Should You Unplug from the tangled “WEB” we weave?

Wow!  It’s crazy how fast a spring class goes and how much you can learn when you take the time to step back and reflect.  I think that’s been my favorite part of ECI 830 – Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology.  The chance to talk about Ed Tech issues that are shaping our world with thoughtful, creative educators who are passionate about learning.

Our topic this week asked,

Have we become too dependent on technology and what we really need is to unplug?

cell-1344985_960_720Pixabay (TheHilaryClark) – CC0

It’s June and as educators, I think we are all counting down the days until we can unplug and step back and take a breath. Not because we don’t love what we do, but because whether tech related or not we all need a chance to recharge.  It helps keep us healthy.  Perhaps the question really is do we actively make time for ourselves?  Is it about unplugging or setting aside a few minutes in a day for you to recharge? Our devices need time to recharge maybe we do to 🙂

8bcaf3662f33c28e98e1cbf38e943aaf-610x475Image from 14 End of Year Memes That Any Teacher will Understand

I reflected in my summary of learning that how we choose to use technology impacts us directly, but as I continue to reflect it always comes back to balance.  And just what is balance?  In Dre’s final blog post, he talked about hanging out in the grey areas – the space between – finding moderation.

It’s how I choose to shape my life. It’s the small choices that I make each day that over time shape the life I live.

Chip & Dan Heath in The Switch and Malcolm Gladwell in the Tipping Point both noted the significance of context and how it’s often the small things that cause a change to tip one way or another.  It’s also about how you shape the path (context)… so if you aren’t thinking about it just who is shaping your ed tech path?

It brings to mind the story of Two Wolves told from a Grandfather to a Grandson…

Two Wolves
Screenshot from First People – The Legends

There’s always multiple perspectives to each issue, the one you feed will get stronger.  I think the scary part is how often do we stop and think about which wolf we are feeding? I know that this class has taken my Ed Tech reflection to an entirely new level.  In fact, I think it’s taken my ed tech interactions to a whole new level.  When I travel with my consultant colleagues to our various schools, we have time to talk in the car.  My colleagues are very supportive (I’m fortunate to be surrounded by SLPs, Counselors, OTs and Ed Psychs on my travels.  Talk about a amazing support team, outside of family and friends;)

My point is when you start the conversation…when you choose to step in and talk about the issues, you never know how it will ripple out and who will be impacted by your conversations.

Think about the number of different people you interact with on a daily basis – students, parents, teachers, Admin, support staff, community members….At one point in my teaching career I was seeing a minimum of 130 students a day.  The conversations that you have and your willingness to share your stories and your reflections matters. And those are just your face to face interactions, consider your online connections.  Think of the ripple effect… now consider if your conversations start a word of mouth epidemic… now there’s a potential tipping point (It’s a great read – Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point).

I found this week’s spoken word videos are a form of communication that maintains my attention (it seems to be harder to do in the days of information overload).  I love podcasts and Ted Talks but the rhythm and rhyme of spoken word creates a engaging flow of ideas.  I was drawn in by “If this video doesn’t convince you to put down your phone, nothing probably will.

He raises some thought worthy questions – Do touch screens make us lose touch?  We have large friend list but are we actually friendless?

Or in this case is the question more important than the answer?  Is it that it makes you stop to think for a moment?  And if it does resonate with you, will it cause a change?

Gary Turk also uses spoken word to encourage us to “Look Up” at the world around us.  Have we lost our connection skills?  What are we missing if we don’t look up?

 

Looking for an interesting read?   Margie Warrell‘s article “Text or Talk: Is Technology Making You Lonely?” explained how recent studies noted that “despite being more connected than ever, more people feel more alone than ever” (2012, para 2).  In fact the people who most reported feeling alone were in fact the most “prolific social networkers” (para. 2). She also shared that we have less close friends than we did 25 years ago and social media enables us to control our vulnerability and vanity…turns out that true connections require vulnerability and that means it isn’t always pretty. (Brene Brown‘s Daring Greatly – is an excellent read on the value of vulnerability).

binary-1327493_960_720Image from Pixabay – Geralt – CC0

Warrell suggested 7 strategies for building a “REAL” social network, I’d argue they are basic life strategies: (the bracketed comments are mine).

  1. Unplug (I’d say not just from tech but make time for you to recharge)
  2. Become a Better Listener (Always a good strategy)
  3. Engage in your community (not just online)
  4. Practice Conversation (Face to face interaction is more than words)
  5. Find Like Minds (Look around – who challenges you to grow?)
  6. Reconnect with long lost friends (go for coffee)
  7. Invite People over (Yes, but first I have to clean my house;)

Just this week I was talking with my colleagues and I mentioned how we had discussed the addiction to the internet in one of our many debates.  Interestingly, the counselors both mentioned that connection is the opposite of addiction and then they shared a comment that made me pause…. so what happens when we think we are helping someone’s addiction by taking away their device… how does that help them find meaningful connections? What determines meaningful?

Sophia Breene (2015) commented that “social media is the Green Eyed Monster’s preferred stomping ground” (Why Everyone Should Unplug More Often). It conjures up quite an image for me, but is FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) causing us genuine anxiety?  Don’t laugh, an Anxiety UK study noted

“if you are predisposed to anxiety is seems that the pressures form technology act as a tipping point, making people feel more insecure and more overwhelmed.  These finding suggest that some may need to re-establish control over the technology they use, rather than be controlled by it” (Anxiety UK, 2012).

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Image from Pixabay – geralt – CC0

So if you’re not thinking about how tech is affecting your life, who or what is shaping your life? And do you lead two separate lives (online and offline) or just one augmented life that now encompasses the digital world. Jugenson (2011) reasoned we “live in one reality, one that is augmented by atoms and bits… an augmented self” (p.3). As far as I know, life exists in the moment we are living in. The online affects the offline which in some cases affects the online.  It’s a tangled web we weave.  And so I return to the idea that it’s the choices we make that affect the life we live.  Social media and tech are part of the world we exist in.

 It’s your choice to mix the atoms and the bits, but the more important question is do you ever stop to think about how ______ is influencing your life and is that the life you want?  It’s your life, you get to write the next chapter. 

bfed9a_8bb1e1a124c049da987669c54296750bCreated using Canva

 

Thank-you to my ECI 830 classmates for stepping into the arena and sharing their stories.  It’s truly made for a rich learning experience.

way-1031336_960_720Image from Pixabay – Unsplash – CC0

So will I unplug? The end of July will mark an intense 23 months on the ETAD journey, starting a new business, working full time as a Learning Consultant and being with my family.  Have you ever heard your family and friends say I’ll see you after you finish your next class?   It was my choice, I shaped my own intense path.  I’m a self admitted workaholic that attempts to find balance each day (and I don’t always win – but I attempt to fight the battle and tech is only part of it).  It’s a work in progress.  By the end of July, I will complete my ETAD program which I’ve done completely online.

My favourite parts were when I went to Saskatoon to work on a couple group projects with classmates face to face…and the two times I attended class (Yes twice I attended Saturday classes).  It wasn’t the project or the class, it was that I had the chance to meet the people face to face.  It’s the fun of going to a PD event and meeting your online classmates in person.  And with that I pause… I’m a classic introvert and as introvert face to face interactions cost a lot more energy.  I think I’m more of an offline introvert online extrovert – it’s complicated (Collier, 2011, para 2).

I did attend one Saturday Grad Seminar on research ethics.  I opted to go in person, it was the loneliest seminar.  A room filled with people that I didn’t know from a diverse variety of colleges.  Everyone else appeared to know someone.  Sure I could have tried to add myself to a table but it was a month and a half into my masters journey and my network was all online and this seminar was for every new grad student at the university.  At the end of the day I wished I had taken it online…I might have met more people that way or at least found the ones that I only knew by their online profile pic and name.

So just keep in mind as you choose to use different types of technology and instructional strategies in your classes, each choice affects each of us differently.  So variety is important as it gives us all time to recharge and step out of our comfort zones once in a while.

Without the connectivty of online classes, I wouldn’t have gone back to school at this point in my life.  Two hours away from a university makes for long drives just to get to class. I’m glad I chose to complete my masters online, but how deep you go online has human costs.  I’m very thankful for a supportive family and close friends (no one does the Master’s program alone all your friends and family do it with you;) and that goes for my online friends that have supported me too.

So will I unplug? I have to say I’m looking forward to evenings where I can choose whether or not I engage online. There will of course be the mandatory summer hermit phase when I attempt to recharge (do all teachers go through this or just me?), but in the hermit phase I’ll still be online.  Will I disconnect from tech?  Not likely.  Will I attempt to be more conscious about my choices. Yes.  Will I think twice before I fall into a pattern?  I think this class has certainly opened my eyes.   In Go Pro, Eric Worre, explained that you become most like the 5 people you spend the most time with and these people will change as you grow and learn.  So I hope I’m aware of who’s around me and that together we will find ways to connect in and step out in a dynamic balance (equilibrium).  After all if you walk into a room and you are the smartest person there, you are in the wrong room.

Unplug or not, it’s really about the way to you choose to experience your life.  Will you leave a well documented online legacy or will family and friends be the ones to share your stories around the fire for years to come?

What will your story be?

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What’s your Story? Here’s my ECI 830 journey.

So what’s my story?  What did I learn?  ECI 830 has provided many thought provoking opportunities for reflection on the Ed Tech world.  Here’s my attempt to try and sum up my learning journey.  Because Alec & Katia classes are different than my Blackboard based U of S Educational Technology and Design  (ETAD) classes, I’ve included a short section at the start of the video that highlights how we learn in this class.  It will be added to my ETAD Portfolio because after I’m brave enough to post my summary of learning and share my last debate reflection this will conclude class 9 of 10 on my ETAD journey.  Next up is an independent study on Leadership – Is there a difference between our face to face and online worlds?

So here’s my video….
—The first part is more my style and then, like a fellow ECI 830 student mentioned, I stepped way outside my comfort zone and attempted to rewrite a song.  (I should mention my husband plays in a band (guitar and vocals)… I don’t sing…in public…or very loud… so this is way outside my comfort zone – hopefully your ears are okay after;)  It’s hiding at the end of the video.

–I’ve attempted to rewrite & perform the Johnny Cash version of I won’t Back Down – It’s now called, “I Will Step In.”  Special thanks to my husband, David, for recording the guitar & background vocals and not laughing at me while I attempted to sing it:)  He helped edit the musical track together for the song. (It was quite the process, first he recorded the guitar track, then I had to sing, then he added the harmonies… glad he’s a DJ, rockstar, shop teacher. And did I mention… he always sings the Johnny Cash songs that the band plays – he said it was important for me to sing my story.)

All images included in the video are sourced from Pixabay Creative Commons CC0 & Screenshots by Stephanie

Our debates reminded me of the Story of Two Wolves shared by a Grandfather to his Grandson.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It’s a terrible fight and it’s between two wolves.”

“One is evil, he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt and ego.

“The other is good, he is joy, peace, love, hope, serentiy, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

“This is the same fight going inside you – and inside every other person, too”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?

He replied simply, “The one you feed.”

There’s always two sides to the story, to the issue – careful which one you feed.

Thank-you for watching!  I truly appreciated learning with everyone!! Truly one of the highlights of my Masters class journey.  I can’t thank you enough for sharing your stories and different perspectives.  It’s truly added to the richness of the class.

Wishing everyone a restful and re-energizing summer and smooth sailing your Masters’ journey.

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No need to keep reading – this is just my reflection on how I came to learn what I did in ECI 830:)  It’s a more detailed description of what I tried to put into video with a top 10 things I learned.


What’s my story? 

The non-video version


Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. – Martin Luther King Jr.

It started with a decision to apply to the ETAD program in April of 2014, a letter welcoming me to the program and the fun of trying to register and figure out classes. Class #1 started in September of 2014, the same day my daughter started Kindergarten.  Coincidentally, the same summer the Color By Amber came to Canada and I started a home based business all while I worked as a Learning Consultant.   Because when opportunity comes along you just have to go for it.

 

Change is an ever present force in our lives and you can either fight it or learn and grow .  So why not step out of your comfort zone and see just want you can do.

Fast forward to the count down to my two remaining classes.  I reached out to Alec Couros to see what might be available at the U of R and he suggested ECI 830 – Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology – one SUGA agreement and a “hey, so we just found out your are in our class from Katia and her I am.  Working on finishing class #9. (Okay this post means the class is almost finished 🙂

The more learning I do the more I find we are all connected by the stories we tell and those that we share. ECI 830 enabled me to step out of my ETAD comfort zone and meet a whole new network of amazingly talented, reflective and creative teachers. So here’s the story of ECI 830….Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology… which is really a fancy way of saying in the world around us;)

Having just finished a full year of amazing Kitchen Parties with the legendary Rick Schwier, I was excited to join my fellow colleagues each Tuesday night at 7 for our Great Ed Tech Debates.

I use zoom with my business team so it was great to see it in action live with an entire class.

Instead of textbook we shared articles each week and instead of lectures we debated ed tech topics.

We shared evidence of our learning through blogs, which is something that I’ve always wanted to do but have just never had the time to do consistently.
We used WordPress to share our ideas and interact with each other.

In ETAD, we typically posted behind the blackboard walls in discussion forums so this provided a public forum for us to share our ideas.

I’ve never met these educators before but they  are shaping my stories by choosing to share theirs.

Twitter gave us another chance to connect and share our ideas and grow our personal learning network.

Finding that online community that energizes and encourages you to grow is like finding a treasure.  Together we shared not only our stories but our articles, blogs, podcasts and TED Talks all intended to help us better understand the Ed Tech issues all around us.

While the class talked about focusing on Ed Tech trends and issues, it’s really a course that any citizen would benefit from.  Our topics don’t just affect our schools and our students, they affect our lives and our children….that’s who our students are.  These issues affect all of us.

Alec and Katia carefully crafted the debate statements to get us to dig deeper and think more reflectively about how the issue affect us and our teaching.

Let’s break that down who’s affected….

You – students, parents, teachers, admin, division, community members…

  • your kids, your family, your friends
  • your social media connections…

The conversations that you have matter and whether you choose to step in or just listen impacts the ripple effect of your legacy.

Does technology enhance learning in the classroom?

Technology is all around us.  It comes in many forms from the pencil with an eraser, scissors, to mobile devices, to the cell phone in your hand, to 3D printers.  There will always be technology.  It’s not inherently bad or good, it’s what you do with the technology you have that has the ability to enhance learning.

Should you teach anything that can be Googled?

Google is an integral part of our lives, if I said just Google it – you’d know what to do.  Does our 24/7 access to information replace what we need to teach?  It all depends how you teach; moreover, how you assess?  If your students can just google the answer, what is it we are teaching them?  Let’s remember that for information to become knowledge we have to think about it – Google doesn’t think about it it’s programmed to find connections – it’s up to us to use our brain to make sense of the world we encounter and as educators it is up to us to reflect on how we authentically assess students in a information based world.

 What we choose to value in the learning process is going to echo forward for years to come.

Our class challenged the notion that memorization is bad, just think of all of the processes you’ve learned that have become automatic.  It’s about what we choose to memorize and the purpose of investing in it.  I’m more of a connectivist – yes there’s knowledge I need to hold in my own brain but there’s also an immense of amount of knowledge that I can connect to in my learning network (Google or the human kind).

Is technology making our kids unhealthy?

Is it making all of us unhealthy? Again it’s developing an awareness.  Each week I find myself stepping back and looking at my world through a more reflective lens. Is my love of technology making me unhealthy? Or rather do I need to be more aware of the lifestyle choices that I am making?  Tech is just a tool – before mobile devices, TVs were bad influences and before that books contained information that might just make us want to stay in one place until we finished the story.

As Audrey Watters pointed out, we always seem to have amnesia when it comes to new technology – as if we are the first ones to struggle with the challenges of tech.  Are our problems must be more significant than those before us.

Isn’t it really about how we choose to use the tech? It’s how I choose to shape my life? You have to find the balance.

Is openness and sharing unfair to our kids?

Again it’s about the choices you make…. although I may be a bit biased.  In a social media, knowledge based world where your life, as Alec pointed out, seems to be public by default and private by effort.  I think we (educators and parents) have to teach our children how to become thoughtful, digital citizens that are aware of how their actions will impact their future.  Every generation has things to learn and learning what and how to share may be one of the top five things to understand. Like the agree side explained, you are essentially creating a digital tattoo that will live years beyond you.

What do you want your legacy to be?

Is technology is a force for equity in society?

Let’s step back from technology – how do you create equity in your classroom?

Tech has the potential to be a force for equity, but it depends on how you use the tools you choose to use, how you choose to use them and the prior knowledge that your students bring to the table.

Equity doesn’t just happen, people consistently choose to look, listen and reflect on the environment they are creating in their class. In a diverse world, it’s important for us to recognize that culture shapes the way our brains make sense of the world.  So you are going to have to step out of your comfort zone and choose to value equity.

This is the week I learned about Storientation = sharing your story builds connections, listening to the stories of others develops trust and being aware of your organization’s story shapes the path you are on.

Like Malcom Gladwell shared in the “Tipping Point” and Chip and Dan Heath explained in “The Switch” – it’s the small consistent choices that we make that truly shape the path and move us toward our goals.  Tech is only one piece of the puzzle.

Is Social Media ruining childhood?

Social media has changed childhood.

As educators and parents, we need to be aware of what we choose to share and the medium we choose to share it in.  If you are choosing what you post on social media, you are branding yourself.  Changing the identity of a brand isn’t easy so learning strategies to think through things before you post is an important strategy in continuing to build a digital footprint. You wouldn’t send your child to the park unsupervised to spend the day with strangers, so use your not so common, common sense.

Make the effort to be aware of the world you live in and make the best choices you can to help build resilient children that have a well developed tool box of strategies to not just cope but thrive in today’s social world.

Has public education sold it’s soul to corporate interests?

Of all the debates this this one opened my eyes… not that I was oblivious to education’s connections to business. It’s part of life. Schools will always need supplies, tools and tech from the non educational world, what tugged at my heart was …it’s not something I actively reflect on very often. I love google, office, windows, android, apple, share point…. I use the tech I have access to – to create the best learning opportunities I can for my students and staff.  If it’s free, all the better… but how do my choices ripple out?  When I choose to use Google Apps because it’s free for education do I ever stop to have the conversation with my students about why I chose this tool?

I’m reminded of a conversation I had with my Coordinator or Student Support Services. Attribution theory – as we reviewed IIPs she reminded me it’s great to explicitly teach students the strategies they need but we also need students to learn to think about why choosing that strategy in that context works.  It’s important for them to attribute their success to choosing the tool or strategy appropriately.

After all if I tried to use one thing for everything, it just wouldn’t work, but if I step back and choose the tool or strategy that best fits the situational need, then I’m more likely to find success.

What have I learned on this journey?

  1. If you are too comfortable with what you know maybe you haven’t thought about it enough
  2. Learning is messy and that’s good.
  3. It’s all about perspective.  We each come to the table with different ideas and strengths and that’s the best part – it’s how we learn by sharing ideas and challenging each other to think outside our comfort zone
  4. If you walk into a room and you think you are the smartest person you are in the wrong room!  You become like those you interact with, so choose to surround yourself with people that are going to challenge you to grow outside your comfort zone in positive ways.
  5. The more I learn the less I know & there’s always more to learn
  6. There’s always two sides to every issue, every story has at least two sides.  It’s important to respect and listen to the challenges and questions raised by those that lie outside your initial zone of comfort…. you always have to listen first.
  7. Dean Benko explained that you have to find the balance – when you do you will find a state of flow.
  8. It’s not about the technology its about what you do with what you have… then again in our last debate … does it matter the kind of tech you have?
  9. Data and information are just that – knowledge is created by individual minds drawing on individual experience.. making value judgements based on their experiences….tech makes info and data easier to access, more visual and what seems at first easier to interpret… but that of course depends on who created the parameters of what to graph out? Just because it looks pretty doesn’t mean it’s any more valid – you have to think critically and look deeper.
  10. Our ultimate goal is to encourage our students (our children) and those around us to become an engaged, multi-literate learners that care enough to think critically about the information, the environment and it’s sources that they encounter and choose to make a decisions based on their experiences.  As Toffler says,  the future belongs to the those who can learn, unlearn and relearn.

To reach the end is really to begin again and write the next chapter.

So here’s to the next chapter. 

to reach the end

 

Do you know what train you are on? The stories we tell ourselves – Rationalizing or Collaborating?

network-1433045_960_720Image from Pixabay – geralt

Has public education sold its soul to corporate interests in what amounts to a Faustian bargain?

14532764725lpw0Image by GeoffS MorgueFile

Did we do what now?  Have we already? How do we find the balance?

FYI… you may know the term Faustian Bargain better as a deal with the devil…Dictionary.com  explained

“Faust, in the legend, traded his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge. To “strike a Faustian bargain” is to be willing to sacrifice anything to satisfy a limitless desire for knowledge or power.”

robot-507811_960_720Hmmmm do we have a limitless desire for knowledge?  Do we take for granted how easy it is for us to access information? To become knowledge – we still have to process it in our brains and make sense of it otherwise it’s just data.  Is our economy today based on knowledge and who has it? Or rather who’s willing to share it?  Seems I have lots of questions this week.

(Image from Pixabay – Geralt CC0 Public Domain)

So do we take a bus trip or boat trip this week?  Or are we already on a high speed train with the details flying by so fast that we are distracted by the comforts of high speed travel?  As with most ECI 830 debate topics, this one raised some very interesting points. How far down the track are we? Have we gone off the rails?  Hang on this week’s reflection looks comfy but there’s a lot more happening outside the train than we may realize….

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Pixabay – Si_Platt – CC0 Public Domain

Do you even know what train you are on?

  • GAFE… Google Apps for Education
  • Have you opted for Apple instead?
  • Perhaps it’s a CLEVR dash of StudentsAchieve, a cup of Maplewood, mixed with SKOPUS, delivered through Community Net with a side of SharePoint;)
  • What kind of vending machines are found in your building?
  • How do donations impact your school?
  • Do sponsor names cover your school uniforms?

First let me say we had an amazing array of presenters this week including our very own ECI 830 colleagues Tyler and Justine paired against our guests –  Dean Shareski and his team Kyle Schutt and David Fisher.  Following the debate Audrey Watters of Hack Education shared her thoughts on the stories we tell ourselves about the connections between education and business.  Perhaps things aren’t as clear cut as we might first think.

I’m a Google fan but Tuesday’s debate has me wondering just how much does Google know about me based on my let’s say variety of Google Accounts and extensive use of Google Apps?   Is it wrong that Google is my preferred search engine?  Has popular culture ingrained it in me?  It all made me wonder just when did Google get “verbed?”  Anderson explained that “Google” became a verb in 2006, a marketing dream, however, “for the companies themselves, though, being “verbed” has its dark side.  A company that does not defend its trademark risks losing it when it becomes a common figure of speech” (para 1). The article is old so laws may have changed since then but it’s an interesting commentary that reaching common phrase status can also affect trademarks.

digital-marketing-1433427_960_720Andrea Peterson’s (2015) article “Google is tracking students as it sells more products to schools, privacy advocates warn” noted that there’s a concern going forward about just how much information Google is collecting on our students as only certain apps are private.  Step outside those faint lines and Google will begin to build a profile. Peterson asked is Google quickly becoming as common in school as pencils and erasers?

(Image from Pixabay – Wdnet –  CC0 Public Domain)

I find it interesting that we go to google for anonymity.  Think of the questions that we would only ask Google…rather than our own Doctor, but ironically Google remembers more about what we are looking for than we do.

You may want to check out some of the links found in this post, 6 Links that will show you what Google knows about you.

Just how deeply embedded into our lives and our classrooms are corporate influences? I’m not saying this is good or bad, I’m just asking you to consider for a moment just how much we are surrounded by brands.

Molnar (2001) examined the history of corporate marketing in US public education.  He noted, “Unfortunately, to this point in America, policy makers have devoted much less time to thinking through the constraints that may be necessary on corporate involvement

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Pixabay- geralt-CCO
Public Domain

in the schools than considering ways to expand school-business partnerships.”  As Dean Shareski reminded us during the debate, it’s important for schools and divisions to consider how partnerships align with division and ministry initiatives.  It’s important to be smart and ethical with whom you choose to create partnerships. He also reminded us that schools have always had a connection with the private sector… think about all of the supplies required to run a school.  We are inextricably linked to corporations, but it’s important as Shareski mentioned to look at underlying values of the companies.  Yes they all need to make money to survive? But I’d like to hope that some want to partner with schools because they believe they can make a difference for our students not just the bottom line.

Do any of your resources come from Pearson? Likely at some point you’ve crossed paths with this “multi-national conglomerate” (Singer, 2012, para 2). Until the debate, I didn’t realize just how intricately networked Pearson was in the world of education from the traditional textbook to delivering assessments to funding educational research.  It’s just not something I reflect on daily, there are different aspects demanding my daily attention.  I look for the resource that will best meet the need of my team…I’ve never really stopped to think about how often I prefer one company over another… or does Google do that for me?

Tyler and Justine shared this video which provides another interesting perspective,

In what the Saskatchewan Government proclaims to be transformational times in terms of education and health care in Saskatchewan, I wonder what the long and short term costs will be to our students. When divisions are required to make it work what is it that disappears.  I’d like to hope it’s not the people providing the education.  As Watters mentioned computers don’t care about us, they respond to code. What worries me is that educators are encouraged to be innovative and creative in response to decreased funding…what state of vulnerability does that leave schools in when corporations offer to invest in your school?  It’s not that any one school or division would purposefully set out to lose control over the goals of education but what happens when it’s —find a partnership or decrease class offerings to students.  Are the Faustian bargains mentioned in our debate statement closer than we care to think?

So let’s consider “How Corporations Are Helping To Solve The Education Crisis.” Schiller and Arena (2012) noted that 80% of jobs in the next decade will need science, technology and math and they cited a McKinsey study warning that two-thirds of those jobs don’t even exist yet (para. 3). Schiller and Arena explained that companies like Microsoft are taking corporate citizenship and social innovation to a new level to help decrease the opportunity divide. VP of Microsoft Worldwide Education, Anthony Salcito explained

“It’s not just about technology. It’s about bringing innovation to schools. How do you personalize the education experience? How do you incorporate new modes of classroom design and curriculum, or think about assessment differently? How do you change a kid’s vision of his future?…. We have to acknowledge that learning is shifting away from content memorization to a more relevant, personalized, skill-based foundation. We have to dig deeper, think harder and get more engaged to determine what change is needed and then push the pieces forward. We also have to bring a culture of sustainability to the process of transforming education.”

And that’s great as long as our partnership goals are to create positive learning environments where students are encouraged to become engaged, literate, critical thinkers.  Will being surrounded by certain types of products unconsciously influence our choices?  Just a question…or are we always influenced by the choices of our peers, colleagues and family members?  Then again back to the importance of empowering students to become engage citizens who can think for themselves.

During the debate I asked where the bright spots are in educational partnerships.  In “The Switch” Chip and Dan Heath encouraged us to look for the bright spots. “When it’s time to change, we must look for bright spots — the first signs that things are working, …. We need to ask ourselves a question that sounds simple but is, in fact, deeply unnatural: What’s working and how can we do more of it?” (2010, para. 12).  Alec explained that it’s not easy to find balanced published research on this or perhaps more to the point there’s research; however, only the positive research gets published…I used to joke with my senior science students to keep asking questions, to be critical, to ask who funded the study…. to follow the money.

GAFE screenshotScreenshot from Google for Education

I found the Google for Education case studies interesting. Lots of positive examples of how to collaborate and grow… bright spots? I did find it interesting, how some of the case studies were phrased….”Unfortunately, the Windows devices the school had at the time were clunky, slow, and difficult for students to use….” The solution…“We chose Google Apps for Education, touchscreen Chromebooks,and Google Classroom because they deliver the type of experience that our students need and deserve.” Just interesting the choice of words.

Just to clarify at this point… I’m a Google fan.  I’ve been said to drive the Google Bus encouraging people to join.  I like Google Apps for education and how it works in my own business. It’s convenient and it does what it needs to do for me and I will continue to use Google and Sharepoint and Microsoft… but I do wonder now more than ever…

[perhaps that’s a result of 22 months of Educational Technology and Design Masters program or the great conversations I’ve had the opportunity to have with professors and fellow students.]

I do wonder… what is it that I really need to worry about in terms of service, in where my info goes and who has it…. or how much have my current choices been influenced by my choice of educational institutions.  We all make choices every day.  We do the best we can with what we have and as long as each day we learn more and try to do better than the day before.  We will learn from the journey we are on and maybe just maybe we can relax on that high speed training knowing what’s whizzing by outside and that in the end it will help get us to our destination and our next learning adventure.

We were fortunate to have Audrey Watters of Hack Education join us for our #ECI830 class and if you haven’t checked out her Hack Education blog it’s well worth your time.  In fact, be sure to take a look at “Ed-Tech and the Commercialization of School” follow up post to our class conversation. Watters (2016) reminded us that testing is a part of the Ed-Tech and corporate interests web.  Just think about the business of testing.

She also contended that we seem to develop

“an amnesia of sorts. We forget all history – all history of technology, all history of education. Everything is new. Every problem is new. Every product is new. We’re the first to experience the world this way; we’re the first to try to devise solutions.” (Hack Education, 2016)

Both Watters and Shareski pointed out that we’ve always had a relationship with the corporate sector. In fact it’s been a part of life for schools since we’ve needed things like pens, pencils, phones, chalkboards or books. In particular, I was intrigued by her references to the stories we tell ourselves.  Stories resonate with me and it’s how we make sense of and remember the world… perhaps not always accurately as our stories are influenced by our own perspectives.

apple-256261_960_720Pixabay – jarmoluk –  CC0 Public Domain

Watters noted that we need to look at how

“the relationship between public schools and vendors has changed over time: what’s being sold, who’s doing the selling, and how all that influences what happens in the classroom and what happens in the stories society tells itself about education.” (Hack Education, 2016)

She cautioned us that schools have always been failing and business models and the faith that data will save us is not new.  We just have more ways to collect data, process the data and to look at the data. There’s a innate discrepancy of being efficient and the messiness of learning.  It’s an important reminder to all of us “Humans are not widgets.  The cultivation of the mind cannot be mechanized. It should not be mechanized” (Watters, 2016)

I’m thankful to have crossed paths with Audrey Watters, hers is a blog I will continue to read as it provides a thoughtful lens with which to consider our world. I leave you with her closing lines:

“The money matters. But I’d contend that the narratives that powerful people tell about education and technology might matter even more.”(Hack Education, 2016)

It’s about the stories we share and we have, now more than ever before, a way to share our stories.  And so I leave you with:

this is my story, but what’s yours?

Here are thoughts on this week’s blog from a few of my talented and thoughtful ECI 830 Colleagues:

  • Kyle – Deals with the Devil, or maybe just not with Bill Gates?
  • Chalyn’s post – Selling Souls in the name of education made me wonder… how the future of sponsorship will play out.   As we approach graduation, her post made me think about all of the Memorial Scholarships that we hand out at Grad – people have donated money with specific requirements for a lasting legacy.   While others have reached a certain level of donation and have had an academic scholarship named after them – in this case our committee attaches the requirements not the group or individual that donated the money.  I think it depends on why people or businesses do what they do… do I give money because I want something from it or because it will make life better for others?  Then again the Scholarship Fund is separate from school – we are a non-profit that gives back….It’s really more complicated than we first imagine.
  • Dean’s post – Name Your Price – made me think about how sponsorship changes over time…what impact does that have as names come and go?
  • Luke shared “The important consideration becomes whether the corporate involvement in schools is actually providing enhanced learning for students.”  Partnerships with corporations have the potential to connected talented industry leaders with students as part of the their educational journey.  Is that good or bad?  Does it come at a price?

 

Social Media & Childhood – Smooth Sailing or the Perfect Storm

Attempted my first podcast version of my blog:

 

Are you ready for this week’s bus trip?  Debate number two of our ECI 830 class featured the controversial question,

Is Social Media ruining childhood?

girl-1328416_960_720Geralt at Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

Now here’s the power of a learning network and reflection… just when you think you know where you stand and that as a parent and an educator you are doing the best you can … you jump into a debate about social media.

Is it ruining childhood?
                  That seems to be a pretty extreme statement at first.

Is social media childhood?
                  It’s certainty part of it is…

I think we have to acknowledge as Rick Lavoie shared in a workshop I attended, that we need to recognize the childhood our students and children are experiencing is nothing like the childhood we experienced. He cautioned us to think about how we respond to students…

“I know what it’s like to be a kid”

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Unsplash @ Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

… he reminded us we don’t.  Our environment has changed significantly. Now I realize that statement begins to date me a bit and that’s okay.  For the majority of educators, I would venture a guess that we didn’t grow up with social media, mobile devices, the internet or computers.

In fact, I remember when our family got it’s first computer…. wait before that I remember commodore-528139_960_720the Commodore 64 computer that used to be wheeled around on a cart between the classrooms and when it was your turn you were allowed to play on it for a few minutes… concentration or maybe later on Oregon Trail. Our family computer featured a green monochrome monitor and a dot matrix printer that we could use to type up our school assignments.   Then later in my high school years it was the cell phone… it came in a bag… it was only for emergencies or to take with you in the tractor so you could call home when you had finished cultivating the field and needed to be picked up.  It cost a lot for the convenience of mobility.
(Image from Cstibi @Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain)

Social media involved stopping at the local Turbo gas station to check in with your friends so you could figure out where everyone was on a Friday night.  Photos generally only existed if people actually developed the film and there was a good chance the picture may not have turned out, the biggest risk there was in a small town … you had to drop off your film at a local store to be developed and someone’s Mom might work there.

Flash forward to today’s school… we appear to be more connected through all of our devices than ever before, but are we authentically connected?  Perhaps today’s bus trip is more of a boat ride in the social media stream.  Kudos to both teams for sharing thoughtful points on the impacts of social media.  It’s really made me think about the impacts of social media not just on our children but on adults as well.  After all, today’s adults are modelling the behavior for our children and buying them the devices.

As it seems each time we dig into a thoughtfully crafted ECI 830 debate statement, I find myself in the boat looking back and forth between the beautiful blue waters with the sunny shore in the distance and the dark grey waters of the open ocean where the waves exist but don’t always show themselves.

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Images from Unsplash & Stocksnap @ Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

Now I’m a fan of the rock the boat theory.  Yes sometimes when you work with people you have to go on a metaphorical boat trip (a real life rocking boat would stress me out way too much).  Sometimes you have to ask questions or suggest strategies that may rock the boat a bit because the only way to see the other side is to catch a wave that scares you but let’s you see what’s out there.

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Image from geralt @ Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

I think the moral of this week’s debate is social media is not going away and we have to find a way to support our children and build their toolbox of strategies before they get to far out on the boat and drift away.

In “Social Media Affects Child Mental Health Through Increased Stress, Sleep Derpivation, Cyberbullying, Experts Say” George Bowden wrote about the risks of social media use by children.  There are many sharks in the waters for our children to face.  If they want to be connected for FOMO (fear of missing out), they are going to go out in a boat that’s ill equipped to support them during stormy times.  Bowden in fact warned of how ” a potent mix of cyberbullying, increased anxiety, stress and sleep deprivation are increasingly linked to mental illness in children.”

shark-892669_960_720Image from shahart @Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

Bowden shared the story of Rebecca who explained that not only was she bullied at school, it followed her home because of social media.  In our desire to be connected we continue to turn to the platform that helps us connect.  The problem arises when the ratio of positive to negative interaction tips into a extreme range and our face to face and online life reinforce the same negative attention.  It causes the mob mentality of a feeding frenzy.  Now your boat is really more like a shark cage and you are holding dinner.  No matter where you turn someone is rushing in to take a piece out of you. It’s exhausting and scary. Scary to think that even in the safety of our homes our children are still subject to attack.

In the Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell reflected on the broken windows effect. “If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge.” Gladwell explained in several examples how small changes in the environment can tip larger epidemics. If your boat trip drifts into some murkier waters and people treat each other negatively and that’s seen as okay, it certainly opens the flood gates for some larger predators to swim through. I would guess that he majority of online bystanders that join the bullying mob rationalize from the context that their behavior will help them fit in.  The individuals themselves would likely be able to distinguish right from wrong quite distinctly. It’s the context that causes the individual to tip.

In a Social Life, Kerith Lemon questioned whether or not our online life is “a carefully curated brand.

While it’s important to think before you post, just how much are we consciously branding our online persona into the life we think we should have versus the one we actually live.  It’s really about the balance. “This presents an unprecedented paradox. With all the powerful social technologies at our fingertips, we are more connected – and potentially more disconnected – than ever before” (Tardanico, 2012)

Susan Tardanico emphasized,

“As human beings, our only real method of connection is through authentic communication. Studies show that only 7% of communication is based on the written or verbal word. A whopping 93% is based on nonverbal body language. Indeed, it’s only when we can hear a tone of voice or look into someone’s eyes that we’re able to know when “I’m fine” doesn’t mean they’re fine at all…or when “I’m in” doesn’t mean they’re bought in at all.”

So just how do you increase the know, like and trust factor of online interactions when it’s a visual yet text based interaction?  It’s a conversation I’ve had with Carla Gradin, body language trainer, wardrobe stylist and creator of the Killer Confidence Course.  How you take pictures and frame the video matters. Body language truly does impact how we interact with others.  In fact, it affects your primal brain causing you to respond in ways you don’t even consciously think about.

Feel like you’re in a rubber dingy floating out to see as it’s getting dark?  Don’t fear, social media can also have a deeply positive effect on your emotional state. The UCLA Center Mental Health in Schools noted 6 explicit benefits of social networking for peer relationships including building a sense of community for those more isolated, creating closer bonds and building positive relationships.  Caroline Knorr explained social media can help provide genuine support, enable them to express themselves, while offering a sense of belonging (5 Reasons You Don’t Need to Worry About Kids and Social Media, 2015)

So perhaps we’re not alone in the boat, maybe we are part of a flotilla which is part of a larger fleet.  For as many sharks and predators that swim in the ocean there are billions of plankton that form the foundation of the food web.  Perhaps we are surrounded by the good we just have to be in the right context to see it?

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Image from geralt @Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

As Jan Rezab explained Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are just platforms.  It’s the people that make the difference and what a difference one person can make in our connected world. Rezab shared the Arab springs example, along with how the Turkish government blocked Twitter and Facebook.  To that he added how in Turkey, more people posted to Twitter when it was banned than ever before. He reminded us how now more than ever individuals have a voice that can be heard and how together we can impact change at a government or organizational level.

The power of amplification.

What social media really did was give us the power to connect with others on a larger scale.  Think about events organized on Facebook and the ripple effect it has on the number of people involved.

Rezab asked instead of retweeting the famous Oscar Selfie,

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Screenshot from Twitter

why not retweet things that can change our world.  As Bowden  quoted, “We need to realize young people are on social media and that’s here to stay,” Russell says. “Now, it’s about giving them the skills to manage their online lives and the resilience to bounce back.”

And to that I would add it’s not just about giving our children the skills and tools to be resilient online it’s about helping us as parents learn how to help our children.  So when the boat trip gets a little rough, our children know that we are here to help. And when the time comes for them to leave the safe harbor and sail out into the ocean, we know they are prepared with the most resilient tool box possible and maybe a phone to call home.

Here’s a quick video that we shared with our students during our Social Media Cafes that really sums up the impact of cyberbullying.


Thanks to Logan, Amy and Carter for reminding us of the challenges of social media and to Ellen and Elizabeth who noted that there are many positives as well.

  •  This week Erin wrote, “Children who engage with social media are both consumers and producers of content.  They have the power to create and share words, and we know how powerful words can be.  We live in a world where everyone can create and consume media, do our students fully understand the power of our words in the absence of non-verbal communication. Words on their own are subject to many more misinterpretations that words said by an individual. Now this is just my observation, but words are the first choice of our very young internet users. Video is. Students know how to voice search before they can read.  Content comes in many forms.
  • Heather examined the topic through our nostalgic reflective eyes and questions just how true is our recollection of our childhood? I wonder how true out memories are… just how does our story affect how we remember the stories of our lives.   She also noted that we often hear more bad than good these days.  As now the news comes to us non stop.  In the past, you had to actually turn on the TV and watch the 6 o’clock news or stay up late enough to catch the nightly new with Lloyd Robertson or dare I say Knowlton Nash
  • “Is the box really just a box now, because there is no one left to play with it as we all sit on our devices trolling social media?” Lisa raises a very interesting point in her reflection on Social Media and Childhood.
  • Danielle does an excellent job of summarizing key things that we can all do to make a difference in our children’s social media experience.  Stand up and step into the conversation, the only people that can make the difference are the ones that engage in the conversation.
  • Kyle wrote – Social Meida Acceptance Necessary for Parents – it’s happening whether you like it or not and stepping into the conversation matters.

It’s time for a bus trip – Technology & Equity – Are they headed in the same direction?

It’s time for a little bus trip as I used to explain to my science students.  I’d say it’s important to try and stay in your seats as best you can, but if you feel that you’ve been bounced out of your seat into the aisle or you are standing at the door ready to jump let me know and have faith that we will circle around and get you back on the bus… and if I’ve run you over with the bus – know that you are okay and we will come back to get you.  Turns out that analogy was one of the best we ever used.  Students weren’t afraid to tell me they were falling off the metaphorical bus.  It was a safe way for them to express their stress.  So tonight’s post is a journey, but stick with me we are going to end up in the parking lot of technological equity 🙂  (And FYI I worked with Grade 10, 11, 12 students) So keep your arms and legs inside the bus:)

The more I learn the less I know for sure?  The Great EdTech debate continued in fine fashion Tuesday night with two intense debates. First up was our discussion of the statement:

Tech Creates Equity in Society?

My first thought …. Does it?  I’m a strong supporter of technology.  It makes sense to me.  It helps me learn.  I’ve seen it work for students, but how often do we stop and think about big picture ideas like this?  Reflection is a key piece of learning how to teach more effectively.

Years ago I worked as a Differentiated Instruction Facilitator (DIF). It was then I had the privileged of learning the role from an amazingly talented DI facilitator. I’ll never forget how valuable the conversations we had with teachers and in particular with each other were to our learning.  Sharing the role gave us us time to process, debrief and examine learning situations from a variety of perspectives. It’s when we had time to step back and look at the bigger picture.  (time… reflection really does take time)  Now… you can have those conversations with yourself and you can blog them like this, but interactive conversation that challenges you to think outside your comfort perspective is priceless, even a little scary, but you will grow (and maybe occasionally get run over by that bus;).

This cartoon reminds me of some of our differentiated learning discussions.

standardizedanimals
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to
climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

Image from Rockin Teacher Materials

Fair doesn’t mean equal.  And equal isn’t the same thing as equity. In Equity vs Equality: 6 Steps Toward Equity, Safir (2016) noted ” If equality means giving everyone the same resources, equity means giving each student access to the resources they need to learn and thrive. As those of us who are parents know, each child is different” (para. 6).  It seems like a relatively simple concept – differentiation. I appreciate Carol Ann Tomlinson’s explanation:

The idea of differentiating instruction to accommodate the different ways that students learn involves a hefty dose of common sense, as well as sturdy support in the theory and research of education (Tomlinson & Allan, 2000). It is an approach to teaching that advocates active planning for student differences in classrooms.

Common sense:) That’s important in so many aspects.

Safir recommended 6 steps to help create equity.

  1. Know Every Child
  2. Become a warm demander
  3. Practice lean-in assessment
  4. Flex your routines
  5. Make it safe to fail
  6. View culture as a resource “Culture, it turns out, is the way the brain makes sense of the world.”

You’ve heard all of her points before, but as Malcom Gladwell explained in The Tipping Point – in the end it’s the relatively small things done consistently that cause change to tip. I did however learn a new word 🙂 Storientation.  Safir (2015) elaborated in “The Power of Story in School Transformation” that by paying close attention to people’s stories you can transform your classroom.  She highlighted 3 types:

  • Your Story – sharing your experiences shows vulnerability and models social-emotional experiences.  Just think about how you connect when you hear someone else’ story.  (Brene Brown – Daring Greatly is a great read on this topic)
  • The stories of others – truly listening to other’s stories develops trust and connections
  • The organizational story “Organizations carry their own core memories” (para. 8)

I’ve had the opportunity, as a Learning Consultant, to spend time in many classrooms from Pre-K to Grade 12.  It’s truly been the best PD opportunity of my life.  What I can share is that teachers work very hard to differentiate learning for students and to create equitable learning environments.  It doesn’t just happen by accident.  Equity develops in classrooms because teachers create a learning environment where it’s safe for students to learn, mistakes and all.  In life, it’s as much about what we learn from our mistakes as is is from what we learn when we get it right.

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Photo Credit: leighblackall via Compfight cc

Still with me on the bus trip?  We are taking a right onto Tech Boulevard. It might feel like a single lane highway with lots of oncoming traffic at times, but we’ll make it 🙂

So let’s add the technology lens.
There are many potential ways that technology can lay the foundation to create equity, especially if you apply the theory of universal design for learning “Many accommodations are “necessary for some, and good for all”, we should remember that assistive tech can support learning of all students” (Sider & Maich, 2014, p.3). Take the Voice note feature in

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Google Read Write.  When paired with a graphic organizer in a Google Doc, it can be a very powerful tool for a student that struggles with the act of writing.  Built in features can help a student listen to the text and then record a response.  In this case, it’s about the student sharing evidence of their learning. Writing isn’t a requirement of the outcome. Plus this tool can work for students that struggle with reading and writing and it can also be a useful tool for all of us.  A way to capture our ideas in the moment and play them back so we can organize and make sense of them.

Photo Credit: GillyBerlin via Compfight cc

Effectively matching an assistive tech support to a student is not a matter to be taken lightly.  Each learner has different needs and some assistive tech supports are easier for all students to have access to than others. There are also varying costs associated with assistive tech supports, which may impact who has access to it. Schools can support some requests while others may fall to the parents.

When you think about technology supporting student learning, I think there are two important questions to ask.

1.What’s the need?
(i.e. what specific support is needed to increase successful learning.  Is there a diagnosis? A professional report recommending specific technologies?)

2. What evidence of learning is the outcome asking the student to demonstrate?
(i.e. if there’s no reference to writing in full sentences, could the student just record his/her answer for you?)

Okay, so you’ve figured those out.  What supports are needed to scaffold the technology into the every day learning of the student?  Who’s doing that?

Don’t assume all the stakeholders are on board. Parents can offer insight into how they can support.  The teacher will need to be willing and able to incorporate this into their teaching and they will.  Just remember to check in with them and see where there comfort level is at.  What PD is needed?  What’s the time commitment? Lastly, don’t forget the student.  You can purchase the tech to support the student but if the student decides it makes them look different or doesn’t want to use it… that’s a whole other bus trip.

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Photo Credit: pantheist_bear_god via Compfight cc

Let’s step back for a moment and consider they ways in which technology isn’t creating equality but rather increasing the digital divide. The disagree side shared an insightful and provocative article by Audrey Watters entitled Ed-Tech’s Inequalities.  It will make you think about the proclaimed powers of Ed Tech – Techno-Solutionism (“the simplification of complex societal problems into apps and algorithms.“)  While tech may offer potential solutions, the reality of our world is this: Of those with access to technology and internet the benefits the people gain is related to their socio-economic status. The Matthew Effect… the rich get richer and the poor get poorer… in terms of tech use it means that what a child does with their internet access is tied to their parents which it connected to their upbringing and socio-economic status.  Students from more affluent homes will use technology in more creative ways to develop their digital literacy all while more likely being engaged with a parent. Children from lower socio-economic families tend to have very different expectations about the use of technology and how they engage with it. Often more drill and practice than engaged thinking.  It’s not just that we have access it’s how the tech is being used. Watter (2015) noted it’s even who is developing it in the first place that affects how tech develops.

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Photo Credit: Programa Acessa São Paulo via Compfight cc

Back up the bus…. how does all of that play out at school?  Have you stopped to consider just how much your actions and selection of technology potentially impact student learning? Have you stopped to look at how your students are using the tech? You can use the SAMR model to help guide your reflection.

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Image is the creation of Dr. Rueben Puentedura, Ph.D.

Tech certainty has the potential to give students a voice and empower them to demonstrate their learning in many ways, but don’t forget to step away from the hype.. or for me to step away from my love of tech (note to self = not everyone loves tech as much as me).  We need to step back and consider:

What’s the best tool (tech or perhaps it’s a pencil with the revolutionary eraser that I referred to in an early post)?  In the end, what’s going to have the biggest impact on student learning?

And with that our journey ends in the parking lot of technological equity…. does it exist? I guess that all depends what side of the bus you are on:)

Thanks to my ECI830 classmates for raising so many thoughtful points. Be sure to check out their blog posts this week:


Stay tuned for links to some of my favourite reads from this week.

  • Elizabeth drew my attention to Janelle’s post about that asked what kind of service are we doing to people if we just hand out assistive tech and don’t actually help students or teachers learn how to use it.  Providing support for new technology whether assistive or not is good practice. I think what’s really interesting is what happens to the tool when the support moves on… does that habit stay?
  • Danielle reflects on the topic from a variety of perspectives and encourages us to look at both sides.
  • Kyle reminded us that it matters that we invest in the people who are helping the students learn the technology. Creating opportunities for teachers to connect with Ed Tech support or Digital Consultants generates learning opportunities that go beyond the tech they are using, they have the potential to change a way a teacher teaches…. and that affects many students for years to come. !

 

 

Start the conversation…. Sharing Matters

 If you teach them how to share it’s more than fair!

This week the Great EdTech debate challenge fell to our team.   We represented the Disagree side of the debate which focused on: Openness and sharing in schools unfair to our kids.

If you are interested here’s our opening arguments.

As I first read through the questions, I wondered is it fair not to share?  Teaching in and of itself is sharing of knowledge.  Our goal as educators is to share our knowledge of a concept in a variety of ways that encourages deeper understanding in our students.  As Wiley and Green (2012) pointed out in Why Openness in Education, we even judge educators on their ability to share and impart understanding to students (para. 5 & 6).

So sharing is part of what we do as educators…. rather it’s the what, how and where we share that we really need to think about?  If you think back to when you were growing up, some of us perhaps, didn’t have to worry about the photo someone snapped at a gathering or comment that was shared.  Our networks were smaller.  Perhaps your embarrassing photo made the yearbook or a friend actually had the roll of film developed.  The chances of widespread distribution and repercussions were on a smaller scale.  Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t fun if the wrong person got a hold of a photo or some how continued to share things.  It wasn’t however on the same scale as social media provides today.  So keep in mind that many of us who are now parents didn’t grow up in a world with social media or cell phones (mobile phones came in bags and you could only use then in case of emergency because who could afford the cost per minute).

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Image from Meme Generator

 

Is the answer to attempt to remove technology from our lives and avoid any device that could capture our image so that facial recognition software can’t identify us?  I guess you can try but for the large majority of us it’s not practical; moreover, sticking our head in the proverbial sand won’t make the issue go away, but someone might make a nice meme out of it.

In my experience it’s about having the courage to step into the conversation with students and talk about what’s going on.  Is oversharing happening?  What type of images are being posted?  What if you just like or comment – does that make you part of it?  It also means that we need to model or attempt thoughtful digital citizenship the best we can.  This means that we need to know what engaged, thoughtful digital citizens do.  While we may not all have access to Digital Learning Consultants and I have to say thank-you to Thad, Kirk and Robert for their ongoing encouragement and support during my years as a teacher and consultant.  It makes a difference to have knowledgeable and reflective people to talk to about digital issues.  So as the Agree team mentioned during the debate, we live in the real world and ongoing to access to PD and support people may not always be possible; however, we do live in an age where there is ample helpful information online about digital citizenship and digital footprints. I first learned about the elements of Digital Citizenship on Mike Ribble’s website.

Mike Ribble Retweet.JPG

What about oversharing?  You know it’s going to happen and it’s like a digital tattoo.  It has the potential to fade but never really go away. How do you prevent it?  I think it begins with open communication with our children.  As educators and parents,  we have a great opportunity to talk about the pictures we take and how we share them.  When you snap that pic and post it to Facebook, do you talk to your child about where you are posting it?  Am I posting it publicly for everyone to see on my profile or am I sharing it with a select group of people in a secret Facebook group?  Think about the conversation potential that exists with our Pre-K and K teachers as they document and share student learning with parents.  I’ve seen our early learning teachers engage in thoughtful conversations about what they are sharing and who will see it.  As a parent, I really appreciate getting the updates of what my daughter is doing in class.  Plus hearing her voice as she explains it is priceless. Sharing matters.

Worried about oversharing?  It’s happening all around us and it may be impacting our lives more than we know.

 

On the flip side, I remember back to a time when I was co-teaching my Bio 30 class with a teacher of a grade 5 class in a different community.  We skyped everyday and each grade 12 was paired with a grade 5 student in the 1:1 learning project.  We talked often about the expectations and how we needed to be engaged digital citizens, yet a grade 5 overshared info – nothing earth shattering but enough that the Bio 30 student was concerned.  What it did do was generate a healthy discussion about what was appropriate to share in our wikispace discussions and how we can learn from the experience.  We were working in a safe private space, so it was a great learning opportunity for all of us.  One that will hopefully remind us all to think before we share.

So starting the conversation early will help engage students and teachers in thoughtfully sharing positive experiences to grow their digital footprint, which in turn helps model the practice to parents and family that may not have considered those aspects.  Kathy Cassidy shared in her video that yes what we share in social media is permanent but because of that it’s a great way to look back and see how much we have grown. She also talked about the value of modeling how to use social media and in doing so how we influence student’s understanding of the world and practice empathy.

 

Steven W. Anderson shared Meredith Stewart’s tweet, “If you aren’t controlling your footprint, others are.”  He encouraged readers to start building their brand – their digital identity.  You do this by sharing and creating positive online footprints, but as the Agree team pointed out – you need to watch out for bouncing.  When a photo that you have shared gets used for something else. As Anderson pointed out, not only do you have to actively build a positive identity you have to monitor it.  Alec Couros noted in our follow up conversation that just googling our names doesn’t truly include all of our digital footprint.  We need to consider the data that is tracked in all the apps that we use.

Alec discussed how facial recognition technology is now available and when he showed us how it worked with his own images, we realized just how many people there are out there that look just like him. (I mean exactly like him!  They in fact are using one of his photos as their profile picture).  We have to learn how to be aware of the footprints we are actively creating, as well as those that are being created without our consent.

Should all of this scare you as an educator away from sharing? or considering the sharing of student work?  It’s important to consider the positive impacts of sharing. Rather than only relying on standardized assessments to ensure academic standards are being met. Bence asked “what if learner work were shared on a wider level so that the work could speak for itself.  She shared examples of how being transparent with what’s happening in the classroom has added “another layer of authenticity to education” (para. 4). Learners have become more active participants in their own education especially when they know the audience is more than just the classroom.  As with any online venture in education, Bence encouraged educators to check with their schools and districts to ensure practices align with responsible use.

Here’s part of our closing arguments from Tuesday night – sharing matters and it’s important to teach our children how to share.

You are welcome to check out our team’s resource list.  We’ve selected a number of articles and guides to help educators grow their understanding of sharing.

These resources are a great place to start.

What will matter in the future as our Facebook babies grow up and realize just what their parents and teachers have shared?  I can only imagine where we will be when I think about how things have evolved in the first half of my teaching career… or even in the last 5 years for that matter.

What matters today is that we start the conversation. Hopefully if we start today and engaging in ongoing conversations about digital citizenship, we will all learn to pause before we post and think about the potential ripple effect.

Regardless of social media or old fashioned information sharing asking ourselves the following question will impact how we try to live our lives.

What legacy do you want to leave behind?

Special thanks to Lisa and Haiming!  What a great team – glad to have had the chance to work with you!

As I’ve had a chance to read through other blog posts, these are a few that have stood out to me:

  • Jeremy B  explained we all need to engage in digital citizenship education.  He suggested introducing it to parents at meet the teacher nights as a way to engage parents.  He noted that it’s also about sharing the resources we have with parents.
  • Erin B shared her decision to share student work using Seesaw and how she shared expectations with parents and students.  It’s making the time to explicitly teach the students about digital citizenship and then apply it to their learning that truly makes a difference. Learning about digital citizenship in authentic situations truly makes a difference.
  • I really enjoyed Amy’s blog post.  In particular, she referenced a an article by Geddes  that questioned how quickly we post.  She pointed out that when we had to go to our computers, log in, find the photo, upload, add the comment and then post – that we were more thoughtful.  Has tech made it so easy that we’ve eliminated our thinking time?
  • Justine  – made a very interesting point – our digital footprints can change as our names do which build on the conversation started by Amy S.  I also agree that sharing a letter home with parents that invites them to participate and be aware of the social media use in a classroom is important.  If you remember Mark Prensky’s Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants articles, Justine shared a great way to think of the differences in ways that we use the internet as Digital visitors vs Digital Residents. She also shared this quick video.
    • Just listed to  Alec’s TED X Talk. A very thoughtful look at the value of understanding our digital identity and just how connected we are.  Lots of great ideas to think about here.
  • Tyler’s post Unfair? Nope.pointed out the value of helping students learn about digital citizenship and have the opportunity to practice it.  Plus he also shares some very helpful resources.
  • Luke’s post about “The More We Share, the More we Have” raises many thoughtful points about why we share what we do and the value included in it. You’ll also want to check out the oversharing video – well worth the watch.
  • Kelsie shared many great points but when she shared the Terms of Service – Didn’t read it website things got really interesting.

 

 

 

Tech-addict? Tech-Balanced? Is it really changing us or has it already?

Tech-addict? Tech-Balanced? Is it really changing us or has it already?

The Unhealthy habit? Are you aware of the choices you are making?

Tuesday also featured a lively debate on whether or not Technology is making our kids unhealthy…… is it making you unhealthy?

While Fitbits, health apps and Facebook groups may inspire us to build healthy habits, foster social connections and remind us to get moving, I can’t help but wonder just how much technology is affecting our lives.  Have you ever stopped to think how it’s shaping our daily habits and interactions?

wendy_brian_kidsIncluded with permission from © Eric Pickersgill
From Removed
Photographer, Eric Pickersgill, “has released a series of photos from everyday life with one minor adjustment: all electronic devices have been removed.” (Denicola, 2015, para. 3).
(You can view the series online at www.removed.social – it’s worth taking a look.  Is this how you want to be remembered?  What’s happening to our face to face connections?)

Thanks Eric Pickersgill for his suggestion to check out his TED Talk
Do Our Devices Divide Us?
He reflects on how it isn’t until we see ourselves with the devices
removed that the true impact hits us and has actually caused a change in behaviour.

I remember back to when I first started teaching in the fall of 1999 – cell phones, digital cameras and social media were not part of my daily habits.  The internet was alive and healthy in it’s information delivery form with interactive sharing restricted to the users that understood html, ftp and flash.  When I looked around my classroom the most distracting form of peer to peer interaction was whispering or the paper notes they quietly passed from one desk to another.  And when you ventured out into the halls at break or lunch, students were sitting next to each other talking.
25158194552_3a76a8b81cFlash forward to 2016 and when you walk down the halls of a school you will likely see students in close proximity to their cell phones.  Just think of how the mobile phone has evolved  – from the advent of texting to the immediacy of information – to students sitting next to one another staring at their phones and texting each other instead of talking.  Just to clarify this is not always the norm and I have to admit, you won’t find me far from my cell phone – it’s an integral part of how I document the interactions and stay connected to all of my schools no matter where I am in the pod. In fact, as a self admitted introvert, a device is a unique tool that connects me to selected social media connections when I want and in person it gives me a way to blend in.  Check out Why introverts love Social Media by Mack Collier for an interesting read especially for “Online extrovert[s], offline introvert[s]- it’s complicated.”

Photo Credit: BarnImages.com via Compfight cc

So we know technology has changed our lives, so much so that our brains even pick up on phantom vibrations. When’s the last time you thought your cell phone buzzed?  Did you need to check it?

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As Hatch (2011) noted while referencing Sherry Turkle, “naming technology as either good or bad will not solve the issue. “I’ve tried to get across that computers are not good or bad — they’re powerful…. I think we’re getting ourselves in a lot of trouble thinking there’s an Internet or a web that has an impact on children” (Hatch, 2011, p.4). It’s the daily habits and the way we choose to engage with technology that leaves room for our own creative interpretation – addictive or balanced.  It seems to be a common theme  – the search for Balance – using the tools around us, tech included, to help us lead a healthier life. Photo Credit: TEDxUIUC via Compfightcc

Facebook, Twitter or mobile devices for that matter don’t hurt people, it’s people that make choices on how they use the technology that truly impacts ourselves and others.

Just for a moment let’s agree that technology has the potential to connect us to many positive interactions and healthy choices in our lives. Now let’s pause and reflect on just how those devices have already shaped our lives and those of our children, so we can make informed choices not just rote, device guided interactions.
2977041097_920b2b3001Photo Credit: edmittance via Compfight cc

In the video, 5 Crazy Ways Social Media is Changing your Brain Right Now, Asap Science noted how increased device usage and instant feedback are decreasing the white matter in our brains and in fact rewiring our brains to crave that stimulation. In a 2014 Huff Post article, Lindsay Holmes explained “there is such a thing as technology addiction … [and] research from Swansea and Milan Universities also found that heavy Internet users suffered withdrawal similar to those experienced  by drug users when they went offline” (p.4).

Now if you’re like me you are probably saying, for sure that’s true but that’s definitely not me.  In Super Better, Jane McGonigal, noted that gaming up to 21 hours a week resulted in positive benefits. Over that and the positive benefits of gaming were lost. Everything has a balance. We need to listen to our own bodies and find ways to use tech to enhance rather than in inhibit our health.51ohurxogil-_sx327_bo1204203200_

If you haven’t listened to one of Jane McGonigal’s TED Talks or checked out her book Super Better, I would highly recommend it.  As she shared it’s a revolutionary approach to getting stronger, happier, braver and more resilient all powered by the science of games (it’s on the cover). It’s significantly changed my perspective on how applying the psychology of gaming can positively change our lives by building up our physical, social, mental and emotional resilience. She addressed the need for balance and shares the science behind it – in fact there’s an entire website devoted to the science behind the Super Better game.  That’s right it’s also a game – you can play.  There are so many educational applications here that it needs it’s own post,         Image from Amazon.ca
but here’s what I will say.  My daughter and I are using the strategies and I’ve recommended them to teachers to help deal with all things from behavior to learning how to read.

Holmes also identified eye strain, headaches and reduced sleep as fallout from spending extended time with our beloved devices; moreover, she highlighted staring at our phones changes our posture adding to the health costs.

23172149944_d29d8b52201During the past year I’ve been working with Carla Gradin, a body language trainer and wardrobe stylist (also a former high school math teacher). During our training sessions, she’s shared how first impressions take less than 2-3 seconds to form a lasting perspective and how power posing can change your brain chemistry. But what’s really interesting is how technology, in particular, staring at your phone closes your body language.  Just think about it, you look down at your device, your shoulders roll in and your eyes are focused on the cyber world.  What impression are you giving to those around you and how is your body position influencing your brain.

Photo Credit: FotoGrazio via Compfight cc

Check out Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk on how your body language shapes who you are.  How you position your body affects the hormones released in your body.  So maybe think twice before you pull out that cell phone at your next gathering.

One of my favourite parts of my online graduate classes is learning from the stories of my fellow students and each week I’m amazed at how much I learn from everyone’s perspectives.  Life truly is about perspective.  This week Nicole’s post the Pursuit of Health in a Modern World, resonated with me.  Our health is dependent upon the choices that we make and the practices that we as teachers and parents model for our children. It’s about choosing to actively find balance.  I appreciate Nicole’s description of life with a conscious decision to choose when tech adds value.  She shared…

We haul our kids outside about 360 days a year. We crush books, and we cook, and we break toys and make rather large messes and spend a lot of face to face time with them because we find that when technology isn’t in the moment, we do actually have lot of time to be face to face. – Nicole

And so as my daughter fell asleep watching Netflix on the couch while I worked on this post I understand first hand the challenges and advantages of parenting in our device connected world.  While I know life is about consciously making healthy choices, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy.  We are surrounded by technology that has the potential to heal or harm depending how we use it.  What I hope you take from this post is an awareness of how technology influences our health and as Oprah shared (in the video below) it’s about asking ourselves, “What’s the next right move?”  and then the next right move.  Find your balance and enjoy the journey along the way:)


Interesting Articles I encountered while writing this blog post:

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