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.
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.
Teachers 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.
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.
Importance 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.
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.
Keys 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.
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.