Miss. S as a Mentor

EDTC 400 is designed to help future educators develop their Personal Learning Networks (PLN’s) and as part of the course, my EDTC 400 peers and I had the opportunity to practice our “teaching skills” related to technology by mentoring EDTC 300 students over the course of the semester. The task required us to provide constructive comments on their blog posts to offer them support and guidance with the technical aspects and engage with them in content related conversations. We were also expected to interact with them via other course platforms including Slack and Twitter to help them begin building their own PLN’s. Over the course of the semester, I tracked my interactions with my mentees and it has been awesome looking back on the progress and growth that both my mentees and myself experienced throughout the semester.

After first hearing about the mentoring component of the course, I was hesitant about having to support other university students, especially those who were further into the program than myself. It sounded like a huge responsibility and I was weary that I had forgotten what I learned in EDTC 300 (thank goodness for documented learning and being able to reference my blog posts) and would not be able to benefit them in any way or provide helpful advice.  Thankfully, I knew these negative thoughts were problematic and that if I kept a positive attitude about being an online mentee that it would be a good opportunity to become more comfortable with teaching roles. Being a mentor allowed me to connect with other educators and expand upon my Educational Technology knowledge from various perspectives making it a rewarding experience. The mentoring experience through online means was new to me but I believe that it benefited both myself and my mentees making it an advantageous opportunity for us on our journey to becoming educators.

Meet my Mentees

 

I was partnered up with three creative EDTC 300 students who persevered throughout the semester and were able to combat their technology fears of Twitter, Zoom, and blogging.

 

Parker Mccormick

Mr. Parker MCormick

Mr. Parker McCormick is a second-year student in the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina in the middle years program. He began this semester brand new to the blogging world but picked up very fast and began creating an organized online space to present his learnings. For his learning project, he committed himself to learning French and consistently amazed me with his attention to detail and dedication to truly understanding what he was learning rather than memorizing it simply for the assignment. Parker also became active on his Twitter account and appeared slightly hesitant to post his own tweets but I noticed him engaging with his ed-tech peers often. Bonne chance Parker!

Jonah Norman-Gray

Mr. Jonah Norman-Gray

Mr. Jonah Norman-Gray is finishing the final semester of his education degree and looking forward to convocating in June and beginning his teaching career. Jonah decided to learn magic for his learning project and kept his mentors and classmates very entertained with his new tricks and progress throughout the semester. He challenged himself to present his learnings in multiple different forms making his blog site engaging for his readers and hopefully provided him with beneficial experience to take with him to his classroom. Jonah also impressed me by adding creativity and humor to his twitter posts. Congratulations on finishing your degree Jonah, your future students will be lucky to have you!

Shyla Froshaug

Miss. Shyla Froshaug

Last but not least, I followed along Miss. Shyla Forshaug‘s EDTC 300 learning journey. Shyla is also finishing up her fourth year in the education program with hopes to teach elementary students in the near future. For her learning project, Shyla tackled the tedious role of learning to sew and despite having various difficulties, I believe she learned a lot and gained valuable experience that she will continue to reflect and expand on. Out of my three mentees, Shyla appeared to be the most hesitant to become active on Twitter and expressed fears of participating in Twitter chats but today you would never know. She has personalized her twitter account and is often sharing wonderful educational technology resources. Congratulations Shyla, and all the best to you in your future as an educator!

Reflecting on my Experience 

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Being a mentor was a rewarding experience and the multitudes of learning that I walk away with impressed me especially since I was initially hesitant towards the assignment. As a mentor, I was able to practice providing constructive advice which is something I believe we can all do more of as future educators. Often I find myself keeping some of my thoughts reserved to avoid offending others but as a mentor, it was important for me to provide my mentees with advice that would help them do their best in the class which required me to be critical. I also was able to firsthand see how just as students will learn from their teachers, educators themselves will learn from their students. My mentees opened my eyes to new perspectives and ways of thinking about education and incorporating technology into the classroom. They also shared many resources, tools, apps, and websites that I look forward to referencing in my future and utilizing in my future classrooms. The relationships I built with my mentees were mutually beneficial and that makes me look forward to building bonds with my future students that will allow us to learn together.

The process of mentoring also provided some challenges that required me to grow as an educator to overcome them. Firstly, I had to tackle my internal worries and fears. When I found out that two of my mentees were in their final semester of there education degrees, I thought there was no way that I would be able to provide them with valuable advice. Fortunately, staying positive and reminding myself that I already had learned the content that they would be exploring helped me to realize that my prior knowledge and experiences would be beneficial to them and that they did not require a master of the subject. Simply having someone to provide support and encouragement in our lives can go a long way and I was able to be that for my mentees. Secondly, I was challenged by having to strictly rely on online interactions and never had the privilege of meeting my mentees face to face. This was troublesome because I only knew them for what they shared about themselves online and had to remind myself that they have lives outside of EDTC 300. This connects to the third challenging component which occurred when my mentees were late with posting their blogs. I became concerned when there was no new content for me to comment on but I had to remind myself that it was my job to support and encourage them rather than to step on their toes. It was challenging for me to have to rely on others to post their work before I could make contributions to their learning and fulfill my responsibilities as a mentor but I think this challenge will always exist as an educator and thus I am glad I was able to experience it as a preservice educator. As an educator, I have to accept that there will be times that students will fall behind on there work and that it will be my responsibility to provide guidance and suggestions to help keep them on track. The mentoring process had its challenges but I believe that by being present and open about it, both my mentees and myself gained valuable knowledge from the experience.

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Through my EDTC 300 and 400 experiences, I have learned the importance of interacting with my fellow educators. Learning alongside each other allows us to see ideas from various perspectives, challenge one another, celebrate each other’s victories and encourage one another through difficulties. By using #edtc300 I was able to engage with the entire EDTC 300 class rather than just my personal mentees and further expand my PLN. I am grateful for all of the relationships that I built this semester and I look forward to continuing to interact with my EDTC peers so that we can all become the best teachers that we can be. I am honored to be part of the EDTC 2019 team of teachers and wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

Sincerely,

Miss. S

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EDTC 400 – Summary of Learning

Hi all,

My EDTC 400 learning journey is coming to an end and I am so excited to share with you a video that summarizes my experiences and growth. Thank-you Katia for providing myself and my EDTC 400 peers with the opportunity to discuss important topics concerning the integration of technology into teaching and learning. As a preservice teacher, I value the critical conversations around technology as it relates to classroom practice that I was able to engage in through my Ed-tech journey. Despite my completion of EDTC 400, my learning about integrating technology into the teaching practice has only just begun and I look forward to continuous learning in the field of Ed-tech!

EDTC 400 – Summary of Learning Script

This is me, a second year Education student fairly confident that I had a great understanding of Educational Technology and the Digital platforms that dominate our society thanks to my EDTC 300 learning experiences. Turns out, there was still much more to learn. This semester allowed me to further explore topics discussed in EDTC 300 but in greater relation to implementing them into teaching and learning opportunities. The student-led approach to learning in this class opened my eyes to modern teaching strategies and the critical class discussions concerning the effects of emerging technologies and media in school and society challenged my personal beliefs and allowed me to see various perspectives that are essential to consider.

First, let’s take a look at my journey through the Great Ed-Tech Debate series.

Debate #1 – Technology in the classroom enhances learning.

Agree Statement – Of course, technology enhances learning, it provides global collaboration, can be used as an instantaneous resource to endless information, and allows material to be represented in multiple different forms.

Disagree Statement – But technology is also a distraction, it permits plagiarism and cheating, and is causing a digital divide among our students.

Debate #2 – Schools should not focus on teaching things that can be googled.

Agree Statement- By not teaching things that can be googled, the focus of education will stem away from memorization, personalized learning will be promoted, and students will be better prepared to live in our modern society.

Disagree Statement- Yes, but it is difficult to decipher what is true with the overwhelming abundance of information online and students should be proficient in basic skills in areas such as reading, writing, numeracy, and creativity without relying on Google.

Debate #3Openness and sharing in schools are unfair to our students.

Agree statement – the internet is forever and teachers should not be contributing to their students’ emerging digital footprints or exposing students to greater probabilities of being cyberbullied or embarrassed

Disagree Statement – Yes, but sharing students work online permits open conversations between students, teachers, administration, and parents and the benefits of documented learning are undeniable in multiple aspects of learning, including the emotional, cognitive, and social strands.

Debate #4Cellphones should be banned in the classroom.

Agree Statement – Of course, cellphones should be banned in classrooms, they are distracting, disrespectful, disruptive and dangerous.

Disagree Statement – No, Cellphones are a major part of society, provide immediate access to online tools and resources and permit inquiry-based learning thus it would be a disservice to our students to forbid them of use of their cellphones in classrooms.

Debate #5 – Technology is a force for equity in society.

Agree Statement- Technology gives youth a voice, enhances education across the world and helps people living with impairments or disabilities in their daily lives.

Disagree Statement- But doesn’t technology create even larger divides? Technology only seems to provide equitable opportunities for those who can afford the devices and are already belonging to majority groups.

Debate #6Social media is ruining childhood.

Agree Statement- Students no longer go outside and play, or have meaningful face-to-face conversations with others and they can be incredibly mean to one another via cyberbullying. Social media is associated with extreme health risks and there are numerous basic skills that children are no longer developing.

Disagree Statement- Yes, but think about all of the new possibilities. Social media has opened doors to new opportunities for children to learn, create, and collaborate, provided them with global support, and offers them a voice which I never had as a child.

Debate #7Public education has sold its soul to corporate interests.

Agree Statement- Of course, public education has sold its soul to corporate interests. There are common core standards that guide learning across the country and teachers are forced into teaching to the test.

Disagree Statement- In order to afford technology in classrooms schools must rely on corporations but they do practice ethical consumption. Corporations may be unavoidable but schools still value and prioritize the needs of their students.

Debate #8 – We have become too dependent on technology and we’d be better off returning to the “good old days” before the Internet and smartphones took over.

Agree Statement- I rely on my phone to navigate me through the city, monitor my banking and google every question asked if the answer is not obvious to me immediately. We have become unsocial beings with our heads always down and that is problematic.

Disagree Statement- Yes, but don’t you like being able to call home during stressful weeks, communicate with your friends across the world and participate in digital activism by supporting cause-related movements?

Debate #9Educators have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice and fight oppression.

Agree Statement- We owe it to our students to demonstrate exemplary citizenship, advocate for social justice, and fight oppression to strive towards equitable opportunities for all and teach our students how to critically think and make informed decisions.

Disagree Statement- Don’t you think teachers are in the public eye enough? Now you want to draw more attention by discussing important issues and brainwashing your students with your biased views?

The opportunity to debate serious topics concerning technology and its effects on education has taught me the value in having discussions from directly opposing sides. There are often two valid sides to every story but we can be quick to agree with the majority without considering perspectives from opposing points of views and that is problematic. I have learned that tangent conversations are unavoidable when a class discussion is opened up but that sometimes these conversations provide the best learning opportunities and thus, they should not be shut down.  I also learned that it is okay to be unsure, or lie in the middle as long as you have taken the time to become informed about perspectives from both sides of a topic. My thoughts concerning some topics still remain a jumble but I am still learning and through classroom experiences, I hope to find clarity in my beliefs. Personally, the debate component of this course was the most powerful for me and where I found myself experiencing the most growth as an educator.

Additionally, this course provided me with opportunities to practice many roles of an educator which I will be forever grateful for. Mentoring EDTC 300 students was not always easy through online means because I never got to meet them. At times I became concerned when their weekly blog posts were late but I had to remind myself that I did not know their stories and that it was my job to be there to support and encourage them but not to step on their toes. I hope my mentees recognized the value in being able to ask me questions and reference the links I provided them with to my EDTC 300 course work, and twitter page because I believe having supportive role models can greatly improve one’s learning experience. The mini-lesson component of this course also provided me with an opportunity to be a teacher by requiring me to design and implement a lesson which proved to be more daunting than I ever would have expected. I was surprised by the large amount of detail that is required in lesson planning and the feedback I received reminded me how the underlying messages of one’s lesson can be problematic. I have learned that beyond the content of a lesson, it is important to examine safety considerations, possible adaptations, and the various ways diverse students may interpret the ideas being presented. As a preservice educator, I believe the best way to become comfortable with the roles and responsibilities of a teacher is to practice them and EDTC 400 allowed me to do just that.

Lastly, I continue to build my e-portfolio through my WordPress account that allows me to record my learning reflections, formally share my opinions, join in conversations to further my learning, demonstrate my growth as an educator, and present myself positively online. I also became active on twitter once again by sharing resources, using hashtags and retweeting or commenting on other posts. Twitter opens up learning conversations, allows important ideas to be addressed, inspires me as an educator, and provides an opportunity to engage with others globally about a specific topic. Focusing my twitter page around math education and education technology has allowed me to create a network of followers who have similar interests in which I can learn from and interact with. By creating a professional digital presence, I have taken control over how I am perceived online and thus, what employers find out about me when they conduct their search.

As a preservice teacher, I am a lead learner who is responsible for representing and encouraging positive uses of technology. It is crucial that I am aware of how technology influences education and the positive and negative effects that it can have on learning environments. Our world is becoming increasingly more digital and as an educator, I am responsible for exemplifying digital literacy, citizenship, and activism and helping my students benefit from technology which requires me to first and foremost become informed, remain open to learning, and be willing to embrace change.

Teachers have a Platform to Change the World

This week marks the final segment of the winter 2019 EDTC 400 Great Ed-tech Debate Series, and what a rush it has been. Our last topic up for discussion was whether or not Educators have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice and fight oppression which was a perfect way to close out and summarize our debates. All semester long, we have been considering topics surrounding digital technology and its influence on education and how we as educators can provide equitable education for all of our students while integrating technology into the classroom. This week challenged us to reflect on our learning through our EDTC 300 and EDTC 400 journey and ultimately take a stance on what believe concerning the theme of this course. Through my learning Ed-tech learning journey, I have come to believe that teachers are responsible for integrating technology into their classroom and setting positive examples on social media platforms to support our students and help them be successful in our technology-based society and I recognize that this may include acknowledging controversial topics. With that being said, there are always two valid sides to our debate topics and thus, I was excited to hear arguments specifically from the opposition in this debate because if this class has taught me anything, it is that there are two sides to every story and educators must be willing to have their beliefs challenged and remain open to continuous learning. Our pre-vote and post-vote results showed little discrepancy and exhibited that majority of my Ed-tech peers shared my belief concerning teachers responsibility to use technology to promote social justice and fight oppression as I had expected, however, we were not in a unanimous agreement which illustrates that there are valid arguments for both sides even after studying the value and implications of educational technology. 

Class Vote Prior to the Debate

Class Vote Ater the Debate

 

 

 

 

 

 

As in many of our debates, an important tangent arose rather quickly that was critical to discuss and understand in regards to this week’s topic. Throughout these debates, these conversations have illustrated how teachers can not predict where discussions will go but unexpected ideas brought up by students are critical to discuss and often can lead to the most important learning opportunities. We spent a large amount of our class discussion time portraying the importance of understanding the difference between fact and opinion. Facts cannot be ignored and as much as I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, one’s opinion becomes wrong when it begins to disregard facts. Examples such as the anti-vaccination movement where people are choosing not to vaccinate their children since they believe vaccines can cause autism was brought up in class to help illustrate the importance of knowing the facts. This belief has been proved wrong numerous times yet as a result of these wrong opinions, many measles outbreaks have occurred in Western Countries despite the measles virus being previously considered extinct. It is believed that the role of the internet to help spread anti-vaccination ideas had a large influence on strengthening the movement at the expense of public health and safety. This example shows how fast information can spread online, how believable fake news can be, and the importance of becoming informed because misguided opinions can have seriously damaging results.

Magnifying Glass, Facts, Examine, Investigation

Image from geralt on Pixabay

Arguments for the Agree Side 

Mr. Jesse Simpson took the stance on this debate that was in agreement that teachers are responsible for using technology and social media to advocate for social justice. His introduction video includes three main points that explain why he agrees with the statement under study that are backed up with research, statistics, and valid modern day examples. Jesse’s main message was that teachers should use their voices to speak up about social justice issues and fight oppression and he connected social media and technology as one mean of allowing educators’ voices to be heard.

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Photo Credit: Ken Whytock Flickr via Compfight cc

1. Remaining Neutral is Problematic: Jesse’s first point addressed a theme that I have been exposed to frequently as a member of the University of Regina’s Faculty of Education. He addressed how one can never be neutral and that when we pretend to be neutral we are siding with the dominant group and thus supporting the existing oppression and privilege rather than challenging it. Jesse discussed how education is indeed political and shared a quote from Alyssa Dunn that states “education, at its core, is inherently politically driven”, which highlights the importance of acknowledging political issues in classrooms. Discussions concerning racism, sexism. classism. treaties, ableism, gun violence, or the LGBTQ community just to name a few may be difficult, however, it is the uncomfortable feelings that result from these conversations that will initiate the change we need to see in our world to strive towards social justice. Avoiding these topics and in particular, the ones that directly influence our students ignores the fears, interests, and concerns of our students and demonstrates that we do not care about the oppression they may be experiencing. As expressed in an article by Tim Walker, neutrality is a political choice that bolsters the status quo which is incredibly problematic and unfair to our students. What we discuss as educators will illustrate our values, concerns, and who we are as a person and thus, to be activist role models for our students we as educators cannot choose to remain “neutral”.

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Photo Credit: journolink2019 Flickr via Compfight cc

2. Risks of Staying Silent Online: Many people believe that educators should remain silent online to avoid being discovered by their students on social media platforms and projecting their biased opinions on to their students. However, teachers are responsible for preparing our students to be successful in our world and as digital technology continues to influences society, it is important for teachers to model digital citizenship. Jesse explained how since the majority of Fake News is political in nature, it is important for educators to speak up to ensure their students are not left to navigate lies on their own. Staying silent will allow misinformed news to reign supreme which is the last thing we want for our students. As a teacher, it is critical that we learn the facts and provide them to our students so that they have appropriate understandings of the issues happening around them and are able to make informed decisions concerning the stance they choose to take. Similar to neutrality, silence is complicity as taking a silence stance demonstrates agreeing with the issue that you refuse to comment on. An article written by Mathew Lynch explains how hovering will not keep kids safe online but demonstrating exemplary digital citizenship, encouraging digital literacy, and insisting on digital etiquette, respect, and responsibility will help our students be prepared to thrive in our digital world. By choosing to allow fake news to circulate and thrive rather than speaking up and addressing it, educators will do a major disservice to their students.

Business, Carrier, Company, Earth, Hand, Hands, Holding

Image from Activedia on Pixabay

3. Technology and Social Media can be used effectively: As stated by Jesse, his third idea is less of an argument and more of a guide. We know neutrality and silence is extremely problematic but it may still be difficult for educators to know how to effectively use technology and social media to speak up against political issues. Firstly, teachers must become informed about the various platforms and learn how to comfortably navigate their features. Once we understand how to use technology and social media effectively, we will be able to support our students and guide them in doing the same.  Putting that idea to words makes me incredibly grateful for the opportunity for my EDTC 300 and EDTC 400 learning experiences and the valuable knowledge that I have gained through their teachings. I feel prepares to act as a role model, guide, and learner alongside my students as the influence of digital technology continues to persist. Secondly, Jesse emphasized the importance of sharing and getting involved. As citizens, our responsibilities travel well beyond being law-abiding and paying our taxes as we must actively engage in activities concerning civic affairs and address the root causes of social issues while actively striving for solutions. Using technology and social media can benefit both teachers and students and together, the education community has the power to make a difference and change the world.

Arguments for the Disagree Side

Mr. Daniel Lee approached the opposing side to the statement suggesting that teachers are not responsible for using technology and social media to promote social justice and fight oppression. Daniel shared three main points that were surprisingly persuasive and challenged my peers and me despite us all being Ed-tech students. His main focus was that teachers significantly influence their students and should not be sharing biased opinions that their students will absorb. 

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Photo Credit: Victor Wong (sfe-co2) Flickr via Compfight cc

1. Teachers are Under Constant Scrutiny from the Public: Due to the significant role that teachers play in the lives of our society’s youth and the future generations fo our world, teachers work is under the public eye and often unfairly criticized or judged. There is no denying that part of the education profession is being able to justify our teachings to the public while having them picked apart by others who fail to offer recognition, support, or gratitude. Since almost everyone has had experience in the education system, we all have opinions concerning how schooling should look and what should be taught in classrooms and there is no surprise that there are variances among these opinions. An article by Richard Worzel discusses how parents claim that they do not always understand what happens in the classroom and that they worry about the education that their children are receiving because it is different from their personal experiences in the school system. It is not unreasonable for parents to strive to ensure that their children are receiving the best education possible, but they must accept that education is changing with the needs of students being the first priority and that teachers are not solely responsible for the education that children receive. Parents are quick to place blame on teachers because they are at the front face of the education their children receive, however, it is also important to acknowledge that there are many other factors that influence the education that students receive. The fact that teachers are consistently judged for their approaches and behaviours both inside and outside of classrooms supports the belief that remaining neutral and not speaking up online is the best way to avoid scrutiny and insulting backlash or media attention that could be threatening to their careers.

Binding Contract, Contract, Secure, Agreement, Binding

Image by stevepb from Pixabay

2. The Education System is Political: Both Daniel and Jesse acknowledged that the education system is political but unlike Jesse who acknowledged the importance of addressing these political issues, Daniel expressed reasons for doing the exact opposite and keeping political opinions private. He shared a CBC article that examines the story of an educator who was denied a contract because she was found to be sleeping with her male partner which denies a clause in the contract that forbids any sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. This example exhibits a multitude of troubling thoughts but staying on topic it demonstrates how it is difficult for teachers to separate their personal and professional lives. In some schools, teachers are expected to conform to certain beliefs to avoid risking expulsion and thus advocating for social justice change would be bold and most likely viewed as inappropriate. Both teachers’ private and professional actions are constantly under a lens and thus, many educators believe they are better off staying silent rather than risking their careers by advocating for social justice and fighting oppression.

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Photo Credit: wuestenigel Flickr via Compfight cc

3. Students are Easily Influenced: Daniels’ last point addressed the popular idea of comparing children to sponges because they are easily influenced and absorb information and ideas that surround them. Students look up to their teachers as role models and believe that their teachers are always right (especially elementary grade level students) and thus, many people believe teachers should remain neutral rather than teaching their students what to believe. It is critical that students are taught to critically think for themselves but this may not always be possible if teachers are expressing their personal views as the only view in their classrooms and not exposing students to both sides. The rational part of the brain is not fully developed until the age of twenty-five and thus, students are not always capable of understanding the justification for beliefs and are vulnerable to being brainwashed. Daniel shared a Toronto Sun article that describes that story of a Toronto educator who rallied his grade three class together to protest against the proposed Enbridge pipeline project in Western Canada. This story dictates an extreme case of the issues that arise when teachers vocalize their personal beliefs and convince their students that they are right. Due to the biases teachers hold that can influence their students, it is argued that teachers should remain neutral to avoid influencing their students to think a specific way.

So What Do I Believe?

My stance on the topic of whether or not teachers are responsible for using technology and social media to advocate for social justice and fight oppression is fairly concrete. I believe that all citizens are responsible for challenging social normatives in hopes of improving societal norms for all citizens. As an educator, I am accountable for teaching my students about citizenship and thus it is my duty to set a positive example of what being a “good” citizen looks like which requires me to exemplify digital etiquette and advocate for change. Minoritized students need our support the most and staying quiet or neutral will simply demonstrate to them that  I do not care about the oppression they experience which is the last thing I would want my future students to think or feel. When I attended Treaty Ed Camp in 2017, Brad Bellgarde, a sessional leader stated that he was jealous of teachers because together educators are a united team that have a platform to make a difference. I chose the education profession because I am excited to be part of a team that has the opportunity to inspire students and make our world better for all, and Brad’s words exhibited that my aspirations are possible in the field of education. I do recognize the problems with transmitting personal biases onto students but if teachers are adequately informed prior to addressing issues and primarily share facts, students will be able to recognize the need for change on their own and make their own educated decisions concerning topics that have valid opposing sides. I believe educators are responsible for advocating for social change and fighting oppression.

Thank you for following along my journey during the EDTC 400 Great Ed-tech debate series! As always, I would love to hear your personal thoughts concerning this topic and look forward to engaging in more conversations that will challenge my personal views and open my eyes to new perspectives.

Sincerely,

Miss. S

 

 

 

 

 

Back to the Good Old Days or Ahead to the Better Future Days?

Let’s go back to the good old days when we had to knock on each others’ doors rather than texting “here”, make plans in person and not over social media, and go outside to ride bikes or play rather than sitting on the couch watching tv or playing video games. Take me back to the times of party telephone lines, handwritten birthday cards in the mail, and writing cheques. We have all heard these comments surfing the air as many people believe that society has become too dependent on technology and that we would be better off without all of the shortcuts, communication platforms, and advantages that it has permitted. Consider being able to use GPS to navigate around new cities, facetime or call your family members and close friends when living far apart and being exposed to endless information and resources via the world wide web. Technology has allowed us to connect with others around our globe but some would argue this has not benefited our society.

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Photo Credit: dolanh Flickr via Compfight cc

Stemming from these thoughts was the topic for the eighth debate of the winter 2019 EDTC 400 Great Ed-Tech Debate Series. The specific topic up for debate this week was whether or not We have become too dependent on technology and we’d be better off returning to the “good old days” before the Internet and smartphones took over. As outlined above, there are obvious arguments for both sides of the discussion which enabled another engaging discussion with many perspectives to analyze. As in many debates, it was important that we not only discussed the arguments to be in agreement or disagreement with the statement but also deciphered the context. What does it mean when we say the “Good old days”? Who gets to decide when the “Good old days” were? These are two critical questions to keep in mind when approaching this debate because I think we often fantasize the world we grew up in which demonstrates our resilience to change. Today we live in a society where technology plays a dominant role but because the technology was not always around, it is easy to place the blame on technology for problems that have arisen. For me, the question then becomes does having technology mean our days are no longer good? Personally, I would beg to differ. 

 Our class vote prior to the debate illustrated that the vast majority of us recognize the advantages of technology and disagree that we need to go back to a world without it which did not surprise me as we have all first-hand witnessed the endless possibilities of Ed-tech through our EDTC 300 and EDTC 400 experiences. Despite the majority vote remaining with the disagree side after the debate, the post-vote illustrated a shift that tightened the gap between the two sides. Unlike other debates, I think this topic is one that my fellow classmates and I have all thought of before which brought depth to the conversation but also demonstrated the importance of being open-minded. It was critical that we demonstrated a willingness to have our opinions swayed and be open to gaining more knowledge and elaborately learning about perspectives that challenged our own. Once again the debate left my classmates and I, with many arguments to critically consider in favor of each side of the debate. 

Class Vote Prior to the Debate

Class Vote After the Debate

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arguments for the Agree Side

Miss Jayden Lang led the discussion supporting the idea that we have become too dependent on technology and that we would be better of returning to the “Good Old Days”. Her introduction video discusses four key arguments that guided our class discussion in relation to ideas of why our society may be better off without digital technology, the internet, and smartphones. She did an excellent job of sharing statistics and providing arguments that were backed up by supportive research.

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Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes Flickr via Compfight cc

1. Health Effects of Technology: As discussed in the prior segments of the Great Ed-Tech Debate, studies have shown technology has serious mental health effects on individuals. Everything from the FOMO effect, to increased rates of depressions, anxiety, low self-esteem or hyperactivity, and feelings of loneliness can result from the overuse of our cellphones and in particular social media. In an article written by Shainna Ali, it discussed how the use of technology is a behavioral addiction and thus, unhealthy or excessive use of technology is linked to physical, social and psychological problems. Shianna further explains how at the moment there are no diagnostic guidelines for classifying “technology addiction” but how many studies illustrate technology having damaging implications on mental health. Beyond mental health concerns, Jayden also addressed worrisome physical health effects related to the use of handheld devices. She introduced the topic of distracted walking and shared many troublesome statistics which illustrated that distracted walking has become a serious pedestrian safety concern. An article published by safety.com states that in the United States in 2012, “nearly 5,000 pedestrians were killed and an estimated 76,000 injured in traffic collisions” which equates to one death every 2 hours and an injury every 7 minutes. Due to the severity of distracted walking, some communities have banned the use of technology while walking and implemented fines to deter the problematic behaviour. To wrap up this argument, Jayden also touched on the decline in one’s ability to memorize information which has been documented over the past few years and is believed to be due to people feeling less of a need for memorization because everything can be googled. This idea connected well to debate #2 where we discussed how schools may need to step away from teaching what can be googled. Technology has the potential to cause serious mental and physical health concerns and thus, maybe we are better off in a world without it.

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2. Loss of Everyday Skills: Next, Jayden addressed the loss of everyday skills our society has experienced which was an argument I was expecting to hear because I see it in my personal life and all around me. Due to grammar check, I constantly notice my ability to spell deteriorating and myself relying on red lines popping up to know where I need to place my commas. Because I am a math person, is till value mental math but around me I notice many individuals turning to calculators to compute basic calculations. An article written by Thoron Klosowski explains how mental math is not mandatory to survive in this world but that performing calculations in our heads can help us make sense of the context and provides more understanding than plugging numbers into a calculator. I also find it troubling that many people can not read the handwritten cards or letters they receive in the mail because they have become so used to reading typed words. Beyond these skills that I was thinking of, Jayden focused firstly on social skills where she shared a statistic from a survey conducted in the United States where 74% of the respondents said they would rather send a text message than have a conversation with someone face-to-face. Human interactions are becoming devalued in society due to the ease of communication through a screen but it is physical human interaction that could help combat some of the worrisome mental health concerns discussed above. Jayden also introduced discussion concerning society’s reliance on GPS systems which proved to be a popular topic during our class discussion.  An article written by Brad Plumer explains how satellite navigation does not always work the way we want it to and yet, many members of society still do not see learning basic navigation skills to be important. Whether it be the loss of satellite connection, no service, dead devices, or failure for the navigational system to acknowledge closed roads or construction, relying solely on GPS systems when traveling can be extremely problematic. Many skills that were once valued are no longer being practiced in society so the question then becomes, are we worse off without these everyday skills?

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3. Issues with Technology Dependent Classrooms: Incorporating technology into classrooms is becoming increasingly popular and my experiences in EDTC 300 and EDTC 400 have demonstrated many useful strategies for designing appropriate ed-tech lessons. While studying the implication of Ed-tech many concerns about introducing digital technology into classrooms have been proposed many of which Jayden reminded us of. An article by Stephanie Petit argues that over-reliance on technology and the ability to find all of our answers online may be hurting our brains rather than expanding our knowledge for many reasons. Studies have shown that students do not gain understanding or retain what they are learning when information is simply found online rather than thought about and implicated. Additionally, information found online is not always correct and as discussed in the previous debate, fake news is becoming progressively more difficult to decipher from the truth and students are placed at a disadvantage if they do not have access to computers and internet at home. Jayden also shared a study conducted by the  Program of International Student Assessment (PISA) which found that schools who maintained a moderate level of technology use had higher test scores than those that heavily relied on it and a powerful statistic expressing that showed ow 60% of teachers said digital technologies are hindering their students’ abilities to write and communicated face-to-face. In relation to these ideas, we also analyzed the debate of whether handwritten or typed notes are more beneficial to students. We discussed how typing ones’ notes is often faster and more efficient but how it is proven that we remember more when handwriting our notes and computers are not always reliable when we need them to be. The influence of digital technology in society has become so large that it is difficult to picture classrooms without technology, however, relying on technology for learning may not be beneficial to students.

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4. Technology as a Distraction from Life Moments: Jayden’s last argument was another idea that has been popular throughout our series of debates this semester. She suggested how we are no longer fully experiencing life’s greatest moments because we are either distracted by our devices or more concerned with capturing the perfect photo to commemorate the moment rather than living it. A statistic that she shared expressed that 4 in 10 people willingly admit that they do not truly experience life’s moments because of technology and I would be that if this was not such a shameful thing to admit to then that number would be much higher. In Ryan Thomas’ TedTalk he shares how social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are taking over our lives by removing us from present moments and causing us to live in a virtual world. Despite these platforms being termed “social” media, they may be making us less social because people are often glued to their phones when at social events when they should be engaging with their peers in face-to-face conversations. The mindset “if you do not post about it, it did not happen” has become embedded in society and is causing people to live life through a lens rather than fully engaging with the experience.

Arguments for the Disagree Side 

Miss. Kiera Eastley approached the opposing side to the statement suggesting that society has become too reliant on technology and should return to days without it by discussing four advantages of technology in her introduction video. Her ideas focused on several ideas that would be unimaginable without technology and yet today, they are feasible. She did an excellent job of connecting to numerous ideas that we have discussed thought prior debates to help convey her arguments.

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1. Technology as Connections: Kiera’s first argument focused on viewing technology as a tool to connect us with one another around the globe and I immediately thought about the people who I met when I traveled to England in 2014 who I am still in contact with today. On a local spectrum, as a student, I also enjoy being able to stay in contact with my parents, friends, and other family members despite living away from home. Kiera expressed how through the use of our digital devices, we are able to overcome the limits of distance, time, income, cultures and more which is a very powerful idea. In an article written by Dex Barton, he shares a story of how a Syrian refugee was photographed selling pens and when the picture went viral via the hashtag #refugeecrisis on Twitter, he made 117 00 dollars in less than 24 hours which changed his life, and the lives of his family members and many other refugees. Through this story of hope, we are able to see how the internet is uniting the world and providing the opportunity for global communities. This argument reminded me of the viral CNA speaking exchange video that documents how students in Brazil were able to learn English by communication with seniors in the United States. Kiera concluded this idea by mentioning how technology allows us to create and collaborate on projects and ideas and instantaneously interact with one another. Through technology, we have the means to unite together and change the world.

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2. Technology as Power and Opportunity: As a continuation of the previous argument, Kiera argued how access to the internet and our smartphones provide us with power and opportunity. In today’s world, everyone is connected and has access to tools and information concerning our entire nation which would not be plausible without the internet. Via the internet, everyone receives a voice and a platform to advocate for their personal beliefs which can be termed as Digital Activism when participants support cause-related movements and social and political change campaigns. Dex Barton writes, “As the internet drives social and economic progress, it strengthens the middle class in all nations and brings them into a global middle class, connected by shared tools and knowledge” and explains three ways in which this is happening. Firstly, the internet is changing the way people think by exposing us to various perspectives and providing us with platforms to seek change. Secondly, the internet is mobilizing action which can be seen through examples such as the ASL Ice Bucket Challenge, the Humboldt Broncos Go Fund Me page or the Syrian Refugee story I described above. Lastly, the internet provides for powerful institutions that place emphasis on individuals making choices based on their personal needs and wants rather than larger companies powering over that are focused strictly on financial gain. Technology provides individuals with a voice and has permitted countless movements which have had positive global impacts. Simply stated, technology is powerful. 

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3. Technology as a Highway for Efficiency: Another major advantage of the internet and technology is the efficiency which it allows for. Through the use of technology, individuals are able to save on time and money and are required to have fewer resources because everything can be stored on a singular device. For instance, scrolling through houses for sale online is much more time efficient than having to physically tour the city to see what is on the market. From an education perspective, access to the internet makes writing research papers less of a hassle, contacting classmates or teachers around the clock simple, and handing in assignments convenient for both the educator and student, Further,  Zaryn Dentzel’s article discusses how through the internet learning has become unbounded because extensions to classroom lessons can now go well beyond the wealth of the teacher’s knowledge. Personally, I think the instantaneous feature of digital technology is the most impressive advantage of technology and what makes it so incredibly convenient. One is able to send, receive, and reply to messages at their own convenience and search up information related to any topic to receive access to unlimited amounts of related content immediately. Technology acts as a highway for efficiency in our day to day lives but should humans be able to keep up with such speed and is it truly a benefit?

4. Technology as a Tool for Facilitation: Kiera’s final argument was a great way to summarize her ideas. She expressed how the internet and our smartphones are tools for the facilitation of communication, activism, and learning opportunities. Kiera shared with us a TedTalk video about a choir “larger than the internet” as anyone who wants to participate is able to take part from any location. By permitting individuals with common interests to connect nationwide, technology can be seen as a facilitator of relationships. How the Internet has Changed Everyday Life is an article that bridges many ideas expressed in agreement that technology has benefited our world and should not be something we wish to get rid of. The Internet revolution is not just technological; it also operates at a personal level, and throughout the structure of society making it possible for an unlimited number of people to communicate with one another freely and easily, in an unrestricted way and that makes it a powerful tool that acts as a medium for communication, collaboration, activism, learning, and efficiency.

So where do I stand? 

When sorting out my thoughts with this debate, I find myself being swayed towards disagreeing that we have become too reliant on technology and should return to the “good old days” before the internet. Every day I utilize technology in many ways including communicating with my parents and for education purposes. I agree that it is troublesome how dependent we have become on technology and I absolutely despise when I am having a conversation with someone who is distracted by their phone or when cellphones are present at the dinner table. I constantly question why I engage with platforms such as Snapchat or Facebook and I worry about my spelling skills, however, maybe the technology is not to blame. As a society, we place a lot of trust in technology and then blame it for any issues that result but maybe us as the users need to be held accountable. For instance, when we are traveling down a highway and our GPS stops working due to a loss of signal is it the technology’s fault that we do not know where we are going or our fault for not mapping the route ahead of time knowing very well that losing signal was a possibility?  In today’s society, it is unrealistic to want to rid our world entirely of technology and thus, rather than becoming reliant on technology and permitting its consequences to negatively influence our lives we need to find a balance. By responsibly employing the technology available to us, and accepting that our world will be constantly changing, we can learn to embrace our technology influenced world and channel our energy spent reminiscing on the past into motivation to help build a better tomorrow. As Charles Kettering once said, “you can’t have a better tomorrow if you are thinking about yesterday all of the time.”

  • Miss. S

 

Education is Responsible for Standing up to Unavoidable Corporations

Today we live in an economy based society which has forced schools to exist in the business world but we still need to ask ourselves if we have gone too far and remember that the prioritized focus of schools should be the needs of their students. Unfortunately, there is a lack of funding provided to our public schools which directly impacts our students’ education. Due to the insufficient support that schools receive from the government, many schools rely on other sources such as sponsorships from larger companies whose financial interests in education can be problematic and rarely align with what is best for the students. With the rise of technology integration into classrooms, there are many Ed-tech companies driving up prices and operating with non-transparent pricing contracts. Through my EDTC 300 and EDTC 400 experiences, I have been exposed to many ways that technology can revolutionalize the way we teach and learn but the integration of technology requires support from corporate companies and we all know these companies can prioritize turning a profit. Sounds like a topic for a lively debate with numerous perspectives to consider!

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Week 7 of the Winter 2019 EDTC 400 Great Ed-Tech debate permitted yet another in-depth conversation that introduced many perspectives and ideas to consider. The topic under debate this week was whether or not public education has sold its soul to corporate interests. Many of my classmates spoke from personal experiences which are always easy to lean on because we physically lived the effects but I think when participating in any debate that it is critical to put our personal lenses aside and be open to allowing new perspectives to challenge our opinions. I began the vote by disagreeing with the statement because I felt that I did not have an understanding of the various perspectives of approaching this debate topic to fully agree that public education has sold its soul to corporate interests.

Class Vote Prior to the Debate

Class Vote After the Debate

 

 

 

 

 

As illustrated by our class vote prior to the debate, my class was very split which again illustrated that there was obvious controversy and thus, the topic under study was important for us, as pre-service educators, to discuss, expand our knowledge on, and be exposed to varying perspectives related to the subject matter. After the debate, a clear shift was represented as almost our entire class was in agreement that public education is selling its soul to corporate interests. Despite the grand shift in my class’ perspectives, I think we all left the debate with many arguments to critically consider in favor of either side of the debate.

Arguments for the Agree Side

Miss. Liz Dornstauder guided the discussion for the pro side of the debate arguing that indeed public education has sold its soul to corporate interests. Her introduction video for the debate outlined five key arguments in support of her stance that were backed up by significant research and statistics. She also shared many examples that corresponded to her arguments and helped to strengthen her claim which clearly had lasting effects on my class based on the result of our poll after the debate.

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1. Common Core Standards: In 2008, a nationwide curriculum was funded by Bill and Melinda Gates in the United States which intended on implementing common core standards across the country to ensure every student received the same education.  The common core standards initiative is a system that details what students of every grade level should know in the subject areas English Langauge Arts and Mathematics at the conclusion of each school grade. At the surface level, this does not sound like a terrible idea, however, the effects of common core standards on students can be very troubling and problematic. As discussed in ECS 210, common core standards lead to the curriculum being viewed as a product where students arrive at school, are fed specific information and leave attaining specific ends that were determined by people of power in our society. Problems with viewing curriculum as a product where specific end goals have been predetermined are that students and teachers have no voice, context is failed to be accounted for, it is difficult to measure learning, it assumes the idea that “one shoe fits all”, and people of the dominant culture in the society decide what is important to learn. A blog post written by Diane Ravitch discusses how the common core standards were implemented rashly and without pilot testing or public awareness. Thus, American education was bought by  Bill Gates, a white man with power in the country and strictly financial interests in mind.

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2. Push for Standardized testing: Prior to the debate, I knew standardized testing was problematic because of the same effects that seeing curriculum as a product has on education. Further, Liz provided our class with a video that demonstrates the correlation between politicians and companies and addresses why the push for standardized testing continues to persist even if it does not have the best interests of our students in mind. In the video, it discusses how Pearson is able to lobby legislatures to pass laws that insist on more tests being generated because the more tests that are produced, the more money the company makes. Thus, not only do standardized tests eliminate the opportunity for context or personal learning but they are forced to be written in schools so that companies such as Pearson can continue to profit. Educators are aware that standardized tests undermine creativity, innovation, and critical thought and force them to teach to the test in hopes of their students being successful on the exams but because of the money involved, they are continually used at the expense of our students’ learning opportunities.

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3. Company Dictatorship of Information Provided: Continuing her discussion about Pearson, the main textbook provider in all of North America, Liz addressed how these companies tailor their textbooks to their largest buyers due to their financial interests. Publishers such as Pearson have the power to control what information is being included in textbooks and thus, what guides many lessons in classrooms and the information provided in trusted resources available to the students. Liz shared that Texas buys the most textbooks per capita per year and thus the material is tailored towards this particular audience. An article by Gail Collins explains how the textbooks used by children in all of North America have a Texas influence which is problematic because the values, and language recognized in Texas can vastly differ in other parts of the continent. Liz discussed a particular example from her Biology 30 course where her textbook had a Spanish translation rather than a French translation despite attending a French Immersion school in Canada. The focus of textbooks companies is profit rather than improved learning opportunities for students but because of their wealth and power, they continue to have a say towards how the system of public education operates.

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4. Negative Health Effects Due to Corporate Sponsorship: The next argument that Liz addressed was how the corporate sponsorship that many schools rely on support unhealthy eating habits amongst students. This idea proved to be a hot topic during our class discussion because many of my classmates were able to speak from experiences about being sponsored by companies such as Coco-cola or Pepsi and we all connected the large Boston Pizza score clock in the University of Regina‘s gym to this conversation. Tom Phillpott’ article shared a troublesome statistic from a survey in 2005 which concluded that 80% of public high schools operate under contracts with either Coke or Pepsi. Having advertisements from pop corporations pasted around schools and their products easily accessible to students is causing overconsumption of unhealthy goods and can lead to students becoming lifetime consumers of these products. Yay for Coke and Pepsi, that means more money in their pockets, but profit for one means a cost for another and the health of students in unfortunately falling victim. A CBC article acknowledges that drinking pop does not just pose risks for diabetes or obesity but rather too much pop consumption can affect adolescents’ memory and ability to learn. The funding that corporate sponsorship provides schools can be beneficial and permit schools to afford sports uniforms, classroom technology, or educational field trips but the health and learning risks for students due to the corporations that schools must rely on for funding are extremely problematic.

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5. Focus on Business rather than Education: The final argument discussed in agreement that public education has sold its soul to corporate interests outlined how many universities operate similarly to businesses rather than schools. In an article written by Andrew Rossi, it states “universities act increasingly like big businesses that treat students as customers” and due to the high-value society places on degrees, many individuals feel pressure to attend universities. The article goes on to discuss how the privatization of higher education benefits individual students who can afford to engage in the system rather than being seen as a public good that would help a nation prosper and permit educated citizens who can critically think and are taught to actively strive towards change in our society. By creating the idea that student debt is “good debt” corporations able to engage in profitable student loan markets which influence the continual rise in tuition and thus support the problematic theme of our society where the rich get richer. The power of universities allows them to hook in students as consumers and treat students as paying customers rather than the future generations of our society and thus, the focus once again lands on profit rather than education.

Arguments for the Disagree Side 

Miss Shaleen Hengen argued the opposing side for the debate providing arguments for why public education has not sold its soul to corporate interests. Her introduction video outlined four key arguments that raised important questions and introduced opposing perspectives to consider during our discussion. She also did a fabulous job of connecting this week’s topic to Ed-tech which is ultimately the theme of this course.

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1. Benefits of Technology in the Classroom: Shaleen started out with the argument that technology can be incredibly beneficial in classrooms but that technology is expensive and thus, schools rely on corporate sponsorship to fund their investments in tools that support learning. AHA! I was patiently waiting to see where Ed-tech would fit into this debate and Shaleen hit it spot on. Throughout the Great Ed-tech debate, our class has been confident that technology has the potential to enhance learning but a common drawback is the cost of technology. In today’s society, a reliance on technology is emerging and thus, for schools to provide their students with beneficial learning opportunities for their futures, they have turned to companies such as Google and Microsoft to provide tools for their classrooms. An article written by Mathew Lynch suggests that “only a few forward-thinking governments are making adequate technology investments in the education sector” which explains why schools are forced to build relationships with corporate interest to ensure they can prioritize technology in their classrooms. All technology is tied to corporations in one way or another and thus, schools that are implementing tools that are provided does not imply that they are “selling themselves out”, but simply striving toward permitting the best educational experiences for their students.

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2. Determining the Right Platform: Shaleen’s second argument explained how schools do not jump at the first deal presented to them. Before partnering with corporations, many questions are critically considered including: What are the costs and Benefits? How reliable are the tools for our students?  Are the tools practical to use? Janet Huger-Johnson, an experienced educator explains how teachers’ input is critical before making any ed-tech deal because they have first-hand knowledge of their students and their needs, and the function of their classrooms. “Not every school has equity in the opportunity to use technology as a tool for student engagement or lesson implementation” as quoted from Robyn Shulman’s article, but corporate partnerships can help shrink this divide. Knowing that critical thought takes place before making agreements and that the decision process involves teachers input demonstrates that the interests of students and the functionality of classrooms continue to be held at a high value.

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3. Moving Away From Bad Business: Opposing Liz’s arguments concerned with textbook companies such as Pearson, this article written by Valerie Strauss states how Pearson has been losing huge testing contracts with schools throughout the country. Schools are standing up and fighting against the difficulty and inappropriate factors of standardized tests. Pearson has been attempting to dominate the world of education both online and offline but they are continually losing support from parents, teachers, and school boards because the content provided by Pearson illustrates their financial interests rather than the goals and core beliefs of many education systems.  As schools continue to distance themselves from “bad businesses” such as Pearson, they are demonstrating that they are still in power and will continue to prioritize the needs of their students rather than falling victim to corporations’ financial interests.

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4. Ethical Consumption: Shaleen’s final argument brought our debate into perspective when she argues that if we wish to determine that schools are selling their souls to corporate interests, then we must conclude that we all have. by addressing the example that to participate in the EDTC 400 course, we all rely on computers and technology platforms that allow us to interact online Shaleen persuasively suggested that we are supporting businesses and apps that profit from our use. When we take a step back and look at society as a whole, it is easy to see how almost everything we do is tied to large corporations who are constantly profiting from our engagement. It would be illogical to suggest that schools should avoid implementing beneficial tools into their classrooms simply because they are linked to large corporations because we would never expect this of citizens outside of the education system. It is important for schools to be cautious when considering what corporations to partner with but forming these affiliations does not mean schools are “selling their souls” and more than individuals engaging with social media or purchasing vehicles are. Ultimately, Shaleen’s final argument suggests that corporations are unavoidable but by turning our attention away from eliminating consumption and focusing on ethical consumption schools can ensure they benefit their students without “selling their souls” to corporate interests.

Where Do I Stand?

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Throughout the debate, I continually felt myself being swayed to either side of the conversation but in the end, I choose to believe that public education has not sold its soul to corporate interests.  Both sides of the debate agreed that large publishing companies such as Pearson that design standardized tests and nation-wide curriculum standards are problematic and unfair to our students. As educators, I think it is our responsibility to stay optimistic in believing that public education still has some control but we can not put our rose coloured glasses on and ignore the impacts of corporate interests. The society we live in has become dependent on technology and economically based which means education systems have been impacted by both the positive and negative factors of these controls. With that being said, technology and business corporations are unavoidable but that does not mean we have to let go of our values and hopes for the future of education. Public education may be on its way to selling its soul to corporate interests but it has not lost all control and this route can be redirected. As educators, we are a team and have a platform to make a change and I believe recognizing the need for change and becoming informed about this issue is the first important step to getting public education back on a track that prioritizes the best interests of our students.

Social Media has Changed Childhood

Social media, interactive computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests, and other forms of expressions via virtual communications and networks. Childhood, the state of being a child. The time of our lives to learn, grow, explore, create and imagine. With create being a commonality in both social media and childhood, it is difficult to imagine that they would not benefit one another yet the popular belief that social media is ruining childhood continues to persist.

Week 6 of the Great Ed-tech debate provide my EDTC 400 class with the opportunity to put the belief that social media is ruining childhood under the spotlight and critically ponder the depths of this idea. I was expecting this debate to be another tricky maneuver and that there would be several strong arguments in favor of both sides as per usual. The depth of conversation that emersed surpassed my expectations and demonstrated the complexity of the topic and the importance of considering one’s personal biases in correlation with their opinion in regards to this belief. The idea that social media is ruining childhood is commonly vocalized in public by members of older generations but never have I heard a child complain that social media was hindering their time to be a kid and I think this was important to keep in mind during our class discussion. The class vote prior to our debate illustrated an almost perfect split which is vastly different in comparison to prior weeks and another indicator that our class’ conversations would be controversial. Our class’s discussions permitted the majority to sway towards the side disagreeing that social media is ruining childhood but in the end, I think we all left with many new perspectives to critically consider.

Class vote prior to the debate

Class vote after the debate

 

 

 

 

 

Arguments for the Agree Side

Miss. Lauren Sauser led the pro side of this debated arguing that indeed social media is ruining childhood. Her introduction video for the debate outlined four key arguments in support of her stance that were backed up by significant research and statistics.  She also shared many examples that corresponded to her arguments and strengthened the claim that social media is ruining childhood. 

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1) Social media is damaging to children’s mental health: Research conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Medicine school determined that the more time young adults use social media, the more likely they are to be depressed. Lauren further explored the relationship between social media use and depression and found countless studies that connected social media use to an increase in the rates of depression, anxiety, lowered self-esteem, hyperactivity, and several others mental health concerns. An article written by Katie Hurley acknowledges how the emphasis placed on receiving “likes” causes teens to constantly be comparing themselves to their peers. These toxic comparisons can lead to symptoms of depressions and anxiety and are ultimately not healthy for the human mind. A few key areas of concern that Lauren addressed were FOMO (the fear of missing out), and Facebook depression. FOMO is a feeling of anxiety due to a belief that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media websites. FOMO  can cause children to become consumed with their devices which takes away from critical activities such as sleep and social interactions which in turn impacts their mental health. Similarly, Facebook depression is a form of depression that often arises from children and youth spending extensive amounts of time on social media, such as Facebook as defined by this research paper. Despite the emphasis placed on Facebook by the name, all social media platforms have the potential to contribute to symptoms of depressions due to the feelings of social isolation they may cause. The consuming nature of social media and toxic comparisons it initiates are problematic for children’s mental health.

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42778819260_eed03a37902) Social media is addictive and making children less social: The addictive nature of social media is concerning when considering the social life of youth. Many individuals spend so much time on social media that it begins to interfere with their everyday life. Statistics from Common Sense Media report that the average 8-12-year-old spends 6 hours per day online, with the average for teenagers jumping to a whopping 9 hours per day which is over 3 times the recommended online time for children according to by the Canadian Sedentary Behaviour GuidelinesAn article written by Aofie Reilly states that children “are more than likely growing up with a lack of key life skills such as being able to read or riding a bike” due to their time being spent on devices rather than with toys and objects that members of past generations would associate with their childhoods. Lauren expressed how since children are able to participate in instant messaging, commenting on photos, and liking each other’s posts that they are becoming less social and detracted from face to face interactions. Texting and online communicating places people in a nonverbal disabled context, where body language, facial expression, and even the smallest kinds of vocal reactions are rendered invisible.  Communication outside of devices is a vital life skill but due to the ease and addictive nature of social media, it a valid concern that children today may become socially disabled as described in Melissa Chalos’ article.

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31902763627_ffc85eaa373) Social media contributes to digital footprints and privacy concerns: A major concern with children using social media is that they are yet to learn about how to appropriately conduct themselves online and they are unaware of the dangers that can arise in regards to what they choose to share. Without having this knowledge, children are likely to share inappropriate content and information online oblivious to the fact that it will be online forever, and accessible to the public. These posts then become part of their digital footprint and could affect them negatively in their futures. Many social media sites ask for users to share information about themselves, including their full name, address, birthday, where they go to school, and personal photos of themselves. Yousra Zaki’s article discusses how sharing of this information can easily lead to unsolicited messages which are especially dangerous for gullible youth who do not know how to determine if they are being targeted online. When considering digital footprints it is also important to remember that even if a child is not posting pictures of themselves or personal information it is likely that someone else is which also contributes to their digital identities. The internet is forever, and social media activity is always being documented which is a scary thought for children who are not properly educated.

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42102914074_5f389e6e144) Social media facilitates and fuels cyberbullying: Cyberbullying has been brought up as a concern during several of the debates in our class’ great Ed-tech debate series due to its cruel nature and increasing popularity. The severity of cyberbullying cannot be ignored and is an undesirable net effect of social media use amongst youth. Lauren shared statistics with our class from Teen Safe stating that nearly 35% of children admitted to being victims of cyberbullying and 87% of children reported seeing acts of cyberbullying occur on a regular basis. Hiding behind a screen allows people to be more expressive than they would in face to face public encounters which becomes dangerous and creates amplified attacks on individuals’ character and well-being. An article titled Cyberbullying: Social Media and Teen Depression describes how “our culture has embraced limitless access to smartphones from a very young age, giving children privacy and autonomy in an online world where boundaries don’t exist”. Puresight is a resource shared with our class by Lauren that summarizes many real-life stories of cyberbullying including some that have led to serious implications including suicide. I am familiar with the well-known and heart-wrenching story of Amanda Todd that was brought up during our class discussion and I believe it is examples such as this that truly exemplify the unfortunate power of cyberbullying. Due to the rise of social media, cyberbullying and suicide rates have increased rapidly making which is an excellent argument as to why social media is a danger to childhood.

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A powerful argument supporting Lauren’s side of the debate that was brought up during our class’ discussion focused our attention on children’s need to document everything. When at a concert or sporting event, it is common for youth to become concerned with capturing the perfect photo or getting it all on video rather than living in the moment and embracing the opportunity. I worry that due to this desire to document one’s life on social media, children may miss out on having fun and never learn how to enjoy life outside of their devices.

Arguments for the Con Side 

Miss. Kylie Lorenz argued the opposing side for the debate providing arguments for why social media is not ruining childhood some of which illustrated the polar opposite by demonstrating how social media can benefit childhood. Her introduction video did a fabulous job connecting to her past Ed-tech learning experiences which strengthened her claims and demonstrated how this belief is difficult to consider independently of other Ed-tech conversations. She also made connections to current events happening in our world as evidence to support her claims.

35703416714_ea26db3c531) Social Media opens doors for children: Kylie made a connection to one of her EDTC 300 lectures led by Dr. Alec Couros which I was also fortunate to have been apart of to convey this argument. Alec talked to our class about how his children have taught themselves many skills and been able to document and share their progress through the use of social media platforms. His daughter learned how to do makeup and his son taught himself to play the drums by watching Youtube videos. Today they are able to film their own tutorials share their talents with online audiences. Similarly, in EDTC 300 we all had the opportunity to partake in a learning project where we were tasked with teaching ourselves a new skill through and document out journey the use of digital platforms. I highly relied on Youtube to learn ASL and found it to be incredibly helpful and intriguing that I could learn a brand new skill without having to leave m house or spend any money. Michael Sheehan’s article discusses five reasons why social media is beneficial for children with one of them being how that new “things” are shared all of the time on social media which enables “discovery and learning in ways that we could never have imagined before”. Sheehan also argued that social media enhances creativity which was an argument I brought forward during our class discussion. Digital tools allow children to be imaginative and creative and through the use of social media, they are able to share their personal creations and be inspired by others. Social media provides countless opportunities for children to discover, explore, create and be exposed to limitless learning opportunities.

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24596902531_277bfbc48a2) Social Media permits children to take a stand: From national walk out of school days to protest gun laws, to the ASL Ice Bucket Challenge, crowdfunding social justice projects, and the use of social justice hashtags, children all over the world have been able to find their voices through means of social media and advocate for positive change. In my post summarizing last week’s debate, I addressed how after the  Marjory Stoneman Douglas School shooting, a group of students became activists to have the gun laws changed in the United States and were able to rally together students against gun violence walkouts across the entire country. What they were able to accomplish through the use of social media is incredible and would never have been possible without it. Through social media, children learn about significant societal issues happening all across the world. As a child, watching the news was never overly interesting to me but through the use of social media, children become informed about important news stories through engaging means and are able to help spread the word and call for action. Caroline Knorr’s article states that ” as kids begin to use tools such as InstagramSnapchatTwitterand even YouTube in earnest, they’re learning the responsibility that comes with the power to broadcast to the world” and are provided with a voice to help make our world a better place to live. Kids becoming social justice advocators and leaders will lead to a strong and independent environment.

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25672701527_8d174d60113) Social Media promotes mental health initiatives: Contradicting Lauren’s argument concerning how social media is damaging to children’s mental health, Kylie made the argument that social media promotes mental health initiatives. Social media offers many foundations and resources that help the victims of bullying. The Effects of Social Media on Children written by Angela Barnes and Christine Laird addresses how social media can provide social and medical support that can be sought anonymously by children who are suffering from symptoms of mental illnesses. Platforms such as Bell Lets Talk Day, which advocates towards becoming a caring country that is stigma-free, Pink Shirt Day which aims to raise awareness of bullying and raise funds to support programs that foster children’s healthy self-esteem, or the Kids Help Phone which is a national 24/7 support service available to the public. All three of three examples demonstrate how through the use of social media, children can learn that they are not alone and do not have to suffer in silence. By promoting campaigns against bullying online, children again have the opportunity to express their voices and make a difference in our world.

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30411910658_76488228634) Social media is embedded in our society and children can learn to embrace it: Acces to social media in today’s world has arguably become unavoidable and thus, children should learn to embrace it and be exposed to all the wondrous possibilities that social media permits. Yes, there are negative impacts that social media can have on individuals but if children are taught from a young age about how to be safe and responsible in the online world then the possibilities for their creativity and learning will become endless. The word balance was repeatedly stated during our class discussion because like anything, it is when we become too reliant on social media and forget about other aspects of life that its negative implications will shine through. Children are excited to learn and by permitting them to use social media while growing up, they will be better prepared to be successful in our technology-dependent world. Michael Sheehan’s article makes a comparison of not allowing children to have sugar to taking social media out of childhood. Children will grow up, and denying them access to social media while they are young will potentially cause them difficulty adapting to it as adults.

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Where do I Stand?

Arguments presented in favor of both sides of the debate are incredibly valid and provided many perspectives to critically consider when deciphering my personal stance in this debate. The idea of what childhood is supposed to be is one that I continue to recycle through my head. I believe childhood nostalgia is something we all experience which makes individuals fantasize the childhood they personally experienced and see flaws in childhoods that do not look the same as their own. What I do know is that childhood is a time for children to be creative, discover new things, and explore the world around them, and social media allows exactly that to happen. Over-reliance on social media may cause children to develop false senses of belonging or fail to develop face to face communication skills but children can be taught a balance that can redirect them from the problematic uses of social media towards embracing the positive possibilities of social platforms. I believe social media has changed childhood but by accepting that change is an opportunity to do something amazing I find myself disagreeing that social media has ruined childhood. As a society, we must learn to focus on accepting the changes that are a result of social media and learn how to ensure that they lead to positive growth for our world.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new” -Socrates

 

Technology does not imply Digital and Equity does not imply Equal

Week five of the great ed-tech debate officially marks the halfway point of the winter 2019 EDTC 400 debate series. The topic under discussion this week was structured around the question “is technology a force or equity in society?”, and once again it proved to be a tricky topic to maneuver. At first glance of the debate topic, I was not really sure where I stood as it is not a topic I have explored in detail prior to this week. Brainstorming prior to this debate led me to believe, that yes, technology can be a force for equity in the broad sense. Consider wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs, hearing aids, and glasses which are all technology ‘tools’ that help people perform daily life tasks. It is difficult to challenge the idea that these ‘tools’ do not promote equity in our society but I knew there had to be more to the conversation to make it worth debating in class. I began the debate by siding with almost half of my class in agreement that technology is a force for equity in society but as always I knew I would have to be open-minded and considerate of reasonings from both sides of the discussion. I also knew that my decision was based on technology ‘tools’ that assisted with basic daily routine behaviors and that I did not have much understanding beyond this and that I had a lack of exposure to this topic. Due to the obvious divide in my classmates’ opinions, I knew there had to be valid claims for both sides of the debate. I looked forward to hearing arguments that connected this idea more directly to digital technology and education and was hopeful of gaining new perspectives concerning the depth of this topic. 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

The first point I want to address was critical to our debate and something we all needed to be reminded of prior to sharing our views. EQUITY is not EQUALITY and the topic under discussion required us to consider equity. Thus we were arguing whether technology can permit fairness and a world where everyone gets what they need based on their unique situation. It does not imply equality which would mean we all get treated the same because we are not all the same and thus, that wouldn’t be fair. It wouldn’t be equitable.

Arguments for the Pro Side

Ryan had the opportunity to lead the discussion arguing that technology is a force for equity in society. His introduction video did a fabulous job of introducing arguments concerning different aspects of society. He also made many connections to real-life examples which made his claims strong and hard to disagree with.

277746456_03137f4ec71) Technology helps people with impairments/disabilities in their daily lives: In his video, Ryan shared a statistic that in our world today there are over 1 billion people living with a disability whether it be physical, mental, developmental, emotional, or another form. Ryan claimed that people living with disabilities have less of a chance of getting employed and thus twice the chance of living in poverty. An article written by Padraig Belton introduces many revolutionary forms of technology that can help individuals combat their disabilities and bring equity to our society. some of the inventions discussed in the article include the Eyegaze Edge which allows people to control computers through the use of their eyes alone, smart glasses which accentuate the contrast between light and dark objects making images accessible to visually impaired individuals and talking hands which enable deaf and blind individuals to operate computers. As an example, Ryan briefly explained the story of Stephen Hawking who was an incredibly intelligent scientist tragically affected by ALS which is “a disease that gradually paralyzes people because the brain is no longer able to communicate with the muscles of the body that we are typically able to move at will.” Despite becoming paralyzed and losing is the ability to speak, Stephen was motivated by his diagnosis and the probability of an early death urged him towards many intellectual breakthroughs.  Hawking utilized a computer-based communication system that he could control with his cheek and eye movements. to help him communicate with the world around him, continue to follow his passions, and live his life to the fullest. Personally, this was the argument that swayed my initial vote and Ryan did an excellent job of providing examples to back up this idea. Technological tools and advancements create equitable opportunities for individuals living with disabilities.

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40015823563_d50e44484c2) Technology enhances the quality of education around the world: In an article shared by Ryan, Charles Kenny a senior fellow at the Centre for Global Development states that “young people are natural adopters of new technologies and certainly the potential for technology and digital media to be a force for innovation, education, and change is just beginning to be realized”. With the focus of this class being on incorporating technology into the classroom, I am constantly being introduced to the potential for technology to enhance learning and open doors to new learning opportunities for students. An example of this is the Dell Learning Program which emphasizes the importance of providing technology to those who need it most, thus illustrating equity. Dell’s goal is “to deliver sustainable connectivity and technology access to schools and communities” to help eliminate the digital divide which seems to be a consideration of every debate in the Great Ed-Tech Debate series and empower children all over the world to make their futures brighter. Programs such as the Dell Youth Learning Program are permitting technology to be a force for equity in our society by recognizing where help is needed the most and providing equitable opportunities for all youth via technology.

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45736463362_1903398ba73) Technology gives youth a voice: Ryan’s final argument is a popular benefit of technology because, through the use of social media platforms, everyone is entitled to their own voice and have the opportunity to be heard by a global audience. An article by Baysia Herron describes how through social media youth are becoming more aware of world issues, and expressing their personal opinions, struggles, and emotions which is empowering them to advocate for change and allowing them to be heard. Due to social media, individuals no longer need to be adults to be considered participating members of society and youth are able to inspire social justice movements. For example, after the  Marjory Stoneman Douglas School shooting, a group of students became activists to have the gun laws changed in the United States and were able to rally together students against gun violence walkouts across the entire country. Students’ voices are very powerful and through technology, they have the ability to advocate for social justice.

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Arguments for the Con Side 

Kaytlyn argued the opposing side of the debate providing explanations for how technology is not a driving force for equity in our society. Her introduction video outlined key arguments important to consider when discussing the topic under debate, some which I had thought of on my own and others that were new to me. Some of her points even demonstrated the polar opposite arguing that technology can lead to inequity in society.

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Access Denied

1) Digital divide, access, and equity: As referenced above in Ryan’s arguments, the digital divide is becoming a serious social issue but Kaytlyn was able to argue how technology is the cause of this divide rather than helping to eliminate it. She explained how there is an inequitable gap between those who have access to the internet and devices and those who do not. This article written by Chris Birdik addresses how low-income and rural students are at the biggest risk of being hindered by the digital divide. In the article, Chris interviews Eric Bredder who states that despite being able to provide students with fair exposure to technology and tools at school, he can not provide them with the tool he considers most indispensable to 21st-century learning – internet access beyond the walls of schools. Thus, there is a problematic equity issue because while “some kids can go home and learn, discover, and backfill information, other kids’ learning stops at school” creating a divide among students due to access of technology and the internet. Along with his idea are several other things to consider including whether there equitable access to technology across the globe?  What about even just our country, province, or community? Secondly, what types of technology do we have access to? Is it the new and improved inventions or models that can longer be updated to perform all of the modern applications? Now say we do have access to technology, are we all digitally literate? Do we have enough experience with technology to efficiently and effectively get the most of it? These questions addressed by Kaytlyn do not all have simple answers but they do illustrate how we cannot simply believe that technology will provide equity in our society without forming new inequities.

33175393068_e6f7dc883c2) Digital Inclusion: Digital inclusion is a newer concept to me but this article connects it to the terms digital divide and digital literacy and defines it as “a framework for assessing and considering the readiness of communities to provide access to opportunities in a digital age”. Thus, it illustrates how for some communities there are issues such as not having access to clean drinking water or health care and vast amounts of the population living in poverty which are incredibly serious and can not be solved by digital technology. New domains of exclusion and privilege exist due to digital technology which is leaving some populations isolated from the vast digital realm and reinforcing inequity rather than equity. Kaytlyn referred to Shelly Moore’s bowling analogy to further explain this argument. Shelly connects bowling to teaching by explaining how the 7/10 split is the hardest shot in bowling and is achieved when we aim at the middle pin and leave the outside pins standing. When educators focus their lessons at the students in the middle realm of their classroom, they leave those who either require the most support or the most challenge are left standing alone. Professional Bowlers focus their aim at the pins which are hardest to hit because it provides them with the most success but we as educators are taught to aim at the head pins, the majority, rather than those students who challenge us. Technology may be a force for equity for the students who all already belong to the majority, but it has the potential to make the inequitable gaps between varying groups even larger. 

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In Conclusion 

Our class vote after the debate demonstrated that our discussion swayed more of us over to the side that believes technology is not a force for equity in society. Personally, I stuck with my original belief in agreeing that technology can promote equity. My perspective on this topic ensures that we acknowledge that technology comes in many forms and is not simply the digital world revolving around us. Running water in our homes, power, ovens, fridges, and lights are all technological advancements. Glasses, hearing aids, prosthetic limbs, and wheelchairs are forms of technology that allow many individuals to live ‘ordinary’ lives that would not be possible without them. I do believe that digital technology is causing some gaps between those who it is accessible to and those who it is not and I also know that technology will not solve all of our society’s equity issues. However, due to the many capabilities of technology, the possibilities it permits, and the new discoveries that are constantly taking form, I believe technology has the potential to help our society become more equitable for all.

Class Vote After the Debate