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Summary of Learning

This short spring class of ECI830 has flown by. Despite the fact that it was so quick, I learned so much. The debate style format of the class was very engaging and helped me to take a critical look at my own opinions on technology and consider various view points. Check out Brooke and my summary of learning to see more about what we took from this course.

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Tech as a Tool for Equity

During our final Great Tech Debate we dived into the concept of tech as a force for equity in society.

The disagree side pointed out that just providing technology does not create equity and can actually come at a cost. Some companies, such as Facebook are providing technology in the form of devices and internet to those who may not otherwise have access to it. Now at face value this sounds great, however as pointed out by Ellery Biddle of Global Voices, “Facebook is not introducing people to open internet where you can learn, create and build things. It’s building this little web that turns the user into a mostly passive consumer of mostly western corporate content. That’s digital colonialism.”  Facebook has a few strings attached and controls what content that is provided with this.

Technology can also be very costly, which means not everyone will have equal access to it and when provided with “free” or “reduced rates” users may only be able to get the basics.  Lately, I have noticed that many technology apps that myself and my fellow teachers use have started to charge a cost or up their prices.  However, there are some companies that are working to help make technology access more equitable. Flipgrid and Microsoft recently worked together to announce that the app Flipgrid will now be free for all and this includes all of their features.

 

Some other points that the disagree side shared was some of the sexism, racism, harassment, threats and abuse that occur online.  Now I agree that this is horrible, I don’t believe that technology is to blame.  These issues have been around long before technology and are more of a reflection of society than of technology.

Overall, I feel am with the agree side that technology can be used to help create equity. The agree side pointed out that technology can remove barriers, especially when used to help students using assistive technology. Benetech shares in that “assistive technology tools, are unlocking the world of content and knowledge for students with learning disabilities“. In my own classroom I have seen the power these tools have for students.  It allows them to show what they learn in a variety of ways and provides opportunities for content at their level to help them be successful.  When a student who struggles with reading is able to have content read to them or a student who struggles with writing can use a tool that will transcribe, it opens up the world of learning to them.

Technology can also remove the barrier of cost and open education can allow for anyone the opportunity to learn.  As the agree side pointed out open access education allows for free and flexible learning.  My favourites of these types of education is Khan Academy. Not only does Khan academy provide videos for learning it also allows for some practice work for students to apply what they have learned.

Another way that technology is a tool for equity is that it allows anyone to share their voice.  Julia Carrie Wong explains that “Teenagers’ use of Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram is social media at its best – a cudgel against political discourse that desperately needs to change” and “have taken full advantage of the democratic nature of social media to push our democracy forward”.   Social media allows for people to stand up for what they believe and start conversations that have the power to make a change.

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Is Social Media all Gloom and Doom? Uh-no

For this debate Brooke, Daniel, and I debated the side that social media is NOT ruining childhood.  Check out our introduction to this debate topic in our video below:

Even though my group presented on the positive impacts of social media on childhood, I do acknowledge that there are some negatives as well. Some of the negatives include:

-mental health and bullying issues

-online safety concerns when using social media

-children and teens not fully understanding enough to engage responsibly in social media


Image from GIPHY

As we are well aware mental health and bullying issues can arise when using social media.  There are many tragic examples of how this can have terrible outcomes, such as Amanda Todd.  The problem is not social media, but how people choose to use this tool.  Social media can also be used to combat mental health and bullying as Dr. Sameer Hinduja points out in her article “How Social Media Helps Teens Cope With Anxiety, Depression, and Self-Harm“.

Image from http://mediasmarts.ca/blog/how-social-media-helps-teens-cope-anxiety-depression-self-harm

YouTube is one social media outlet that teens are using to share their stories, confide in each other and create support networks for mental health issues. In the past mental health was rarely talked about, but because of the power of social media people are starting conversations around it and finding support.

In her article “5 Tech Tools for Kids in Crisis”, Christine Elgersma explains that, “For today’s struggling kids, there’s some hope. Popular apps, sites, and services offer guidance and help when, where, and how kids need it” and shares 5 tools that youth can access.

There have also been instances when youth have found support online when they are in crisis, making them change their mind from making tragic choices.  One example occurred on a Minecraft forum on Reddit when an entire online community used voice-conferencing software to talk a teen out of his decision to commit suicide.

I agree with the other debate team that there are concerns with safety when youth are using social media.  However,  I think that it is vital that parents and educators take the time to be informed about what they are allowing children to access online.  It would be good if parents knew and had their children follow the recommended age restriction set by online sites, which for many social media sites is age thirteen.

Image from https://twitter.com/StainesPrep/status/856828920825606144

Any tool can be used for good or bad and without understanding how to be responsibly use a tool negative outcomes can occur.  As Daniel Dion mentioned in our discussion when working on our debate project, you wouldn’t give a child a steak knife without the proper guidance and teaching.  Parents and educators have an important role in helping children understand and learn about what safety on social media looks like and model these behaviors.  In the article “Social Media Rules”, Media Smarts explains that, Having a family agreement or set of ground rules for using social networks is a good idea. It’s a great way for parents and kids to work together on how to be safe, wise and responsible online.”

It is also important to understand, as Dr. Sameer Hinduja explains, “the vast majority of kids are doing the right things when it comes to social media”.  Many are not only making good choices online, but are also making a difference.  In fact youth are using social media to have a positive impact on the world.  For example, through youtube Sarah Chadwick was able to reach over 43,000 people with her message to stop gun violence in the video below.

Social media is a tool, that when used responsibly can have a powerful impact on the lives of children and teens.  As social media is here to stay we must help today’s youth learn how to use social media to make their lives and the lives of others better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just hit the SHARE button…or maybe don’t


Image from GIPHY

This tech debate was all about whether we should be sharing on the internet on behalf of children and students. Before the debate I was on the side for posting, but posting with reflection beforehand.

Both debate sides made some excellent points.

FOR SHARING:
-can create a positive digital footprint for children and students
-promotes connectivity, especially between the classroom, families and communities

AGAINST SHARING:
-unfair when children and students don’t have a say in what is shared or may they be fine with it now, but embarrassed by it later
-it can be unsafe as anyone who finds what has been shared can further share it or use it for disturbing purposes

 

For example, in an article from The Telegraph shared by the against side I learned that “a woman in Austria is suing her parents to force them to remove childhood pictures of her from Facebook”. In cases like this sometimes parents share things that a child may later regret.  With this in mind it is important that when posting for someone else that we reflect before posting.

Some families may wish to opt-out of allowing their child or children from sharing content online. In this case is blurring or covering this student’s face in a class photo make it acceptable to post? Some may say yes and some may still say no. At a previous school that I worked at a family choose to opt-out of any online sharing for their children. I found it very interesting that at special events even inter-school events these parents would still take pictures of their child with others children in the background. It made me wonder if they ever thought about how the other parents might feel about the picture. If they were not okay with pictures being taken of their child, was it okay for them to take ones with other children in them when they did not know if that child’s family gave permission for their photo.

As this is such a complicated issue I think that it’s important to really reflect on both sides of the argument and see if maybe we can meet in the middle.

Finding some middle ground…
Thoughtful sharing is key. Mike Ribble shares this model: STOP, THINK, EMPATHIZE, and then POST. We must stop and think before we post, empathizing with the person and how this could make them feel and the impact it could have on them.  Here are some reflection questions to consider:
“Will this create a positive digital footprint?”
“Would this be something they may be embarrassed by?”
“Are the safety policies in place up to the standards for keeping this post safe and secure?”
If after reflecting you still feel it is okay to post, well then post it.

It’s also important that as adults we are good role models in what we post online. If we are not stopping to reflect before we post about ourselves to make sure that it is a good idea to post, then we can’t expect that children and students will know how to or will actually do so.  It is vital to check policies of online sites to keep posts as safe and secure as possible. Keeping in mind good posting practices, I believe that overall sharing done with teacher guidance is worth it.  Allowing student the opportunity to start creating a positive digital footprint and creating a connection between the home and school are powerful ways that sharing can impact students.

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Just Google It


Image from GIPHY

The Great Tech Debate for this week was about whether we should be focusing on teaching things that can just be googled.  This is a very tricky topic as many people had very different ways of looking at what “Googling it” entailed. It ranged from the simple act of typing something into Google to find the answer, to using the many tools Google has to offer, such as Google slides and hangouts.

When I think of “Googling it” I think of typing in a simple question into Google to find an answer.  I think of these types of questions as lower level questions that have an easy answer.  According to The Curriculum Corner these lower level questions can be thought of as thin questions and higher level questions can be thought of as thick questions.  Now although we are using Google and not a book, looking at the chart I think we can say that thin questions are ones that are right there on Google after we type something into a Google search. Although students need to be able to answer lower level/thin questions, it’s important that we spend most of our time guiding students to higher level/thick questions that involve more thinking and applying what they are learning.

Image from https://www.thecurriculumcorner.com/thecurriculumcorner456/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/thickthinanchorcolor-768×593.jpg

Understanding lower level basic content provides a foundation to better understand higher level content.  So although I don’t feel we should focus on things that can just be “Googled”, we do need to provide students with a foundation of knowledge to build on.  For example, if students don’t understand what a habitat is, how can we expect them to decide if it’s important to protect animal habitats and make the choice to take action to protect them.

Students also need to understand that our Google search history can have an impact on what Google will provide us during a Google search. In the article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, Nicholas Carr points out that “[Google] uses the results to refine the algorithms that increasingly control how people find information and extract meaning from it”.  In our night class, Alec pointed out that Google can even provide content that is leaning more towards one political side based on our search histories.  Students need to be aware of this and not take a Google search at face value, but instead dig deeper into what they find.

Both the disagree and agree teams found some common ground and both pointed out the importance of critical thinking skills.  These skills can be practiced with and without the use of Google.  However, using Google as a tool allows students access to more resources to explore and use on their critical thinking journey. Being able to use these skills online is vital these days with the issues of fake news and very biased articles/posts. Using Google as a search tool is the first step to finding items online to view through a critical lens.

Image from GIPHY

From my last class with Alec, I learned about teaching students to think critically. One resource shared during the course was “The Five C’s of Critical Consuming” by John Spencer. In this video John shares five ways that students can view content and decide if it is trustworthy, reliable and useful.  The Five C’s he suggests are:

Context – When and where is it written? Have events changed or new info available?

Credibility – Is the site credible? Are the sources cited credible? Is it satirical? Is it an advertisement?

Construction – What’s the bias, facts, opinions, propaganda?

Corroboration – Do other sources claim this too?

Compare – Find other credible sources to compare it to get a larger more rounded picture of the information.

 

After the debate I still feel that some time should be spend on content that can be Googled, but that more time should be spent on helping students gain critical thinking skills and practice applying them to a digital world.  We can use the foundation of the content students need to understand from the curriculum and have them apply the skills needed to understand this information in a deeper more meaningful way.