Let’s Address Access: Analyzing the Digital Divide


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.

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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.”

Media Literacy: We Need it Now More Than Ever


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?
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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.


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


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?

Establishing a Thriving (Digital) Identity

Arifranklin via ourpangea

When I think back to my first years on the Internet, it consisted of writing on Facebook walls, creating Piczo websites, and having scheduled chats on MSN Messenger. During those early days of online connection, there wasn’t a lot of guidance or instruction because it was new for everyone. My parents and teachers didn’t bring it up in conversation or teach me about online ethics because it seemed harmless at the time. Over the years, the Internet has evolved into what it is now… a beautiful way for people to connect and create, but with a bit of a darker side than the “good ol’ days”. When I first started using social media, my online identity was separate from my “real” identity. It took time and effort to connect to the internet, log into my social media accounts, and navigate the internet. Now that technology has evolved, we have access to the online world at any waking moment… so is my digital identity still separate?

Before we get into the discussion of whether there is a difference between our real identity and digital identity, it’s important to know what a digital identity even entails. Our digital identities “include how we present ourselves and interact in digital spaces” as stated in “Research Writing Rewired: Lessons That Ground Students’ Digital Learning” by Dawn Reed and Troy Hicks. They also explain how our digital footprints “speak to this identity as we leave tracks that give information about ourselves in online spaces.” Our actions and words have have significant contributions to our online identity, so doesn’t that mean our online identity and our offline identity go hand in hand?

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

According to ISTE, “as our digital connections and interactions grow, the lines between our education and personal lives, our career and private activities, become blurred.”

Our physical lives are intertwined with our online lives now more than ever, so it’s time that we equip not only ourselves with the positive tools to thrive in this digital world, but also our students. In order for us to do that, we as teachers need to be aware of what kind of digital footprint we are leaving behind. In a recent blog post, Shelby mentions that “leading by example and setting expectations for students is the real way to get them to listen and think about what they are doing online.” She says that instead of living a “perfect” digital identity, it’s more important to live a real digital identity “showcasing that we are indeed human too, making mistakes and also having lots of different opinions, talents, and interests beyond just being teachers.”

So how can we model, lead, and teach our students to have a thriving digital identity that isn’t so separate from their everyday lives? We can teach them how to maintain positive citizenship, whether it’s online or offline, and better yet, we can encourage active leadership within them.

Here are some important ways that we ourselves can have a positive identity online and offline to make the world a better place, and in turn, teach our students to do the same.

Create and Cultivate Community

Just like our personal and professional lives can only function through human connection and relationship, our online lives need the same. There are many social media platforms that we use for connecting with others, such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. We can use these tools to maintain positive connections with friends, family, and my personal learning network. Yes, these platforms can be used negatively, but that is why we need to instil digital citizenship within our students. If we do this, they will understand the benefits of having an online community and take pride in it. We have incredible opportunities to meet others, gain friendships, make connections, and build up a community through the social media and the internet.

Look at the Bright Side

It’s important that we learn the art of positivity in our day to day lives- and that includes the internet too. Using our words to uplift and encourage others online can make a positive ripple effect for the people around us. Teaching students how to bring positivity to the internet can outweigh the negativity. When we model this type of citizenship and leadership online, people start to see the good that the internet can bring.

Think Critically, Act Confidently

Critical thinking is an important skill for us to have when we face new experiences and challenges in our lives. It’s especially important now as we navigate this world of “fake news” and fake profiles. It’s valuable and crucial to think before you share, that you analyze new information, to always check the source, stay aware of your security, and the list goes on. However, instead of instilling fear in ourselves and our students, let’s give them the confidence they need to address these topics with problem solving skills so that they are aware instead of scared.

Show You Care & Don’t Forget to Share

In order to build a thriving digital identity, it’s important that you do something instead of erasing your digital footprint completely. This goes much further than scrolling through social media and making a few comments here and there. A thriving digital identity means contributing to the online world around you by using social media and the internet for good. Let’s remember to model a thriving digital identity in our own lives so that our students are then inspired to become active, contributing members of the online world who leave a positive digital footprint that also points towards a better future.

Thriving (Digital) Identities

As you can see, there are a lot of different elements that make up a digital identity. However, it’s valuable to note that our digital identity is also just a part of our identity. What we do online is still a part of our real world and is still in our everyday lives. So as we keep moving forward from our MSN Messenger days, let’s use the means of community, positivity, and contribution to model and create identities that are thriving both online and offline.


Breaking Down the Barriers of the Generational Divide


Our world has, without a doubt, changed and developed over the years and will continue to do so. Society has progressed in the ways we relate and communicate with each other, largely due to the role that technology has played in it all. Throughout the shift that has happened because of technology, various groups have been defined, such as the Baby Boomers, Millennials, Gen X and Gen Z. Before we dive deeper into this generational divide, let’s take a look at what these groups entail.

Barclays breaks it down like this:

Baby Boomers: Also known as Boomers

  • Born between 1945-1960
  • Attitude Toward Technology: Early information technology adaptors
  • Communication Media: Telephone
  • Communication Preference: Face-to-face ideally, but telephone or email if required

Generation X: Also known as Gen X

  • Born between 1961-1980
  • Attitude Toward Technology: Digital Immigrants
  • Communication Media: Email and text message
  • Communication Preference: Text message or email

Generation Y: Also known as Millennials

  • Born between 1981-1995
  • Attitude Toward Technology: Digital Natives
  • Communication Media: Tablet or smart phone
  • Communication Preference: Online and mobile (text messaging)

Generation Z: Also known as Gen Z/ iGen

  • Born after 1995
  • Attitude Toward Technology: “Technoholics”
  • Communication Media: Handheld Communication Devices
  • Communication Preference: Facetime

After reading and researching more about the “generational gap” in the above categories, I thought long and hard about the negative connotations that can take place with these stereotypes and labels. Yes, each generation has different characteristics, abilities, and developments, but there has to be a common ground between each group.

Melanie Curtin has a valid point when she says: “generational breakdowns are never an exact science; it’s not like a 27-year-old and 42-year-old are so different that they can’t understand one another.”

What stereotypes are hindering us from finding a common ground? What judgments are standing in the way of working towards a better future and society together, despite a generational divide? Recently, a lot of the pre-conceived judgements are towards the Gen Z generation. So as educators, how do we break down the labels and assumptions so that we can start focusing on the positives that our current generation brings to our world and our future? Let’s take a look at two of the big misconceptions about Generation Z and discuss how we, as educators, can encourage this generation to use technology to their full potential.


Misconception: Digital Natives (someone who was raised in a digital, media-saturated world)

Some would call them “Digital Natives” or “Technoholics” because they have grown up with technology all around them, but this can be a dangerous term. “No one is born a native speaker of digital in the same way that no one is born a native speaker of any language”, Alec reminds us. From a teaching perspective, if we just assume that our students know something, it can be detrimental in their learning process. The same goes for technology. If we assume that students all have the same amount of experience and knowledge of technology, then we are not equipping or preparing them to use the tools that they use most often. As I mention in my previous blog post, “each student will have a different level of knowledge when using online tools and social media platforms”. This means that we need to teach everyone not only how to use technology tools in a positive way, but to authentically use technology in order to enrich their lives and the lives of people around them.

In order to do this, we need to teach students about the 4 C’s of the 21st Century skills within our use of technology. The 4’Cs, according to Applied Educational Systems, are:

  • Critical thinking (all about solving problems)
  • Creativity (teaches students to think outside the box)
  • Collaboration (shows students how to work together to achieve a common goal)
  • Communication (lets students learn how to best convey their ideas)

Cultivating a classroom environment around the 4 C’s also gives students the chance to become “knowledge-able” instead of just knowledgable. Michael Wesch says that being “knowledge-able” means, “knowing how to find (information), sort it, analyze it, criticize it.” Leigh makes an important point when she says, “in order for students to be successful in today’s world, they need to know how to think, ask questions, and develop their own understanding of concepts.” Are we, as educators, being proactive with our use of technology in the classroom and giving students the opportunity to learn the crucial skills needed in helping them becoming “knowledge-able”?

If we are willing to meet students where they are at and help them grow to learn the valuable skills and opportunities that technology has, then we will promote a community of online learners who thrive in the digital world. Adam reminds us that “our world is constantly becoming more and more technology driven and we need to be able to equip our students with the skills they will need to navigate that world in a healthy manner.”

Misconception: Narcissistic

Another common misconception about Gen Z is that they are a narcissistic generation- entitled and self-promoting. Sure, they could look that way from the outside with their constant need for likes on social media and long lasting Snap Chat streaks. However, Brooke Lea Foster tells us, “these traits are simply hallmarks of early adulthood—it’s often the first time people are putting themselves out there… overconfidence is how people muscle through the big changes.”

Haven’t you been there?

Haven’t you felt the need for affirmation and reassurance at some point in your life? For Gen Z, it just might look a little different with the involvement of technology and social media. It’s important that we remember that Gen Z is navigating this world through a different lens. We were there too, but just in a different way.

As educators, we need to give students the chance to connect through social media and use it as a positive outlet. We need to teach students how to demonstrate leadership online and prepare them for what they will encounter instead of writing this generation off and calling it hopeless. Once we recognize their potential and positive place in this world, then maybe our society will stop viewing them as narcissistic.

We need to prepare them for our future and give them the skills they need to better their lives online, which is outlined well in the Oxford School District “Portrait of a Graduate”. Teaching them skills so that they can be:

  • Effective Communicators
  • Culturally Aware
  • Ethical
  • Critical Thinkers
  • Creative Thinkers
  • Resilient
  • Personally Responsible
  • Active Citizens

Online and Offline.

Often when people consider Gen Z as narcissistic, they also view them as lacking social skills. Are social skills only deemed proper if they are done offline? I would argue that social skills online are necessary for students to learn in order to be successful in the digital world. According to Christopher Mims, “Gen Z doesn’t distinguish between online and IRL (In Real Life)” anymore. Social skills are not isolated to “face-to-face” conversations. Instead of assuming that students need to put their phones away in order to be “present”, why can’t we teach them how to flourish online when they are posting on social media and communicating with others? Instead of calling this generation “addicted” to their phones, why can’t we see them as needing connection, just like you and me? In a recent presentation, Mary Beth Hertz said that, “teens aren’t addicted to social media, they are addicted to each other.” Just like everyone else, they want to have connection and relationship. Let’s utilize the online tools and platforms that Gen Z uses in order to engage them in positive online connections and relationships.

It is our role as educators to throw off the label of “narcissistic” and “self-absorbed” and encourage students with the opportunities they have online using digital citizenship and the 4 C’s.

How to Move Forward

So is it possible to change our educational system and society in order to engage our current generation and break down the divides with other generations? Yes. Where do we start? In the classroom and in our homes.

As educators and parents, we need to build up our generation and give them confidence in their digital day-to-day lives rather than deem them as unteachable because they are already “digital natives” or that they are “narcissistic.”

Grace Birnstengel states it perfectly in her article called, “Boomer Blaming, Finger Pointing and the Generational Divide”, “Regardless of whether the generational divide is real or a construct, fair or unfair, there are real dangers when generalizing about any cultural subset and assigning ultimate blame.”

Instead of building up walls between each generation to further the generational divide, let’s work together to break down the barriers and find common ground to build a society that thrives, connects, and relates.


Raising Digital Leaders in a Digital World


We live in a digital age with more opportunity than ever. We have online identities and communities that follow us through our lives, creating life-long digital footprints. For a lot of people, there is less done offline than online, especially with social media. So if we are now living in a society that spends most of their time, communication, and resources online, then as educators, isn’t it our role to be teaching students how to navigate this complex, digital world? According to Mary Beth Hertz, author of “Digital Media and Literacy in the Age of the Internet”, it’s crucial that we “challenge their critical thinking and research skills, and to spark discussions about their own experiences consuming media.”

I had the privilege of listening to Mary Beth speak last week during an online class. She shared the importance of teaching students how to think critically when using social media or taking in news online. However, like she says in her book, teachers are “often unprepared for the complexities of these challenges or might not be sure how to engage their students safely or responsibly.” As educators, it’s important that we teach students how to use the tools and online platforms instead of taking them away. If we take away the digital tools, rather than strategically and authentically use them in our classrooms and lessons, then we are not preparing them for the world they are a part of. We need to raise “digital leaders” in a digital age who feel equipped to use “the vast reach of technology (especially the use of social media) to improve the lives, well-being, and circumstances of others”, like George Couros says.

Fortunately, Mary Beth gave some practical examples for educators when teaching students strategies for sifting through information online. If you want to learn more about the following topics, as well as lessons surrounding privacy concerns, copyright laws, social media, and strategies for sourcing information, she goes into more detail in her latest book, which she talks about on the Safer Social Media podcast. After hearing her speak last week, here are some strategies that stood out to me that would be beneficial for educators to be aware of in the classroom:

Taking Note of the Digital Exposure and Experience in the Lives of our Students

Each student will come into your classroom with different stages of digital experience, knowledge, or exposure. It’s important to understand Digital Equity. According to ISTE, it’s “about making sure students have equal access to technology like devices, software and the internet, and that they have trained educators to help them navigate those tools.” Mary Beth talked about how our younger generation is learning about technology in different forms, and how this affects their experience in the classroom. She referred to an article, that defines 3 groups of young people and their relationship with technology. According to the article, students fall into these 3 categories:

  • Digital Orphans: they “have grown up with a great deal of tech access — but very little guidance”, which causes them to shy away from face-to-face interaction and they usually lack valuable social skills.
  • Digital Exiles: “they’ve been raised with minimal technology” because “their parents’ goal has been to limit their children’s access in order to delay their entry into the digital world until their teens.” This usually causes conflict because “they may struggle with finding a balanced approach to technology.”
  • Digital Heirs: these students “have impressive tech skills, thanks largely to their parents and teachers.” However, even though they have experience and knowledge, this could cause them to “face challenges in dealing with their less knowledgeable peers so they’ll need a little charm and flexibility to get along.”

I would argue that another sub category falls into Digital Exiles- low income students who don’t have access to technology in their homes. This is important to recognize among these groups because as teachers, we need to be aware of how much technology our students have access to. If you want to learn more about the Digital Divide, Common Sense Media put out a fact sheet about “Exploring the Digital Divide.”

All of these categories are important to understand because each student will have a different level of knowledge when using online tools and social media platforms. If we as teachers are aware that they all come from different backgrounds, then we can meet them where they are at and teach them how to move forward as digital leaders.

Teaching Bias

Another important skill that we need to teach our students is understanding and recognizing biases. In Mary Beth’s presentation, she said “if it makes you feel some type of way, it has a bias. If you feel emotion or if you feel like the author is trying to influence the way you feel- it has a bias.”

Using websites like All Sides, a site that claims to give news articles from each perspective, helps students stay away from media bias. 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

It’s also important that students know how to “fact check” information. However, in order for students to know how to do that, they need to be critical thinkers. In Laurie’s blog post, she reminds us of the “importance we have as educators and parents to teach our students how to be critical thinkers.” Mary Beth talked about the skill of critical thinking by “Reading Laterally”– “looking at what other sites and resources say about the source at which they are looking.” Sarah Ross says that “in this day and age in order to be media literate we need to be aware of the content we are consuming and whether or not it is reliable.” Sarah brings up some valuable questions we can ask ourselves, and ask our students, when we look up information or resources:

  • “Do I check multiple sources when searching for answers online? Or do I click the top results and blindly trust them based on popularity?”
  • “When I see news articles on my social media do I habitually click and trust their stance or sources?”
  • “Am I quick to trust the sites of articles sent to me by trusted people rather then checking the source for myself?”

Along with these great discussion starters, there are a lot of resources that you can bring into your classroom to teach students about checking the source. Common Sense Education has practical lessons, such as “Hoaxes and Fakes”, which help students “avoid being fooled by fake videos and other information online.” There are other fact-checking sites that you can teach students to use, which can be found on PressBooks.

Another great tool that Mary Beth talked about in her presentation, as well as in her blog post “Teaching Kids How to Validate Information on Social Media”, is a reverse image search. Fact-checking words or information is easy with the use of Google, but what do you do when you have an image? You can follow these simple steps!

It’s important that students know how to use critical thinking strategies to check their sources and information when they use social media, see pictures, or watch videos online. Mary Beth reminds us that We need to include analysis of social media posts, and tips and tricks for validating information on social media just as we do for traditional websites.

Student Leaders in a Digital Age

There’s no doubt about it- we need to teach our students how to be digitally literate, just as much as other forms of literacy. Mary Beth’s presentation not only taught me important strategies and skills to do so, but also inspired me to bring these strategies into my classroom.

Are you ready to lead your students into the journey of digital literacy and digital media? Do you have positive strategies or success stories from your classroom experience?

Let’s do the important work of teaching students to be critical thinkers, technology experts, and digital leaders- together.

The EdTech Endeavour Continues


A new year is upon us and with the new year comes another opportunity to learn and grow in my EdTech skills. Online learning has quickly become my favourite way to gain knowledge. It’s accessible, cost effective, and not to mention convenient… considering I can stay at home when it’s minus forty-five outside. The benefits of taking online classes are endless, especially because they “give students the opportunity to plan study time around the rest of their day, instead of the other way around” according to OED’s list of advantages to taking online courses. Since I am taking a Master’s Certificate in Educational Technology and Media with the University of Regina, I have many online classes ahead of me, and for that, I am grateful.

The class I am taking this semester, #ECI832, focuses on Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy. I have some knowledge about Digital Citizenship, but Media Literacy is brand new to me. I am not only looking forward to learning more about these topics through presentations and articles, but also through conversations and blog posts from my fellow #ECI832 classmates- my new learning community. That brings us to another advantage of online learning… the connections we are able to make with others. I love having the chance to read, comment, and discuss important EdTech topics through out the week with the people in my class through blogging and Twitter. They encourage me, challenge me, and motivate me.

I feel relieved that I am not on this journey alone. I am glad that there are people (virtually) beside me who are dedicated to learning online and are willing to share their learning experiences with me in an authentic and honest way. So thank you in advance, #ECI832, for your willingness to share, connect, and inspire in our upcoming endeavour. Let’s do this!

P.S. For those of you who are new here, you can check out how this blog came to be with my very first blog post last semester.