The Controversy of Sharing Classrooms Online

Week three of the great Ed-tech debate was structured around the topic of whether or not openness and sharing in schools is unfair to students. My initial thought after reading the topic was of course not; collaborative discussions and welcoming environments that encourage students to express personal opinions and experiences are essential in classrooms. I also believed that no one would argue against this idea because the significance of having open teacher-student relationships and freedom of speech in learning environments is undeniable. I quickly realized that the topic under discussion was referring to openly sharing classroom activities and documenting learning online … duh, this course is all about Ed-tech and online sharing is a legitimate controversial topic for educators to address. Prior to the debate, my Ed-tech 400 class was weighing heavily on the side disagreeing that openness and sharing was unfair for students. I personally agreed with the majority of my classmates because from my personal experiences having my work shared was always gratifying and provided me with a sense of pride. Studying to become an educator, I know that I must not make assumptions based on my personal experiences and that it is crucial to acknowledge that all of my students will be unique and have varying perspectives due to their personal influences. Thus, I was excited to have my opinion challenged during the debate and be provided with the opportunity to critically examine the question at hand beyond my personal lens. Our debate concluded with a 50/50 split illustrating that there are valid arguments for both sides of the debate.

Class vote prior to the debate

Class vote after the debate

 

 

 

 

 

Arguments for the ‘Agree’ Side:

Ashley led the ‘pro’ side of this debate arguing that openness and sharing in classrooms is unfair to our students. In her intro video, she addressed the following four main arguments which guided the discussion during our debate.

Student consent is not always considered: Due to the increasing popularity of digital technology in today’s society receiving proper consent prior to posting anything online has become a vital requirement. As Ashley pointed out, many schools do send home consent forms, however, they are addressed to the parents and thus the students’ consent does not appear to be valued. Depending on the grade level, this can be a sticky subject because one could argue that some youth are not mature enough to offer their consent with sophisticated understandings of the impacts of their decisions; but does that mean their say is irrelevant? Kerry Gallagher’s article addresses several reasons that students are either for or against sharing their work online but ultimately concludes by saying neither choice is right or wrong if students’ voices were included in the decisions.

44133571251_d923b11dddTeachers are creating digital footprints for their students: My journey through EDTC 300 and EDTC 400 thus far has taught me the importance of having a positive digital footprint. In our technology-based world, being discoverable online is expected and thus we should not be concerned with having traces of ourselves online but we should ensure that our identities being portrayed online are ones that we are proud to stand behind and true to ourselves. When teachers post pictures of their students or work belonging to those individuals, they are contributing to their digital footprints which will follow them for their lifetime. An article addressing the pros and cons of sharing images of children online explains how the vast majority of employers place a large emphasis on social media reputation thus individuals’ digital footprints greatly influence their future careers. As stated by Ashley, “the internet is forever” and teachers should not be contributing to their students’ emerging digital footprints without receiving consent from students who have been properly educated about the implications of their digital identities.

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Situations that can cause cyberbullying and embarrassment: Ashley brought our class’ attention to a daunting number regarding cyberbullying. According to Statistics Canada, one in five individuals between the ages of fifteen and twenty-nine reported cases of being cyberbullied. Sharing students’ information online can potentially expose them to greater probabilities of being cyberbullied and I confidently believe that is not something any school would want for their students. As states in a Webwise article, “despite the educational intent, images may inadvertently cause embarrassment for someone in the short or long term” because any image published online can be edited or misused by almost anyone. This idea leads perfectly into the next article.

Privacy settings do not ensure privacy: Most people today are well aware that once something is posted to the internet, it is out there forever despite the privacy settings that were put in place because all it takes is for someone else to share the data. This lack of privacy draws up the concerns of cyberbullying and embarrassment mentioned above but can also stem to other troublesome worries of publishing students’ work online. Some students may be hesitant to openly share their opinions due to being worried about what others may think of them. Sharing work online also makes it vulnerable to plagiarism which is unfair to students who put in the effort to share their personal thoughts and ideas. Students are entitled to their privacy but sharing images of them or their work online puts their personal identities in the public eye and exposes them to many risks. Once something is on the internet, there is no way back.

Arguments for the ‘Disagree’ Side

Guiding the opposite side of the debate was Dryden, who shared valid benefits of openness and sharing in the classroom. His introduction video and resources that he provided with the class discuss the following arguments in favor of sharing students’ work online.

The foundation of teaching is sharing: In chapter six of ‘Game Changers’, it is stated that “education is, first and foremost, an enterprise of sharing.” In order to provide students with the best learning environments, teachers must share their knowledge and experiences with their students. It is also crucial that teachers know what information and perspectives to share and when to share it to ensure their students receive the appropriate knowledge to challenge and struggle with problems on their own in order to develop deeper understandings. As discussed in EMTH 200, it is also crucial that students receive opportunities to share their personal thoughts with others to help raise awareness of various perspectives and understandings of topics under study. As the lead learners in classrooms, teachers are responsible for guiding these collaborative environments and setting appropriate sharing examples. Connecting these ideas to digital technology will require educators to ensure what they share online has an effective purpose and will benefit their students. When teachers exhibit sharing, students are then encouraged to do the same, which can lead to helping students begin developing positive digital identities and an understanding of the implications of what they post online.

35703416714_ea26db3c53Importance of being open: Dryden’s second point discussed the importance for educators to emphasize the importance of being open in their classrooms and personally demonstrating this through their actions and attitudes. By being open, educators will be adult figures in their classrooms whom their students can trust and want to learn from. It will also help teachers develop relationships with other people involved in the learning experiences of their students including parents/guardians. By developing this trust in classrooms, safe and effective learning environments will result in allowing the focus in classrooms to be on learning and helping students to thrive academically. Seesaw is one example of a digital platform that allows an open dialogue among teachers, students, and parents and provides students with the opportunity to express themselves through an online portfolio which stems into the next argument.

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Benefits of documented learning: Research from Ontario provides
evidence of the powerful effects of documentation on multiple aspects of
learning, including the emotional, cognitive, and social strands. Documentation of learning in the classroom requires the products and processes of teaching and learning to be observed, recorded, interpreted and shared through a variety of media forms. It is believed that documenting learning supports, encourages and inspires learners to examine their thinking, feelings, and beliefs about themselves and how they learn and challenges them to consistently try their best. Making documentation digital allows parents and guardians to follow their child’s learning journey and opens up many doors that traditional documentation does not. Digital documentation permits the possibility of reaching a broader audience and receiving instantaneous feedback to encourage students to continue with their efforts. One kindergarten teacher interviewed in the research who went ‘public’ with her classroom documentation said “although the visual displays have the effect of beautifying the environment, their true intention
is to open windows into the work and thought processes
of the learners” thus describing how the purpose of documented learning is to enhance the learning opportunities of our society’s youth. 

46558712972_587fca8e87Keys to success: Dryden summarized his article by describing how three keys to success in schools are communication, trust, and adaptability which can all be demonstrated through being open and sharing online. The influence of technology on society continues to rapidly increase and it is important that teachers are willing to adapt to these changes and transform their practice. Sharing learning experiences online is one innovative way educators are able to learn alongside their students, encourage collaboration and promote conversations and social interactions which have all been proven to benefit students’ learning. Communication is key in all classrooms and digital platforms allow parents/guardians, school administrators, teachers, and students to all be involved and build trusting relationships with one another permitting learning to be the focus.

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So what do I believe?

Digital technology has permitted for the redesign of how classrooms operate and has created ease regarding communication between students, parents, and teachers providing a bridge between life at school and home. There are obvious benefits of sharing and openness on digital platforms for students’ growth and learning including involving parents/guardians, reaching broader audiences, receiving feedback from fellow students and educators, helping students build positive digital footprints, and inspiring students to always try their best. However, the digital world is an intimidating place and due to the lack of privacy, possibilities of cyberbullying and embarrassment, and permanency of everything posted, educators must be cautious before sharing their classrooms online. It is important to realize that many of the arguments made during our debate have pros and cons. For instance, teachers are contributing to their students’ footprints can be viewed as unfair to students but is also preparing them for their futures because the importance of being discoverable online continues to grow. For some students, posting their work online can cause embarrassment while for other students this motivates them to try harder and the feedback may boost their self-esteem. I believe, that if teachers are properly informed about the risks of posting data online and contributing to their students’ digital identity, and if they keep the best interests of their students in mind, then sharing and being open online is not unfair to students. As an educator, it is vital that I adapt to the changes in society, engage my students, and provide them with knowledge on how to be professional digital citizens. By promoting digital sharing in my classroom, I will help my students learn how to appropriately present themselves online while keeping my lessons interesting and up to date.

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Learning From Place

Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing is an article that discusses the nature and power of learning from place. The article illustrates the reflection of a research project that was conducted to honor the Mushkegowuk Cree people’s concepts of land, environment, and nature. By sharing the story of the river excursion which joined many generations from youth to elders, the importance of learning from experience and storytelling were conveyed which are two key ideas of the indigenous ways of knowing.

The article explains how decolonization cannot be limited to rejecting and transforming normative narratives but rather must also depend on recovering and renewing mentorship and intergenerational relationships. Thus, the river excursion which allowed individuals from vast generations to travel together and communicate with one another demonstrates many forms of decolonization and reinhabitation. While on the voyage, youth, adults, and elders learned about the history and significance of the river, related issues of governance and land management, and the culture of the community. A key theme was the importance of nature and land for the Muskegowick people which is more than just a resource; it is a spiritual and material place that all life springs from and the cultural identity of the people. The word The large focus on the word ‘paquataskamik’ which means “natural environment” was emphasized in explaining the traditional views of the land. The elders were also able to share many vibrant meanings of the river that go well beyond thinking of it as simply a body of water. The Mushkegowuk people saw the river as a way of life and believe that it has physical, spiritual, and emotional uses and meanings. The river is also used as a cemetery and it is expected that when traveling along the river those who have passed away remain in ones’ thoughts and prayers. The group also documented sites of significance for the community during the excursion which encourages reinhabitation of the land. Most importantly, while on the trip, an audio documentary was recorded to detail the experience of the travelers. Many voices such as those from members of the band office, health center,  and education system, were included allowing for community involvement beyond those participating in the excursion. The documentary was shared with the community and broadcasted on the radio in hopes of reaching a broad audience and allowing their stories and traditional knowledge to be heard and preserved for future generations to come. Reinhabitation and decolonization are dependent on one another but both rely on identifying a need for change regarding the use of land and ways of thinking and the river excursion, which helped members of the community share linguistic, cultural, historical, and geographical knowledge permitted for these realizations to occur.

After reading the article, I realize the significance of teaching from place and being aware of the traditional understandings of the community that I will be teaching in. Acknowledging my position in a given community will require me to commit to unlearning and relearning new perspectives and provide me with insight into the perceptions my students hold. It is important that I recognize my personal biases and remain aware of my own beliefs while being open to change and accepting of new ideas. I must remember that knowledge and curriculum can come from more than just textbooks and government regulated materials and that it is okay to ask for help when I do not feel confident in my knowledge about particular subject areas. Bringing elders and other voices into my classrooms will allow my students to learn from experts in their fields who can speak from experience and provide my students with true understandings. Encouraging learning from place in my classroom will require me to first acknowledge my position in the community but more importantly incorporate significant local knowledge and values into everyday classroom lessons.

 

 

It can be Googled, Should it be Taught?

Drrrrrrrrrrum roll, please! The second topic of the winter 2019 Great Ed-Tech Debate brought up the question of whether or not things that can be googled should be taught in schools providing my  EDTC 400 classmates and me with the opportunity to analyze a critical subject concerning our teaching practice. Initially, after reading the question, I thought to myself, “everything can be googled, if we don’t teach students things that can be googled, I won’t have a job” however, I quickly realized the question at hand required deeper thought and was not encouraging the elimination of schools and educators. My original thought was vague and influenced by my traditional school experiences but luckily our discussions challenged my position and surfaced new perspectives. Our class’ pre-vote suggests that many of my classmates may have had similar initial beliefs as roughly 90% of us disagreed that schools should not focus on things that can be googled. After the debate, our overall class verdict did not change, however, the gap between the two sides did shrink and I believe the majority of us left feeling less concrete about our views and stuck somewhere in the middle. Below I will discuss the arguments made in favor of both sides of the debate and some of my personal views after researching the topic further.

Class vote after the debate

Class vote prior to the debate

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arguments for the ‘Agree’ Side

The pro side of our discussion argued the idea that students should not have to learn things that can be googled such as math formulas or multiplication tables to allow for more time to be spent developing critical understandings and creative thinking skills. This does not mean that students will not do problems using math formulas and multiplication it just means teaching time should not be spent on explaining these because they can be found on google through our fingertips. Sydney had the daunting task of initiating the debate with very few supporters but did an awesome job making several valid arguments that caused our class to critically consider how we can make today’s classrooms more relevant to the 21st century.

1. Stepping Away From Memorization: In Sydney’s opening statement video, she explains how a vast amount of time in classrooms is spent having students memorize definitions, formulas, and theorems rather than being provided with the opportunity to innovatively think. She pointed out how these google-able facts align at the bottom of Bloom’s Taxonomy which does not permit students to develop higher level thinking. Spending time trying to remember specific details takes the focus of learning away from the big picture objectives and simply allows students to remember and regurgitate facts which does not demonstrate deep understandings. For example, Christine Blower states that “recall is not the only way to make sure you understand mathematical concepts” in an article that discusses how memorizing multiplication tables can be a waste of time because they are available at our fingertips. Emphasizing memorization in classrooms does not provide students with the opportunity to develop deep understandings and makes it difficult for them to apply and build on their knowledge in future courses. Thus, by not spending time in classrooms teaching things that can be googled, teachers will have more time to guide their students to critical and creative thoughts that will help them truly comprehend topics under study. Bloom's Taxonomy2. Promoting Personalized Learning:. By eliminating time dedicated to content that can be googled, we can allow students to focus on their personal interests and learning styles permitting diversity and encouraging individuality. For this to be successful the face of education will have to change and the role of an educator will shift from being the information provider to being a facilitator that can guide students to self direct their learning. Research conducted by the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan found that “students were more likely to voice interest and take greater ownership of their learning when they considered what they were studying to be personally interesting and relevant.” Thus, to help students gain deeper understandings, educators must design lessons that engage their students and allow for creative exploration. To do this, time will have to be used effectively, and as stated above, less time focused on memorizing facts will provide more time for developing knowledge. Today, our society prides itself in having a multitude of opportunities for citizens and their unique interests but if schools do not offer students the chance to explore concepts intriguing to them, individual talents will go undiscovered. 

3. Adapting to Modern Society: Traditional models of curriculum and instruction have become outdated and no longer support the needs of students to be able to excel in the 21st century. Due to the distribution of technology in our society, many students will have used Google search prior to entering their first classrooms thus, educators should use this to their advantage and continue to promote google searches in their classrooms.  Graeme Paton’s article addresses concerns made by students about schools not appropriately preparing them for the world of work. The article suggests that the focus of traditional curricula is on knowing ‘what’ rather than knowing ‘how’ which is causing students to find school irrelevant. Sugata Mitra’s article states that “we have a romantic attachment to skills from the past” and suggests that these skills such as handwriting, spelling, and instant recall of multiplication tables may no longer be seen as valuable in our society. By integrating google searches into our classrooms, we have the possibility to move away from teaching material that is regurgitated by students and rather practice skills such as collaboration, innovative thinking, and problem-solving which are considered important in today’s workforce. Turning the attention away from things that can be learned through Google will help focus time on application based knowledge and the justification as to why and how processes work. This approach will provide students with a diverse knowledge base independent of particular questions that they can apply to future situations.

Arguments for the ‘Disagree’ Side

The other side of the discussion focused on why students should still be taught things that can be googled because it encourages further exploration and eliminates the possibility of misinformation becoming embedded in our students’ brains. Despite information being more accessible than ever before, the role of an educator in teaching these concepts remains vital. Aurora led the discussion arguing that students still need to learn things that can be googled and offered powerful reasons to back up her case.

1. Overwhelming Abundance of Information: In Aurora’s opposition video, she mentions how “2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day” and I am certain that number doesn’t only intimidate me. The amount of content floating the web is overwhelming and it can become very challenging to decipher what is valid and applicable to topics under study, and what information should be ignored or filtered out. Many students do not know how to evaluate the information they find online to decide whether it is true or not as misinformation and fake news disguise themselves as reliable. Information online is also biased by the author and thus dangerous for students to believe without critically analyzing the perspective of those who contributed to writing the information. For example, when studying historical events of the Confederation of Canada, the stories of Europeans will be very different than the stories of Indigenous people and both will leave out the experiences of the other culture. The idea of an unbiased search is simply that, an idea, and  students should not have to rely on Google as their main source of information.

39140045531_8abb8e1b322. Stopping points: Googling information permits students to search their question, find their solution and end there thought process before it even begins. Being able to efficiently find answers to our questions online does not require students to develop deep understandings or further explore the topic under study. In EMTH 200, the value of extending problems further is consistently emphasized but with googling information, students are prone to finding the most concise solution which quickly ends their search and their learning opportunities. Aurora also pointed out that students who know they have access to the information being taught in class retain less during class suggesting that students may not actually be learning through google searches because they know they will be able to simply search it up again in their futures. In Terry Heicks’ article, he talks about how because of Google, individuals see knowledge as something searchable and always accessible but that is not the case. By googling answers, inquiry-based thinking is not required which hinders students’ abilities to develop deep understandings.

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3. Development of Life Skills: I believe the most important reason why we should not abandon teaching google-able topics in schools is that teaching and learning are not simply about the topic under study but rather about collaborating with others. Learning without google searches teaches students to respect their teachers and classmates and requires appropriate conversation skills permitting students to develop social skills that they will use for the rest of their lives through day to day classroom learning. The article “In Education, Back to Basics”  also emphasizes reading, writing, numeracy, health, and creativity as being basic skills all students should be proficient in without having to turn to Google. Computers may have an abundance of information but they can not inspire, encourage and motivate their students like a teacher who builds relationships with their students. Rita Pierson says “every child deserves a champion: An adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be” which inspires me as an educator to believe it is crucial that teachers are present in mentoring their students through their learning. Thinking back on my experience, I learned best from teachers who took the time to fully explain content, presented multiple ways of arriving at a solution, shared tricks for remembering details, and described problems in ways that adhered to my learning styles and these are all things beyond Google’s capabilities. Engaging in human interactions will help students develop necessary life skills without having to rely on Google.

So Where Do I Stand?

8431849810_87844d1666Our class discussion brought my attention to how with the right change in the face of education, it could be beneficial to not teach things that can be googled but before this change can happen, many questions have to be asked. What is important for students to learn? Where do we draw the line between what we do and do not need to teach? What about rural schools that have bad technology connections? How will we be able to fund all schools to have devices that provide students with access to Google all of the time? Will the achievement gap between rich and poor students continue to grow if we become reliant on Google? The list of questions continues and unfortunately, I do not have the answers. Thus, I believe the arguments agreeing that schools should not teach things that can be googled are critical for educators to understand as they are all incredibly valid and surface new perspectives regarding how schools could change the way our society functions, however, I believe the roles of Google remain very different from those of an educator. Teachers are trained to educate and be personable with their students unlike the Google search engine, and thus, educators’ role in the learning process of students is incredibly significant. Google is powerful but I believe we can learn even more from human interactions and I still see value in teaching things that can be googled.

 Photo Credit: One Way Stock Flickr via Compfight cc

-Miss.S

 

The Truth About Curriculum

Before Reading: 

I honestly never questioned the ‘how’ of curricula creation, but putting that into words makes me think that as a preservice educator, I definitely should. My understanding of how school curricula are developed stems from my personal experience in the Saskatchewan school system and the little discussion through some of my education courses thus far. I think curricula are developed by a group of people with some expertise or relation to the field of education whether that being that they had teaching experience or not. They decide what is critical for students to learn at each particular grade level and organize these ideas into outcomes and indicators in hopes that all educators are able to successfully cover the outlined topics in a given school year. When deciding what is important, I believe that society has a heavy influence and thus white eurocentric views continue to guide the decisions. I also know that in Canada, school curricula are provincially mandated thus I think provincial governments have the final say in what is implemented across the province. Once curriculum guidelines have been agreed upon, they become the new norm and are executed across the province. 

After Reading:

After reading Ben Levin’s chapter regarding curriculum policy and politics concerning what should be learned in schools I realized my understanding of curriculum development was fairly minimal and vague. Today, curricula are developed by bringing groups of experts together to draft new or revised versions by examining and evaluating current forms of curricula and suggestions for change that have been made. The two big concerns when designing curriculum are ‘what subjects should be taught ‘ and ‘what content should be included under each subject’ and there are various opinions regarding these questions. Curriculum decisions are shaped largely by “ideology, personal values, issues in the public domain, and individual interests” and because everyone has some relation to schooling, their personal experiences in school have a grand influence on educational policies. Post-secondary schools also have a significant influence due to the entrance requirements they have for students interested in enrolling in their programs. Levin opened my eyes to the power of politics regarding curriculum design and thus the influence that the economy and people in authoritative positions have on deciding what should be taught in schools. Levin also pointed out that once a curriculum has been approved by the provincial government, it is not always implemented successfully in schools because teachers’ practices are often influenced by what they know and value, and what is practical for them to implement.

I have learned that I was correct in thinking that the provincial government has the final authority when developing school curricula. Thus, “an individual in a key position can either shape of hold up decisions” despite the opinions of others which is concerning as one person in power should not have the authority to influence the lives of all students and the future generations of our society. The significant influence of one individual shifts the focus from being on providing sufficient education for all students, to meeting biased goals. Often experts in a particular subject area are consulted when making the decisions about what should be included but this can also be problematic because the result of expert dominated choices will only be implemented successfully by other masters of the subject. The reality is that most teachers, especially those with elementary education degrees, will have limited knowledge in particular subject areas and will not be able to teach the objectives developed by experts. I believe what is most problematic is that despite new curricula being developed, they are not being implemented appropriately in classrooms. For example, treaty education was introduced to Saskatchewan’s curriculum in 2007 and yet students are still not learning the truth about treaties in their classrooms. Designing curricula is a political process which means it is driven by the most vocal interests and marginalizes opinions of those whose matter. Levin’s chapter exposed me to the troubling truths about the process of designing curricula and emphasized the importance of considering who is designing curricula.

Technology has the POTENTIAL to ENHANCE Learning

The Great Ed-Tech Debate of 2019 commenced this week with the topic of whether or not technology in the classroom enhances learning up for discussion. Originally, I did not expect this subject to draw up much controversy within our EDTC 400 class because the course is focused on integrating technology into teaching and learning, and thus, I anticipated that we would all lean towards agreeing with the positive side of the statement. The pre-vote that was conducted showed my anticipation was correct as only one member of my class disagreed that technology enhances learning. Fortunately, the purpose of the debate was a success as we were able to critically think about the topic under discussion, openly consider both sides of the debate and left the conversation with less of a concrete opinion on whether or not technology truly does enhance learning. Personally, I did not switch my vote but many members of my class did as some excellent arguments were made that challenged our initially biased opinion.  Professor Katia explained how it is “very easy to start poking holes into arguments” and how this topic is not meant to be looked at in a “black and white fashion.” The final result of our vote provides proof that there are valid arguments to both sides of the subject and reminds us as educators that we must cautiously consider our beliefs before implementing them into our teaching environments. Below I discuss some of the major arguments made during our discussion and some of my personal thoughts regarding the topic.

Class vote prior to the debate

Class vote after the debate

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first point I want to address was critical to our discussion and something we all needed to be reminded of prior to sharing our views. The topic at hand was whether or not technology ENHANCES learning with the keyword being ‘enhance’ meaning further improve the quality, value, or extent of learning. Although the topics are related, there are different arguments focusing on whether or not technology should be in the classroom making it critical to remember the keyword ‘enhance’ and focus our attention to it.

Arguments for the Pro Side

Global Collaboration: Technology allows individuals to connect with anyone around the world, and thus, provides students with access to learn from experts of the particular field they are studying in. As an example,  Ashlee drew our attention to a heartwarming Speaking Exchange CNA video where students in Brazil connect with seniors in the United States to develop their English speaking skills. This would never have been possible without the use of technology and even if there were skilled English teachers at their school the students still would have missed out on opportunities. Every student was partnered with a senior permitting the students to receive one on one learning opportunities which would have been impossible for an educator to provide to the same extent. The students also were able to teach their partners some of their first language providing them with another opportunity to learn through the teaching which helps to develop deep understandings. In situations such as this, technology provides contemporary possibilities that enhance learning for everyone involved.

Technology as a Resource: Educators are able to use technology as a resource in their classrooms in many ways. In an article titled 8 Ways Technology is Improving Education, the author expresses how through technology we have access to simulations, models, and virtual manipulatives which all offer beneficial visual representations in a timely fashion. For example, when teaching a lesson on fractions, instead of teachers having their students draw pie graphs for every change in the denominator a virtual manipulative could be used to save time and represent the relationships between various fractions which would permit deeper understandings of the lesson being taught. In my EMTH 200 course, the ability to reflect on and extend problems beyond finding the solution is highly emphasized. With the use of technology, students are able to extend problems beyond the means of the classroom and make global connections to the topic under study providing them with more beneficial learning opportunities. Technology can also be used as a resource for communication providing for a collaborative learning environment and allowing students to connect with one another and their teachers. By encouraging open communication and building relationships within the classroom, students may become more engaged in their learning and have the desire to participate which ultimately will lead to enhanced learning possibilities.

Multimedia Representations: It is commonly known that all students are unique and have various learning style preferences. By presenting subject material through various multimedia representations, educators can adhere to the varying learning needs of their students. Courts and Tucker discuss how Audio (voiceovers and podcasts), videos, simulations, and blogs can be expanded and used to enhance learning for all students in their journal about technology in the classroom. Multimedia can be integrated at simple and static levels such as using power points or sharing videos but it can also encourage active learning through the use of simulations and digital conversations. By incorporating multimedia representations into classrooms, educators can also design lessons to include the interests of their students which again permits engagement and thus the quality of learning available for students.

Arguments for the Con Side

Technology as a Distraction: We all have experienced technology distracting us in one way or another in our daily lives. By incorporating technology into the classroom, students may be distracted by the flashy visuals and sound effects. Technology can also cause distractions in the classroom when it fails to operate smoothly. I remember teachers struggling to load videos or connect to audio being a frequent occurrence in my classrooms thus permitting time for my classmates and me to visit but causing everyone to be off topic and teachers having difficulty regaining the class’ focus. Julia Klaus’ article explains how students often become caught up in the excitement of technology and forget that the purpose of having it in the classroom is still for learning.

Cheating, Plagiarism & Academic Dishonesty: Reanne brought our class’ attention to an idea that I would never have thought of myself, but believe that it is critical to consider. Providing students access to technology gives them means to google any question they have been assigned with answering and we all know it is not difficult to copy and paste it without having to think for ourselves. Students also have more means to share answers with one another through devices without the teachers knowing they are doing so. In Mathew Lynch’s article, he states “students often do not think that what they are doing is wrong” when using modern-day methods such as Google to cheat. Some educators do lesson appropriate use of technology and academic conduct but this takes away from their time to teach curriculum objectives which can also be problematic.

Ill Considered when Implemented: Personally, I believe this is the strongest argument for the opposing side. Students who do not have devices available to them at home may be inexperienced in skills such as typing or researching topics which will put them behind in course work if this is expected from them for assignments. In Technology, But Not for All, Liz Riggs mentions how despite the intention of educational technology being to “level the playing field”, there are studies that show the achievement gap between rich and poor students is growing due to the implementation of technology in classrooms. The internet has become an incredibly popular commodity but there is still a digital divide that exists leaving low-income families with less technological access and knowledge. Educators cannot expect that all of their students have access to the internet and are equally comfortable performing tech-savvy skills.  44372487464_c039a9e5e1                               Photo Credit: verchmarco Flickr via Compfight cc

In Conclusion 

It is undeniable that technology plays a critical role in the 21st-century society that we are living in, and to quote John Dewey, an inspirational education theorist, “If we teach students today, as we did yesterday, we are robbing them of tomorrow.” Technology did not always exist which is why traditionalist educators continue to argue that it is not required to provide high-quality learning without it, however, the world has changed and it is crucial that education adapts to these changes to provide students with skills applicable to today. By utilizing technology in the classroom to enhance learning, educators provide there students with a glimpse at the wonderful powers of technology and the endless possibilities that it provides us with.

Image result for george couros technologyAfter being exposed to arguments for both sides to the question; “does technology enhance learning?” my personal belief is that it can. I am not a firm believer that it always will and I do believe that there are implications that must be addressed but I have faith that when implemented correctly, the POTENTIAL for technology to ENHANCE learning is incredibly high. As a future educator, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn how to correctly implement technology into my future teaching environments so that I can hopefully provide all of my students with the best learning opportunities in the years to come. Thank you, Ashlee and Reanne, for leading an awesome discussion and engaging our class to develop new insights and perspectives. After just one debate, I recognize the value in being able to discuss important topics from directly opposing sides and look forward to having my beliefs be challenged and gaining more new perspectives in the weeks to come!

Sincerely,

-Miss. S

Troubling Aspects of the “Good” Student

Common-sense ideas have been developed by the dominant culture of society and instilled in us through the varying social influences that we are surrounded by. The narratives tell us how individuals should behave in particular situations and provide guidelines that everyone should abide by despite never being explicitly taught to do so. According to the common-sense structured in our society, there is one and only one definition of a “good” student. “Good” students are compliant, obedient and focused. They sit quietly in their desks, raise their hands to ask permission to speak, and do not question the material being taught. In Kumashiro’s chapter, he states that due to common-sense he has been exposed to, he once believed “learning meant completing certain assignments and repeating on exams the correct definitions or themes” leaving no room for the expression of personal reflections or perspectives. Common sense tells us that “good” students are always present, and diligently meet all the requirements of their assignments on time permitting them to consistently receive high grades. Unfortunately, these common-sense ideas are oppressive and do not encourage students to critically think.

The common-sense definition of the “good” student privileges pupils who belong to the dominant culture and are fully aware of what is expected of them in this context. Those who have grown up with the common-sense beliefs are not challenged to unlearn their ideas of what makes a “good” student and relearn new notions, and thus they are naturally able to adapt to the normative trends.  Students who have a particular learning style that permits them to memorize information and regurgitate it on standardized exams also benefit from the common-sense description. If one requires hands-on work, time to reflect and question the lectured information, and activity breaks to avoid becoming restless, they will be disadvantaged and their performance will not live up to the expectation of a “good” student. Learning for students who were influenced by common-sense values that vary from those of the authoritative culture will also be hindered. By allowing common-sense to control the thoughts around what makes a “good” student, only those who belong to the dominant clique and fit the normative learning style have the opportunity to be considered successful.

The concept of a “good” student eliminates the possibility to see changes in our society towards social justice. The common-sense definition of a “good” student is strictly one perspective and despite having some strengths, the weaknesses are apparent as it insists on compliance and privileges students who fit the norm. By valuing obedience in our school systems, we are teaching students to be compliant citizens rather than encouraging them to wonder, question, and challenge the social norms. Obedience also eliminates the opportunity for collaborative reflection which would permit varying perspectives to be shared and create opportunities for students to learn from their peers. Adopting the common-sense idea regarding “good” students permits students to resist learning things that reveal the problematic nature of an individual’s partial knowledge which allows the troubling normative stories to continue to shine and disregards the need for change. Every individual has some knowledge, but if we are resistant to questioning our personal beliefs, the dominant culture in society will continue to control our ways of thinking.

Deciphering Digital Technology

In 1993, Peter Mansbridge had CBC viewers glued to their chairs, ears directed toward the speakers, and eyes bug-eyed towards their screens when he announced “There is a revolution going on in rec rooms, offices, and classrooms around the world. A revolution in which fifteen million people are taking part … night and day through a computer phenomenon called internet” on his evening news broadcast. Today, twenty-six years later, the internet has become so much more than a place for “sharing scientific data, arguing philosophy, or passing on cooking tips and gossip”. Today, digital technology is an incredibly powerful tool and has drastic implications on how we live our everyday lives.

This week’s EDTC 400 lecture provided a brief history regarding the evolution of modern-day internet. Class discussion encouraged critical thought regarding all of the advancements and possibilities that technology makes attainable and, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the conflicts that arise as a result of technology.

Being born in 1999, I myself never lived without the internet but I have experienced some of the major advancements that have occurred over the years. Yes, we really did use paper maps and compasses when planning road trips rather than GPS’s built into handheld devices, and yes we knocked on our friends’ doors to let them know we were at their houses rather than sending text messages saying “here”.  In 2005, the first YouTube video was shared and in 2008, Michael Welsch reported that there are over nine-thousand hours of YouTube videos being uploaded every day but the real story isn’t in the numbers. Today, YouTube has allowed for new forms of identity, community, and expression to emerge and YouTube is just one example of digital technology that has allowed people to connect across the world, stay up to date with people living both near and far, and share our lives with others. Unfortunately, the advancements of technology are sometimes overlooked and we fail to recognize the harm and conflict that is also a result.

Photo Credit: Pomax Flickr via Compfight cc

Are they really attractions?

One of the critical enticements of digital technology is that it allows individuals to control the way they are perceived by others. Yes, we have the power to filter our posts, click the back button, block unwanted viewers and delete comments all instantaneously but does this really mean we are in control? Unfortunately, users often become so consumed with trends of social media platforms that we are blinded to the power of the company and our loss of personal control. For example, Instagram has the authority to withhold an individual’s ‘likes’ to their posts in hopes of motivating their users to be continually checking their accounts and using their platform. Chamath Palihapitiya owned up to this global problem of online ecosystems when he said “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works” in an interview referring to the impacts that receiving ‘likes’ on a post has for an individual. Similarly to Instagram, Snapchat created the concept of ‘snap streaks’ to ensure that their users are frequently using the platform throughout the day to save their streaks with their Snapchat friends. Another example is the algorithms that Facebook has developed to decide what shows up on its users’ timelines. If Facebook decides it doesn’t want your friends to see your recent posts it can withhold them which simultaneously takes the control away from its users. Regrettably, the manipulative behaviors of these companies are often overlooked because we become so invested with the platform and thus, are unaware of how we are being controlled. 

Another appeal of digital technology is the idea that it brings equality to all users as anyone with access to devices is free to share and develop their digital voice. Unfortunately, money talks even in the virtual world and net neutrality does not exist.  Sites such as Netflix or Facebook are able to become more discoverable through web browsers by paying money to internet providers to ensure that people can arrive at their sites efficiently. Unfortunately, this means that personal bloggers will be less accessible and thus not everyone on the internet as an equal voice following in the footsteps of real-world society.

The convenience of digital technology and in particular smartphones are probably the biggest attraction of them all but smartphones have not only changed how we do daily tasks, but they have also changed us. An article by Eric Andrew shares how smartphones are causing real damage to our minds and relationships. Initially, this comment appeared exaggerated but considering basic examples of everyday life tasks helped surface the truth in the statement. For example, our abilities to remember, write, and focus have all negatively declined. Due to the efficiency of being able to twiddle our thumbs and find information regarding any topic online or being able to scroll through our text messages or reminders, we are no longer required to remember things because we have devices that keep track of them for us. Typing skills have replaced our abilities to handwrite which may not be a m2703090926_8e4e9feb4aajor issue however when children receive a card from their grandma and are unable to decipher the writing I believe it becomes a concern. Lastly, cell phones have proven to be major distractions when driving, at work, or sitting in class and because they encourage the art of multitasking, thus, it is becoming more difficult for individuals to focus on a single task.  

Photo Credit: bill barber Flickr via Compfight cc

Digital technology continues to amaze me as the opportunities it makes possible appear to be endless. It is important that as a user of social platforms, I remain aware that all of the attractions also have problematic implications. It is crucial that citizens remember there is life outside of the digital world and that true social connections happen face to face with no screens involved. In Sherry Turkle’s inspiring Tedtalk, she emphasizes how we use conversations with each other to learn how to have conversations with ourselves which is essential for our mental health.

Tying it into Education

As a future educator, this week’s discussions encouraged me to critically think about how technology should be integrated into the classroom effectively. Two models were brought to my attention including the TPACK model and the SAMR model. The TPACK model is designed to remind teachers who are bringing technology into their classroom that content (what you teach) and pedagogy (how you teach) must remain the basis to enhance learning in the classroom. Teachers are encouraged to include the best technologies that will support their students as they learn the required content in their classrooms and that support their pedagogical approaches for any given lesson. The SAMR model is another helpful source to guides teachers when integrating technology into the classroom. It insists on the idea that technology can either enhance or transform classroom activities and depending on the particular lesson one run of the staircase may be a more suitable choice than the others. I believe that it is important to acknowledge that despite the staircase formation fo the model that makes redefinition appear to be held at the highest value, all four stages of the model can positively influence a classroom if implemented at the correct time.

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We have come a long way since the phenomenon of the internet was first announced in 1993. The power of technology is incredible but it also requires that users remember power offers both advantages and disadvantages simultaneously. We have all experienced digital technology both benefit our lives and add new challenges. I am grateful for the various means of technology available to me but it is important that I remain cautious about what the attractions of technology actually make possible. I believe that as an educator in the 21st century, it is crucial that I insist on allowing technology to have a role in my classrooms in order to provide my students with opportunities to learn about digital citizenship and how to use technology appropriately.

-Miss. S