The Internet: Productive or Distractive

As I took some time this week to watch the video about the internet and multi-tasking, I couldn’t help but notice how many times I was distracted in just over four minutes. During this video, I popped open my school email to see if anything has come through, checked the blog prompt on the Google document, and looked at my phone as I received a text message. Therefore, in an effort to multi-task, I had to watch the video a second time to get a full understanding of what James had to say. I found the second time watching it much more rewarding as I connected and could relate to many of the things that he was talking about.

“To be full present on the internet at any given moment is a very rare thing”

I will fully admit that I struggle with this all of the time when I am writing blog posts for this class and many other tasks. As Sunday is often my day to work on my master’s classes, it usually goes something like this. I’ll wake up in the morning, pour open some coffee, and review the blog prompt for the week. I’ll start to write my post, open up a few articles, which then leads me to totally changing my topics and ideas. Stop for a break and read CBC News. Go to Twitter to see what’s happening on the ECI833 hashtag, quick political update (This can be quite entertaining), and finally make it back to the blog post. I’ll spend a few minutes writing my blog post and then realize I haven’t checked my NFL fantasy rosters for the day. Spend a considerable amount of time checking weekly rankings and updating my rosters before I head back to the blog post. At some point, I will likely pull up my Planbook (Great digital planner) to see what I am doing in school next week. I will then open up our school OneNote notebook to read the weekly memo. By now, I’m sure you know what I’m getting at. So with all of this “multi-taking”, my blog posts takes a considerably longer amount of time to complete. Although some aspects of multi-tasking make the blog posts much stronger (Embedding videos, linking to others, and including articles), I wonder how much of my time I lose by doing all of that other stuff. To sum it up. I think I could do a much better job of focusing on one task at a time. Or better yet, to block out those things that aren’t pressing or crucial to complete at a particular time.

Just started using the second screen… Helping or hurting my productivity…?

This week’s presentation on productivity and presentation tools was a great picture of the evolution of these tools. In my personal teaching practice, there are many tools that I use that I believe increase my productivity. A few tools I use include;

Planbook: I personally love using a digital planner. Although you have to pay for Planbook (Around $20/year), I definitely think it’s worth it. Planbook keeps a record and history of all of my day plans. I currently have five years worth of plans that I can go back and reference at any point. In addition, I can insert links, documents, and anything else that will be needed for teaching a lesson. In addition, there is an app you can download to your phone. This allows me to reference daily plans, supervision schedules, or anything else that I might need throughout the day. Similar to Planbook, you can use Planboard for free.

Planbook Sample

Seesaw: I have really enjoyed using Seesaw over the last few years. Prior to using Seesaw, I had a classroom blog, student blogs, and various other creation tools. I believe that Seesaw definitely increases my productivity for a few reasons. For one, it has so many tools built into one resource. Instead of using 10 different applications, you can do so many things on one tool. It works as a source of communication with parents, student portfolio, creation tool, and allows teachers to give feedback on student work. Students can also upload pictures, documents, or any other projects to this tool. Although there are some things that I wish were slightly better on Seesaw, it provides tremendous benefits for my students and I.

OneNote/Office 365: Classroom OneNote has been extremely beneficial to me as a teacher. This tool serves as the “digital binder” for my students. OneNote allows me to easily distribute assignment to students in there notebooks. When using OneNote, you can use a combination of text, videos, images, and pretty much anything else. I also have the ability to see student work at any given time. In addition, I can provide written feedback right on their assignments (The touch screen laptop is very helpful!)

Sample feedback on an assignment… (Well done Matt!)


Overall, I think that the internet provides incredible opportunities for productivity. The biggest challenge is finding ways to maintain focus and block out the distractions. The idea of single-tasking is quite intriguing and something I need to try and implement into my work habit.

Try it out!

AV Technology in the Classroom

Postman wrote: “…We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street.”

As we know now, Sesame Street definitely undermined the traditional schooling methods that dominated the educational landscape for many years. When reflecting on this idea, I can’t help but to think this was a good thing for many different reasons. When I think about the idea of traditional school, these things come to mind:

Direct Instruction, textbooks, worksheets, teacher led, standardized testing, right or wrong, classroom, rows, desks, conformity, notes, and quiet.

Pixabay

Although I was able to successfully make my way through a traditional school system, I truly believe that the changes and differences in the educational systems have been for the better. When I think about a more modern educational system, these things come to mind:

Collaboration, flexibility, inquiry, varied assessment, engaging, fun, creativity, critical thinking, fluid, student led, and technology.

As Alia Wong writes, “Sesame Street was, and in some ways remains, revolutionary in its pedagogy. The show was launched at a turning point in thinking among child psychologists and educators—a time when experts were abandoning the belief that cognitive ability was entirely inherited.” Even though Sesame Street was launched many years ago, you can see that it had a profound impact on the development of many young people.

BYOD

In my personal experience in the classroom, I have always had positive experience with my school’s bring your own device program. As I teach in a 1:1 classroom environment, I have a lot less use for personal devices in my classroom. Nonetheless, I see enormous benefits for teachers trying to use technology in their classroom. Some positive reasons for supporting and implementing a BYOD program include, but not limited to:

  • Research and gathering information. Although this is one of the most obvious reason for bringing a device into the classroom, this rarely occurs in the traditional classroom. In the traditional classroom model, the teacher is the one that keeps all of the knowledge. And when the teacher doesn’t have the answer in the traditional classroom, it’s generally found in textbooks, from one perspective, and not always the most current. Shifting towards a modern classroom, students have endless access to information, from varying perspectives, and modern or relevant to their lives. Not only does the information change and improve, it allows students to take ownership of their learning and critically analyze the information they find while researching.
  • Resources and tools allow student to create. Educational technology is continuing to evolve and develop at a rapid pace. When leveraged properly, students have the ability to download and use many apps and resources to help them create. Whether it be Flipgrid, Adobe Spark, or Seesaw, proper use of technology in the classroom gives students many opportunities that otherwise would not be available. In the traditional classroom, students are often severely limited in terms of the tools and resources they can use to create in the classroom. Bringing your own device to the classroom gives teachers and students so many opportunities when it come to creating in the classroom/
  • Assessment tools. In the traditional classroom, assessment methods and techniques were often very similar. In my experience, I remember writing so many tests when I was in school. Technology in the classroom allows teachers to use many different tools for formative and summative assessment. Formative, Quizziz, and Socrative are just a few examples of ways that teachers can use technology to improve and add to their assessment techniques. Not only do teachers have access to these assessment methods, they can also utilize some of the “traditional” assessment methods. Teachers can also use many formative assessment tools to better their teaching practice.

These are just a few of the reasons as to why I fully support BYOD programs in school. Not only does it provide students with many opportunities to learn in the classroom, it truly breaks down the classroom walls and allow students to expand their learning beyond their individual space. Connecting and collaborating with those outside of your classroom provides great opportunities for students to see other perspectives that exist in our world.

As this week’s presentation highlighted, there has been some major advancements and changes in AV technology throughout the years. Overall, I think that most of the changes have moved education in the right direction.

Final Thoughts

Even though I fully support the use of AV technology in the classroom to advance and extend learning opportunities, there are many challenges that come with this increased technology use in the classroom. Whether it be the increase in screen time, exposure to fake news, or technology addiction, I think it’s important that teachers find a balance in their classroom. Finding a balance between “traditional” and “modern” methods create an ideal learning experience for all students.

Chrome Extensions for the Classroom

I really enjoyed last Tuesday’s class when we got to throw it back and engage in some of the traditional educational technology tools and games that were used in the classroom. I have fond memories of playing the Hot Dog Stand game on the desktop computer in my grade 7 classroom. You knew you were having a good game when you got to go on one of the four desktop computers and try to maximize profits for your hot dog stand business. I don’t actually know if I learned anything from this game but I know for a fact that I had a great time every time I got to play it. Not only was this game extremely awesome, it had quite the catchy theme song as Dalton mentioned in our last class.

Theme Song

Not only was it fun to reminisce on my experience with technology as a student, it was enjoyable to explore and play with some of the games I did not experience as a student. To have some fun in the classroom, I’m going to have my students experiment with some of these games over the next few weeks. I am definitely going to incorporate some Number Munchers into my math class to work on those multiples! Maybe I can replace Mathletics with Number Munchers and save the school a few dollars…

Number Munchers Multiples

When looking at some of the Google Chrome extensions we discussed during class, there are a few of the extensions that I have been using in my current teaching and personal browsing practice. To begin, I’ve been using uBlock Origin for quite awhile now and I don’t remember how Chrome would function without using this extension. As it’s generally one of the top rated ad blockers for Chrome, it also blocks malware and trackers. Google Chrome is a major resource used in my teaching practice and it’s often projected on to the board in my classroom. It seems like a wise decision to eliminate as many ads as possible to limit how many my students are being exposed to daily. As I was writing this post, I realized that my students use Chrome on a daily basis and I have never had them install any type of ad blocker on Google Chrome. They are clearly going to be exposed to many more ads than I am while using the exact same browser. As we use Microsoft tools in Regina Catholic, I wonder if you are able to download extensions on Chrome without having a Google account.

In addition to using uBlock Origin, I am going to start using Distraction Free for YouTube when watching videos in the classroom. I like the idea of using this tool as it provides a cleaner experience for students and doesn’t suggest videos totally unrelated to the concept that we are studying in the classroom.

A tool that I recently started using in my personal practice is Grammarly. I cannot believe it’s taken me this long to start using this tool for both my graduate classes and work in the classroom. My good friend and classmate Matt Bresciani recommended this tool to me quite awhile ago and I definitely should’ve taken his advice on it (His writing is top notch… Check it out here). As Grammarly advertisements are everywhere, it’s no surprise that many of my students discover Grammarly at some point in the school year. Common Sense Media writes, “Whether students need assistance with how to cite sources, enhance their vocabulary, or improve clarity, Grammarly offers feedback explaining why a writer might make a change.” Teaching students how to utilize this tool in a meaningful way is one of the most important tasks if you are to use this in the classroom. Common sense media states, “However, in all cases, teachers will want to help students see Grammarly as a guide and not a dictator, and to encourage students to be thoughtful about when to make suggested changes.” If used properly and effectively, I think there is a lot of potential for students to use this to improve their writing. If students are mindlessly making the changes without any actual thought given to the changes, I’m not quite sure how that would help them as a student.

A tool that I’ve found very valuable over the last few years has been Bit.ly. Although I use this tool less because I teach in a 1:1 environment, it’s been really beneficial for a few reasons. If you are unfamiliar with Bit.ly, it essentially takes really long URL’s and creates much smaller and manageable URL’s. When sending any communication or links to parents, I think it’s good practice to send a short and simple link versus a 36 character jumble of letters and numbers. For example, both of the following links will re-direct you to my classroom page on the school website:

As you can see, it’s much more user friendly and easier for parents to manage these links. I’ve also used Bit.ly to create shorter links when students are completing assignments on paper where they need a certain link or website. This would be very beneficial for teachers that aren’t using Google Classroom or OneNote with their students. For example, I’ve used this link to send students to certain page when completing a science experiment. http://bit.ly/science67. This tool definitely benefits students and causes much less frustration if students need to access a certain website.

There have been some major changes in educational technology since the days of All The Right Type and Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. The browser and cloud have replaced many of these educational software programs that were instrumental at some point in education. In my opinion, the change has been for the better as we’ve gone away from the one-size-fits-all approach to many different topics and concepts. As most of these educational software programs were quite limited, the browser offers endless opportunities for students to learn, research, create, and make a difference. If we think about the concept of understanding multiples, which can be improved using Number Munchers, students have multiple opportunities to learn the same concept. They can use programs such as IXL, Knowledgehook, Prodigy, or Mathletics. They could watch a YouTube or visit Khan Academy. They could also visit a website or play a game. When utilized properly, students can really leverage the power of the browser and choose a way to learn multiples that works best for them. There is a much greater chance that they will find something that will work for them opposed to one piece of educational software that might not match their learning needs or style.

When it comes to privacy, I think that it’s essential that we educate our students about privacy and safety when using the internet. In the winter of 2020, I took ECI 832 which was very helpful in my understanding of privacy and ethical concerns when using the internet. Whether it be privacy policies, terms of conditions, or understanding how cookies work, there is a lot of work that needs to be done so that students understand what they are consenting to or who they are sharing their information. I think it’s important for students to understand that if they are not paying for a website or tool, how is that company going to use their personal data or information? As an educational system as a whole, I think we could all do a better job of understanding and protecting the privacy and data of our students.

Learning Theories in the Classroom

What is learning anyway? As Schuell explains (Interpreted by Schunk, 1991), “Learning is an enduring change in behaviour, or in the capacity to behave in a given fashion, which results from practice or other forms of experience.” To define learning in a sentence or two is a very tricky task that people much smarter than me can’t even agree on. What we can agree on is that learning can look vastly different based on the environment, opportunities, access to resources, and many other internal and external factors. Not only do our personal beliefs and choices control how we teach, things such as standardized testing and division initiatives will also have an impact on what we do in the classroom. Lastly, our personal education, whether that be in K-12 or university will play a major role in what we do in our own classroom. Last week’s class was a great opportunity to think about our current/past practices and critically analyze some of the things we are doing. To be perfectly honest, I don’t give much thought to learning theories in my own practice. What I can say though is that I’ve experimented with many different theories and practices in my career. Nonetheless, this topic gave me the perfect opportunity to think and reflect on some of the things I am currently doing in my 5th year of teaching. To achieve a better understanding of how these learning theories influence my teaching practice, I looked at a few theories, reflected on my career, and made some connections to educational technology.

Behaviorism

As Ertmer and Newby (2013) explain, “Behaviorism equates learning with changes in either the form or frequency of observable learning.” In terms of my experience in school as a student, I think much of what I did was rooted in the behaviorism theory. As there is an emphasis on producing observable and measurable outcomes, this was often achieved by testing or completing questions that had a right or wrong answer.

In my experience as a teacher, I can definitely see some times where behaviorism is utilized to achieve a desirable result. As Matt Bresciani mentioned in his blog post, we utilize a school-wide SWPBIS (School-Wide Positive Behaviour Interventions and Supports) framework to identify and reward certain types of positive behaviour in our school. As Matt says, “While it could be argued that we are just bribing the students, I far prefer this method as you don’t need to hand out tickets every time, as the goal of this strategy to use behaviour specific praise when we see these positive behaviours.” In my personal experience using the SWPBIS system, it’s been extremely beneficial in the language and interactions that I have with students daily. As teachers can get caught up on focusing on the negative aspects of student behaviour or work habits, this program encourages teachers to find the positive things that are happening around your building. Also, I have witnessed this program contribute to the positive culture that exists at my school of St. Kateri. Instead of only focusing on those students that are causing problems, students are rewarded and recognized for doing good things.

In my first year of teaching, I used an iPhone for a classroom reward system. The premise was pretty straight forward and not all that developed (Give me a chance…. It was my first year). I would reward an app, at random, if I felt the students were doing something great. This could be excellent behaviour in mass, showing leadership around the school, or any other desired behaviour. Once the students earned 9 apps, they were given a classroom reward. Did it work? I think for some students. Was it fair no all students? I don’t think so.

I have totally went away from overall classroom reward systems. Would I fault a teacher for using them? Not a chance. I think there are some classrooms that can really benefit from these reward systems. In my classroom, I prefer to reward and correct individual student behaviour.

Cognitivism

Ertmer and Newby (2013) explain that, “Cognitive theories stress the acquisition of knowledge and internal mental structures… they focus on the conceptualization of students’ learning processes and address the issues of how information is received, organized, stored, and retrieved by the mind.” I can connect with some of the common themes throughout the cognitivism theory. As there is an emphasis on making knowledgeable meaningful and helping learnings organize and relate new information to existing knowledge, I think this is very beneficial for students. In many different subject areas, I try to relate the content and topics as to what’s currently happening in our world or society. Whether it be using “real life” examples of numbers in math class or utilizing current events for a variety of subjects, these meaningful connections create good opportunities to make connections to what they already know.

Educational Technology and Learning Theories

Audrey Watters writes, “These behavior management apps are, in many ways, a culmination of Skinner’s vision for “teaching machines”—“continuous automatic reinforcement.” But it’s reinforcement that’s combined now with a level surveillance and control of students’ activities, in and out of the classroom, that Skinner could hardly have imagined.

When thinking about some educational technology tools utilized to encourage certain types of behaviour or answers, it’s hard not to see many connections to what Skinner was doing in the 1950’s. The teaching machine offers many of the same features that are readily available in many different ed tech tools.

ClassDojo, Kahoot, and Knowledgehook are a few examples of tools designed to reward students for a certain type of response or behaviour. As I’m not expert of learning theories, I really can’t say whether these are good or bad for student learning. As with anything in education, most, if not all educational technology tools can be used for good or bad. In my experience, I think it’s about finding a combination of learning theories that works well with your personal beliefs and goals.

A Few Thoughts on Educational Technology

As I reflect on my understanding of educational technology, I can’t help to think about how much my knowledge and teaching practices have changed over the past five years. Over the course of the past five years, I have been blessed to teach with Regina Catholic School Division. Not only have I worked with some very strong teachers in technological areas (See Matt Bresciani & Jennifer Owens), I have been a part of the connected educator program. Through experimenting in the classroom, professional development, and collaborating with a strong network of teachers using technology, I have been able to develop a deeper understanding of how to use technology in a positive and meaningful way in the classroom. Although I’ve had mostly positive experiences while using technology, I also realize that there are some challenges and problems with overuse and unnecessary use of technology in the classroom. The reality of technology is that it’s always evolving and changing, leading teachers to stay informed and educated on a wide variety of topics. My previous two classes, ECI 830 and ECI 832 have also had an impact of how I view and understand things such as the ethics of using technology in my classroom.

When thinking about EdTech in my own classroom, I utilize the SAMR Model to help me understand how I am doing at a particular time with technology usage.

When new to technology, I still remember that much of what I was doing was focused on the substitution level of SAMR. In basic terms, this was simply replacing traditional activities with digital versions. An example of this would be students using OneNote in the classroom to write notes instead of pen and paper. They are really learning the exact same thing, just using a laptop to do it. Although there is nothing wrong with substitution in the classroom, as this is generally where teachers become comfortable, you eventually want to take it further as you become more experienced and comfortable. In addition, if we are only ever using technology to substitute in the classroom, I’m not sure that the increased screen time is worth it for our students.

In my classroom, I would say that I’m probably the most comfortable with the augmentation level of SAMR. “This level involves incorporating interactive digital enhancements and elements like comments, hyperlinks, or multimedia. The content remains unchanged, but students can now take advantage of digital features to enhance the lesson” (Youki Terada, 2020). When looking at digital portfolios, parents are able to view their child’s digital portfolio via Seesaw, 24/7. In terms of formative assessment, students can receive instant feedback via Go Formative on a quiz they have taken. I think there are so many ways we can improve our lessons when working on the augmentation level of SAMR.

The last two sections, modification and redefinition, are extremely beneficial for students, as they provide many opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be available wihtout technology. Whether it’s connecting with a class across the world through Flipgrid or creating their own blog on an environmental issue, students have a much larger and expanded audience. Students can solve and address real world problems when working on this level of the SAMR model.

Through my work in the connected educator program over the past four years, I’ve always focused on using the SAMR swimming pool analogy. To put it very simply, one can swim laps across the swimming pool to ensure we are hitting the various levels of the SAMR model. One might also be more comfortable in one area of the pool versus another. Regardless of where we are on the SAMR model, there is plenty of opportunity to swim across the pool, even if it requires some support.

Beyond the fancy tools and resources used by teachers in the classrooms, I think it’s vital to develop some key skills and competencies in students. The 21st Century Learning Skills provide a good framework and understanding of some of the skills we should be developing in our students. In a world full of technology, I believe it’s crucial that we teach our students the critical thinking skills to be successful. As they are exposed to fake news quite often, we much teach them the skills and abilities to identify and understand what they are consuming. There are many ways in which was can ensure we are leveraging technology to promote 21st century learning in our classrooms.

Overall, I think that educational technology is about using technology in the classroom to develop the skills and competencies needed to live in the everchanging world. Whether that’s learning how to collaborate, critically analyzing messages in the media, or addressing social issues, I think we can leverage this technology to develop strong skills in our students.

Summary of Learning

I can’t believe we’ve already reached the end of this semester. It wasn’t so long ago that I was preparing for the first debate against Nancy and Amanda. Reflecting on this semester, there were so many things that I learned over the past 6 weeks. Turns out, there are very few simple answers when addressing the challenging issues and topics that face us as teachers using technology in the classroom. I’ve learned a lot about the value of looking at both sides of a topic or issue, regardless of where you stand on an issue. In addition, I’ve continued to develop my understanding of the positives and negatives that come with using technology in the classroom. In the end, there is no right answer. As technology can provide incredible benefits to teachers, it also creates additional challenges at the same time.

To all my wonderful classmates of ECI 830, I truly enjoyed learning from all of you. The wide range of perspectives and beliefs made it a very rewarding experience and I took a lot away from many of you. The quality of arguments put up in the debate, whether you agreed with the topic or not, were very thought provoking and enjoyable to watch.

Please take a minute to check out the summary of learning created by Matt and myself. We hope you enjoy the “dirt” we found on Dr. Alec Couros.

Is openness and sharing unfair to our students? The Great EdTech Debate

Lucky for us, we were treated to another great episode of The Great EdTech debate. Debating the issue, “Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our students” both sides put up a strong argument on topic. Starting with the agree side, Melinda and Altan presented some thought provoking thoughts about this topic, especially in regards to the EAL learners in our country. On the opposite side of the debate, Sherrie and Dean countered with some strong points as to why openness and sharing is actually beneficial to our students.

Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our students – Agree

Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our students – Disagree

My Thoughts

After hearing both sides of the debate, I connected with the thoughts and ideas on both sides of the debate. For one, should we require student permission before posting a photo of them to social media? Or, is the permission form signed at the beginning of the year good enough and we are free to post whatever images we choose. I question whether we should go beyond a simple signature in September of every school year. In my position of power and authority, I know that my students aren’t going to question and challenge me if I take a picture of them. I also know that if I tell them to get the form signed, they will likely get the form signed. But, do they really want that picture being posted to social media? As teachers, we often teach and educate our students about the importance of controlling and contributing to their digital footprint. Yet, we often freely contribute and curate their footprint, often without them even knowing it. Thinking back to last semester, Victoria tweeted about the difference between consent and assent. Applying this to education and sharing of students on social media, I think we should take some time to consider this in our classrooms.

In terms of sharing content and being open in school, I feel that there is tremendous opportunity and benefits to students in this area. Whether it be a Mystery Skypes, digital book clubs, or connecting with a class across the world through Flipgrid, I think there are many ways that sharing and openness can be beneficial to our students. Breaking down the walls of a classroom provided opportunities that did not exist prior to social media. This allows students to:

  • Hear different perspectives, especially from those who don’t dominate the conversation in school
  • Authentically learn from and with other’s that have a different worldview. Whether this be a different culture, race, or religion, this is a very powerful experience
  • Collaborate on larger scale, which includes other schools and professionals from all over the world
  • Actively learn how to positively and effectively contribute to the digital space

Overall, I am truly at a crossroads whens it comes to the debate of openness and sharing. When it comes to sharing of personal images of students, I question the intent and goal behind sharing images of students on social media platforms. In some cases, our students are being used to market ideas, lessons, or classroom activities to a global audience. As I think we should teach our students ways that they can positively use social media, I’m not sure we should use them for our social media. Now, I believe that 99% of these teachers don’t have an ill intentions with the content that is being shared on social media. Rather, I think we need to critically look at the situation and ask ourselves a few questions before posting student images to social media. As we push our students to make smart decisions online and watch what they post, should they have more choice as to what’s being posted to social media accounts by us? Should they have full control of their digital footprint or should we dictate how that looks like? Who is benefiting from posting this image to social media? In saying this, there are so many teachers doing any amazing job of social media account with their classroom. As a teacher, if we can find academic value, social value, or improved community connections for our students, I think that’s a good enough reason to post to social media.

Openness and sharing of ideas provides tremendous opportunity for teachers, students, and society as a whole. Through the openness of the internet, students have endless opportunities to truly learn about anything they want. School hasn’t always been this way, as the narrative has been shaped by a few textbooks sitting on the shelves of a classroom. In my personal experience with a project such as Genius Hour, the openness of the internet has allowed students to learn things that I have truly no clue about. It’s allowed them to explore passion, spark creativity, and develop critical thinking skills that I probably wouldn’t be able to teach them.

Should cellphones be banned in the classroom?

We were treated to another Great EdTech debate last week. With cellphones often being a contentious issue in education, I knew that we were in for a good debate that evening. Starting with the agree side of the debate, Jill and Tarina created a good video and argument as to why we shouldn’t allow cell phones in the classroom. Countering on the other side, Skyler and Alyssa countered with some strong content as to why we should allow cellphones in our classroom. Prior to the debate, I disagreed with the statement and truly believe that banning cellphones in the classroom is not an effective digital citizenship strategy for our students. In saying that, Jill and Tarina raised some valid points that must be addressed in the classroom to ensure we are following best practice in regards to technology.

Cellphones should be banned in the classroom – Agree

Cellphones should be banned in the classroom – Disagree

My thoughts

As mentioned above, I don’t believe that banning cellphones in the classroom is an effective strategy given the current state of technology use in our society. For one, I think it’s important to model and demonstrate productive cellphone use to our students. I feel that most of our students are using their cellphones simply for entertainment or communication purposes. For example, students spend a lot of time using Snapchat to communicate or TikTok for some entertainment and laughs. I don’t think this is a problem, as I use these tools in the exact same way. But, I think we should also teach students that this tool is far more powerful and helpful to them in so many different ways. Applied to my classroom, student are taught to download and use the Seesaw and Flipgrid which an be used at home or school. As I teach in a 1:1 classroom, there isn’t a significant need to regularly use these at school. Not all classrooms are 1:1 which could lead to many students being in classrooms with minimal or no technology. Let’s teach our students how to use this extremely powerful device to help them both personally and educationally. In the wise words on Skyler, “Don’t make a ban, have a plan.”

Pixabay

We can also lead by example and show our students how to effectively use cellphones for productivity and work. During the night of the debate, there was a conversation around the idea of teachers using cellphones and some divisions outright banning or severely limiting them. As someone who uses their cellphone frequently for work, I would 100% be against banning cellphones for teachers. In the busyness of a typical school day, it’s often far more effective for me to use my cellphone rather than going to my desk and accessing everything through my laptop. In addition, I’m rarely sitting at my desk, which makes using my laptop even more challenging. In a typical pre-covid school day, here are a few examples of how teachers use their cellphones effectively in their practice:

Planbook: All of my planning and scheduling is completed online using the Planbook website and application. Through this tool, I know what day of the week it is (Ex: Day 3), what’s up after recess (Ex: Assembly at 10:45), where I’m supervising (Ex: Lunch supervision), and when my prep is for that day (Ex: 12:55-1:25). In addition, the planning tools allows me to embed documents and links that I am using for that school day. It’s quite convenient and beneficial for me to access this on my cellphone. As I use this organizational tool daily, students witness and understand how this tool is helping me stay organized throughout a typical school day.

Planbook Cellphone View

Seesaw: Seesaw is frequently used on a daily basis for many different things in the classroom. In any given day, I might respond to a parent message, share a picture of a classroom activity, review student assignments, or send out an announcement to parents. Completing these tasks on my cellphone is quite convenient and often requires less time than pulling out my laptop. Alternatively, if I was only able to complete these tasks on my laptop, I would be far less effective and likely take much longer to complete these tasks. Not only that, students learn how to use this tool for many different purposes. In the example below, this student used Seesaw to contact me when he couldn’t contact me through Office 365 last week.

Some other ways that teachers use their cellphone include:

  • Emails: Do they ever slow down?
  • Google: Looking up things that students ask me that I don’t understand.
  • EAL Learners: Helping students understand through images or translators.
  • Office Lens: Converting images of documents to digital files.
  • Pictures and Videos: Taking good quality videos and images to share with parents. Also, taking pictures of student assignments to contribute to their digital portfolio on Seesaw
  • Safety Purposes: Reporting recess incidents to admin, such as a student having a seizure on the playground.

Overall, I’m definitely opposed to banning cellphones in the classroom. When used properly, these tools have tremendous capabilities that can benefit students in so many different ways. I think the misconception about cellphone use in the classroom comes from a lack of understanding of how they are actually being used for educational purposes. When the general public thinks about cellphones in the classroom, they often think that students are sitting on their phone and texting all day. The reality, many teachers are using them for creating content, doing research, and many other solid educational purposes. Lastly, I think there needs to be more work done with parents regarding digital citizenship outside of the school setting. As many teachers do an amazing job of teaching digital citizenship within the walls of the school, I often wonder how much work is being done at home. Are parents teaching kids how to safely maneuver Snapchat and TikTok, as they are primarily being used at home? With a strong home and school connection, we can continue to develop strong digital citizenship skills in our students.

Is social media ruining childhood?

In this week’s episode of the Great EdTech debate, the debaters had the difficult task of arguing the impact of social media on our young people. On the agree side, Laurie and Christina presented a heavy hitting video on why social media is having a negative on our young people. Across the table, Dean and Amy came back with an equally strong video arguing that social media has a positive impact on our young people. Going into this debate, I voted against the idea that social media is ruining childhood. As ruining is such a strong word, I found it hard to agree with that part of the statement. In saying that, I do believe that social media is having some negative effects on young people. As both groups created very strong debates, it was easy to connect with points on both side of the debate.

Social media is ruining childhood – Agree

I thought that Laurie and Christina did a fantastic job at the beginning of their video. Setting the scene, they took us back to the days of minimal technology use in our world. “Living in the present moment” and highlighting the simplicity of childhood in previous years, this was effective strategy to persuade the audience towards their side of the argument. In terms of their argument, many things stood out to me. Some of these included:

  • Mental health: Social media increased depression, anxiety, self-esteem and suicide in teens.
  • Addicted to the access: FOMO and seek validation from their peers.
  • Attention spans have decreased: This links to the lack of deep social connection

I think there are many different reasons to be concerned about how much social media that our young people are using. For one, there is research to support that exposure to photos on social media correlated with body surveillance, drive for thinness, and distorted eating practices among other things. A possible reason is that social media users “selectively display the ideal images of their appearance to impress others and receive approval from friends and peers.” I worry that our young people, particularly girls, are too often exposed to these unrealistic expectations regarding their physical appearance from a very young age. I understand the argument that kids have been exposed to this through TV and magazines for many generations. But, were they exposed to this at the age of 8 when they signed up for their first Instagram account? Did they feel the pressure to use a filter and post a photo for their peers? Did they have 24/7 access to the Kardashians, their friends, and influencers on social media? Were they connected globally 24 hours a day? The landscape has significantly changed with the increased use of social media in our young people. As social media isn’t the sole cause for these issues, I think the increased use and addiction has greatly contributed and complicated this issue.

Social media is ruining childhood – Disagree

I though the fake news report by Dean and Amy was a great way to counter the argument that social media is ruining childhood. The news report was an effective strategy to highlight the positive aspects of social media that often get overlooked. I would agree that the negative stuff, such as cyber bullying and exploitation are often highlighted in mainstream media. Some things that I connected with in their video included:

  • Teens are less lonely that in past decades
  • Groups online prove a sense of belonging
  • Can be used to spread positivity and good in the world

There’s no denying that when social media is used in a healthy way, it can have an incredibly positive impact on young people. As Dean and Amy mentioned, social media can be an outlet for those who might not have positive connection in their life. Online groups, such as the buddy project, provide strong connections for students who may not have these in their classroom or homes. Lastly, if we were to leverage social media and teach students how to properly use these tools, I think there is an incredible opportunity to use these tools to spread kindness and good in this world. Without access to social media, I’m not sure that our students would be able to make such an impact in the world.

Final Thoughts

I’m truly on the fence when it comes to this topic. In terms of using the word “ruining”, I don’t believe that would be the right world to describe the relationship between childhood and social media. As Daina mentioned in her blog post , social media is definitely changing what childhood looks like. As we often feel nostalgic about our own childhood and think that our generation is better than the current one, we have to put these thoughts aside and look at the situation realistically. Is social media going away? Not a chance. My question going forward is how do we educate and prepare our students to live in a world enriched with social media? How we create balance in our children so they appreciate technology, physical activity, the arts, and the natural environment? As teachers living in the current situation, we must do our best to teach our students the importance about balance in our lives. As we were taught about balance in terms of using video games and TV’s when we were young, we must do the same with the current generation of kids.

Schools should not focus on things that can be easily Googled – Debate

In this week’s Great EdTech debate , we received a double dose of support as to why we shouldn’t be teaching things that can be easily Googled. All four debaters, Curtis, Lisa, Dana, and Jocelyn did a fantastic job of presenting their thoughts and opinions on why we should focus on other vital skills in school. Going into the debate, I choose to agree with the statement as I think there are so many valuable skills that need to be developed in students that you can’t fulfill by simply typing something into Google. In saying that, Google definitely has a vital role in education when used properly.

Starting with Curtis and Lisa’s argument, I connected with a few different points throughout their video. The 6 skills to be successful: positive, bravery, determination, self belief, creativity, and sheer energy highlighted the need to teach other things that aren’t content or facts. I thought this was a great way to start the debate as I definitely believe that you need more than Google to develop these skills in our students. These skills, among others, are essentially for our students to be successful in their future. A teacher has the ability and training to further develop these skills in our students. In addition, a teacher has the ability to assess and understand what skills a student needs to focus on improving. Through this understanding, a teacher will guide and push student towards development of these important skills.

I also think it’s very important to use our natural environment to educate our students. If we simply stick our students in front of a screen all day, tell them to Google things, what impact does this have on their physical and mental health? In my personal experience with teaching online over the last couple of months, I have felt a certain way after spending multiple hours each day in front of a screen. Whether it’s a feeling of restlessness, tiredness, or irritability, looking at a screen has definitely had an impact on my own health. During these times, I have felt a great need to get outside and experience nature for myself. Whether this be a walk, bike ride, or a run, this has a positive impact on how I am feeling that day. I really don’t think this is any different for our students. In a time of connected classrooms, video games, cell phones, and social media, our students today might need the natural environment more than ever.

In my fall masters class with Dr. Nick Forsberg, the focus of the class was on using the outdoors to further our personal well-being and think about ways to use this in our professional practice. Through my undergraduate and graduate studies, this class has been one of the most influential on both my personal and professional lives. It really challenged me to think about the outdoors and nature in a different light, as this often goes against what traditional school looks like. When we imagine school, we often picture textbooks, books, computers, and teachers leading the way at the front of the room. In this course, we were required to read a book called, “The Nature Principal” which highlights how the environment provides extensive benefits to our physical and mental health. Not only that, it also improves our ability to learn and understand.

“We need people who have both ways of knowing the world. In other words, a hybrid mind” – The Nature Principal

To get a true understanding of our natural environment, you need to spend some actual time immersed in the environment. This allows you to see, hear, touch, and smell what nature has to offer. Not only will it give you a better understanding of the environment, it will have a positive impact on your physical and mental health. As the book states, it’s important to develop a hybrid mind that involves technology and non-technology skills. Through the use of land and the environment, students can further develop the non-technological skills. For example, we can Google and YouTube how to build a fire. It may look pretty straight forward and easy to do. But, when it comes to execute the skill, it’s much harder for students to do. If given the opportunity to practice in the environment, students can learn and improve this skill.

St. Kateri Outdoor Education Afternoon – January 2020

Dana and Jocelyn mentioned that searching things on Google limit students ability to critically think. I’d have to agree with that statement and students need to taught how to actually critically think. If we become too reliant on Google, do we actually do any thinking for ourselves? Furthermore, when accessing different types of information on Google, whether it be real or fake news, students need to have the ability to critically think and take in this information. Learning and understanding needs to be much more than simply regurgitating facts and content from Google.

Final Thoughts

I think the most important think to take away from this topic is that we need to find more of a balance in school and our personal lives. Google is amazing tool for so many different reasons. It gives people a platform to stand for what’s right, access to information, and the ability to make global connections and expand the walls of the classroom. The reality though, students need much more than the ability to type something into Google. They need to develop the skills to debate topics, connect with the natural environment, develop critical thinking skills, and develop social skills to use in their lives. If leveraged properly, Google can help assist teachers in developing well-rounded students.