Summary of learning

As I reflect and put the final touches on my summary of learning, I am actually really surprised at how much we have done in this class in such a short amount of time! The debate format of this class was super intimidating at first. When it was my turn to debate on Week 3, my teammates and I were all shaking with nerves! However, after I got over the nerves, I realized  how engaging this class format really is. It gave us the opportunity to collaborate and learn from each other, rather than the teacher as all-knowing in a traditional classroom. Not only were we being active participants in our own learning, but we were sharing, commenting, and tweeting outside the regular classroom hours. If I got a notification that someone had commented on my blog on Saturday morning it got me excited! The debate format of the class allowed Alec to model how a teacher can act as facilitator, and although it would look different in my grade 4 classroom, I am definitely going to reflect over the summer of different ways I can use this model in my own class.

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EC&I830 it has been an absolute honor to work with all of you this semester! I hope you enjoy my summary of learning.

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Technology: a force to be reckoned with

This was a very interesting, and somehow perfect debate to end our classes with. Before class, I watched this video that Alec shared on the weekly schedule:

Daphne Koller, a professor at Stanford University, begins her discussion by raising some very startling points. She told the story of a mother in South Africa that was stampeded while standing in line to register her child for university. She talked of college tuition in the U.S. rising 559% since 1985 (the year I was born). In my lifetime, the cost of tuition has risen at a rate that now makes education impossible to afford for most families. These alarming facts led into the main topic of her conversation: free quality post-secondary education.

Daphne co-founded Coursera which allows professors to offer online university courses to anybody in the world. In it’s early phases, they had they were already offering 43 courses from 4 different universities. She explained how this met the needs of people like Ryan, a father who’s daughter has an immune disease and makes it too risky to leave his home. He was able to take classes online without risking his daughter’s health. She explains,

When you move away from the physical constraints of a classroom and design content explicitly for an online format […] this allows us to break away from the one-size-fits-all equation and allows students to follow a much more personalized curriculum. – Daphne Koller

Daphne explains that if we could offer top quality education for free to everyone around the world it would do three things:

  1. Establish education as a fundamental human right
  2. It would enable lifelong learning
  3. It would enable a wave of innovation and “Maybe the next Albert Einstein or the next Steve Jobs is living in a remote village in Africa” – Daphne Koller

After watching this video, I felt very strongly that YES, I agree, technology is a force for equity. Technology has been called a

“game-changer in the field of education – a game-changer we desperately need to improve achievement for all and increase equity for children and communities who have been historically underserved.”

 

I was almost feeling confident FOR Team Agree going into the debate. In my head, I was thinking “Yes! Jen, Dawn, and Sapna, you’ve got this in the bag!” and they came out very strong with their opening statement. Little did I know, that Rakan and Amy were out for blood! Dannnnnnnng. They made some really excellent points in their opening statement. So, there I was, once again, dazed and confused about where I stood in the weekly debate. As someone incredible passionate about social justice issues, I could not deny that Team Disagree was swaying my opinion. I decided that I needed to explore this topic further so that I could have a more well-rounded view of the issue. I found that Benetech made an excellence argument towards the inequitable side of technology stating,

“In the rush to get market share and to guarantee return on investment, we see too many technologies that leave too many students behind—particularly students with disabilities, who could perhaps benefit most from technological innovation. For example, popular software features such as drag-and-drop interfaces and 3D animations are often inaccessible to students with disabilities. “We’ll include accessibility in the next version,” is a statement we hear all too often. Yet, given the cost to retrofit accessibility, that is a no-win proposition.” (2015)

In regards to whether technology is or can be a force for equity within our classrooms, Daniel restated four excellent questions to ask yourself when it comes to technology in education: 1) What does it do? 2) Is that a good thing to do? 3) What does it cost? and 4)What do people think about this?

Although the arguments that Rakan and Amy provided do in fact make me question how technology is in fact perpetuating things like racism and sexism, and can definitely be used as an inequitable force to separate us, I believe that we can take this knowledge and truly change it to become an equitable force that brings us together.

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Photo credit

 

Interview with my 8 year-old on digital citizenship (a.k.a. my summary of learning )

So thankful to Amy S for sharing her project from last semester. There is so much more to think about and learn about in the digital world than I realized.

Amy's MEd Blog

Hey all in EC&I 832, here’s the vid for my Summary of Learning:

I’d like to thank my eight year-old for being such a great interviewer, if only slightly distracted by the bribe (chocolate) I used…

Thanks, too, to my prof for this course, Dr. Alec Couros, and to my classmates for all of their contributions.

I haven’t yet figured out how to embed my WordArt word cloud, but please stay tuned for updates on this blog entry…

Thanks!

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Is #SocialMedia hurting us?

I have been looking forward to this week’s debate since we started this class. I remember seeing the video below a while ago and taking a step back to examine my own use of social media. I recently have seen the toll that my phone has caused on my body. I have a cyst on my wrist and my doctor says it is probably from a combination of typing on my laptop since going back to University, and scrolling on my phone. You can imagine my horror! Not only was social media wreaking havoc on my mental health, but it was starting to wear on my body as well. I knew that this would be a topic I would be interested in.

You may not have noticed, but I did not participate in a lot of the chat this week in class during the debate. I found myself sitting back, listening, soaking it all in, and really battling with how I felt about this topic. There was an interesting conversation in the chat during the debate on how we judge others for their overuse of social media, or blaming parents for being on their phones and not paying attention to their children, or letting their children have free reign over what they do online. I felt conflicted during this conversation because I am uneasy about playing the ‘us vs. them’ card when it comes to our students’ parents. I think they are the best asset that we’ve got to help our students achieve success and it is important to see them as part of our team. I love love loved the suggestion of having parent info nights around digital citizenship, and I would even urge teachers to think about using their parents as teachers themselves. Alec has kids, right!? Imagine having his child in your class. I would DEFINITELY take advantage of it, and have him in talking about these things with students. In fact, every year I send out an open invitation to my students’ families inviting them to come and spend time with us throughout the year. This year I had a mom come in and do crafts with my students, another mom came and taught about her home country of Jordan, and I also had a dad join us to tell stories he grew up hearing. These learning opportunities have been tremendously valuable in building my classroom community. Anyways, I know I am off topic. But I needed to speak my mind on this topic. Moving on…

Both teams did an absolutely amazing job this week. Their videos were creative and they presented thought-provoking arguments that really had me pondering where I stand. I am guilty of being too quick to judge social media and how kids interact with it these days. My 14 year old brother would have 17 notifications dinging from his phone every minute if he didn’t keep it on silent 24/7. I’ll suggest things like ‘family day cell-phone free’ and then he’ll catch ME as the one checking notifications. I would even think about reframing the question to ask: Is social media ruining our lives (not just childhood!?) Videos like the following are important reminders to disconnect.

As this video mentions as, social media has an affect on students’ self worth. Bowden (2016) indicates that stressors such as cyberbullying, anxiety, and sleep deprivation are actually linked to social media use. Since they’re finding that children as young as 11 years old regularly use social media outlets like twitter and facebook we need to figure out ways in which to teach positive use. As Jana urges,

“In order for social media to enhance vs. ruin childhood for our youth today, it has to be a collaborative effort on the part of both teachers and parents, and it has to become a priority NOW – something we talk about on a daily basis, something we teach across grades and subject areas, and something we model and monitor as best we can.”

ISTE.org encourages educators to teach mindful advocacy in the classroom by teaching students how to have difficult conversations, translate their feelings into action, and spread the word. They believe that “What educators can do is help students transform their feelings of fear and frustration into action by becoming digital advocates and influencers.” My classmate, Shelly, shares a beautiful example of how social media can be used by our students to create positive social action in this article.

The thing is, I cannot deny that social media can be used for positive use. If I am being honest, I probably disagree that it is ruining childhood. However, I am very VERY concerned (perhaps scared) at how it can negatively affect children, and we need to take action to help them understand long lasting affects. Well done debate this week, #eci830!

 

 

 

Debate #3 – Don’t stop sharing

I really hope you read my post title as if you are singing Journey’s “Don’t stop believing”.

Now, as Alec mentioned, both teams stood our ground because of the nature of the debate, and I cannot deny that Team Agree made up of Dani, Amy and Joe, totally rocked their side as well. I loved their creative opening statement video!

Their team helped bring to light some of the important conversations we need to have as teachers, particularly the one around privacy.

In our Team Disagree opening statement, Shelly, Esther, and I disagreed that openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids for three main reasons.

1. It is a reality of today’s childhood experiences

In this article cleverly entitled “Kids Complicated: Childhood isn’t what it used to be”, Zuckerberg reminds us that we should not be comparing this generation’s childhood to the next. Things are changing and evolving as fast as ever, and it is unfair to think that the way we grew up was better than the way our children and grandchildren will grow up. Even knowing this, I have to admit I am guilty of saying things like, “I am so glad social media didn’t exist when I was in school.” I have a 14 year old brother and I often think about how completely different his high school life is compared to what mine was, and I have caught myself thinking that it’s sad, or unfortunate. Zuckerberg reminded me to stay grounded, and to change my thinking from the negative discourse of ‘we had it so much better.’

Team Agree shared some articles, however, that really got me thinking. The dangers of posting pictures of children online are real. Seeing stats like 50% of the images found on pedophile sites are taken from parents’ social media sites is absolutely shocking. But it is truths like this that we MUST discuss! We can’t just ignore them and pretend like these things are not happening. We need to learn how to be proactive rather than reactive!

2. It promotes connectivity between parents, caregivers, students, teachers, and community

I am a HUGE supporter of using Seesaw in my classroom. I really can’t say enough about it. I use it as an introduction to digital citizenship, and I have had so many positive remarks from parents about the use of it in my class. I feel as though it truly has connected school with home in a more encouraging and supportive way. I teach my students how to post their own work and it is only seen by their parents and family members that are connected to their Seesaw account. Parents comment and like work, and it feels like a great sense of community online.

The problem is that it has the potential to be misused by teachers. I heard a primary teacher telling another teacher about how she posted a failed spelling test mark on there so that the parents would see how much the kids struggles. WHAT!? This made me want to cry! I ended up going to the teacher a few days later after I had calmly thought of how I can address the situation, and she ended up realizing what she had done was very detrimental to that students’ emotional health. This is merely one example of why it is important that when a division introduces things like ‘mandatory Seesaw use’, that sufficient teacher PD is given and they have a chance to explore and collaborate with other teachers before fully integrating it into their classrooms.

3. It allows educators to model how to curate a positive digital footprint for students and their families

I think both Team Agree and Team Disagree promoted the importance of creating/curating a positive digital footprint. One great tool to use when teaching digital citizenship is the STEP approach introduced by Mike Ribble and ISTE. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to take the picture of the image from their article but I do think it is valuable and if you have a second, take a look here.

I love the idea of teaching students the ‘Front Page Rule’. As I talked about in Monday’s debate, I have a very serious conversation with my students about what we put out into the internet universe, and this year I actually Googled myself on my SmartBoard and showed them how I have had to seriously work on making sure everything out there is front page material. Yet, even with my efforts over the last 12 years, one photo from when I was 20 years old exists and even though I have deleted my MySpace account (remember that!?) it still pops up when I Google myself. It is a good lesson (and thank god the picture is just a duck face selfie, and nothing worse).

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I think the best source of knowledge for our reason #3 was this article by Buchanan et al.

Buchanan et al. caution us not to have the negative discourse which portrays children as powerless victims rather than resourceful participants. It is more important than ever to build on children’s knowledge by giving them guidance in curating a positive online presence. They suggest that we should teach children that digital footprints are not always a liability and can be developed in ways that benefit them. The big take away from this article: Since the dangers are not going away, teachers can model positive online behaviors and stress the importance of assuming your digital footprint will last a forever.

In conclusion, I do believe that openness and sharing in schools is important, but that conversations around policy, privacy, and how/what to post are more essential than ever.

Debate #2 (Stepping way out of my comfort zone)

I like a challenge; this is what I told myself when I decided that I would attempt to ‘vlog’ rather than blog for my thoughts on this week’s debate. Little did I know, I’d spend countless hours trying to figure out how to do it, and then nearly fail to upload it because of a mistake I had made. Oh well… it is all part of the learning process, as Alec says.

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Speaking of the learning process, I totally used Google to search for tutorials to help me through the creation of this video. Spoiler alert: that probably tells you which side of the debate statement I am siding with.

However, as many have mentioned, in no way do I think that Google should be used as a ‘be all end all’ solution to problem solving. I love seeing my students struggle through their daily math puzzler and seeing the exact moment that the lightbulb goes on. I challenge my students to think critically, and that it’s okay to struggle or make mistakes. I am there to help, to guide, to probe, and prompt. I am there to offer strategies or to provide manipulatives that may help. Just because my students have the math textbook, doesn’t mean that I don’t teach them the skills and knowledge they need to understand the grade 4 curriculum. In turn, just because Google may have readily available facts at our fingertips, doesn’t mean that we as teachers shouldn’t teach certain google-able content.

Without further adieu, here it is folks. Please don’t criticize too hard 😉

Click here to watch my video blog for debate #2

Oh, and please note that it is finished at 5:19, but I forgot to chop the audio and so it plays til 6:19 hahaha.. oh wow… allllll part of the learning process (this is my new mantra I swear)

Accessibility to teachers ‘off hours’

This is not a post related to any debates, rather something that has come up in my teaching this year, and I would like to know your thoughts on the topic.

The topic I propose to discuss is accessibility of teachers outside the typical classroom day. As an STF councillor and RPSTA assembly rep, I attend a lot of meetings where discussions around teacher workday, teacher welfare, and teacher workload are heavily debated. Many teachers feel as though we do way too much for too little, and have made the conscious effort to stop doing any work outside of the typical school day. Now don’t get me wrong, I do understand and fully see where they are coming from. Teachers have been asked go above and beyond for far too long.

Here’s where my problem comes in… With the new version of Seesaw this year, they introduced a ‘messages’ function, which I LOVE. I found it very convenient to send a quick message to parents, for example “Don’t forget to send field trip permission slips in tomorrow.” or whatever it may be. However, I often have parents and students messaging me in the evenings or weekends. At first, I thought nothing of it, I responded whenever I had the chance, and everything was going alright. Until a few months ago when a student started messaging me for ‘fun’. Wondering what I was up to over February break, telling me about her weekend, small talk or questions about class that weren’t really needed to be asked outside of the school day. It got me thinking of whether or not I want my students to have such easy access to me in my evenings and weekends. It also made me realize that I needed to take that opportunity to teach that student that I am her teacher, not her friend (in the nicest way possible) and that Seesaw was more for communicating with her parents.

To be honest, I am actually very conflicted over this. As a graduate student, I love that I can call or email my profs and most of them respond quickly. Yet, as a teacher, I feel as though there need to be boundaries. Especially with grade 4 students. Or am I just a terrible human being!? Lol. All jokes aside… I would really love to hear any thoughts on the topic, agree or disagree, all thoughts are welcome. I am not sure where I stand yet and I welcome different perspectives on the topic. Thanks in advance!