EC&I 830 Final Summary of Learning

My final summary of learning for EC&I 830:

The last week of EC&I 830 has arrived and I am happy with my growth as a learner and educator.  I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that I have been implementing a lot of the educational technology ideas mentioned throughout the course. But there are many practices I have not been implementing, like seeking student consent and permission to post online and only relying on a parent/guardian signed media release.

After reflecting on my current use of technology in education, I made the realization that sometimes I resort to substitution or replacement models.  It’s not always intentional, but could be because it is easy and what has always been done. An example are the very fancy projectors that were installed in my school this year.  While we had training on the various capabilities and functions (touch screen, whiteboard, saving images, etc. – similar to a SMART Board), I often found that function would not work when I needed it, so I stuck with using the tool simply as a data projector. There is nothing worse than trying to get technology to work in a room full of students, breaking the engagement and losing focus. But, one day in the fall I decide to do a little research (thanks, Google and YouTube!) and really figure out how to use the projector, including an app that could be downloaded on my phone to act as a document camera or tool to share images directly to the board.  Now with my knowledge of the TPACK and SAMR models, I am excited to use this example of technology in more innovative and exciting ways. It is as simple as taking the time to learn about the tool myself before implementing with my students.

As I reflect on the course, “Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology”, it has been apparent to me that the issues in educational technology continue to change very quickly.  With the rise of new apps, devices and technology access for young people, our roles as educators are constantly evolving. Some common themes that have been woven throughout the class discussions and debates for me:

-the importance of teaching digital citizenship

-thinking of technology as a tool

-teacher roles are shifting to the role of a facilitator

-we must teach critical thinking skills and technology can be used to assist this teaching

-technology can enhance student learning by promoting engagement and help with motivation

-educating students and families about how to create a positive digital footprint and identity online with appropriate safety and privacy measures.

I have learned a lot throughout this course, but I most excited to take away fresh and innovative technology ideas to incorporate in my teaching.  It is important to continue to focus on safety and building a positive presence online. Since students have easy access to technology all the time, our role as educators is to teach students and families proper digital citizenship and how to build positive digital identities.

For my summary of learning, I decided that the best way to share my learning as an Arts Education teacher is through song.  At the beginning of the course, I tried to use images “fairly” in videos and blog posts, but I simply relied on the fact that it was for “educational purposes” to justify my choices.  Our class discussion in the Google Plus community made me realize that I maybe don’t quite understand all the ins and outs of fair use. One of my classmates, Brooke referred to Common Sense Media in her blog post, and after a bit of Twitter following and searching on YouTube, I found this great video from Common Sense Education

I wanted my final project to fall into fair use guidelines, so I composed my own song (lyrics and music) and used my nieces and nephews to create a music video to go along with the song.  This allowed me to talk about consent and permission with their parents and the kids – explaining how the videos would be used. They were pretty excited about the idea, and I used it as an opportunity to practice how to explain building positive digital footprints for Kindergarten to Grade 9 students. Thank you to Sarah (15), James (12), Claire (7), Ella (6) and Patrick (6) for helping me create the video!

Enjoy!

@Catherine_Ready

Equality and Equity in the Digital World

This week in EC&I 830, two teams argued the statement:

Technology is a force for equity in society

The general consensus during our class discussion was that Team Disagree had a tough side to argue as nearly two thirds of the class sided with Team Agree.  That being said, Team Disagree raised some very valid and important points in their opening and closing statements and rebuttal.

The image below is the first thing I thought about when I read the debate statement. Equal distribution and use of technology will not work in our society – it can’t be a ‘one size fits all’ approach.  Instead, equitable distribution and access to technology is required to have positive and successful integration of technology.  Therefore I completely agree with the debate statement this week, provided there is equal opportunities for all.

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A classic illustration of equality vs equity

Although my ‘agree’ opinion did not change before or after the debate, my eyes were opened to some of the negative aspects of technology and equity in society.  One of the points Team Disagree focused part of their opening statement on is the issue of gender inequality in the technology world.  In one of the suggested articles, technology is considered another avenue for men to oppress women.  In fact, many women have come together to reveal the sexist culture in Silicon Valley tech and venture capital firms.

The article also expresses the idea that, “we have to challenge the presumption that it (the workplace) is neutral and allow women to reach their potential in workplaces where they feel safe and respected”. I have never really considered the idea that technology can be biased against women, but it does make sense.  I know I don’t question the fact that certain tools like Siri are set to a woman’s voice.  Although you can change this in the settings, it is interesting that the default is often a female voice. As the article describes, we need to have a neutral technological system for gender and social equality.

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Often a barrier for technology is limited access in some developing countries and poverty stricken areas. Facebook created Free Basics, a limited internet service for developing markets, (which) is neither serving local needs nor achieving its objective of bringing people online for the first time. Maybe the intention of this service was meant to be a great solution for developing areas that do not have internet access, but instead it narrows what users can access and search for online.  Ellery Biddle, the advocacy director of Global Voices says, “It’s building this little web that turn the user into a mostly passive consumer of mostly western corporate content. That’s digital colonialism.”

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Protesters against Facebook’s Free Basics service

The term “digital colonialism” showcases one way that our society is not making technology equitable across different socio-economic groups.  Instead of giving these groups “internet” (like Free Basics) that pushes certain messages or propaganda, Biddle explains that we need to fix, “the barriers to internet access (which) include signal availability, device ownership, education, digital literacy and electricity”.

Finally, bringing the technology access closer to home, a Huffington Post article explores access to internet in Canada.  The Canadian Internet Registration Authority’s 2014 Factbook (CIRA) states that while 95 percent of Canadians in the highest income bracket are connected to the internet only 62 percent in the lowest income bracket have internet access.  Some communities in Canada (like Nunavut) only have 27 percent of communities with internet access.  Unfortunately, the CIRA explains that Canada has no national strategy to improve access, speed and prices.

Team Disagree made some very good points in their rebuttal that for technology to be equitable in society, internet should not be a luxury. It needs to be affordable and accessible to everyone and we need to redesign systems that discriminate against social status, gender and race.  All this being said, technology is here to stay, so we need to find a way to make it equal and fair for everyone.  This issues raised in Team Disagree’s argument are a great starting point for how we can improve technology to be an even better force for equity in our society.

Team Agree opened their argument by suggesting that technology has achieved a lot in our society, like removing barriers (ex. helping people read) and connecting the world (ex. real time video chat).  Most importantly, they focused on the idea that technology is not the problem and neither is the “digital divide”.

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In my own experiences and those expressed by my classmates during our class discussion, we have seen how technology can help remove learning barriers for students in schools.  A big discussion took place on how one school division (my division) redistributed technology across all schools for equitable use among students.  During my short career so far, I have only taught in community and lower socio-economic background schools.  The equitable distribution plan has been crucial in my teaching and use of technology, because many of my students do not have access to reliable internet and technology at home.  It has also affected how I prepare lessons and assignments, as I have to assume that students will be able to complete assignments with technology at school, but not necessarily at home.

Some students have an assigned laptop (assistive technology) that follows them throughout their school career.  As a teacher, I know that I can design instruction that will allow these students to have the most success because they are guaranteed to use the assigned technology to help with their learning experience.  An example is the ‘Read&Write for Google Chrome‘ extension that is used throughout my division.  This tool has a variety of options including reading text to the student, dictation and simplifying text which has been extremely valuable with students who have reading difficulties.  A couple of years ago I taught in a school with a high EAL population, and ‘Read&Write’ helped my students (with a variety of English speaking and reading levels) to achieve their learning goals.

Another reason I agreed with the argument is the availability and affordability of online education.  A few great examples provided by Team Agree include Open Education Courses (OEC), Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Open Education Resources (OER) and Virtual Classrooms.  The suggested article explores that a process that is helping share knowledge is, “the use of ‘open education resources’ (OER) – freely available, high-quality materials that can be downloaded, edited and shared to support teaching and learning.”  Team Agree explains that open education is based on fairness (among gender, socio-economic status and ethnic origin) and inclusion (a basic minimum standard of education should be available to everyone).

During my B.E.A.D. program (Bachelor of Education After Degree) at the University of Regina, I was able to complete my program in a shorter time period and maintain working nearly full time by taking courses through Athabasca University.  This was my first experience with online education, and I do admit that it was a challenge at first.  I found that by not having classmate interaction and only assignments to complete that I needed a lot of self-discipline to stay on track.  I eventually figured out the time management piece and overall felt that the experience was positive.

My first “blended learning” course was for Standard First Aid.  The course required completion of online modules and quizzes prior to attending a one-day in class session.  This is a great model as it allows for a deeper understanding of the information and can then be applied in person during the one-day course.  I enjoyed this experience as it did not take up my entire weekend and I could work on the modules at my own pace and schedule.  My husband is currently enrolled in professional development learning through his work.  The course started with a one-week intensive in person to dive into the course material with the instructors and other classmates.  He then has one year to complete a variety of modules and assignments through an online portal.  There is continuous contact with course instructors and motivation to complete the coursework with an online course community.

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And of course,  EC&I 830 is my first “blended learning” web based academic course.  I think one of the benefits of this being an educational technology course is that there is lots of engagement online through blog comments, Google Plus community, Twitter and of course, our weekly Zoom sessions.  This keeps the motivation for learning and completing course work in a timely fashion, something I struggled with in my Athabasca courses.

This brings me to the point raised by Team Agree that the concept of open education has revolutionized the learning classroom and allowed for digital inclusion.  Instead of referring to a digital divide, the term inclusion was used to reframe the divided in a more positive way.  This can be achieved with equal and equitable access, affordability and a mindset to embrace the digital world.

A Forbes article explains that many advocates believe that digital technology has the potential to expand access to education to underserved children around the world.  In 2015, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called technology the new platform for learning at the annual South by Southwest conference and said, “technological competency is a requirement for entry into the global economy”.   For this to happen, we need to increase equity for children and communities that are historically underserved, and one way is through digital technology.  This solution almost seems too easy – to help poverty stricken communities have better education, all we need to do is supply the students with technology!  An example is the “digital school in a box” provided by the Vodafone Foundation,  which supplies a laptop and 25 tablets pre-loaded with educational software to a refugee settlement in Kenya.  I think this is an awesome initiative and it is great to see organizations looking for ways to support education around the world.  But in reality, it is a band-aid fix – as it is only a temporary solution to a problem.  What happens when the technology is out of date? What about all the other underserved areas in that community? Or the underserved areas in our own country?

The increase of technology and the digital world has give many different groups around the world a chance for better education.  I completely agree that technology is a force for equity in society, but the complicated part is how technology is distributed and used.  I think this is still a learning process and we will continue to see many trial initiatives as possible solutions to the complicated issues of technology access.  By being aware of the issues raised by Team Disagree (like inequality among different gender, race and socio-economic groups), we can continue to improve distribution, access and affordability of technology to remove the digital divide.  Technology is here to stay and grow, so it is society’s responsibility to search for solutions that close the accessibility gap.  Both teams presented great arguments this week which served as a reminder that issues that existed before technology will continue to take place with technology use.  As educators, we must continue to focus on teaching digital citizenship to develop positive online identities.  As members of society, we need to rally for equal and equitable technology access in our communities.

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

Is openness and sharing in our schools a good thing?

This week during EC&I 830, two teams debated the statement

Openness and sharing in our schools is unfair to our kids

Initially, I fully disagreed with the statement because I think that it is openness and sharing that makes this era of education exciting and unique. Through Twitter, blogs and Youtube, I have been able to connect with parents and students and share what goes on in the classroom. As expressed by Team Disagree, sharing promotes connectivity and is the reality of today’s childhood experience. We have all this cool technology nowadays, so why wouldn’t we use it?

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This is the point when I begin to realize that maybe technology and sharing in the classroom is not always so great. Team Agree explained in their opening statement that sharing in schools is not always negative.  But then they asked the question, “Are we being ethically fair and responsible with the amount of sharing?”

This question gives educators a chance to reflect on how we ask for parent/guardian permission to post photos of their children on the Internet. One of the suggested articles states,

“The challenge for schools is to balance their (and parents’) desire to publicize the great things that are happening in their organizations with their responsibilities to protect children and satisfy parental concerts about student privacy and safety”.

At my school (and schools in my division), a ‘media release’ form goes home at the beginning of the year that asks parents/guardians for permission to distribute photos, video, use a variety of social media platforms, etc.  My school has created a culture of sharing and celebrating student successes through social media, and we are very aware of which students can or cannot be included. In my role, I teach every student in the entire school, so I very quickly figured out which students I can include in my photos and videos at the beginning of the year. In past years I have a tried to use a blog to share what is going on in the Arts Ed classroom, but I have found that Twitter is a lot easier for quick sharing AND has the bonus of engaging with families and other educators.

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But, Team Agree then made me realize that when I post images on Twitter of students and student work, I am basing my decision on whether or not a media release form has been signed by the parent/guardian.  I rarely ask the student if I can post their image on my Twitter account – a discussion of permission usually only takes place when an older student expresses that they do not want their photo taken or posted anywhere. Upon reflection, I feel like I am doing a disservice to my students by not explaining the rationale for a post or including the students in the decision. I didn’t even think about the fact that these students will inherit a digital footprint that they had no part in creating.

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When did the sharing culture shift to feeling like we have the right to post any picture on social media simply because it was a photo taken by the poster? In the early days of social media, I remember asking my sister if I could post certain images of my nieces and nephews, but now it isn’t even a conversation. A BBC poll showed that 70% of adults believe it is not okay to post photos of anyone else, including children, without permission, and 56% of parents avoid ever posting images online.  I think that if were to take this same poll, I would agree with these statements. But in reality, my practices do not reflect my opinion.

So, something needs to change. A good piece of advice by a spokeswoman for the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) urges parents to consider the fact that “each time a photo or video is uploaded, it creates a digital footprint of a child which can follow them into adult life”. 

There is a lot of good advice in this suggested article  like parents should advocate digital consent and ownership so they can help teach their children to value it as well. Another campaign is the #talkb4sharing movement which asks parents to talk to their children before posting their images online. While this is directed towards parents, educators could use similar practices to encourage consent among their students.

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(As a side note, Team Agree really struck a nerve when they discussed the fact that any innocent photo could be used by Internet predators. In fact, 50% of images posted on child pedophile sites were sourced from parent social media profiles. Shudder)

Where do we go from here? The first step is to think before we share.

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Team Disagree helped calm my mind a bit and helped me to remember my original opinion that I think openness and sharing among our students is a good thing. In one of the suggested journal articles, the benefits of social media in education are explored and how it can be used to promote student engagement. Certain web-based applications can simplify the communication among students, between student and teacher and with parent and teacher. One could also note the negatives of this easy communication, especially with parent-teacher communication.  Boundaries are necessary so the ability to be in constant communication is not abused.

An exciting point about social media in education is that is fosters collaboration and allows students to work together to achieve a common goal. Recently, my students participated in an activist art project with students in both RPS and RCS school divisions. We connected on Twitter using the hashtag, #YQRActivistArt as an outlet to share our work. While it was not used by a lot of schools, the hope was that it would be used to engage our students and see what other groups in the city were doing to create socially aware art projects.  Collaborative learning is meaningful for students and social media is one way to let students share and express their ideas.

Finally, Team Disagree helped me realize that, yes we need to be aware of what we post about our students online, but we have an opportunity to help our students build and keep a positive digital identity 

The EdTek White Paper explains that educators are very important in building students’ understanding about how technology can impact personal and future professional lives. Educators have a responsibility to teach our students how to create habits that will lead to a positive online identity. The article uses ISTE standards to provide recommendations and questions to help students:

  1. What info am I sharing?
  2. How secure is it?**
  3. Whom am I sharing it with?
  4. What am I leaving behind?
  5. What are my rights?

**Security online is expressed using the STEP method:

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Our role as educators is to give students the skills they need to protect themselves online and create a positive digital footprint.

Let me reflect on the debate statement again:

Openness and sharing in our schools is unfair to our kids

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I feel like the debate this week took me on an emotional roller coaster. First I disagreed with the statement, then Team Agree made me fear and question my teaching practices. Am I bad educator for not asking my students their permission to post photos? And what about the gross idea that pedophiles could be taking these images? But then Team Disagree calmed my nerves a bit and reminded me that openness and sharing in our schools promotes engagement and collaboration.  As a responsible educator, it is my job to inform and teach students ways to create a positive digital footprint and to help students understand consent and permission to post photos and work online.  I can do this by modelling good online behaviour and discussing sharing online with my students. I still have a lot of work to do in these areas and intend to implement some of the good sharing practices shared by both teams.

 

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

Does technology in the classroom enhance learning?

As I reflect on my journey from student to educator, I can think of many times that technology has both positively and negatively affected the learning experience. Throughout my own education, personal technology has played a distracting role, mostly due to social media and messaging between friends.Facebook

Even before smartphones, I remember downloading the SelfControl app on my computer so that I could block Facebook for a set amount of time and force myself to stay on task.  I also used the app during class time so I would use my computer strictly to take notes.  While I do not think that social media had a negative effect on my grades, I did have to make a conscious effort to use technology appropriately.

But if I reflect on my experience using technology as tool in my own learning and now as an educator, I believe the access to information, collaboration with peers and ease of completing course work has been invaluable. Therefore:

I completely agree with the statement, “technology in the classroom enhances learning”.

Team Disagree had a compelling argument, especially with the idea that Silicon Valley giants send their children to schools with a technology free environment.

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As Beverly Amico explained in this suggested article, “teachers encourage students to learn curriculum subjects by expressing themselves through artistic activities, such as painting and drawing, rather than consuming information downloaded onto a tablet”. While I believe these artistic activities are extremely important in early years learning, I do think it is possible to incorporate technology as a tool to complement rather than replace these learning experiences.  The Waldorf ideal stressed in the article focuses on the idea to “remove the distraction of electronic media and encourage stronger engagement between teach and pupil during lesson”, but I think that it is possible to use technology in a way that increases student engagement.

As suggested by Team Agree, teachers play the most important role by “organizing the learning environment to provide students with active, hands-on learning and authentic tasks and audience for their work”.

The student should be the main focus in planning for learning, and to use technology effectively, educators need to find a way to use it to enhance the learning process.  I found this image in the suggested article to very clearly express the benefits of using technology in the classroom:

tech enhances learning

Very simply stated in the article to solidify the agree side:

“technology provides greater depth and richness not otherwise available”.

Flipping back to Team Disagree, there is the argument that technology leads to:

  1. Limited learning
  2. Diversion of resources
  3. Student distraction
  4. High cost to implement.

Although I do agree that the cost of technology can sometimes limit accessibility, the first three points are weak statements in my opinion. If technology is simply used as a substitution or replacement, there can be an element of student distraction that leads to limited learning. But if technology is implemented with the guidance of the SAMR or TPACK models, negative effects can be avoided.samr vs tpack infographic

This brings me to my final point to side with Team Agree in the argument that technology in the classroom enhances learning.

“Students are digital natives. They’ve grown up with technology; it’s woven into their lives”

The suggested article explains that although technology could be a negative aspect in the classroom, teachers have the ability to use it to improve engagement. For example, teachers could see a different kind of class participation. Perhaps quieter students will feel more empowered to participate in class discussions. This can be related to our own EC&I 830 Zoom sessions – some students thrive on verbally speaking in class discussions and other students (like myself) feel more comfortable contributing via the chat.

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As a small aside, I remember stressing and worrying about classes that required and depended on vocal participation in whole group discussions. My introvert-self preferred and felt more comfortable with small group discussions and written reflections. Now in my own teaching, I can reach different student learners through various teaching strategies, including technology (like Flipgrid, Google Suite, Twitter, Kahoot, and more).

To effectively integrate technology in the classroom, it is important to teach digital citizenship before introducing the tools, and returning to these teachings throughout the year. Furthermore, if we think of

technology as the partner

we are able to find and integrate the “sweet spot” as noted in the TPACK model, when all three knowledge areas work together.

tpack model sweet spot

Using the guidelines outlined in both the TPACK and SAMR models allows educators to find the best way to make content more accessible to students using the best pedagogical strategies. The main goal – find a way to meet student needs in the most engaging way that will lead to increased motivation.

In closing, educational technology is here to stay and will continue to evolve and rapidly change as it already has in our careers as learners and educators. Both before and after the debate, I agreed with the statement that, “technology in the classroom enhances learning”. After the arguments presented by both sides, through suggested readings and my own research, I believe that technology has the ability to transform student learning when implemented as a tool and partner. As we continue to find ways to redefine student learning, we can use technology to enhance and complement the classroom experience.

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Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready