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

Seesaw and Distance Learning: An Interview with Kris Szajner

EdTech Tools, Podcast

Seesaw, a platform for student engagement, is being used all over the world during this time of online learning. Why? It allows for connection, innovation, and creativity… something that is needed in an online platform, especially now. If you didn’t get a chance to listen to my previous podcast, “5 Ways that Seesaw Stands Out”, I talk about the benefits of using Seesaw and what I learned during my Seesaw Ambassador Training. In the episode, I talk about a newer tool that can be easily made by teachers and accessed by students called Choice Boards. I first heard about Choice Boards from Kris Szajner, so I reached out to him and mentioned his resources in the episode. Since he’s an expert on the topic, I invited him to share more of his expertise in a full interview on the podcast.

In our interview, we discussed why Seesaw is one of the most used platforms during a time that online learning is essential. He reminds us that Seesaw allows for engagement, efficiency, and accessibility for teachers and students. There are so many incredible features and functions that Seesaw allows in order for these skills to happen, and we dove into them during the episode. Here are some of the topics that we covered in the episode:

  1. Engagement
    When using Seesaw, make sure you assign activities that keep kids hooked. They don’t need another worksheet to do right now… they need something that engages them and allows them to use curiosity and creativity. Check out some of his innovative ideas on his YouTube channel, such as “Scratch and Read” activities and “How to Make a Scratch and Reveal Jamboard”.

2. Choice Boards
Imagine sharing images, links, and resources in one easy accessible page. That’s the beauty of Choice Boards! Instead of assigning link after link, activity after activity… you can engage students with a simple page that gives them access to all of the necessary tools and websites. In case you missed it, check out his webinar on creating Choice Boards.

3. Skills
Seesaw Plus, the paid version of Seesaw, has the Skills feature for assessing learning. It’s an easy way for teachers to keep track of their student progress. In the episode, we talk about the basics of Skills and how to use it to benefit learning. Take a look at his tutorial video on How to Track Activities and Attendance with Skills.

4. Activity Templates
Have you ever tried to make your own activity, but you’re not sure where to start? In our conversation, we discuss the basics of creating your own templates. Kris has some incredible videos about creating templates for your activities. Check out “How to Make Activities from Slides” for more information.

You can learn more about these topics from our conversation on the podcast. My interview with Kris Szajner leaves me excited and hopeful as a Seesaw Ambassador and elementary educator. As you take some time to explore these resources and listen to the episode, I will leave you with Kris’ words from our conversation:

“When we are in this new world of distance learning… what is going to pull us through is this collaboration with each other and sharing of knowledge, information, and resources… that’s our saving grace right now.

Don’t forget to check out Kris on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, or his website.

Happy listening!

-Amanda

The Podcast Playback: 5 Ways that Seesaw Stands Out

EdTech Tools

Seesaw has been a part of my classroom for quite a few years, but most recently, it’s become the primary mode of learning for my students. If you aren’t familiar with Seesaw, it is a digital platform that engages students, demonstrates and enhances their learning, and shares and communicates with families. It’s essentially a digital portfolio, but it goes even further than that. Seesaw is an app and website that can be used on IOS and Apple products, Chromebooks, computers with Chrome and Firefox, and android devices. It’s compatible with countless apps and websites like Drop Box, Google Drive, Evernote, Keynote, Book Creator, and so much more.

I recently became a Seesaw Ambassador, which means I took some training to grow in my skills and learn more about the platform. I learned a lot of valuable information and even some new tips and tricks, so I wanted to share that in some way. What better way to share my knowledge than through a podcast episode!

In this episode, I talk about the benefits of using Seesaw, especially now in a time of online learning and remote teaching. I also bring up 5 ways that Seesaw has stood out to me and some of the new features that I learned about in my Seesaw Ambassador training.

In case you want a quick recap of the episode, I will break it down here, post the links, and even time stamp it for you. However, the podcast episode goes into more detail about each topic. If there is something that you specifically want to learn about, you can just fast forward to the time beside each topic and listen to the portion that you want to. So, here it is:

1. The Creative Tools (2:37)

Students can post to their student journal, which is essentially their portfolio, in 6 different ways: Camera, video, link, notes, files, and my personal favourite, the drawing tool.


Tips for the Drawing Tool:

  • Click the camera icon to take photos or upload saved pictures from your camera roll and directly import them to the drawing board without leaving the drawing tool.
  • Add shapes and backgrounds.
  • Lock your shapes or text so they can’t be easily moved.
  • Click the draft button in the top right corner if students aren’t done with their work so that they can come back to it later.

2. Seesaw Activities (6:07)

Students can individually respond to an assignment that you create and you can see who’s handed it in and give individual feedback.

Seesaw Icon Shortcut – Seesaw Help Center
Seesaw Help Centre

Tips for Seesaw Activities:

  • Schedule the assignments for specific dates and times (Seesaw Plus or Seesaw for School users)
  • Use Seesaw icon shortcuts to add images to your directions. (7:50)
  • Use the Community Library to access the already made activities.
  • Share your activities with colleagues when you’re done by email, social media, and with the link.
  • Archive past activities to limit the work on your students timeline. If something happens that you need to access them again, you can always un-archive them. (9:18)

3. Privacy Settings (10:20)

One thing that was made very clear to me during my ambassador training, was that privacy and security settings are a priority with Seesaw.

  1. They never sell your data or students data
  2. They never advertise within Seesaw
  3. They don’t own the content you add to Seesaw
  4.  Student work is private to the classroom by default
  5. They use the latest security and best practices to protect its users
  6. They vow to be transparent about their practices and will notify its users if something changes

You can check out their full list of privacy guidelines on their website.

4. Seesaw Blogs (11:55)

This is an easy way for students to share their work with the global community online. Check out my previous podcast episode with Kathy Cassidy to learn more about the benefits of blogging.

  • Go to your class settings and click “enable blog”.
  • Once you’ve enabled the blog, students and teachers can select the work from their Seesaw portfolio that they want to be displayed on their class blog.
  • It’s safe, secure, and teacher-moderated.

5. Choice Boards (13:23)

Essentially, a choice board is an easy way to have multiple links in one activity for students to click on.

  • If you have a specific theme or topic that you want students to learn about and have more than 1 avenue for them to learn about it, like videos, articles or websites, you can add them to a Choice Board to easily organize and access it.
  • In order to make your choice boards, you’ll create them in Google Slides and input your links there and then eventually upload it to the multimedia link in your activity.
  • Check out the Choice Boards Webinar, led by Kris Szajner, to learn more.

There are so many more features I could talk about, but I’ll save it for next time! If you want to learn more about Seesaw, follow them on Twitter, Instagram, or join a group on Facebook.

If you have any questions about Seesaw or anything else I talked about in the podcast episode, let me know in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter (@amandajebrace).

Check out the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Anchor.

Happy listening!

-Amanda

So You Want to Start a Podcast…

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Over the past couple months, I have grown in my knowledge and experience with the art of podcasting. What started out as a school project, actually turned into a new passion. With all of the uncertainty and changes that have happened in our world recently… listening to podcasts, taking part in interviews, and creating my own episodes have been a beautiful way to cope with the current situation that we are living in. As I reflect back on my podcast process so far, I thought I would share some tips and tricks that I learned along the way in case you are thinking of starting one of your own.

1. Quality Matters

When I first started this project, I put out a survey to ask people what they look for in a podcast. It soon became clear that people prioritize good sound quality. I quickly learned a few ways to increase the quality of my podcast without breaking the bank. There were a few things that I did in order to make the sound of my podcast stand out. First, I made sure I had a good microphone. I bought a Yeti Nano microphone for around $120. I was very impressed with it’s high sound quality and capability to connect to any computer. I also purchased a pop filter to help reduce background noise. Later, I purchased a microphone headset from Amazon for around $40 to see if it compared. Unfortunately, I got what I paid for with the Amazon purchase because the sound quality was significantly less.

I now know, that in the grand scheme of things, $120 is worth it if it makes your podcast quality stand out. I also found an easy trick to increase sound quality- record in your closet! I was shocked at how much better the confined space made my podcast sound. Sometimes it just takes experience to figure out what makes your podcast sound quality stand out.

2. Choose the Right Platform

When I first started out, I chose Anchor as my platform to record and edit my podcasts. After realizing that Anchor is a better program for hosting rather than recording and editing, I decided to do my recording on Zencastr, especially since all of my interviews were long distance. I was thoroughly impressed with the quick-to-learn features and top notch sound quality. I had to pay a minimal amount (as in a couple of dollars) to download my finished recording, but it was completely worth it! As for the editing, I chose Garage Band because it gave me ownership over my content and I was able to fine tune it more meticulously. However, I still use Anchor to host my podcasts because they automatically and easily distribute to all of the podcast platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

voicEd | Your voice is right here!

I also host my podcast on voicEd.ca, which is an incredible website for educational blogs and podcasts across North America. There are so many options and avenues you can take when creating your podcast, so it’s important to do your research and choose the right platform.

3. Be Creative

In order for my podcast to stand out, I wanted to not only make sure my episodes sounded clean and well-recorded, but I also wanted my logo and brand to look established. I didn’t put much thought into my original logo because I didn’t create it with much of a purpose. As I became more invested into my podcast, I decided my logo needed a change. I chose an online design website to create my logo so that the process could be quick and inexpensive. I usually use Canva for my design needs, but this time I decided to try out PicMonkey. They are both easy-to-use websites with engaging templates, but PicMonkey has a monthly fee. Luckily I signed up under their 7 day free trial, so I was able to do my logo free of charge. In a couple of days, I turned my podcast from something that looked amateur into a brand that now looks established. It’s amazing what a little creativity can do to freshen up your podcast look!

4. Be Prepared

You might think that a podcast episode is done with little to no preparation. Think again. When you see a new podcast episode up, what you don’t see are the countless hours of planning and hard work put into that. I quickly learned that every new episode is a longer process than I had initially thought. However, the more experience I got with it, the more efficient and organized I became. Before I start recording a podcast episode, I start preparing in various ways. Throughout this project, I learned some strategies that helped me and could help you too! When I first started out and was organizing my first interview, I would do all of my communication and scheduling through email. However, it was a lot of “back and forth” and the finer details were hard to keep up with. I came up with a podcast document on Google Docs that outlined the recording schedule and contained details about the recording process and platform. Closer to the recording date, I would email my guest the “talking points” and questions that I had planned for the interview. I realized that when I put more time and planning into the interview, I was more confident when it came time for the episode.

5. Reach Out

Do not be afraid to put yourself out there and make connections with other people! I was surprised to find that almost all the people I reached out to were receptive and excited when I asked them to be a guest on my podcast. I made incredible connections with people like Kathy Cassidy and Mike Ribble. I also reached out to companies like Seesaw and Common Sense Education and they both put me in touch with people who were willing to share their knowledge. Reaching out also opened up a lot of doors and created opportunities for me. I made a connection with Vicki Davis, from the 10 Second Teacher Podcast, and she asked me to speak on her podcast. Due to the recent events of COVID-19, unfortunately those interviews had to be rescheduled, but they are still to come! It’s important to ask and connect, because most of the time, people will support you and join your journey.

6. Do Your Research

Before you interview any guest or speak on a podcast, it’s important that you do your research. When I put out my initial survey asking what people looked for in a podcast, people talked about the importance of quality research. Right when I started this project, I knew I had to put in the effort before I started the recording process. When I have an interview coming up, I read their blogs, follow them on Twitter, check out their About Me page, and read articles they have been a part of. I make sure that I am well-versed with their material so that I understand the topic and can plan for the interview accordingly. Research and understanding is an important part of the podcast process.

7. Be Authentic

I have come to realize that authenticity and vulnerability are important in connecting people to your podcast. When I first started making podcasts, I was nervous when it came time for recording. I had everything scripted and I made sure that when I edited it, the final copy sounded perfect. However, the more practice and experience I gained, the more my need for perfection decreased. I have started using my questions and talking points as a guideline and I am intentional about letting the conversation go in the direction that it needs to. Yes, I have structure for each interview, but I have also learned that there is beauty in a real conversation. As I have grown in my podcasting abilities, I have learned to be more confident and authentic in what I have to say.

There you have it! 7 important steps if you are thinking of starting a podcast yourself. It takes a lot of work to start your own podcast and organize each episode, but the outcome is worth the effort. Even though my formal project for the semester is done, this is just the start of my podcasting journey. I am looking forward to what I come up with next! In the mean time, you can subscribe to EdTech Endeavours on Apple Podcasts and Spotify and take a look at the rest of my podcasting journey below!

  1. Research, Reflect, Repeat: A Podcast in the Making
  2. Growth and Goals: A Look Into my Podcast Progress
  3. “In Conversation with Stephen Hurley” Interview
  4. The Podcast Playback: The 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship Edition
  5. The Podcast Playback: A Conversation with Kathy Cassidy
  6. The Podcast Playback: A Conversation with Mike Ribble
  7. “I Wish I Knew Edu” Interview… Coming Soon!

Thanks for joining me on this journey! Keep a look out for more interviews and podcasts coming up soon… and while we are waiting, let me know what topic you want to hear about or guest I should have next on my podcast!

-Amanda

Let’s Address Access: Analyzing the Digital Divide

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There is much to be said about privilege, especially during the recent events of COVID-19. Do you have somewhere warm, comfortable, and safe to self-isolate during this time? Privilege. Do you have access to health care? Privilege. Can you drive your car to get groceries and do you have enough money to “stock up” on food or other necessities when you need them? Privilege.

It’s important to recognize your privilege in these situations of crisis because there are many who have overwhelming barriers in the way of accessing basic human rights.

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

The most recent privilege that I have been analyzing in my own life, and in our world, is the access to internet and technology. The Digital Divide, “the gulf between those who have ready access to computers and the Internet, and those who do not”, is more clear now more than ever, especially since schools have closed due to the global pandemic. Every community, school division, and city is now facing this reality head on.

Since the recent school closures, it has become obvious that there are inequities among students and their families when it comes to technology. There are many physical boundaries that are in the way of connection and access. To help with these struggles, school boards and districts around the world are lending out technology and purchasing devices for students, but unfortunately, a lot of these procedures and actions take time. Catherine also poses an important question when it comes to lending out division-owned technology: “What are the risks and implications of this model?” In a time like now, it’s hard to know what the right answer is or how to best meet the needs of every family. Even if students do have mobile devices at home, Common Sense Media brings up an important point by saying, “while a majority of students have access to mobile devices, these devices do not offer students the same tools as an internet-enabled computer for research, reporting, creating, and connecting.” There are so many variables to factor into our decisions about online learning.

Access and connection are key in bridging the Digital Divide. So how do we address the needs of students and families who lack internet connection or access to technology? Instead of overlooking this important need, we need to come together as educators and do our part in this current crisis. Do I have all the answers? Absolutely not. However, I am hopeful that we can work together to help bridge the gap.

Lack of Access and Connection

Not only is it important to think about students’ access to technology itself, it’s also crucial to factor in how they are accessing the internet. With the COVID-19 procedures and laws, we are unable to use our community resources, such as libraries, coffee shops, or schools, to use Wi-Fi. Digital Access, “the equitable distribution of technology and online resources” is an important element in Mike Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship. In a recent interview I had with Mike Ribble on the EdTech Endeavours Podcast, we talked about the challenges that public school divisions are facing right now when implementing digital education access while making it equitable for all students.

He says that during our current world crisis, “it’s not just providing the tool… it’s the connection, it’s the internet access that’s needed.” One strategy that his district is implementing is providing hot spots for students so that they can continue their education while school buildings are closed. If the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) declares internet a basic human right (2016), then we need to adapt and make it completely accessible for every student. Ribble reminds us that yes, “it is an expense, but if we’re going to really want all students… to still thrive within this time and still stay learning with their peers, then we have to provide those resources.”

Recently, CBC News interviewed Laura Tribe, the executive director of OpenMedia, and she opened up about the inequalities that our local communities are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic when it comes to internet and technology access. She suggests “maybe this is the time to consider sharing your Wi-Fi. Or if you have an extra device lying around that would help someone who doesn’t have one, they could borrow it.” Stepping up to help those around us is not just something school divisions should be responsible for, it’s something we, as a society, should be doing, myself included.

Family Engagement
Another valuable point to consider when addressing the Digital Divide is our communication with families. Without reaching out to families and asking them what their needs are, we are missing the point. As educators, it is our job to include parents and kids in these conversations. By simply asking them how they are doing, finding out what their challenges are, and if they need access to technology or internet, we begin to understand what supports need to be put in place to encourage them and help them succeed. Last week, I attended a webinar put on by Common Sense Education called “Education Beyond the Margins; Meeting the Digital needs of Underserved Families.” They have a “whatever it takes” approach to connecting with families and empowering them in this time.

During this webinar, they suggested using practical tools and resources when reaching newcomers who may have a language barrier. Using the app “Talking Points“, a “multilingual texting tool”, helps with communication and connection. If families are unable to access internet, it’s important that we adapt and reach them through other avenues. Instead of using the lack of technology as an excuse to stop communication with families, pick up a phone and call them.

Jennifer Gonzalez says that “in some cases where students & parents simply can’t be reached via Internet, regular phone calls are working for some teachers. To maintain privacy with your number, Google Voice may be an option.” Reach them in whatever way possible. Not only is internet connection a necessity for bridging the Digital Divide gap, but human connection is as well.

Now What?

As Mike Ribble states, it has become evident that “we will be different on the other side of this pandemic because of the things that we learn”. What if we used this time to really evaluate our inequities as a society and plan for a fair future?

As we continue to venture into the unknown, I will cling to the words of George Couros: “equity at the highest level, not simply equity, is something that we should always strive for in education. Every student should have the best opportunities to learn in ways that will help them now and in the future.”

The Podcast Playback: A Conversation with Mike Ribble

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I recently had the opportunity to interview Mike Ribble, a digital citizenship expert and author of the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship. With his vast knowledge and experience with the subject, he not only brought incredible insight to the conversation, but also hope and encouragement during the current time that we are living in.

There’s no doubt about it, as a society, we are collectively going through an experience that is challenging and uncertain. However, this experience brings us the opportunity to grow closer together as a community… and one gift that we have during this unpredictable time is technology. The conversation that I had with Mike Ribble was so timely, especially since COVID-19 has required us to do our teaching, communicating, and learning online. We discuss crucial topics that embody Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship, something that is so valuable to learn about in our current digital world. In this interview, you will learn more about:

  • Digital Citizenship
  • Digital Literacy
  • Digital Safety, Security, and Privacy
  • Digital Access and the Digital Divide

In our conversation, Mike reminds us that yes, “there will be missteps as we go along”, however, “we will learn a lot about how we learn in a digital space through out this.”

Don’t forget to check out Mike Ribble’s website for more information about digital citizenship, including the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship. You can also learn more about these important topics from some of his books: Digital Citizenship Handbook for School Leaders: Fostering Positive Interactions Online, “Digital Citizenship in Schools, Third Edition, and “Raising a Digital Child. If you want to learn more about Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship, you can check out a previous blog post I wrote called “The Podcast Playback: The 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship Edition”.

My hope is that after listening to this podcast interview, you will feel inspired and motivated to make a positive change in our digital world. As we move forward and navigate through this unprecedented time, let us use the gift of technology to work together, inspire each other, and connect with one another.

Media Literacy: We Need it Now More Than Ever

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It’s hard to explain the emotions and thoughts that we are all experiencing right now. It has been an overwhelming time for all of us to say the least. During a time of uncertainty, there are many news outlets and platforms that are filling our social media feeds and minds. Even though it’s easy to get caught up in reading everything that comes our way, like I find myself doing in a time like now, it’s important to listen, watch, and read with a critical lens and an open heart.

Photo by Stas Knop on Pexels.com

As we venture through this unfamiliar time of crisis and confusion, there is no better time to prioritize the skills and actions that surround media literacy. You are probably wondering, what does media literacy even entail and why is it important? Before we break down media literacy, it’s important to understand literacy, which is “the ability to read, write, speak and listen in a way that lets us communicate effectively and make sense of the world.” Even though the outcome of literacy is to read, write, and speak, there are still many skills and elements that come into play before that happens. When you think about the act of reading, you not only need to decode the words, but you also need to comprehend what you’re reading. On top of that, early level readers have basic skills, but as you advance with reading, you develop deeper level thinking skills, such as understanding themes, recognizing biases, or analyzing the text.

Similar to the skills of literacy, “media literacy”, which falls under the category of information literacy, involves many different elements and components. According to Common Sense Media, media literacy is “the ability to identify different types of media and understand the messages they’re sending.” When we see an image, article, or video online, there are different ways we can try to understand the message it is trying to portray. Common Sense Media gives a list of essential questions that kids can ask when they view various types of media:

  • Who created this?
  • Why did they make it?
  • Who is the message for?
  • What techniques are being used to make this message credible or believable?
  • What details were left out, and why?
  • How did the message make you feel?
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

These questions will help students reflect on important details about the media they take in and will help them analyze biases that might be present. Most of the time, kids will be viewing these images, articles, or videos on their devices and will be using “digital literacy” skills to sift through media. The term digital literacy “specifically applies to media from the internet, smartphones, video games, and other nontraditional sources”, stated by Common Sense Media. Shelby reminds us that “it is greatly important to be literate online, especially with all the misinformation and the dangers that it presents.” Since students are most likely to be using social media to get their news and information, “our job to teach digital literacy to students is more important than ever” as Catherine says.

In an earlier blog post, I talk about the strategies that educators can use in order to teach students how to sift through information online so that they can critically take in media. I talk about:

  • Taking Note of the Digital Exposure and Experience in the Lives of our Students: Understand that “each student will have a different level of knowledge when using online tools and social media platforms”, so that we can teach them media literacy skills at their level.
  • Teaching Bias: This is important because “it’s not about teaching students right or wrong, it’s about giving them the skills they need in order to make an informed decision for themselves.”
  • Fact Checking & Reading Laterally: We need to check the source and validate the information with other tools, websites, and avenues.

I recently found another great way to help students learn more about navigating the internet during this trying time. John Green, who partnered with MediaWise, has put out various videos to help us “evaluate the information you read online.” They have put out a series of videos that teach us how to:

  • “Examine information using the same skills and questions as fact-checkers”
  • “Read laterally to learn more about the authority and perspective of sources”
  • “Evaluate different types of evidence, from videos to infographics”
  • “Understand how search engines and social media feeds work”

These critical thinking skills that exhibit media literacy are so valuable in the world we currently live in. It’s crucial that we follow the right steps when we take in information or news at this time so that we can think logically and respond appropriately. As we journey through these rocky waters together, let’s also not forget the importance of empathy and reflection. Through this time of unpredictability, let us use our online skills for good to remind us that we are in this together.

-Amanda

(Digital) Citizenship… It’s More Than What You Think

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Digital Citizenship.

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

What is it? Is it important? How do we teach it?

Those are questions that are often asked by teachers and administrators who are unaware of the topic or don’t see the value in it. So let’s start by breaking it down.

According to dictionary.com, a digital citizen is “a person who develops the skills and knowledge to effectively use the Internet and other digital technology, especially in order to participate responsibly in social and civic activities.”

There is some truth to this, but there has to be more to it.

If we want to truly understand what it means to be a digital citizen, we need to understand citizenship. Being a good citizen goes even further than being a responsible member of our world. Being a positive citizen means living with purpose and giving back to the world we live in. So just as we intend to teach our students how to be active, contributing, and caring citizens in our world, the same goes for the online world. It’s important to note that “digital citizenship requires the same integrity, respect and care for others as real world citizenship”, as Andrew Kovalcin says.

As teachers, it’s our responsibility to authentically integrate digital citizenship into the curriculum in a positive way. It’s about developing active and caring citizens in our classrooms who want to make change online. Trevor makes a good point when he says that “students must be taught that the digital world is actually the real world, there is no difference. Therefore, their actions, behaviours, and words online should resemble the person they are when not using technology.”

Along with integrating positive citizenship into our classrooms, we need to develop critical thinkers as well. The article, “How Finland Starts its Fight Against Fake News in Primary Schools”, talks about the success that Finland has had when teaching students the skills of “thinking critically, fact-checking, interpreting and evaluating all the information you receive.” They focus on integrating these skills among every subject area so that it becomes second nature to them. It’s important to recognize that even though students might seem tech-savvy, or are looked at as “digital natives”, they still need to be taught these critical thinking skills because these characteristics are developed over time, and are not automatic.

So how do we, as educators, teach our students to be digital citizens? First of all, we need to remember that “digital citizenship education is not intended to be a stand-alone unit, course or lesson, rather it is best learned and under- stood when taught in context through supported online practice and real-life examples and experiences”, according to Saskatchewan’s Digital Citizenship Policy Planning Guide.

When it comes to teaching our students to be thriving digital citizens, ISTE says that it is more about the “do’s” rather than the “don’ts”. They say “it’s about being active citizens who see possibilities instead of problems and opportunities instead of risks as they curate a positive and effective digital footprint.” They also come up with a list of attributes that make up a positive digital citizen.

ISTE’s 5 Competencies of Digital Citizenship is a list that every teacher can focus on when raising digital citizens in their classrooms.

Along with teaching students the 5 Competencies of a Digital Citizen, it’s important that we encourage our students to be motivated citizens online. In a previous blog post, I talk about the importance of raising digital leaders in a digital age who feel empowered to use tools online for good. I bring up a quote by George Couros who says that students need to learn how to be digital leaders who use “the vast reach of technology (especially the use of social media) to improve the lives, well-being, and circumstances of others.”

As we progress in a digital age, we as educators need to progress in our practices. We need to be aware of the value and importance of raising online citizens who are critical thinkers and world changers…

…because after all “educators can no longer ignore their roles in helping students to develop as digital citizens; schools must respond to the changing needs of our learners in order to prepare them for our rapidly changing world” (Saskatchewan’s Digital Citizenship Policy Planning Guide).

As I say in the video I created about what it means to be a (digital) citizen:

While it’s important that a digital citizen knows how to be safe and responsible online, we need to remember that we can’t stop there. Let’s encourage digital citizens who want to lead and inspire.

I am a (digital) citizen. Are you?

The Podcast Playback: A Conversation with Kathy Cassidy

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Have you ever had a conversation with someone new and instantly connected? That’s how I felt about my latest podcast guest, Kathy Cassidy– a retired grade 1 teacher, published author, and classroom blogging expert. Talking to her was like having coffee with a dear friend. She shared so much knowledge and inspiration about her days in the classroom, and more importantly, her “connected” classroom.

Are you wondering what a connected classroom even means? Well, Kathy talks all about it in the latest podcast EdTech Endeavours podcast episode. She explains the benefits and opportunities that come with making online connections through blogging and Twitter. She reminds us that connection creates community, even if it’s done online. Kathy talks about how the connected classroom gave her students an audience and a purpose for their writing, artifacts, and assignments. Her students authentically learned about digital citizenship through the online conversations they had and the posts they interacted with. Her stories and experiences will inspire you to connect online so that you too can gain valuable learning experiences that go beyond the walls of the classroom.

If you’d like to learn more about the experiences you can encounter when using a classroom blog and Twitter account, you can listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and most recently, voicEd.ca– a hub for educational podcasts and blogs.

Image result for connected from the start
Connected from the Start- Kathy Cassidy

Don’t forget to check out Kathy Cassidy’s free downloadable book, “Connected from the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades.” You can also connect with her on Twitter and through her blog, which is packed full of great content and resources!

Thanks for tuning in!

-Amanda