Summary of Learning

The link below is a Powtoon animation regarding my summary of learning for ECI830.  The common thread woven during our debates was the importance of having skilled and ethically aware teachers working with our students in the evolution of technology use in schools is crucial for future generations.

I have called my mini-movie

Regurgitator vs. Facilitator

and it is story of two teacher super-heroes.

Enjoy!

 

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Technology as an equalizer or oppressor?

To quote a now infamous Disney song,  For the First Time in Forever I am undecided about which side I might choose for this week’s debate. Quite honestly, wavered hard between to the two sides and I am still on the proverbial fence. I am usually one to stick to an opinion, so quite honestly it is going to be hard for me to blog with my usual conviction this week. Image result for i am right

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However, I would have to say that the topic this week has interested me more than others, and I am wishing that I would have more time to research and solidify an opinion. This week’s ECI830 debate was entitled “Technology is a force for equity in society”. Both sides did an excellent job in defending their positions, and I appreciated how stoic they stayed in their stances.  I think this week was the first debate where we saw a definitive divide between the two sides, with very little overlap of opinion.

Anyone that knows me, knows that I am driven to create a society of equals.  While I know that this is a pipe dream and will never happen in society (ever), I still feel like I can make a small change during my few trips around the sun.

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So, I delved into a little bit of research on my own.  In Technology’s Priceless Value to Education , they indicated that access to skills relating to technology will level the playing field for students in their future professions. Therefore, access to technology might mean that a student may have better opportunities in the future, regardless of their socio-economic position.  Programs for tech-allocation and re-allocation, such as that used by Regina Public Schools, have been a structural change to equalize the number of devices that students have access to at schools. Previous to this program, schools with a more affluent school community council could provide more funds for technology than those schools in lower socio-economic areas.

In my opinion, this adjustment is a good start, as the article above stated that “students have a difficult time gaining the fundamental computing skills that are necessary to succeed in business, politics, education and many other professions.” Without access to technology, we are creating another disadvantage for a group of children who are already disadvantaged.  “In this way, technology is a resource that helps to level the playing field in a society where class and race gaps still distinguish who has access to certain life chances. Unfortunately, it can also widen these gaps when individuals cannot obtain access to technological resources and training.”

Further, the article Are Technological Advances Causing Increased Poverty and Inequality  addresses that fact that, even though our educational organization is attempting to level future opportunities for students, we must consider that some students will not have equal access to technology outside of schools.  Let’s face it, if families are struggling to feed their kids, technology might not be the priority in the household.

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Two-thirds of Saskatchewan’s First Nations children live in poverty, advocate says

Having said that, the statistics about the number of smart phones owned by low income families in last week’s debate (up to 43%) is intriguing.  However, as with any statistic, we need to look at the whole picture. If 43% of low income people can afford a device, that means that 57% cannot. Does this disparity widen the learning opportunities  for students who may need to access technology outside of school hours due to limited access within the school?

The article Are Technological Advances Causing Increased Poverty and Inequality stated the connection when they said, “with less computer access at school, many minority students may be expected to use computers outside of class in order to experience the same technological benefits as their district-wide peers.” Therefore, despite education’s best attempts to equalize the playing field, the absence of technology in the home may have a serious affect on the future of the child.

Which leads me to consider the use of technology and its affect BEYOND our schools…

Capitalism is the fundamental driving force in our Westernized society.  Much as I despise the very thought of being a cog in the wheel of capitalism, I am definitely a bolt (or nut) in the system.  I like to think that I am somewhat rusty and squeaky nut though, as I don’t let my participation in the system slide by without some friction.

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Having said that, valuing technology as an equalizing force in our society is a presumptuous statement.  Our society is driving technology use for capital gains.  It is a valued resource in many countries and I do not doubt that the push for the next technological advancement will continue to drive and be driven by economic wealth.

However, we need to consider whose values are being prioritized when technology is seen as a great equalizer.  I think it depends on what is valued in a society and to what end technology is being used? And if technology is possibly creating a further divide between the rich and the poor of the world, then a careful reconsideration and recalibration may need to occur.

There may be those folks who say that it is a reality of life and times, and therefore we should push for technology for all so that our society can keep up with the rest of the world.  A careful reflection on history would tell us that the competitive nature of societal advancement has not been kind to all societal groups.  Dare I mention the colonialism in Canada, for example?

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However, depriving our students of technology will not prepare them for reality and their futures either.  It will limit their potential access to education and information beyond their local communities.  Quite honestly I feel quite strongly about both sides of the debate.

In the article entitled, Emerging technologies, education and the income gap  , authors stated both sides of the issue quite clearly.

Cell phones can be used to start businesses and organize revolutions—or instead become tools for oppression and misinformation. Will cognitive aids become as ubiquitous as cell phones, with universal translators, sensory enhancements, and neural-computational interfaces available to all? Or will these technologies be priced and marketed and controlled so that only elites can obtain them?

In other words, technology, if used as an equalizing force, could potentially narrow the gap between those who have and those who have not.  However, technology also has the force to gain capitalistic and therefore potentially oppressive power over those who do not have equal access.

Finally, I think the article Technology is making the world more unequal. Only technology can fix this  sums up my quandary.

This argument is one of those colossal questions that can not be answered, but can be waded through by ethically making choices within our schools and our school structures.

And then hope that we don’t make a monstrous mess of things in the meantime.

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Uncharted Territory

So, I’m old.  Ok, I am ONLY 49. But in  a class about educational technology and its influences on today’s youth, I am definitely at a disadvantage.  In previous blogs, I explained how I didn’t even think this computer thing was ever going to catch on. I even told my brother that very statement!  I remember using a computer mouse for the first time, when I had already been teaching for about 7 years and being blown away by the technology.

So, how my age becomes relevant in regards to this week’s ECI830 debate entitled “Social media is ruining childhood” is my personal connection to a childhood completely sans technology. Our social media when I was a kid was passing notes in class and calling our friends on the telephone…that was attached TO A WALL, BY A SHORT CORD, and had a DIAL (not buttons).

Having said that, I also can appreciate how different does not always mean bad. I am not a “Get off my lawn” old lady.

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 I respect that technology has both benefits and detriments to our lives.  In the article, A Generation Zers Take on the Social Media Age  they said that “social media has given us a way not only to speak out, but to educate ourselves and expand our minds in a way that is unprecedented”.  I can appreciate that comment, as I have evolved to include some form of social media in my daily diet of work, communication, and entertainment.

The agree group listed dangers of social media, including depression and anxiety as well as other mental health issues.  They suggested that social media might lead to more attention seeking/risky behaviours .  Cyber-bullying was also described as a negative factor in the social media influence sphere.  The info-graphic Teen Cyberbullying and Social Media Use on the Rise [INFOGRAPHIC] provided by the agree group is a useful tool that could be used with students, parents and staff alike.

From the disagree group, the topics of student autonomy and digital identity came through as an opportunity for children rather than a negative effect. The disagree group promoted connectivity and access to answers through social media.  They were particularly adamant that use of social media can help students make social connections and give them access to mental health supports online.  I was particularly interested in the article How students become influencers and advocates as part of my personal mission as an educator is to empower students to change the world for the better.

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen a news article shared by myself about my Grade 7 students’ recent social action at the Saskatchewan Legislature.  George Lee Students Lobby Provincial Government for Better Youth Mental Health Supports.

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 Students made an impact by using their collective voice in a social action walk.  However, we also shared our action on Twitter and Facebook.  As a result, almost a week later, we are still making change in our province and their voices are continuing to be heard as the story continues to be shared by the social media communities. The stories have had many social media shares and our message was heard beyond our school community.

Today, I was ambushed in my VP office by a group of grade 8 students who want to create a “Stop the Trash Talk” day before the end of the year. They are tired of people, particularly girls, being body-shamed and trash-talked about their body shapes and sizes.  Their plan is to organize a day where all protesters wear garbage bags to make their point. But, they are also planning a social media campaign to make their message more clear and to gain traction for their mission.  While I find their mission commendable (and I am honestly heart-burstingly proud that these people are my students), I was compelled to ask where they are hearing those negative comments.  Their first response was “on the playground” and their second answer was from a variety of social media sites.  It’s rather ironic that students are using the very platform that has been used to demean them to speak back and take their power back from the cyberbullies.  I am excited to see where this plan takes them! Stay tuned!

So, when I reflect on whether social media is indeed ruining childhood, I think that we need to ask some important questions…

  1. Is childhood today the same as that which existed almost 50 years ago?
  2. Do we, who did not even experience childhood in the same way these students are, have any right to exclude social media use? Just because it didn’t exist in my childhood, do I have any right to unequivocally  judge it as negative?
  3. How can we guide and teach students to embrace the healthy benefits of social media when we ourselves are ‘virtual’ rookies at the system? (Pun intended)
  4. Do students have the developmental ability to negotiate this new system for their own benefit?
  5. Why did Shelly ever think this computer thing was never really going to catch on?

I think that social media is a part of our daily lives in North America now and it is not going away. Therefore, we need to challenge our youth to create a balance in their worlds, in whatever way is healthy for them.  They need to be encouraged to use their voices to empower themselves and their friends, and if a social media platform is their stage, then so be it.  Those of us with influence need to use our opportunity to educate ourselves and then our students about ways to negotiate this world in a healthy manner.

In the class debate, opinion was fairly divided and I would say that I am personally somewhat divided myself.  I think that the pendulum has swung too far away from the relatively mediocre and socially barren days of my childhood, and a balance needs to be regained to include a variety of interactions and activities to more fully embrace this thing we call life.

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Sharing is Caring :)

In our class this week, Team Disagree -Kari, Esther, and myself -disagreed with the statement that Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to kids. In fact, our premise was that it is actually unfair to our kids, in the 21st century, to NOT access the benefits that technology can provide us to do our jobs and help raise functional and skilled citizens.

Here is a link to our opening video.

Our debate centred around 3 general points.  First of all, we argued that childhood today is different from previous generations, but that does not make it bad.  Every generation has heard from the previous generation about how the “good old days” were so much better than the current state of affairs.  However, I would challenge that every generation has positive and negative developments that will evolve through time.  In her article Kid Complicated: Childhood isn’t what it used to be , Zuckerman makes some interesting self-revelations regarding how being stuck in the past is not necessarily what is best for kids NOW.

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She considers how the ability to share information creates a more freeing and preventative condition where students can more easily predict results of their learning or actions.

We also briefly explored the evolution of the agency of students in creating their own destinies.  If we continue to live under the proverbial rock and do not teach students how to resourcefully influence their own lives, a condition of helplessness may eventually occur. We need to recognize that students do indeed have agency and the ability to problem solve.  The condition of fairness emerges when we collaborate with students in the decision making processes related to what is shared, and what is not.

On a side note, as I am writing this, my brain is actually focused on tomorrow.

You see, tomorrow, my 31 twelve and thirteen year olds are leading a demonstration/awareness walk to the Saskatchewan Legislature to advocate for more mental health supports and funding for youth. You see, these young students expressed their concerns around the amount of school violence and youth suicides in the world now.  They investigated the connection between youth violence and mental health.  They are using their agency to advocate for more funding to at the least two MLAs, the Saskatchewan Youth Advocate’s Office, several media outlets and representatives to our school division, to name a few of the confirmed attendees.  They wrote emails using their agency and their voices to determine what they wanted and who to invite.  The adults in charge are going to hear the voices of the children for whom they are making decisions.  If you are reading this, you are welcome to join us on June 8 as we walk from the Royal Saskatchewan Museum to the Legislature from 9:30-10:00. The students will be giving some short speeches and be willing to answer any questions you have.

Sorry for the divergence. I just thought that my iteration on youth agency could be aptly demonstrated with our project. Technology was used throughout the project and we are sharing our work on social media and other media (ethics considered and student permission granted, of course).

For the second main topic, we considered the positivity of increased sharing and connectivity.  Apps such as Seesaw as used by Regina Public Schools increase timely and specific feedback to parents regarding their child’s development and daily activity.  When I started doing Student Led Conferences about 10-12 years ago, I had the students create a presentation from the program Adobe Portfolio.  Students inserted photos or videos with reflective responses about their work. On conference day, parents would come to meet with us, and students would stand at the SMARTBoard and share their learning.  We would then save the presentation on a USB to be sent home. Parents and students both loved it, as they were able to share a more authentic look into our daily happenings at school, and they also had a keepsake of their year with me. Things have evolved since then, with apps like SeeSaw, where parents can receive almost instant information shared with them.

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Connectivity, in my mind, makes sharing more fair for students as parents get a bigger and broader picture of what is happening in relation to their child at school.  As well, students can be more aware that parents will have a more comprehensive understanding about what their school lives are like, rather than the minimalist snapshot of a report card or interview.

Finally, and probably most importantly, is that sharing in and from schools helps students to create a positive digital footprint.  Since it is practically inevitable that all students will have some kind of digital footprint, we believe that direct teaching and modelling about what should be shared and how it should be shared is critical learning for students.

Post No Photos, Leave No Trace: Children’s digital footprint management strategies

Professional Online Presence and Learning Networks: Educating for ethical use of social media

Building and Keeping a Positive Digital Identity: A practical approach for educators, students and parents

These three articles explore the guidelines about creating a digital footprint and the ethics around what we should and should not share.  Further, with contentions around privacy emerging within the province, it is necessary to conscientiously and ethically share, with personal guidance from the student, that which will influence a positive digital footprint for them and their future.

The opposing team had some fantastic points about protecting children from potential safety issues.  Their opening video demonstrated safety and the potential of digital footprint evolution over a period of time.  While I certainly agree with the fear of pedophiles having access to my students’ information, I think there are certainly guidelines to address safety that have been developed as I have indicated above.  I recognize the potential future repercussions for students when they have posted an uninformed opinion on the web. I am wondering if teachers should reconsider the permanance of a blog or online statement of opinion when students are posting.  As Namase said in his 10 Negatives of Blogging, he said that one should “Keep in mind that your writing lives on in the web, and that it can be resurrected at a later date to embarrass you or even cost you your job! So be careful when you blog, and don’t write anything you wouldn’t want your mother, your kids or your boss to read!” In other words, we as teachers, need to teach students how to post with informed thoughtfulness and with least potential for future repercussions.

However, completely avoiding the sharing of information from schools could be detrimental for students in the long run.  Those students who are emerging from their school years with a functional capacity to post ethically because it has been modelled for them is an essential condition of our education system today.  Further, those students who emerge with a positive digital footprint already created with them as a result of their school experiences, will have an advantage over their peers who have remained out of the technological world. Employers will be able to access a more longitudinal understanding of their potential employees.

Therefore, to twist the statement to our favour, I would like to end with this thought:

It is UNFAIR to our students, families and their futures to avoid ethically sharing with technology in schools.

Wonder-Full Learning

In a debate our recent EdTech ECI830 class, the topic about whether schools should continue to teach information that could be Googled was explored.  While both groups iterated the importance of a teacher to guide thinking, I think that a support for a drastic shift in how education in Canada is delivered became apparent.

While I fully agree with the continued need for teachers working with children, I think that our purpose is evolving from a “keeper of knowledge” to a “facilitator of knowledge”.  Let’s face it, Google and other search engines have vast amounts of factual and procedural information, which is the composition of millions (perhaps billions) of experts and so-called experts.  If Google were to challenge me to a trivia contest, I would lose as quickly as I do a frisbee tournament.

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However, just because we have immediate access to information, does not make us, as teachers, indispensable (and I am not just saying that to keep my job).  The role of educators needs to evolve to empower and guide students to use the information at our fingertips in a positive and effective manner. P21 (Partnership for 21st Century Learning) P21 Changing Roles of Teachers stated that the role of teachers is changing to be

a) a planner for 21st century careers

b) an instructor for different ways of learning

c) a technology designer for learning.

This article also discusses that focussing on Bloom’s higher order skills such as the 4Cs creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration, students become more analytical and able to problem solve better in real situations.

In conversation with my principal, I was asked what I would change about our current (and somewhat archaic) education system. I replied that I would like our curricula to focus on overarching and more abstract concepts such as home living skills (which might include math, health, social studies, and ELA concepts).  This year, I have taught my entire Grade 7 Social Studies curriculum in about 15 lessons.  I taught over-arching concepts of government, resources, mapping etc, and then the students applied these concepts to learning specifically about one country.  They have been creating an all-encompassing powerpoint or movie presentation about their country.  They use words like coordinates, time zones, gross domestic product, and globalization freely in their research time because they applied it immediately to their learning. I find that the more we compartmentalize learning, the less students are engaged and the less they actually retain.  Finland, one of the leading countries in education, is moving towards this model. Finland Scraps Subjects for Topics

Call me a rebel, but I have been stretching the curricula for a few years now.  Recently, my Grade 6/7 students took on a social action project where we were learning about residential schools and intergenerational trauma.  Long story short, my role as teacher took a drastic change into facilitator, where the students researched the local history of Regina Indian Industrial School, wrote letters to government, invited guest speakers in, planned and executed a fundraiser that collected almost $3000, and managed their media presence through local and national radio and television stations. Image result for regina indian industrial school shelly reed

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/riis-cemetery-provincial-heritage-status-1.4222705

We abandoned all of our “subjects” to embrace this topic, about which they were extremely passionate.  And, quite honestly, we used Google and technology pretty much every hour of every day. It was an excellent opportunity for me to teach students about how to negotiate the internet and the world around them.

George Lee Students Raise Money for R.I.I.S.

Students were engaged, making a difference, and we still met curricular learning needs for their grade level.

Real learning is messy. And Wonder-Full.  While outcome-based learning is a great accountability tool, let’s face it:  Google could replace our text books and our knowledge in a nano-second.  But teaching our students to think, to reflect and to FEEL… that’s where education really needs to exist in this day and age.

Again, it’s just my two cents worth.

 

To tech or not to tech

In our recent Ed Tech class, we had an excellent debate regarding the use of technology in schools and how appropriate the uses might be. The topic was: “Technology in the classroom enhances learning”.  Both sides tackled their stances with justified reasoning.  On the side supporting educational technology in schools, the group was adamant that technology increases student engagement and is a tool necessary for future education and jobs.  Conversely, the group challenging the topic, stated the limitation of resources to be spread out among schools, teachers’ technology skills, and distractibility as potential issues regarding the use of technology.

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Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

I’d like to weigh in on this topic, if I may.  I might be coming to this discussion table with a teaching perspective unique to some others in this course.  When I first started teaching in 1991, there were few computers in the school.  The schools’ computer lab was limited to about 10 computers and they were used mostly for basic programming.  The information gained in the classroom was limited to the books available for us and the knowledge of the teacher. Student engagement was often difficult and often accessibility to demonstration of knowledge for some students with challenges was virtually impossible. I have often thought about one particular student who I taught in about 1993 who struggled with regular programming. He was aptly intelligent but couldn’t demonstrate his knowledge in the traditional ways we were asking. He struggled throughout his education. Ed Tech Makes Education More Accessible

26 years later, I am in a grade 7 classroom and technology is part of our daily routine.  Before I came to Regina Public Schools, I would say that I was using technology to enhance student learning quite regularly.  Students were doing things in their learning that I had never done before.   Students who had difficulty representing their learning in traditional written format were able to represent their learning in video or technological form. We constructed our own webquests and I used SMART technology tools to teach and demonstrate concepts.  Students were generally very engaged, providing teachers were skilled in technology use and implementation.  Fortunately, our division had three instructional technology consultants who came to classrooms and modelled how and why to use different technology according to curricular expectations.

However, whether it be a sign of the economic times or a lower commitment to technology infusion in Regina Public Schools, when I cam here four years ago, I immediately noticed that access to technological learning tools is far more limited.  The dissident side of the debate might win by default here, due to the limited funds available and therefore limited access to technology in our schools. Many of us as teachers seem to have a willingness to embrace technology, and move teachers and students along the SAMR model, however, regular accessibility is a feat in frustration.

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It is difficult to engage students in developing healthy and productive routines and use of tech tools, when the use of them is sporadic at best. Further, despite Saskatchewan Government policy regarding equitable accessibility to education Equity in Education:Policy and Framework , the processes to access technology needs for all is daunting to say the least.

If I were to philosophically choose one side of the argument over another, I would definitely say that technology does enhance student learning as it is can be a purposeful tool that engages students in their learning, makes learning more student centred, increases accessibility for students with learning challenges or that require enrichment, and prepares them more readily for a future about which we know little. However, access to technology is limited in some cases and therefore, implementation is often a challenge. Many teachers will simply avoid using technology due to their own tech challenges as well as limited access. What could we do if we could harness technology in a manner that looks toward the future?

Coding, Robotics and Jobs of the Future

That’s my two cents worth… @msreedvp

Ready, set, blog!

Well, it is moments after my first online synchronous Ed Tech class with Dr. Alec Couros, and I have to say, it was pretty cool.  No rushing to the university, struggling to park or arranging for childcare.  Plus the live sharing of articles and questions seemed to work very well.  I am excited to have this opportunity as a part of my grad program.

I mentioned in a breakout session that, when I started teaching in 1991 (yes, 1991- I bet some of the students in the class were barely born then), technology was not readily available in schools. My high school computer science classes were focused solely around learning BASIC DOS programming.  Snooze…. I remember telling my brother that this computer craze would never catch on.  I had been teaching for at least 7 or 8 years before we even had a computer lab in the elementary school I was in and I remember been totally blown away by how a computer mouse worked.

I’d like to say that I am pretty ok with technology (for someone my age, lol), but I am pumped to be learning critical perspectives of technology THROUGH the use of technology.  This additional knowledge will not only benefit me but my students and staff as well.

I am excited about the debate format of the class.  This is the style that graduate classes should be delivered in. Not direct teaching/death by powerpoint format.  Ugh.

I am also impressed by the support already being offered by the students in the course.  This is definitely a community of learners!

Ok, I am ready to publish!  There is no rocket science in this blog (so don’t go looking for it), but it was only a test run.  Have a great week!IMG_4793