case. I can’t really expect my students to complete a homework assignment at home if their only way to access the internet is through a slow and flimsy data plan on an outdated phone. I’m sure it can get done, but this is where the whole question of “equality” comes into play. Sure, some kids have access to tech outside of school, but it’s not always “ideal” and it’s definitely not always of the best quality.

On another note, as my classmate Tayler mentions in her blog post in relation to this article: “’students in affluent schools are more likely to use computers for creative and experimental projects; students in low income schools are more likely to use computers for drill-and-kill exercises.’ Wealthier students are using the technology differently and widening this gap. Not only is there a gap, but the gap continues to widen.”

Interesting. Kind of makes you question the whole equality thing doesn’t it? This also reminds me of the old saying “the rich are getting richer”. Some food for thought for ya.

And then comes the question of what the actual schools have to offer. I work at one of the largest elementary schools in Regina, and I must admit, we definitely don’t have enough computers to go around for everyone. We have four computer carts for a school of almost 600 kids. Whenever I need to use computers with my class, I always need to make sure I have booked the laptop carts for my work periods. If I wasn’t on the ball on Monday morning to sign out my computer carts for the week, I basically missed the boat. Although I do have two classroom computers (one of which is almost too old to function at a practical level), we all know this isn’t enough.

Another thing I just started to notice is WHO is using the computers at school. Usually, it’s the older grades that are using the laptops, which is something I’m starting to question more and more. I’ve written about this issue already in my past blog posts (including this one), but I really do believe our kids need to start learning how to use technology at a younger age. How is this possible if they don’t have access to tools such as laptops?

SOURCE: Photograph by George Frey/Bloomberg

In the case for students with specific learning needs, these students are sometimes provided with a laptop with learning aide software to facilitate with reading, writing, and math (as long as they’ve been assessed of course). I’ve seen the positive effects of providing students with these tools first-hand with some of my own students. My biggest question here though is, why can’t we be providing this to all our students? Wouldn’t everyone benefit from these tools at some point in their learning? I can easily think of at least 15 other students that would greatly benefit from these tools today. Of course, in order for this to happen, we either need more assessments to be made (and as any teacher will tell you, these processes sometimes take years to actually happen), or the schools need to be providing more computers (ideally, one PER CHILD). Realistically speaking, both of these options are most likely out of the question, especially if we’re dealing with budget cuts, and in the case of my school, community school needs for almost 600 students.

I don’t stand alone on this topic either, as I was reading through some of my classmates’ blogs, I ran into Heidi’s response, where she states how:

“Technology should be taught to all students and therefore students are able to decide when technology can/should be used to benefit their own work. In order for students to benefit from technology as lifelong learners, they do need to be able to utilize it freely to support their learning.”

Heidi brings up an important point about how we should be offering all of our students these learning aid tools. Another great argument Heidi made was: “While technology has the ability to be used in the classroom to differentiate and support student learning, I do not think technology is going to create equity in society as a whole. Who is being left out once they leave the walls of our school?”

Good question, WHO is being left out? In some cases, entire schools and communities are being left in the gutters, and this isn’t alright.

In closing, my classmate Taylor made an interesting observation in her latest post:

“Technology is powerful and it can provide a variety of ways to support students in the classroom, as well as people in all kinds of occupations, especially for those who benefit from assistive technology. Although it has the potential to benefit everyone, not everyone has access to it. It’s a great thought of if everyone had a computer, just as I wish every child had access to books and arrived to school ready to learn.”

Technology has the potential to greatly change the way we learn inside and outside of the classroom, but if we don’t have access to these tools, technology isn’t going to be bridging any social gaps anytime soon.

Thanks for stopping by everyone!

Dre

Digital Footprints: At what point do kids start calling the shots?

MY TURN! SOURCE: Belinda Pretorius

This week in our ECI 830 class, we had a captivating debate that asked the question: Is openness and sharing in schools unfair to our kids? The debate brought up questions about student privacy, responsible online citizenship and the permanence of our digital footprint.

Some questions and ideas came out of this discussion that got me thinking about some of the big issues we’re dealing with today involving online citizenship. For one, our “digital” tattoos, as Juan Enriquez discusses in his TED TALK, are not only permanent, but they are integral to the way others perceive us. Employers for example, can use social media to pick the best candidates for the job based off online profiles or a simple Google search of your name. If you’ve ever posted a racist or insensitive Tweet, or your Facebook profile is revealing a little too much about your party life, it can definitely come back to haunt you. Websites such as the “Wayback Machine”, are quick reminders that our online actions are quite permanent. We really can’t forget that whatever we do online, stays online.

As many problems that arise from online citizenship and sharing, it’s not all bad either. For example, classroom blogs are able to make sharing what’s going on in your classroom easy AND accessible to parents. Parents can keep track of student assignments and keep up with school news. Some of my coworkers who are parents themselves have mentioned how great it is that their kids’ teachers are using social media to stay connected with them. One coworker in particular raves about this, as she’s been able to see her kids receive awards at school on numerous occasions, during times where she simply couldn’t leave work.

I’ve given this topic a lot of thought and one of the biggest questions that keeps coming up is “what is the student’s role in online sharing and digital citizenship inside and outside of the classroom?” The only time I really think it’s unfair to post things online on behalf of a student is when the child is unaware that it’s happening. Just like us, kids deserve to know and choose the things that are being posted about them.

Phew! Close one!SOURCE: MEME GENERATOR

As I was reading through some of my classmates’ blogs this week, one post really jumped at me. My colleague Justine mentioned how she set up individual blogs for all the students in her grade 2 classroom. I think this is a very modern approach to teaching; it’s great to see someone take such inspiring initiative to teach digital citizenship to such a young group of students. Here’s one of my favorite exerts from her entry this week:

“When the family talked to their child he was nervous about videos and audio being posted on the blog, but was excited about writing posts and having pictures posted. I would never want a child to do something that he or she is uncomfortable with. I was very proud of him! His parents did sign off that part of the parent permission form in case he changed his mind and they knew that I would respect their son’s wishes.”

Starting at a younger age means kids are learning to make choices and participate in the construction of their own online identities. But what happens from the time they are born, to when they are finally able to make their own online choices?

Although being able to share pictures of our newborns with friends and family is one of the perks of being on social media, the question of whether or not parents are over-sharing does come up. At what point should parents stop sharing, and at what point do kids start calling the shots? Even more importantly, WHAT should parents be sharing and WHO should they be sharing with? Articles such as this one point out some of the bad habits that come out of oversharing online and how it can affect parenting.

Did you really just post that picture of me mom? I told you to post the GOOD ONE! Ugh!

At this day and age, it’s incredibly important for parents and teachers to take students’ digital footprints into full consideration. Our new generations are being born straight into the online world; their entire lives are being documented on social media from the moment they are born. Kids should have the choice as to what they do online and what gets shared about them. As Justine mentioned in her experiences blogging with her students, all the parents and children had to sign a permission slip before participating in the classroom blogs. I think it’s important to remember that regardless of how old kids are, parents (and teachers) need to model responsible online citizenship and be aware of what sort of digital footprint they are creating for their children.

This week, I asked all my students (ranging from grade 4 to 8) about their online habits. This included whether or not they use social media and what sort of measures they take to stay safe online. I noticed that the majority of my students who are on social media are mostly in grade 5 to 8. When asked about online safety and privacy, all of my students claim to keep their online profiles locked and set on private. Most of them are quite aware of the dangers that exist online and seem to have quite a good understanding of what should and shouldn’t be shared online, and what to do to keep their profiles set on private at all times. Although I didn’t conduct a formal survey, I did get a good idea of what they know. The funny thing is, my grade 7/8’s seemed rather annoyed at a lot of my “tips”, telling me that they’ve known these things for years. This to me might be the most valuable observation I made. Perhaps we need to stop assuming our kids know nothing about online safety, and start giving them a little more credit. If anything, I think teachers and parents (and any older generations really) are the ones that need to be educated the most.

A quick Google search can bring up a plethora of online tips for parents and teachers to become better acquainted with their digital footprints. Websites such as this one can give us a quick rundown of some of the important things we should always keep in mind online.

Before I wrap things up this week, I’d like to end with a few questions. What ages do you guys think students should be learning to be online citizens? What sort of information can we be giving parents about their children’s digital footprints? Should we be teaching them anything at all? What sort of rights should kids have as far as what sort of information is shared about them?

Thanks for reading everyone, and I hope you all have a great weekend!

Dre

Google in the classroom. What are you going to do about it?

SOURCE: GIPHY

We’re living in the future people. I mean, we don’t have the flying cars the Jetsons predicted, nor do we have that crazy machine from Total Recall where Arnold takes a virtual trip to planet Mars (and saves the day of course). And how can we forget… we definitely don’t have the hover board from Back to the Future 2, which is kind of a major bummer.

As if this wouldn’t be the COOLEST
SOURCE: GIPHY

But all tomfoolery aside, let’s be frank here, did we really think we would actually end up having some of the cool gadgets we all fantasized about? I mean, we can talk to anyone around the world… at any second of the day… from a hand-held device that fits in our pockets… all shot in crisp, High Definition video. That’s crazy! I mean, really, really impressive stuff! The crazier thing is, this isn’t even a new thing, it’s been around for years!

Technology has advanced so quickly in the past few decades that new kinds of challenges have started to emerge in our society. Whether it’s affecting our physical or mental wellbeing, creating new types of distractions in the classroom, or causing people to become addicted to social media; technology has had both negative and positive effects on society. Today, I will be focusing my attention on how education is being affected by modern-day resources and tools such as Google.

This past Tuesday we had a debate in our EC&I 830 class which asked the question: Schools should not be teaching anything that can be googled. I found the question to be quite interesting because I see the impact Google has had on my own classroom, especially when it comes to using online resources. If any of you have ever printed off a worksheet off the net for one of your classes, you may have ran into the ol’ “student-Googles-the-title-of-the-handout-and-finds-the-answer-key-on-the-exact-same-website-you-got-it-from” situation. I’ll admit, I was having a rough day, and I needed to buy some time to get my lesson ready, so I resorted to the 15-minute bell work assignment I found online. Now, whenever I’ve resorted to taking this route, it never really ends well. There’s a reason why I don’t do it, and there’s a reason why I have COMPLETELY changed the way I test my students’ knowledge. As for the worksheet incident, the kid found the document online, got all the answers, and shared it with the rest of the class. I mean, who’s to blame here? This is my fault. I really should have been prepared. Lesson learned.

Living in the future and all, does have its perks. Take this for example: Let’s say Dylan and Celeste are hanging out, talking about music and enjoying each other’s’ company. Celeste starts talking about this very awesome, obscure, female-fronted Brazilian punk band she saw when she was visiting Sao Paolo a couple of years ago. She hasn’t updated her IPhone in months, and unfortunately doesn’t have their demo tape on her ITunes playlist. She can’t remember the band name, and it’s just GRINDING HER GEARS!

Well… good thing we have Google. In the time Dylan was about to change the topic, Celeste had already Googled everything on her phone and had found the answer. “Anarchicks”. The band name is “Anarchicks”. Once again, Google saved the day… and the conversation!

We no longer live in a time of wonder. If we don’t have an answer to a question relating to obscure punk bands or particle physics, we can just type them up on our phones, and voila, the answer! Not only are we getting the answers, we’re getting answers to questions we haven’t even asked; we’re getting pictures, videos, interviews, articles, theories, critiques, how-to’s and how-don’ts. The amount of information that is available at our fingertips is mind-blowing. It’s almost as if we have a guidebook, or a “How-To” manual on life in our pockets. Tools such as Google can be blamed for a bunch of stuff, but we can’t really talk smack on them either. Let’s be real here, having access to almost any answer to almost any question you could ever imagine, in your pocket, IS PRETTY AMAZING.

Although this sounds incredible (and it really is), many people are beginning to question what this is going to start doing to us, as society becomes more and more dependent on technology. How is this changing our learning? Is this affecting our abilities to think critically? Are we only learning at a superficial level? Is memorizing information even THAT bad? Well, that’s what my classmates set out to find out in their debate.
Schools should not be teaching anything that can be googled?

On the agreeing side of the debate was Luke, Ashley and Andrew, Vs. the disagreeing side consisting of Amy and Heidi.
Here’s a list of resources (with annotation notes) from each team’s debate.

AGREE

1.How Google Impacts The Way Students Think
This brief article discusses three ways that using Google impacts the way students think. It looks at how our thinking and learning is impacted when we see information as always accessible and knowledge as searchable.

2.How the Internet is Changing Your Brain
A short yet informative video discussing how our use of the internet is actually changing the way our brain works. What happens to our brain when we are constantly sorting and skimming through the abundance of information we find on the web? You can watch the video, or read the transcript that is provided.

3.What Critical Thinking Means to Me: Teachers’ Own Formulations
In a world in which information flows at an ever increasing rate, it is important to engage students in the examination of how we think. The ways in which we interpret, synthesize and make meaning of ideas are crucial in the quest for deeper learning. This reading explores the ideas that teachers’ themselves have about critical thinking and it’s role in education. To move students beyond surface level knowledge is critical if we are seeking to prepare them to be engaged and capable members of our society.

4. Three Rules to Spark Learning
When needing open heart surgery, Ramsey Musallam felt at ease due to the confidence his surgeon possessed. When asked where this confidence came from, the surgeon professed three simple rules which Ramsey Musallam has taken forth into his classroom to spark learning. The central tenet is that curiosity comes first and drives learning. Ramsey claims that teachers need to be ‘cultivators of curiosity’ and to embrace the mess that comes with this type of learning.

DISAGREE

1. When Rote Learning Makes Sense
This article discusses the benefits of memorizing information, as well as how to make memorizing fun and enjoyable for students. It outlines strategies that teachers use to help students remember. It suggests that once students know how to memorize and learn they can learn anything. The article also makes reference to Bloom’s Taxonomy.

2.Memorization is Not a Dirty Word
This article suggests that many students do not know how to properly memorize facts. It outlines how memorizing information benefits the learner in multiple ways. Samuel Arbesman, The Half-Life of Facts theory is also challenged with some valuable points.

3. Why teach facts to the level of automaticity?
This video argues that we should teach math facts to automaticity as it improves students ability to learn new material. When math facts are learned students are able solve more complex problems that require a higher level of thinking. This video also describes the difference between accuracy, fluency, and automaticity as it relates to learning math facts.

4.Link to video

So what’s my take on all of this?

The different angles that come out of this debate are rather interesting. For example, some argue that when kids have access to all of this information, the need for memorizing facts is becoming less and less necessary. That’s great and all, but on the flip side, having such easy access to all of this information is making us sort of… for lack of a better word… lazy? We’re seeing that kids are searching for the things that they think they need, but they aren’t always checking for the validity or quality of their sources. One quick search on Google may yield some great results, but sometimes we need to dig a little deeper. When we don’t pay attention to these small details, we have no idea what kind of information we’re going to be finding. Think about all the Facebook click-bait “articles” that constantly get re-shared and passed off as genuine information… I mean, that can’t be good. Have you read some of those articles? The writing alone should scare you! It almost feels like a game of “telephone” gone wrong. It’s like passing around rumors: it never ends well, and the truth always gets distorted.

Google has become the “quick fix” to our problems. There’s a reason why people say “just Google it”. In the same way I made the mistake of printing off worksheets to keep my class busy; kids are using Google simply to finish the assignment, to move onto the next project they need to finish. But what are they really learning? What are they accomplishing? WHAT AM I EVEN ACCOMPLISHING by doing things like that in my classroom!? We’re both misusing the real potential of having access to so much information at our fingertips.

Perhaps, it’s the way we are using this information that needs to change now. Now that information is readily available, maybe we need to put more value in how our students apply this knowledge. Let’s rewind back to 1997. I must have been in grade 5. Back then, I couldn’t just Google information for my projects. I distinctly remember having to get a ride to the library, actually find the books I needed, take notes, and sometimes, just SOMETIMES, I got to photocopy some of the pages I would need. I would have to write down my citation notes for my bibliography, and I would have to make sure I got everything I needed before going back home. I remember spending hours with my mom or dad looking for all the things I needed. What was the end result? Well, for one, being a French Immersion student meant that French resources were scarce, so finding information meant finding it in English first. So this meant that I would first have to read all my resources and attempt to translate it as best as I could. Computers were obviously not as common back then, but even if that was the case, our teacher actually MADE us write everything by hand. So there was no typing and no printing off information. We would do several rough drafts before moving onto our final, GOOD COPY. Doing things by hand meant I was re-writing, re-processing my information SEVERAL times. Out of all the projects I did between 1997 and 2000, I remember them ALL quite well. I think the answer is obvious as to why this is the case. I mean, I spent a significant amount of time re-processing my findings. I wasn’t just “finding” something online, reading it (or skimming it) ONCE, and bookmarking or printing it off for later. My “Google” back then (and same can be said about people my age and older), was the library. Having to physically get somewhere to find your information puts a whole different spin on getting your work done. I recall doing a project about the North West Territories in grade 6. I still remember how stressed I was because I couldn’t find ANYTHING for my project. My mom and I had to actually call the North West Territories Tourism board about having them MAIL me information about the territory. It took two weeks to get the information package. TWO weeks. But hey… you know what? I STILL know a lot about the North West Territories. I even STILL have the project.

Yup, I actually FOUND IT!
Yup, I actually FOUND IT!

I think both sides of the argument have extremely valid points. For one, being able to search anything, eliminates the need to actually learn facts. Although this is quite convenient, is this a good thing? Acquiring knowledge so quickly may come useful in the heat of the moment, but are we really learning anything by looking things up? To me, this almost seems like the whole “cramming-the-night-before-the-final-exam” thing. Yeah, if we cram enough, we can retain the information long enough to regurgitate it for the exam; but how much of that information is really going to stick with you? Some people will fare better than others, but overall, this isn’t an effective technique to encourage any form of critical thinking or deeper learning.

Then comes the bigger question: shouldn’t we be able to apply our knowledge and learnings once we’ve acquired them, in useful and dynamic ways? Isn’t THAT a true sign of deeper learning? Unless we teach our students how to use information retrieved off the internet, we’re going to get exactly what you think you we’re going to get. I’ve had to spend weeks teaching my students how to actually make sense of the information they research for assignments. Students are often convinced that simply finding the information online, copying and pasting it onto a Google Doc, and printing it off, is how we complete our assignments. Grade 5 me would have no idea what to even say to kids these days. Since I have a grade 5/6 classroom of my own, I find that it’s absolutely necessary to scaffold every step of the assignments that you do with them, including how to use information once we’ve found it. If I hand them a computer and expect them to paraphrase, reword, and process the information that they researched into some sort of critique, I’d be kidding myself. These are giant processes that need to be demonstrated step-by-step. Again, we need to adjust to these changes.

A lot of the arguments in these articles say that that’s the problem with information banks such as Google. Although we’re finding the “answers”, we’re not taking the time to process, analyze or actually understand the information.

Being that we live in a world where Google is simply a thing we all use, we can’t just ignore it. This is why I have changed my approaches in my classroom ever since I ran into the “students-googling-the-answers” incident. If I’m going to test my students, I need to get them thinking somehow. I think we can all agree that we’re all quite capable of Googling information if we need to find out about something. What I think we need to start doing now is acknowledging that kids will be doing this, and preparing projects that require students to have some sort of personal, critical and analytical input. This sounds so obvious, and many of you are probably looking at me wondering: Dude, that’s exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. Yes, you’re right, this IS our job, but once again, this phenomena is a lot newer than we give it credit, this is still something we’re adjusting to. I want my students to start making sense of the information that they are finding. The second we begin to engage our students in critical thinking, whatever information their looking up, becomes increasingly more meaningful.

I’ve left loose ends here, but I don’t think the answer to this debate has a clear direction. If we’re looking at in in black and white, yeah, maybe we SHOULDN’t be teaching material we can Google, but we all know that that’s not how we’re supposed to be using these tools anyway. I seem to be coming to the same conclusions with all these debates, but I truly think we are running behind on the times.

Before I leave you, please let me know what you think about this issue. What sort of changes should we be making in order to make the best of these new technologies we have? Thanks for reading everyone, have a great week!

Dre