Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology: Summary of Learning

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It’s hard to believe that another semester has come and gone. This has truly been one of the most challenging, yet inspiring classes I have been a part of. I never expected to grow and learn so much in just a month and a half. Debating contemporary issues in education is something that every educator should take part in because it allows you to see issues from all points of views and widen your perspective. If you would like to go back to the beginning and read my reflection of each debate, you can click the links below:

  1. What’s Your App Count?
  2. The Big Debate: Does Technology Enhance Learning?
  3. The Deeper Meaning Behind the Digital Divide
  4. Not What we Are Learning, But How: A Look Into Inquiry-Based Learning
  5. Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?
  6. Cellphones in the Classroom: The Controversy Continues
  7. Is it Fair to Share?
  8. Nothing Good Comes From Being Neutral

Like I say in my Summary of Learning video, I am so grateful for everything I learned during this semester. I feel impacted by each one of you in my class… whether it was through your stories, your perspectives, your humour, your blog posts, your tweets, or your encouragement. Thank you for being a part of my #edtech journey and for pushing me to be a better educator so that collectively, we can make a difference in the lives of others and in our world.

-Amanda

Nothing Good Comes From Being Neutral

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Desmond Tutu once said, “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” These words couldn’t be more relevant to our world right now. These words challenge me to advocate, speak up, and seek change… because nothing good comes from being neutral. Does taking part in social justice look the same for everyone? No. However, I do know that staying silent is not an option.

These thoughts and ideas, along with many others, were brought up in our final #eci830 debate last week. It was a class that I will never forget. I was moved, impacted, and inspired through the words that were spoken and the stories that were shared. The topic was “educators have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice.” For the debate, Mike and Jacquie brought forward valuable points that reminded us that “school can and should be bigger than its walls.” They said that promoting social justice through social media allows students to develop skills in problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and perseverance. They said that if we want equity, then we can’t stay silent. On the other hand, Brad and Michala talked about how instead of addressing social justice issues online, educators should focus on face-to-face communication because social justice starts with relationship. They also reminded us of the problems that can arise with “slacktivism”, which is “showing support for a cause with the main purpose of boosting egos of participants in the movement.”

As educators, I do believe it is our responsibility to teach social justice, but it doesn’t necessarily mean through social media. Rather, social media gives us the opportunity. However, staying out of these conversations because they are too “political” or too “complicated” is a privileged point of view. Your voice is needed in these important conversations. Your voice is needed in your personal relationships, at your workplace, and around the dinner table. For some of us, our voice needs to be used online, within social media, and in a digital setting.

We are living in a time where social media is used by the masses. It has the ability to reach people in an instant and make a mark. This has especially been made known within the last two weeks. We have seen an outcry of support for #BlackLivesMatter through social media movements like #BlackOutTuesday. We have been able to spread awareness, sign petitions, and stand together online. There is no doubt about it, social media has gained an important place in our society, especially when it comes to social justice. Even though there is incredible value in using our voice online, it’s also important to make sure we are amplifying the voices that are needed right now. This is something that I have come to recognize the incredible importance of.

Monique Melton, an anti-racism educator and author, posted two pictures on Instagram recently that struck me to the core. The first post says “Your Silence is Violence.” She goes on to say that “when I think of all the ways in which white supremacy is so violent, one that comes to mind is white silence….So what are you going to do? How will you disrupt this legacy of white silence? It’s not about being an expert or having all the words to say…it’s not about this at all. There’s a way to use your voice without speaking over us or for us—we have a voice and you need to be amplifying it. But instead you’re silent. And that’s violent.”

In another post titled “White Fatigue is Violent”, she says “the white fatigue keeps you silent, apathetic, inactive & violent…Instead of focusing on how this work makes u feel, focus on why this work must be done, daily. This work must be done to end the racialized violence against BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour), repair the centuries of harm done & redistribute power & resources equitably so we can all live fully in our humanity. Do the work, daily.”

It’s crucial to recognize that before we can be effective in using our voice online, we need to look within ourselves and like Monique says, “do the work daily”. We all need to address and evaluate our own biases and privilege in our own lives before we take it to the world. Jacquie brought up an important point in the debate by saying “the deep work is personal.” When we talk about anti-racism work, it’s more than posting, donating, or signing petitions. It’s a conscious effort to not only recognize the privilege in your own life, but to actively stand up to the white supremacy that is embedded into North America. It’s about speaking up for the marginalized and oppressed in every platform or circle we are a part of. We need to collectively come together and dig up the roots of racism and injustice in our society. What it comes down to is that we all have a responsibility to promote social justice, but we also have deeper work to do, which cannot be done on social media.

If you need somewhere to start, here are some resources that have helped me in this social justice journey. But remember, this is just a starting point. The work needs to be done daily… in our everyday thoughts, actions, and words.

As Jacquie said in our debate last week, “maybe we don’t need to go for the home run of fixing the world through one tweet, perhaps it’s those little things and those little moments of leaning into what breaks your heart and creating ways and places that we can act in service, and kindness, and in compassion.” Social media can be the platform of change, but we all need to carry empathy and compassion on this road of anti-oppression and social justice if we want to make a difference in our world. We will pursue the deeper work within ourselves, so that we can continue to fight for change in our work places, families, churches, classrooms, and communities.

-Amanda

Is it Fair to Share?

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When I first signed up for social media, I posted pictures on Instagram, status updates on Facebook, and location pins on Foursquare without thinking twice. I had no need to look deeper into the ramifications that these online actions would have. Social media was like a shiny new object that everyone was enamoured by. Looking back now, I realize that since social media was new for everyone, I had no one guiding or teaching me about digital citizenship or online privacy. Openness and sharing online was seen as an exciting new world, yet now we know it comes with some concerns.

We had a great debate in our #eci830 class this week about openness and sharing in schools… something that I didn’t have a strong stance on before the class. Melinda and Altan argued that online sharing in education is unfair to kids. They reminded us that posting pictures of our students on social media is something that should not be taken lightly because it becomes a part of their digital footprint forever. They talked about the privacy concerns and potential dangers that occur when pictures or information are posted online without a second thought. They also touched on the opportunity gap that takes place when we expect students to use Open Educational Resources at home, only to make the Digital Divide more prominent. On the other hand, Dean and Sherrie talked about the positive outcomes that openness and sharing can bring into the classroom and community. It offers deep and meaningful learning opportunities, encourages the use of the “4 C’s” (collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking), and creates life long learners.

Even though each team brought up valuable points that agreed and disagreed with the statement that “Openness and Sharing in Schools is Unfair to Kids,” they both settled on the fact that teachers need to model and discuss positive digital citizenship with their students. This includes bringing up privacy and security concerns with both students and families. Common Sense Education reminds us that “our students need teachers who model pro-social, creative, and responsible social media use.” They come up with a crucial list of ways you can protect your students’ privacy on social media. Teachers, please read this! It’s SO valuable. Some of the points they make are:

  • Review your school’s social media rules so that you are aware of what is acceptable and required before you post online. Make sure you don’t share pictures of students without parental consent.
  • Use signed consent forms/ media release forms with your parents.
  • Have a discussion with your students about how you will be using social media in your classroom.
  • Be aware of any visible student or class information around your classroom like Seesaw codes, first and last names, log ins, passwords, assessment, etc.
  • Go through your online files on Google Drive to make sure there is no sensitive information that could go public. Make sure that your file names do not contain student names.
  • Double check pictures of students before you share on social media. Make sure there are no names present.
  • Disable location services on Twitter or Facebook when posting pictures.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As educators, it’s our job to not only be aware of these things, but to actively share the importance of them with parents and other teachers. When I started thinking more about openness, online sharing, and privacy concerns, the online platform Class Dojo came to mind. I have never personally used this app, but I am aware of how it works and how it can be used in the classroom. If you are someone that uses this online tool, please hear me out before you decide to use it in your classroom next year. When we talk about protecting our students online privacy, it doesn’t just have to do with sensitive personal information like names, birthdays, or browsing data. It also has to do with academics and behaviour. Not only does this app reward and discipline students in an open online setting, causing many problems to arise in itself, but it also tracks how students do academically and behaviourally in the classroom. This platform can create a negative label for students at a young age and wrongfully gives teachers the opportunity to present their own biases towards certain children. It can also record sensitive information for various companies and individuals to use in the future. This is information and data that should not be shared publicly. Natasha Singer says that Class Dojo “is being adopted without sufficiently considering the ramifications for data privacy and fairness, like where and how the data might eventually be used.” Teachers need to be aware of the concerns that arise when we use data-tracking apps in the classroom because these choices can negatively impact our students in the future. Before promoting or using an online tool in the classroom, we need to do our research and look at the bigger picture.

Photo from Pexels.com

When all is said and done, openness and sharing online is intricately woven into almost every part of our students lives. As educators, we need to understand how to use social media and online learning safely and how to teach our students to do the same. Even though there are guidelines we should follow when it comes to sharing online, it does not mean the sharing shouldn’t happen. Instead of deleting social media or staying silent, Jessica Baron suggests that educators and families should “give more thought to what they post, eliminate unnecessary layers of information like geotagging, and talk to their kids as soon as they’re able about what’s being put online about them.” Dean and Sherrie reminded us that if we understand consent and privacy, openness and sharing “creates a safe learning space, culture of collaboration… and an immediate audience.” So as educators, is it fair to share online in an open setting? I believe it is, as long as we are aware of the concerns, the consent, and the citizenship. Let’s remember that there is power in online sharing and learning when it’s done thoughtfully and intentionally.

-Amanda

Cellphones in the Classroom: The Controversy Continues!

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Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation or in the midst of telling a story and the other person pulls out their phone to text or scroll through social media? It might seem hard to believe, but trust me, it happens. It can be hard to carry on a conversation or keep a story going when this occurs because you lose attention, connection, and engagement from the other person.

Similar circumstances often happen in our classrooms. As a grade 3 teacher, this kind of scenario doesn’t play out all too often in my current classroom, but I understand the difficulty that teachers have with the increase of cell phone use during class time. I hear from countless teachers how distracting cellphones in the classroom can be. Paul W. Bennett from the Globe and Mail says “cellphone proliferation has affected student behaviour and compounded the very real challenges of class management.” Cellphones have the power to interrupt, disrupt, and disengage students. Does that mean we should respond by banning cellphones in the classroom altogether? I would argue no.

Last week, our #eci830 class had a debate about the use of cellphones in schools. Should cellphones and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) be banned in the classroom? We debated and discussed to find out. Jill and Tarina, who argued that cellphones should be banned, brought some important arguments forward. They said that cellphones not only distract the user, but others in the class as well. They argued that students should use school devices instead of bringing their own devices because school devices are safer to use with their privacy and firewall settings. They also talked about the negative behaviours that cellphone use and increased screen time can bring, such as cyberbullying, “sexting”, and screen addiction. These are all important points to reflect upon, but the argument that cellphones shouldn’t be banned from the classroom still rings true for me.

Instead of banning cellphones from the classroom, Skyler and Alyssa argued that there should be an emphasis on responsible cellphone use instead. Their catchphrase, “don’t make a ban, have a plan”, lets educators know that personal technology can be used as a powerful tool for learning if there are guidelines set in place. Lucie Renard reminds us that, “it’s better to embrace them than to ban them.”

Yes, using cellphones in the classroom can add new, difficult elements of change. Change is not easy, yet it is necessary. As educators, we need to ask ourselves if we are going to take hold of this change and use it as an opportunity to empower our students. Are we going to encourage our students to use our classroom as a “safe space to make mistakes”, as Alyssa pointed out in our debate, or are we going to ignore the technology that students use on a regular basis outside of the four walls of our classroom? Instead of banning cellphones altogether, let’s talk about some productive ways to encourage responsible and inspiring use in the classroom.

In a post called, “Mobile Phone Etiquette: How to Promote Concentration in the Classroom”, Lucie Renard poses 5 ways for maintaining focus in the classroom when cellphones are present.

  1. Create your own mobile phone policy
  2. Make use of educational apps
  3. Use smartphones to assess learning
  4. Encourage the use of organization apps
  5. Let your students have some fun

After reading her list, it got me thinking about the way I would implement cell phones in the classroom and what my “Top 5” would be. Here are some of my ideas:

  1. Integrate Digital Literacy and Citizenship Skills Authentically and Regularly

Kids are using their devices outside of school, so why wouldn’t we take that into consideration in our classroom? We are raising students in a digital world, which means we need to teach them how to navigate it in positive ways. Using resources like Common Sense Education, Media Smarts, and the Saskatchewan Digital Citizenship Policy Planning Guide will help you implement digital skills in your lessons so that students can use their cellphones and devices with a greater understanding. Teachers need to be intentional about modelling and implementing digital citizenship with their students so that cellphones can be used for a greater purpose.

2. Responsibility Takes Practice

Just like any other skill, using cellphones in the classroom takes practice. Students should not only learn basic digital citizenship skills, but they also need to learn how to use their devices responsibly in social settings. Some teachers start by implementing systems to teach them regulation and self-control, such as the Cellphone Stop Light System, like Amy mentioned in her post. When the green light is highlighted, students can use their cellphones for learning purposes. When yellow is marked, the cellphone is at their desk, but they need to ask before they use it. If the red light is highlighted, it’s either off or on silent. Some teachers have Cellphone Parking Lots or Phone Pockets where students can leave their cellphones during class to limit their distractions. These are all procedures some teachers find useful when monitoring cellphone use within the classroom.

3. Have a Unified Plan as a School

It’s always hard to implement routines in your classroom if other teachers are on vastly different pages, especially when it comes to technology. Establishing a plan with your school or grade-alike teachers at the beginning of the school year can ease the transition with cellphone use in the classroom. Discuss the guidelines you want to implement for BYOD and what types of skills you want to teach your students early on and throughout the year. It’s also important to discuss equity and equal access for your students as a staff or even school division. What are your plans when students lack access to devices or connection? How will you create an environment that benefits all learners? Having these discussions with your school are crucial if you are implementing BYOD or encouraging cellphone use in your class. When you have a unified plan as a staff, you will bring more opportunity for unity among your students.

4. There’s a Time and a Place

It’s important to recognize that cellphones are created for connection and community, but it’s also necessary to have physical and face-to-face connection in the classroom. ISTE suggests 3 Tips for Balanced Digital Wellness and remind us that “technology and smart devices are integrated into our lives. Just as we teach the importance of physical exercise and healthy eating, digital wellness and balance is a critical skill that children must be taught early and often.” There is a time and a place for cellphone use in and out of the classroom and students need to learn that before they are able to carry it out as a habit.

5. Empower Your Students

When students have access to technology and social media, they have access to empowerment and leadership online. As educators, we need to empower our students to use technology for good. When students are given the chance to use their cellphones in class as a learning tool, we can teach them how to positively influence and impact other people online. Just last week, there was a group of six teenagers who “organized and led a 10,000-person protest in Nashville against racism and police brutality”, which all started on Twitter. They were able to use social media for social justice. We can inspire these types of actions in our classroom, all with the use of their devices and cellphones.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

So… Should Cellphones Be Banned?

With all that being said, there are so many different aspects to consider when using cellphones in the classroom. We need to understand that it’s not as simple as banning or not banning. There are issues that arise when integrating technology in the classroom, especially personal devices. However, I believe that when we model responsible use, come up with a plan with our school team, and empower our students to use their devices for good, then we can see a lasting positive impact of cellphone use in the classroom. So I’m curious…

Have you had positive or negative experiences when implementing BYOD or cellphone use in your classroom? Are there specific guidelines or structures that you have implemented in your classroom to make BYOD successful?

Debating these controversial topics in education are essential so that we can widen our perspectives and see issues from all points of views. I am looking forward to hearing your perspective!

-Amanda

Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

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There’s no disagreeing with the fact that social media is a huge part of our current society. It is interwoven into education, business, culture, community, and so much more. Our world uses social media to not only connect with others, but to also join in social activism and make change, which is something that I’ve posted about before. We are able to raise a voice on critical, necessary social justice matters, such as what we are seeing now with #BlackLivesMatter. Social media allows us to learn, see new perspectives, and stand in solidarity with people around the globe. I, for one, use social media in my personal and professional life on a daily basis and see so much value in it. However, even though social media can be used in a positive way, there are also important things to be aware of. It’s important to understand both sides to social media, negative and positive, which is why debating and researching topics from various viewpoints is crucial.

This week, we had the opportunity to learn and take part in a debate that centred around the question: “Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?” Laurie & Christina, who were on the “agree” side, and Amy & Dean, the disagree side, both brought forward valid and crucial points on the matter. Going into the debate, I had a lot of knowledge on the positive impacts of social media because it is a topic that I am passionate about. However, as I listened and learned from Laurie and Christina, I was able to reflect on some of the areas of concern that social media brings. They brought up valuable points about the negative impacts of social media in the lives of children, such as how it effects children’s mental health with cyberbullying, comparison, peer pressure, and lack of face-to-face communication. In an article called “Disadvantages of Social Networking: Surprising Insights from Teens,” Marilyn Price-Mitchell says that “parents have become increasingly worried about their children’s safety online and how to protect their personal data.” It is clear that there are many parents and guardians concerned about the negative effects of social media in childhood. However, sometimes we are most fearful of the things that we aren’t familiar or comfortable with.

In response to the argument that “social media is ruining childhood,” Dean and Amy reminded us that social media can actually lead to more connection because students can use technology to join groups with other kids their age, to showcase their creativity, spread social awareness, and to make a positive impact. They told stories of how parents actually believe social media has given them an opportunity to have more open communication with their children. As we discussed more about the positive impacts in our class conversation, we highlighted the fact that the issues of peer pressure, bullying, and comparison are already happening offline. These are issues that I dealt with as a child without the use of social media. These are societal issues that take place in other roles of media, like T.V, pop culture, and even in our own schools and communities. Yes, there is an opportunity for social media to have a negative impact on children, but that’s with anything… and that’s where digital citizenship comes in.

In our debate, we talked about importance of instilling digital citizenship, or digital leadership as George Couros says, in the lives of children and teens… and yes, even adults. As we dove more into the concept of social media being used to create a positive digital footprint, it reminded me of a wonderful conversation that I had with Jennifer Casa-Todd on the EdTech Endeavours podcast called: “Looking at Social Media Through a Different Lens”. As the author of Social Leadia and Raising Digital Leaders, and the host of the Social Leadia Podcast, she believes in the power of using social media for empowerment, positivity, and change. Here are some of the important points she made in the interview:

  • “We know that students are using social media in greater and greater numbers, and yet our ability or our use of it in schools in positive ways are very, very limited.”
  • “As educators, we really need to take a look at school media with a different lens. How is it that we can empower our kids to learn from one another, with each other, and how can we validate those experiences. How can we become a little bit more open in the kinds of authentic tasks we are asking our kids to do.”
  • “With younger kids, there are some incredible opportunities right now. There are artists, and painters, and zoos… you name it. And they’re on Facebook, and they’re on Instagram… How do we capitalize on these real, authentic, and meaningful experiences and along the way help mentor our kids in terms of the use of those tools.”
  • “I want to show other kids that the way they’re using social media, not that it’s wrong, but solely for entertainment is not the only way.”

In a post that she wrote called “10 Reasons Why We Should Start Showing Middle Schoolers How To Use Social Media”, she says “parents, kids, community, and schools need to work together to show kids there is potential beyond entertainment and that they can create intentional and positive digital identities.” This is crucial in the discussion of social media in childhood. As educators, we need to encourage the positive use of social media, rather than take it away completely and deem it as negative. I love how ISTE talks about the Five Digital Citizen Competencies when creating positive digital identities. When kids are given authentic experiences to develop and grow in their digital skills in order to be inclusive, informed, engaged, balanced, and alert, that’s when social media makes a difference in the lives of children. During the debate, Amy said that “social media gives you a platform to be heard, celebrated, and accepted”… and that’s what gives me hope and encouragement for the use of social media in childhood. To echo the words of Daina… “if used purposefully, meaningfully, and with good intentions, social media is CHANGING what childhood looks like”… not ruining it. When we promote positive digital identities with kids by allowing them to engage in the authentic use of social media, we can see that rather than social media ruining childhood, it has the potential to change it for the better.

-Amanda

Not What We Are Learning, But How: A Look Into Inquiry-Based Learning

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What is the teacher’s role in a 21st century classroom? Is it to directly teach and relay information, or is it facilitate learning that promotes curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration? Well, you might be surprised to hear it’s a bit of both. I recently interviewed a good friend of mine, Courtney Burns, so that she could share her experience and knowledge with inquiry-based learning, “a form of active learning that starts by posing questions, problems or scenarios.” She is an expert at promoting curiosity and engagement through hands-on and project based learning in her classroom. In the interview, you will learn more about how this type of teaching “emphasizes the student’s role in the learning process.” If you are unsure how it works, how it benefits your students, or where to start, this interview is a must watch! You will begin to see that the process of inquiry is to “ask questions, reflect, and move forward,” as Courtney says. Before you watch the interview about inquiry-based learning, you can read some of the important themes and discussion points that I took away from the conversation with Courtney.

What is Inquiry-Based Learning?

  • It is child centred, honours the child’s previous knowledge, nurtures a child’s natural ability to be curious, and allows children to take ownership over the learning process.
  • Instead of just memorizing facts, it allows students to develop skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, collaboration, communication, and citizenship.
  • The teacher’s role in inquiry is to guide and facilitate.
  • The emphasis is not what we are learning, but how we are learning.

What are the Benefits to Inquiry-Based Learning?

  • It enhances the learning experience, teaches them life skills, fosters curiosity and life long learning, and increases engagement.
  • The intention is to deepen a student’s understanding of topics so that it’s not just memorizing facts.
  • It creates a love of learning and a passion to ask questions and gain knowledge.
  • Students gain citizenship skills and learn how to be active participants in their community.

How Does Inquiry-Based Learning Work?

  • It can be led by the teacher, but as the process continues, the ownership is given to the students.
  • The misconception about inquiry is that there is no direct teaching, but rather, direct teaching is needed for certain explorations and lessons.
  • The teacher can bring in provocations, which are videos, pictures, or items that they can touch to spark curiosity.
  • The teacher can also facilitate “Book Browses”, which are times to explore books that pertain to a certain topic of exploration.
  • Teachers pose questions, such as “What do you see? What do you notice? What are you wondering?”
  • Teachers also ask… “Where can we go with our questions? Where can we look for our answers? Who do we ask? Where do we find information?”
  • When students are done exploring and finding answers, they share what they find through reflections, documentation, or a “Knowledge Building Circle”, which is a time to share with their classmates.
  • After students are done researching and exploring, ask students “How can we share what we’ve learned here? How can we share our learning now and be the experts on this?”

Tools Used in Inquiry-Based Learning

  • Camera: take photos to document the process, share findings, and reflect.
  • Projector: type up what students are sharing in the Knowledge Building Circle in real time so that they know “what they’re saying and what they’re thinking has value.”
  • Online Research Tools: Cross reference and search for answers. Pebble Go is a safe online researching tool that students can use in the inquiry process.

Carrying on the Conversation

If you’re familiar with inquiry-based learning, what are some of the benefits you notice? What are some of your favourite technology tools to use in the inquiry process and reflection? If you’re not familiar with inquiry-based learning, check out the conversation below!

The Deeper Meaning Behind the Digital Divide

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Debating contemporary issues in Educational Technology is not an easy task, but it’s necessary. If we want to progress and evolve as educators in this digital world, we need to have the hard conversations, debate the controversial topics, and raise awareness on issues that matter. As Alec said on Tuesday, “debates exist so that we can continue to improve,” grow, and gain new perspectives.

We had our second round of debates in our #eci830 class this week, which was based on this topic: “Technology is a force for equity in society.” I have to say, the group of debaters, Kalyn and Nataly vs. Victoria and Jasmine, were strong and well-spoken with their arguments, despite the power outages and frequent interruptions from the sudden Saskatchewan storm that blew in. They taught me a lot about our need for technology in education and the areas of concern surrounding the topic. They highlighted so many great points that outlined the reasons that technology is a force for equity, and how there is a digital divide happening in society. Here’s the breakdown:

Reasons that Technology is a Force for Equity

  • It provides greater access to information, especially during distance learning.
  • It allows for personalized learning within the classroom and it gives students the voice and ability to reach out.
  • It increases access to education and maintains student-teacher connection.

Reasons that Technology is NOT a Force for Equity

  • There is a lack of accessibility with the cost of the devices and monthly fee for internet connection.
  • The vulnerable population could suffer, especially during distance learning when technology is the primary source for education.
  • Specific communities in Saskatchewan, especially rural and Indigenous communities, lack reliable broadband connection.

The subject that we debated was one that I struggle with personally. I am a firm believer in using technology in meaningful, purposeful ways in the classroom. I have seen its educational benefits due to its ability to allow for differentiation, adaptation, engagement, and choice. I have witnessed students develop critical thinking and collaborative skills. I have seen ideas come to life through the creativity of technology. Students can develop digital citizenship and literacy skills that help them in their everyday life. However, before all of these skills can be achieved, they need to have the technology in their hands.

Pre Vote Answer
Post Vote Answer

When the debate started and it was time to make our pre-vote judgments, I voted against the idea that technology is a force for equity in society. With the recent events of school closures, I have seen the disparity and inequality with internet and technology access among students and families first hand. As the debate progressed and I was reminded of the opportunities that technology brings to our classrooms, I was at one point convinced that my vote would change by the end of the class. However, even though I was introduced to additional ways that technology enhances learning and creates equitable classroom experiences, the rest of our class discussion only solidified my original “disagree” vote. It was clear that others were also impacted by our class discussion on the digital divide and societal inequities because the vote was swayed by the end of the debate.

It’s evident that when technology is implemented purposefully in learning, “it removes barriers to learning materials, supports students where they are across varied learning contexts and needs, and gives educators more insight into the learning environments they’re creating”… but as Victoria and Jasmine stated, “do the advantages of EdTech come equitably?” Even when you think of the benefits of technology, there are still concerns that arise. If you look at Assistive Technology for example, Christina brought up the idea that there are long wait lists and a lack of funding when it comes to this kind of technology. When you think of technology use in the classroom, there is often a lack of funding for new technology, which means outdated devices and minimal devices to be distributed. However, the real gap begins when you think of technology use outside of the classroom.

I have spent time writing about the digital divide before. I have read articles, recorded podcasts, and sent tweets about it. I am well aware of the inequalities that arise from the lack of access to technology and internet connection for individual students and their families. However, I have recently been reminded of the deeper issues that underlie these inequalities, and Jacquie reminded me of them on Tuesday. She said that the digital divide is “shedding light on a bigger societal issue of privilege and marginalization.” This statement caused me to pause and reflect.

Yes, I believe that technology has power and opportunity. Yes, technology brings greater access to information, personalized learning, and adaptation. However, technology can only have this type of power and opportunity if it’s accessible and equitably distributed. Curtis brought up a crucial point by saying “the issues of the digital divide goes beyond technology itself.” As we dive more into the issue of the digital divide, it’s important to remember that “providing access to technology is important but not a complete solution when it comes to getting rid of systemic disparities caused by issues like income inequality, geographic isolation, or discrimination” as Kelsie Anderson says.

Lately, I’m feeling compelled to say more and do more about inequalities in this world. Do I have all the answers? Absolutely not… but if Educational Technology is something I am passionate about, then maybe that’s where I can start. Maybe I need to be more proactive and have a louder voice when it comes to the inequalities in not only Educational Technology, but in education itself. As our world continues to see issues with injustice and inequality, my job as an educator is never truly done.

“As long as poverty, injustice, and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.” – Nelson Mandela

The Big Debate: Does Technology Enhance Learning?

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Research, preparation, practice… these are all things that took place before our Great EdTech Debate.

Our task was to debate the argument that technology in the classroom enhances learning. My partner, Nancy, and I knew that we had our work cut out for us. We were up against Matt and Trevor, both great at using humour, wit, and research to defend their argument. Since we knew that they would make a strong argument against technology in the classroom, we knew that we needed to captivate our audience in an engaging, long lasting way with our opening argument video.

We both previously watched the video about movie making by Mike Wesch called: “How the Best EduTubers Make Super-Engaging Content”… a video that’s well worth the watch. What we took away and wanted to apply to our own debate video was that people are more engaged when a story is told. Better yet, a human story about challenge, change, and triumph. What better way to tell a “hero’s journey” than what I am personally going through right now… a ruptured achilles injury amidst a global pandemic. Luckily, I have been video-documenting my journey all the way from the start, so I could use all of the authentic, personal footage and monologue clips that I’ve been creating along the way.

Our goal was to show the human side to the debate argument. Yes, technology enhances learning in so many meaningful ways when you are in the classroom, but what happens when the classroom is taken away? In my personal recovery journey, I was dependent on technology for connection. Our need for connection through technology is something that we are collectively going through as a society during a time of physical distance, so we wanted to make our argument relatable and personal. We also wanted to connect our argument to the 4 C’s in 21st Century Learning: Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity. Technology allows all of these skills to not only happen, but thrive. Another gift that technology gives us is connection, which we would argue is the 5th C in learning. Connection is critical for life-long learning, and technology is what makes connection accessible, especially in times of distance. I also appreciated how Jacquie said that she would add curiosity as the 5th C... another valuable skill in learning.

Along with putting a lot of time and preparation into our opening argument video, we did a lot of research on the topic of technology in the classroom. One of the best resources we found was from George Couros: The Myths of Technology Series. He talks about some of the common misconceptions about using technology and how it’s important to “see technology with a different lens.” Some of the important points that he made were:

1. “Engagement shouldn’t be our only goal. We need to use technology to empower students so that they feel like they can make a difference.”

Technology gives students the opportunity for leadership. We need educators to use technology in meaningful ways rather than passively using it to fill up time.

2. “We have to start thinking about different approaches to keep our kids safe in such a networked world.”

The ability to talk to others around the world through social media and technology creates a sense of belonging. We need to think of new ways to model safe behaviour with technology, rather than simply taking it away.

3. “What some teachers have done is use technology to actually give students a voice and options that they didn’t have before.”

We have the opportunity to use technology as a way to enhance face-to-face interactions and make them more meaningful. We can learn more about people, connect more frequently, and share our voices online.

4. “When we now carry the information (way more information than could ever be stored in books in a library) in our pocket, we have to teach our students to discern what is credible information, while also giving them opportunities to do something with that information.  A library in a school would never be seen as a detriment to knowledge; neither should the vast library on our phone.”

It’s important that we shift from teaching students what to think to how to think, and technology helps us do that. When we come alongside students as they navigate the digital world, we can help them develop critical thinking skills so that they can use technology in positive ways.

The more that I prepared for this project and learned about the topic, the more I was convinced that technology enhances learning. However, the debate format helped me consider both sides of the argument and helped me wrestle with some of the issues that arise with technology. Having the opportunity to rebuttal the opening arguments and have an open debate with the rest of my class allowed me to think on my toes and it gave me a unique opportunity for learning. In the end, the experience was enlightening, engaging, and so entertaining. As you continue to explore where you stand on the topic of technology in learning, hopefully our video can help you with the process. Enjoy!

-Amanda

What’s Your App Count?

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Have you ever kept track of the technology you use in a day? I did a little experiment to keep a record of all the apps and websites I use in an average day. The results were fascinating. I had no idea how many apps and online tools I use as an educator, a Master’s student, and a millennial. It made me realize just how much I value technology and use it on a day-to-day basis. Not only do I use it for educational purposes, but I also use technology to connect with my friends and family. One of the first things I do in the day is check my text messages. Why? Because I want to check in and connect with those around me… especially now when I can’t see them in a physical setting. I am grateful for the ability to connect with my loved ones through technology.

I was curious how many apps other people use in the day, so I took my question to Twitter. Little did I know that my “app” count might be a little higher than most. Do I feel bad for the amount of technology I use during my day? Absolutely not. However, on Twitter, Trevor replied and brought up an interesting point. He said, “have you tracked your screen time at all?” Even though I use apps and websites to better my teaching and learning, I think it’s still important for me to be aware of my screen time and take breaks when needed.

To further my “app count” experiment, I documented my day and compiled the apps and online tools that I use in a short video. My final app count was 33… and I probably even missed a few! Check out the video and then let me know if you can relate. I would love to know your “app count” in an average day. Enjoy!

-Amanda