Summary of Learning

This course has been a tremendous opportunity for myself to engage in meaningful and important conversations. Although our time together flew by, the content, the connections and the learning has created great space for me to continue to reflect on my role as an educator in the 21st Century.  It has helped me further understand the importance of good pedagogy, intention of lessons and how tech can enhance, how I view my role as a teacher, how I can ensure that all voices are being represented in my classroom.  This course, through the debate format, was tremendous in showing that when we take time to go beyond the surface of any tech related issue, research, discuss and reflect, we get to the crux of it all- how are we, as educators, using our platforms to enhance and empower student learning? 

To hear my thoughts on the course, the debates and my learning, check out the link below:

I found that after each debate I kept thinking about how what we were discussing could be reflective and research assignments for students in our classrooms. Therefore, below is an extension/activity I thought I would use in the future with students as I explore Digital Citizenship and Critical and reflective learners:

*I paired Debates 4 and 5 together for the extension assignments.  And paired Debates 2 and 7 together for extension assignments as well. So the order will be affected*

Debate #1: Technology: Does it help or hurt student learning?

Debate #3: Should Schools not focus on teaching things that can be easily googled?

Debate #4: Is Technology Ruining Childhood? Combined with Debate #5: Should Cell Phones be banned in the Classroom? and with Debate #6: Openness and Sharing is Unfair to our Kids

Debate #2: Does Technology Create Equity? Paired with Debate #7: Educators have a Responsibility to use Tech and Social Media to Promote Social Justice?

The Great Ed Tech Debate- Chapter 7

Educators have a Responsibility to use Tech and Social Media to Promote Social Justice?

For last night’s debate, I had the pleasure of working with Mike Wolf supporting the notion that Educators have a responsibility to use Tech and Social Media to promote Social Justice.  We also had the privilege to unpack this through Brad and Michala’s thorough and thought provoking counters to our stance.  When we first selected the prompt back in May, Mike and I both knew this was an important topic to discuss because Technology and Social Media plays such a prominent part in how we gather and share information.  What we did not anticipate was that this topic would come at a pivotal point in our global history, a time where there is civil unrest, protests and the world waking up to the complexities of our shared histories and how those histories are reflected uniquely back to individuals in diverse communities.  To say I was nervous to do this topic justice in the current landscape is an understatement.  However, I also know that growth happens in places of discomfort, as discomfort creates humility, and that grace opens our ears and hearts to receive what is being shared.  Last night there was certainly discomfort, as this is not an easy topic, but there was a beautiful and profound connection through discussion, shared stories and enlightening perspectives. Our conversation that left me with deep gratitude for my peers and for courageous conversations.

Mike and I spent time preparing ourselves by defining what Social Justice is, and how that definition in action and through learning in the classroom teaches students Critical thinking, Leadership, Political participation, Civic engagement, Commitment to communities.  We also discussed the role of democracy in the classroom.    Our research also highlighted the many transferable skills that occur when a critical social justice lens is taught:

Problem solvingIt requires research, planning, foreseeing potential issues and how to mitigate them

Critical thinking– How can I/we be most affective? How can I amplify my voice and/or the voices of those that need to be heard in a specific situation?

CollaborationSocial Justice work is hard work. It’s emotional, it’s taxing, it’s met with resistance.  Having the power to collaborate and create community is not only essential for the final product, it’s also essential for mental well-being and support throughout the process.  Also, diversity of voice ensures that unique and different perspectives and experiences are heard in the planning process and in the implementation of action.

PerseveranceSocial justice problems are not fixed after one presentation, one protest, rather it’s about the daily work to learn and unlearn.  It truly is a journey of self-discovery and challenging the systems that have been entrenched in our communities and countries for years

Historical context– As Chafee said: “Explore to teach that history is ongoing and its connected to current movements to justice and we help them to see themselves as potential players within a living history

School can and should be bigger than its walls: When we broke for COVID I told my students that learning doesn’t happen only in the 4 walls of a school.  So challenge yourself to follow your curiosity, to read books, to listen to Podcasts, to keep learning!   I believe that messages are presented to people exactly when they need that nudge that is directing them to their next right step, a step that will create a future where we use our platforms to further the dialogue, education and connection to help create a more equitable world.

Chaffe’s work and Point of view and personal accounts are incredibly moving.

Our opponents absolutely crushed their video and put a satirical spin on their response.  The humor, the accents, the beard game was incredibly strong and along with the levity, they countered with incredibly strong arguments if it is the “teachers responsibility” to use “social media”, focusing on the use of social media.  Their point of argument was not teaching social justice, their main issue was putting those points of view on social media and/or expecting our students to do the same.  They proposed that we need to consider what issues we are willing to take up and receive push back on.  Brad went onto share a personal account of how creating a Recycling program fostered negative consequences that were not only unexpected, but also made him more cautious about using social media as a platform to share his views.  They also went onto say it is important that we remain neutral and do not share personal points of view.  Melinda added to that sentiment with an incredible personal story from when she was a girl growing up in Romania that reiterated the need to be aware of the danger of posting.  Something, I as a Canadian citizen and privileged person have not had to consider in my lifetime.  

After sharing our videos and counter arguments, I felt the classes discussion really got me thinking.  I thought I was set on using our platform to affect change, but hearing my opponents and classmates describe their points of view I began to waiver on my initial feelings.  Dean made a great point that perhaps it shouldn’t be about the home-run assignment, but rather communal, positive stories that highlight human dignity and our role in making our world a better place.   Nancy added that maybe it’s not using the platform, but dissecting others use of the platform and the positives, challenges and repercussions of using that platform to voice opinions and thoughts.  I felt those points were a great way to integrate the idea in the classroom, while maintaining the balancing act of ensuring staff and student’s safety.

Source: Bitmoji

Despite arguing for the pro side for this particular debate, at the end of the day I once again fall in the middle.  As I said in my closing statement- I feel this class has done that consistently.  It has asked each of us to present a point of view from a binary perspective.  Through our research and commitment to one side we come to understand the complexity and reason why someone would take that stance.  The cool thing is the “other side” was doing the exact same thing.  Suddenly, what we thought seemed clear through research and dialogue with a partner becomes a bit murkier.  Add in a discussion from our peers with personal stories, examples and further discussion and suddenly the binary begins to disappear and the ambiguous and beautiful middle is presented to us.  The middle that allows us to sit in compassion, humility and awareness to make positive and informed decisions of how to integrate tech into our classrooms.  This was certainly the case last night as I left that debate knowing I am better for having it.  Knowing that the courageous conversation we had, particularly at this time in history, personally moved me.  The debate and discussion showed me the absolute need for these types of challenging conversations as they create space of understanding and from that understanding comes intentional actions.   At the end of the day, I know I will operate more fully in my decision making honoring all sides and walk the gray area with hope, but also a realistic perspective. 

Source: Shutterstock

The Great Ed Tech Debate: Chapter 6

To share, or not to share, that is the Question.

Last night’s debate was another incredible one.  The way both sides perceived the question, their extensive research to help us understand their positions, their personal observations from their perspectives in the classroom gave space for great insight and lots to reflect on.  This debate affects me both personally and professionally- as I constantly grapple with how to navigate the waters of sharing and privacy in my personal and public social media channels.

Source: Giphy.com

Altan and Melinda’s perspective as EAL teachers stopped me in my tracks.  All school divisions have an Acceptable Use policy that we send home at the beginning of the year.  Once those forms are signed and returned, we are under the assumption that posting images of students in curricular and extra-curricular settings is permissible.  Altan and Melinda pointed out that the language in which those are written may not be as clear and forthright as we thought when English is not the dominant language spoken in the home.  This incredibly important observation made me think of how we think we are doing the right thing, we think we are covering the bases, but are we ensuring that the information is being received in its intended nature?  Kalyn went onto add that, as a Mom, she often wonders what she is signing.  She observed that she sees a space for her children to participate in Seesaw, but does that also mean that they are now allowed to be shown on the school’s social media and online platforms?  If she has those clarifying questions it’s safe to assume so do many others!  Victoria then added that she attempts to combat this confusion with sending details of what each platform is used for, and therefore, what they are saying is OK for their children to be shown on. This shows a proactive and informative response that perhaps could help parents and families understand the complexities of that signature!

Source: Facebook

To add to dilemma and challenges that come with sharing, Melinda and Altan also spoke about the potential implications of images being used inappropriately.  In the article Posting About Your Kids Online Could Damage Their Futures– Jessica Baron pointed out “technology coupled with parents’ behavior is increasingly putting children at risk for identity theft, humiliation, various privacy violations, future discrimination, and causing concern about developmental issues related to autonomy and consent.”  This really got me thinking about the ramifications of what I post personally, and professionally.  Personally, I worry about my children’s safety and do not post as often as I did when they were little.  I am conscious of the privacy settings on my channels so that as they get older, they are not frustrated with what I thought was so cute when they were younger.  Professionally, I currently run our School’s Instagram account and I try to be incredibly conscious of student’s privacy when posting.  I try to err on the side of caution and use big group shots, use back of students heads when guest speakers are sharing, I ensure all students have signed the release form and often I rely on Adobe Spark and other ways to share information that does not include pictures of students.  I realize that students may not like my cautious approach with the account as it’s rare they are predominately featured, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Source: Adobe Spark (an example of what I create for the School Social Media)

To counter Melinda and Altan, Dean and Sherrie absolutely knocked it out of the park with their Rick Mercer rant!  The information shared, the brevity, the acronyms, the walking and talking, the cardio!  It was all so good.  The major thing that I noticed during Sherrie’s “rant” (other than her cardio stamina) was how informed she was.  You can tell she has worn the administrator hat and got me really thinking about all the information and legalese an administrator needs to be aware of, comfortable with and also able to share that with their student and parent/guardian population.  This got me thinking of another way in which “education” is changing.  Administrators have a huge thing to consider, something that did not need to be considered in the past.  I realize the issues (such as bullying or speaking inappropriately) is not new, what is, is the medium and the number of people that can view it on said medium.  Add in the component of keeping students safe, aware and supporting family choice while also running a school, and I can see how challenging this issue is for Administrators. Thinking down the road, I wonder if a required portion of Meet the Teacher Night or CSCC Meetings will be unpacking the issues of Social Media and the responsibilities, awareness and education that has to occur for all stakeholders- teachers, students and parents/guardians.

Source: Giphy.com

Dean and Sherrie went onto say that the above should not act as a deterrent for using Social Media, on the contrary they felt that being informed, making a plan and having solid procedures will help alleviate the issues to ensure all people are informed and aware of the responsibilities that come with Social Media and sharing platforms.  In the article Creating an Open Classroom the article discussed several parameters to help create boundaries, expectations and a plan to move forward.  The three stages outlined were:

  • “The first stage is all about developing relationships between all learners which includes student- teacher and student-student relationships”.
    • Relationships are critical.  They lay the foundation for trust, respect and reciprocity.  As teachers we all know that relationships can assist classroom management and also build a safe environment for students to learn and grow. It is no exception when considering the ramifications of Social Media and sharing of learning.
  • “The second stage includes a wide variety of activities to develop digital skills, abilities and knowledge with a focus on digital literacies
    • As discussed in Debate #1, tech has the great opportunity to enhance learning when it’s framed in sound pedagogy, intention and through reflective practice.  It is the same when deciding when and how to post and share information and learning.
  • “The third phase has focused on interactions, collaborations and connections between the learners and non-formal learning contexts (like building a house with tradesmen, community partners, connecting with other students around the world, connecting with other teachers, and talking to family members and other community expert”
    • This is like the “dress rehearsal” for helping to achieve the fourth stage.  I often tell my students when they are preparing for an in-class presentation or creating a Flip Grid response, that this type of conversation is “low stakes”, but they help us practice skills for “high stakes” conversations (i.e. a conversation with a loved one, a discussion with a boss, going for an interview).  I believe the more we practice expressing ourselves, the more comfortable those skills become which is advantageous when the courageous conversations will inevitably come up in our lives!
  • “The fourth stage, the student will focus on exchanging, sharing and collecting learning artifacts and supporting other learners while building a sustainable Personal Learning Network/Environment” 
    • The more we can lean into experts in fields, the more opportunity we give to build relationships and networks the more we are setting up our students for future success in various jobs, and also practicing the skill with supervision and guidance

This debate gave me so much to think about and reflect.  Moving forward I have more of an idea of how I could foster student safety.  How I could communicate with home.  How I could ensure that stakeholders understand their role in Digital Citizenship.  How I would handle the positives and challenges as a classroom teacher and administrator.  Essentially, this gave me many tools in my toolbox that I will continually reflect upon and be conscious of moving forward.

Source: Bitmoji

The Great Ed Tech Debate- Chapter 5

Should Cell Phones be banned in the Classroom?

Last week’s debate facilitated by Tarina and Jill, Skyler and Alyssa was an incredible conversation regarding the impact of cell phones in the classroom.  Both sides did a phenomenal job shedding light on the obstacles and the opportunities that teaching in the 21st Century creates.  Although my vote did not change between pre and post-debate voting (following the trend of all debates proceeding this one) their video, their talking points, the readings both groups provided and the dialogue with all of my classmates created space for me to consider the how, why and the ways in which I can enhance student engagement and learning.

Tarina and Jill argued that cell phones should be banned from the classroom. They opened their arguments with a powerful visual of a 30-minute span in a common classroom.  Each time a student received a notification they were asked to make a mark on the board.  You cannot deny the MANY interruptions that students received.  This anecdotal observation is substantiated in the article We Should Ban Cellphones in Classrooms. The Research Backs That Up: Paul W. Bennett voiced that “Dismissing (cell phones) only serves to ignore the evidence-based research: that students’ fascination and, at times, their obsession with mobile devices is adversely affecting their performance, cognitive capacities, concentration and well-being. And while implementing a school-level ban has been tricky to accomplish, that’s not a good reason for turning a blind eye to the problem”.  This made me think of an article I read a while back: Stop Letting Push Notifications Ruin your Productivity.  It discussed how the brain struggles to “switch” from task to task and there is a consequence to noticing an alert.  Glaveski states that “Recent estimates find that while each task switch might waste only 1/10th of a second, it can add up to a 40% productivity loss if you do lots of switching in a day. This number might be higher if bench marked against an executive who spends several hours a day in flow”.  I know in my personal experience that I have to turn phone notifications off in order to reach a state of flow. Currently, as I type this, my phone is on silent and turned upside down so I can focus on writing this blog post.  If I need this boundary, it is safe to assume that a classroom full of teenagers who receive exponentially more alerts may benefit from not having access to their phones.   This observation is further defended in the video There’s a Cellphone in your Student’s Head.  “The mere presence of our phones might be triggering automatic attention”- a neural system a brain system that unconsciously monitors for signs of critical importance, it screens out irrelevant info- but snaps us to attention when, for example, someone calls our name, an infant cries, or a siren wales”.  The video is illustrating that this human reaction to notice is BIOLOGICAL- we can’t help our reaction!  Phones are designed that way on our purpose and our evolutionary brain cannot distinguish an Instagram notification from that of a crying baby or wailing siren!

To further their argument that Cell Phones should be banned Tarina and Jill shared a Ted Talk Cell Phone Addiction | Tanner Welton | TEDxLangleyED (6:46) that states that “80% of children check their phones every 5 minutes”.  The earlier image with the number of notifications and anecdotal observation tells me this is true.  I think it would be an interesting activity for students to complete a reflection assignment about their use of technology.  Most phones now provide statistics of screen time, apps used (and for how long), number of pick-ups (including a time when the pick-ups occurred). undefinedThis information made me reflect on putting this to a reflective assignment.  I think it would be cool for students to monitor their usage, notice patterns, reflect on emotions and experiences during a set amount of time and then self-diagnose their use and how it benefits them but also causes challenges.  Perhaps this reflection is facilitated during a “regular” week, a week with a major exam, and a week when there was a relationship issue.  Perhaps giving students time to reflect and watch their usage they could begin to correlate when and how technology is aiding them, and when it is a distraction that is causing undue consequences. In Debate #4 “Social Media is ruining Childhood”, Laurie and Christina shared an alarming trend of social media companies hiring Psychologists to design phones in order to increase addition.  Tech Companies Use Persuasive Design to Get Us Hooked state that psychologists are a part of the design in order to get people addicted.  This is not only alarming, but could be an essential fact to share with young adults that they need to be conscious of.

Shifting to the Disagree side, Skyler and Alyssa spoke about the many positives that come with using technology in class.  They argued that a cell phone is an essential instrument to achieve the accessibility and equity in the classroom.  With the use of a Cell Phone, most classrooms would create a 1-1 environment, where technology could aid pedagogy.  Like most debates before, the critical piece to this being achieved to its potential is a PLAN.  Or, as the eloquently stated “Do not ban, make a plan”.  They shared an article How to Teach Your Students the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship that provides structure of how to make students aware of the responsibility that comes with using their personal devices in class.  As Uncle Ben said in Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility” and the Digital Citizenship module highlights the many ways in which students need to see and act in that responsibility. “The benefits of digital citizenship for kids extend far beyond the individual.[8] When we help students develop healthy practices on the Internet, we’re also creating a better space for everyone they interact with. If your students use technology in class, digital citizenship curriculum is one of the best ways to help everyone make the most of their time online”.  It is essential as educators we model the skills, restraint and responsibility that comes with having a computer in your pocket at all times, and the digital citizenship continuum is an excellent way to lay the path for students to name and understand that responsibility.

Skylar and Alyssa also spoke about the need as classroom teachers to use technology in class in order to be active participants in diminishing the divide between privileged and marginalized students.  In the Digital Citizenship continuum, it states “Teaching digital literacy and other citizenship skills can also help bridge digital equity gaps (or the “digital divide”) between students.[3] Not all students have the same level of access to technology at home. Students from low-income or marginalized communities often have fewer digital experiences in comparison to their peers.[4] When digital literacy is a core part of their education, the technological resources and lessons in school can help these students catch up with their classmates.”  Although I agree with that notion technically, I think it is imperative we consider the other side of this coin.  I wonder if teachers rely on tech in the classroom, that divide between easy access and lack of access could be further perpetuated. Our current situation of distance learning has shed great awareness to access and equity.  As we discussed in Debate #2, students may not have access to resources and tech at home, so what was creating opportunity in the classroom may be doing the adverse when that location is no longer accessible to create that equity (along with public libraries and other locations where students could access tech to complete work).  Therefore, the question becomes, how can we as a society ensure access not only in our classrooms where we have control, but also affecting the policies and opportunities at a higher level to ensure equitable access???  This notion of limiting the divide, in turn creates a bigger question that needs to address the systemic ways in which privileged continue to be privileged, and marginalized continue to be oppressed through lack of access.

The Great Tech Debate #4: Is Technology Ruining Childhood

As a teacher and mother, last night’s debate was an issue that I think about often.  I am constantly oscillating between the positives and challenges that Technology brings into our lives.  As a mother, I want my children to know who they are, is exactly who they are supposed to be.  The light that is in them (they are 5 and 4) is something I constantly marvel at.  They see their gifts and are not afraid to share them.  They show pride in learning something new.  They support each other.  They are unapologetically themselves every day.  I want them to remember all that they are before society tells them who they are supposed to be so they can stand firm in those convictions while navigating this diverse world of information. I want the same for my students.  However, I shift the lens from a concerned parent, to an educator that wants to provide opportunities to see the benefits of Social Media.  I want to empower students to connect and learn from experts in the field.  No matter how hard I try, my perspective is limited on many issues, because no matter how much I educate myself I have a deficit lens in various areas (social justice for example) and I believe it is more beneficial and necessary to facilitate conversations and education from perspectives that can speak to a full experience. Therefore, I am trying to find a balance between the positives and negatives and us technology as a tool to amplify voices, to express their own and to be educated.  The power of technology is unlimited, but so are the risks.  Last night’s debate gave great information from both sides of the argument. Information I will use professionally and personally as I move forward.

Laurie and Christina did a marvelous job at bringing awareness to the pitfalls parents and educators need to be aware of with the increased access to technology. I must admit that before the debate started I sided with the Disagree side in the pre-vote, and even during the debate, I found myself thinking of all the opportunities in the obstacles.  However, as I looked over the articles that Laurie and Christina included in their research, my thoughts expanded beyond an optimistic “everything is a lesson” perspective and really consider the real and realistic examples they gave about the pitfalls of technology.  I began to think of the responsibility parents and teachers must put forth when navigating the 21st century learning.  I shifted my perspective from optimistic to realistic.  Laurie and Christina invited me to deepen my thinking to be fully prepared for ways to empower and educate my students and my own children so that the negatives they spoke of (the young girl in Montreal posting inappropriate photos on Instagram, the heinous example of people impersonating people with disabilities) happen less.  And if they do happen, empower student voice to report situations where people are unsafe or being marginalized.  They showed the essential need to exhibit critical thinking before engaging and positing behavior that is dehumanizing and unsafe. The article Disadvantages of Social Networking: Surprising Insights from Teens, Price-Mitchell shared specific things teachers and parents need to be aware to be fully informed.  The article states that technology can create space that “Lacks Emotional Connection, gives people a license to be hurtful, decreases face-to-face Communication skills, conveys Inauthentic Expression of feelings, diminishes understanding and thoughtfulness, causes face-to-face interactions to feel disconnected, facilitates laziness, creates skewed self-image, reduces family closeness, causes distractions”.  Laurie went onto further substantiate the points listed above when she said that we do not know the long-term impacts of social media, or the negatives of the immediate and pervasive access to our phones.  She asked the question that with more research and study will we look back on this as we did when smoking was considered to be a healthy and fine thing to do?  Therefore, it is imperative we do not lose sight of the challenges and negatives that come with technology.  We need to consider both sides.  At the end of the day, Laurie and Christina showed great insight that it is about protecting people’s well-being, their mental health, their ability to develop deep meaningful relationships and connections and ensuring that we are aware of the negative ramifications as well as the opportunities.  Their points made me think of the video below: Simon Sinek- Millennials in the Workplace that went viral a few years ago. 

Dean and Amy went on to defend the opportunities that technology has brought into our modern lives.  As an educator, I see students using technology to enhance their lives and their connections. I am seeing them connect with “experts” in fields that brings them greater education about topics. I am seeing them create and innovate using tech in ways that was not accessible in years passed.  As a parent, I see my kids easily able to connect with their grandparents using technology. I observe them watching a YouTube video of kids showing their toys and then trying to create their own content showing their toys getting creative with what they think others would find interesting. (Side bar- they create their content for my husband and I, we don’t film or post this- not sure if that is adding to Dean and Amy’s or Laurie and Christina’s argument).  I have overhead them mid-playing saying “if you like this video please hit the thumbs up and subscribe”.   Part of me is taken aback at this language; the other part of me thinks it is incredibly interesting how they have a world of possibility at their fingertips and watching a video sparks creativity, collaboration and formal presentation.  Another example of young kids using technology to share their voice is my second cousins daughter (so my second cousin once removed?  Yes I googled that) has recently created a Baking Blog. Her mom shared her work online and stated “It’s been such a great learning experience: web design, video editing, photography, web hosting, content writing and more. At home learning has really worked well for her by giving her the chance to learn while doing one of her passions – baking!”  In the article 10 Examples of the Positive Impact of Social Media Smart Social discusses these opportunities by stating “Social media can be used to create a positive digital footprint and search result, social media can help students learn essential job skills, promotes creativity and technological savvy and creativity”. 

In summary, as per usual, I see excellent points on both sides of this debate.  I suppose that is a gift of debates, I get to read and listen to incredibly informed sides.  This active listening and in depth evidence from both sides shed light on ways in which I can make better decisions and greater awareness to the positives and challenges of teaching and using technology in the modern world, in my classroom and in my home.  Thank you Laurie, Christina, Dean and Amy for bringing so much food for thought that I can consider when moving forward.

The Great Ed Tech Debate- Chapter 3

Should Schools not focus on teaching things that can be easily googled?

We live in a society where information is at our fingertips.  The majority of the world has a computer in their pockets, easily accessed at a moment’s notice.  Our phones and computers are loaded with music from any era, social media that connects us with celebrities and experts in fields that interest us, oh, and the entire internet!  You are interested in how to make a flambé- google it and in seconds you have access to countless videos from experts and home chefs on YouTube telling you how to create this culinary masterpiece.  You want to know how to “apply for EI, apply for cerb, make hand sanitizer” just type “how to” into the search engine and this will be prompted for you (these are the things that were prompted when I simply typed “how to” today). The question becomes with this incredible access to information, how does that impact education and classrooms?  Should teachers be teaching content that can easily be found on the internet?  This week’s Ed tech debate gave great space and discussion to this issue.  The conversation gave thoughts and research into how we as modern day educators need to consider this in our planning, teaching and assessment practices.

In the article Creating Innovators: Why America’s Education System is Obsolete Erica Swallow theorized “American schools educate to fill children with knowledge — instead they should be focusing on developing students’ innovation skills and motivation to succeed”.  She believes that since information is accessible it is essential that we shift the focus from rote memory, to “Critical thinking and problem solving (the ability to ask the right questions), Collaboration across networks and leading by influence, Agility and adaptability, Initiative and entrepreneurial ism, Accessing and analyzing information, Effective written and oral communication, Curiosity and imagination”.  A large part of me agrees with Swallow’s points.   We must go beyond the rote and enter the world of deeper level of thinking and application.  Personally, in my classroom I teach students about the World Religions.   One such example where I go beyond memorization and into critical analysis is when I talk about rules and foundational beliefs in each Religion. When I teach Buddhism, students can easily Google the 8 Fold Path.  So, I spend time focusing on how one practices the path, how that path is evident in their personal lives, the challenges and positives of living the path, the connection to other Major World Religions rules.  I do not necessarily care if they memorize them, they can just ask Siri, rather, I want them to take time to analyze them, synthesize it and personally connect with them.

In the article, All Students Need Common Foundational Skills, Cynthia G. Brown adds onto the notion that our focus as educators should be on deeper level thinking and understanding. She contends that High School should be a stepping stool that plants seeds of curiosity and critical reasoning. She states: “A so-called college- and career-ready curriculum must not imply that every graduate needs a four-year traditional college education ending in a bachelor’s degree. What are needed are courses of study that prepare each student well for quality post secondary-learning opportunities that lead to good jobs”.  So, rather than focusing on rote memory and skills, it is about a plethora of content and deeper level thinking so that young adults can find their purpose and passion.

Curtis and Lisa’s LOTI model gave great structure and questions that reflective practitioners can ask themselves when planning units and daily lesson plans.  As I prepared for this post and read through it again I felt like it was a “Choose your own Adventure”.  It gave structure and questions that help create a pathway of intentional teaching instruction and assessment.  It also brought up potential issues so that a teacher could plan to curtail those before an issue arises.  I have found in my room when I am using technology (or any teaching practice really), the more I can tell them of past student experiences and/or give them potential road blocks and ways to overcome them, the more empowered and independent they become in their learning process. To add on, I also saw a correlation between the LOTI model and the SAMR model that was brought up in Debate #1.  Both models get teachers to name their true intention of using a strategy in their room with the ultimate goal being about enhancing student learning.

Jocelyn and Daina’s stance that teachers take information beyond the basic information (i.e. reading it on the internet) and give it life through explanation, story and connection to other learning really resonated with me.  We cannot think just because a student reads something that it is truly learnt and filed into deep knowing and understanding.  We know that when students personally connect, when they curate information they find interesting and are curious about, when students are given space to discuss with their peers and hear other opinions the more the information is embedded into their brains.  Personally, I love to cook and create in the kitchen.  I can read a million recipes about dicing and sauteing, but eventually I have to get in the kitchen and cook something!  The practice is as important as the research because it is through the doing that we take the moment from reading about it and actualize it.

Source: Pinterest
Source: My Kitchen 🙂 Note the iPad in the background of the photo where I put the recipe into practice.

At the end of the day, I am once again on the fence with this subject.  I believe we have a duty to teach basic skills, to assess a student’s ability to retain information and the “old school” paper and pen test still has its place in the classroom.  However, I also see the benefits of deeper level thinking, reasoning, applying and connection.  I believe that deeper level learning comes when we move beyond the foundation and can see a big picture of the content in a student’s personal life and the world.  In conclusion, I believe there are many ways that students can show their learning.  Therefore, it is essential we diversify our instructional and assessment practices to give students a variety of tools that will come in handy in their future

The Great Ed Tech Debate- Version 2.0

Does Technology Create Equity?

Anytime the word equity comes into the conversation my interest and curiosity is immediately piqued. I believe we have a responsibility to learn, to grow and to evolve our perspectives as humans and teachers.  By making a plan to increase the equity through tech for our students, we conversely also need to become more aware of the inequity that is occurring in the world, we are more aware of the full picture that is occurring in our schools and classrooms.   I think this awareness of both sides of the coin allows us to serve our students and our communities better.  There is a quote by Dr. Maya Angelou- “Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know you better, you do better” and I believe this topic and the discussion points brought by Jasmine, Victoria, Nataly and Kalyn shed light on all the ways in which we need to consider both sides of this argument and “do better”.

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Nataly and Kalyn did a phenomenal job talking about accessibility and adaptability.  Technology provides access for all learners, it provides opportunities to engage in learning that reflects their curiosity.  When given the tools, there are doors that can be opened that otherwise would not have even know existed. Their points about using technology to not only have a voice at the table, but to JOIN the table really struck me.  When Kalyn and Nataly said, “For most of us technology makes things easier, but for people with disabilities technology makes things possible” that stopped me in my tracks.  This quote reminded me that we all come with stories, BUT it is my privilege that I can choose to be aware of those diverse stories in my classrooms and inequities that are present, or I can remain ignorant to the landscape in my room.  There quote made me take pause.  I am aware of the Record of Adaptations, physical limitations and how technology can level the playing field for students who have the documentation to provide support, but what about the invisible biases and structures that benefit some while not considering others?  In my last course, I had the privilege of learning about Indigenous Research Methodologies. A major facet of engaging in that discourse and methodology was being able to place yourself in your research, which in turn affects and colors the lens in which you view the world.  It starts by being able to name and recognize the dominant discourses, and then placing yourself within that framework. By naming who and where you are, you are recognizing how the systems have affected your ability to engage and learn within the dominant discourse.  With that in mind- I am a thirty-eight year old, white, Catholic, heterosexual, English speaking, middle-class, urban raised female. I have four siblings and I was raised in Regina, Saskatchewan.  I am the daughter of middle class parents who both acquired University Degrees and both work in the field of Education in the Public School System in Regina for thirty plus years.  I am the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, and her personal story has greatly affected my point of view and my deep connection to family, education and spirituality.  Regardless of the stories that have brought me to this point, I have been greatly influenced by the social constructs that have garnered me unearned privilege and to ignore that is to ignore a large portion of my dominant perspective being reflected back to me in life, in relationships, and in the academy.   It is essential I am name that unearned privilege as that is critical in understanding my point of view as an educator.  Kalyn and Nataly reiterated that to me when they illustrated how technology can provide opportunities to for all students to learn and be empowered in that learning.

After hearing Kalyn and Nataly’s compelling arguments, this is where things got interesting for me in this debate.  The moment I thought the Pro side hit major points that illustrated opportunity and empowerment, Victoria and Jasmine showed me the other side of the argument that got my wheels turning once again.  Access and adaptability are great, but their argument about the digital divide, lack of affordability, and the concept of techno-colonialism showed me that technology does not provide a quick and easy fix for this incredibly complex issue.  I should know from experience that the concept of equity (and therefore inequity) does not come with an easy solution.  We are constantly taking steps to try to decrease the divide between the privileged and the marginalized, but as a whole, there has not been an easy fix to this situation.   In the article Technology for Equity and Social Justice in Education: A Critical Issue Overview Papendieck put forth the argument that “formal conceptualization of equality, what Gutierrez and Jaramillo call the “sameness as fairness principle” (2006, p. 180), does not account for structural oppression in guiding policy or practice”.  To simply say, “technology will create equality” is to deny that oppression exists is to be part of the problem, not the solution.  Furthermore, equality and equity are incredibly different things.  Equality is about the same for everyone, equity is about the specific resources a person needs in order to have the same foundation as their peers.   I felt that Jasmine and Victoria began to show the other side that we may be so busy thinking tech will level the playing field; that we could lose sight of how the systems that support that technology (both the tools and the people leading the learning) are coming with their perspectives.  So although providing technology may seem equal, does it provide equity?  I believe their arguments showed that unless we critique and understand how the tools are being taught, used and accessed among the diverse communities we are involved in, we are limiting the capacity of learning and voice as we are simply reiterating the dominant perspective.

Source: Reddit.com

At the end of the day, I do not know which side of the argument I would place my vote.  And I think that is OK.  What this debate did was remind me of the diverse and complex stories of the people in our classrooms and in our world.  It reminded me of the need to unpack my perspective and my privilege.  It made me want to question whose voice is the loudest in my classroom.  It made want to ask more questions, and seek more input to ensure that I am enhancing my point of view so that I may use this platform as an educator to empower ALL students.  It made me want to use tools (both tech and other) in my classroom for students to share their voice so that we all grow and evolve in our understanding of our personal stories in conjunction to other stories.  It made me want to operate from a place of compassion, and humility and to LISTEN.  Glennon Doyle once said, “When I am at a table where I have less privilege, I speak.  When I am at a table where I have more privilege, I listen”.  This debate reiterated it is essential I take time to listen before I act as tech can provide equality, but equity takes a larger look into the many facets of our social constructs.

The Great Tech Debate #1: Technology: Does Tech help or hurt student learning?

My first thought after watching the first round of debates was how both showed the power of persuasive arguments.  Nancy and Amanda’s choice to share a personal angle, highlighting Amanda’s story of her torn Achilles, really shone a light on the potential that tech brings into not only our students lives, but teachers as well.  The way she took an obstacle of being home bound and rather than being limited by her injury and feeling disconnected from her passion of teaching she found an opportunity to solve her personal situation with via tech.  You could see the joy and love in Amanda’s prepared lessons, and the creativity and the connection that occurred through them.  Their highlight of the 4 C’s 4 C’s of 21st Century Skills(critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity +connection) being present through tech really highlighted that when tech is used by caring, compassionate, creative, pedagogically sound teachers the sky is the limit.  After hearing their arguments, I would add another C- curiosity!  Often we tell students to find their passion, but finding their “one true thing” can feel like a lot of pressure.  However, with the aid of technology students have access to information and learning that can pique curiosity.  Elizabeth Gilbert (a well-known author and speaker who devotes her life to creativity) shows how curiosity can fan a flame, whereas passion can be a flame killer.  She states, “I am a big advocate for the pursuit of curiosity. … Curiosity, I have found, is always within reach. Passion is a tower of flame, but curiosity is a tiny tap on the shoulder — a little whisper in the ear that says, “Hey, that’s kind of interesting” (elizabethgilbert.com). 

At the beginning of the debate, I was under the impression that Matt and Trevor would have their work cut out from them to counter the strong argument that Nancy and Amanda put forth.  Furthermore, being aware of their work and seeing some of their lessons in the Connected Educator database I was aware that they have strong pedagogical practices that utilizes technology to enhance learning in their classrooms.  Their persuasive argument took a humorous approach and that really resonated with me.  The way they modeled an “attack ad” of sorts was very timely considering all that is going on in our world with the Presidential Election occurring south of the border and our recent Federal Election here in Canada.  While watching their incredibly well constructed video it got me thinking of how their video could be used to teach students about the power of media.  As a society we are inundated with information on our social media feeds and it is CRITICAL we look at what we are reading and validate it.  Furthermore, we often follow or receive information that think like we do.  Eli Pariser put forth the theory of a filter bubble influencing how we see the world.  He states that a Filter Bubble is the intellectual isolation that can occur when websites make use of algorithms to selectively assume the information a user would want to see, and then give information to the user according to this assumption”. 

This got me thinking of not only how we perceive media, but also WHAT media is presented to us.  Therefore, it got me thinking that Matt and Trevor’s video would be really cool assignment to look at the power of media.  It would be really neat to look at the angle they are taking, how are they trying to persuade you to think like them, what type of marketing skills do they use, what did you think about the tweets from Amanda and Nancy in their document, can we substantiate that Amanda and Nancy wrote them????  I love how their presentation not only defended their stance, but could also be used as a segue into another conversation and potential lesson for students.

Matt and Trevor’s argument that technology adds to teacher intensification, that it is distracting for students, that even Silicon Valley executives do not want their children using tech at school was very interesting.  I agree with them that tech can be overwhelming at times.  I know I have left Technology sessions where so many tools were shared I did not know where to begin.  But, once I picked one or two tools that aided my pedagogy, I found that the ease of the tool actually made my Outcomes easier to achieve, assess, and I had a bigger picture of student understanding which influences student learning.  I could and would start a lesson with checking in with students learning via a quick Mentimeter or Quizizz and with a few clicks I knew what content I had to review, what they were curious about and suddenly my next lesson was empowered by their learning from the previous lesson. Technology allowed me to inquire into student understanding and learning efficiently and effectively and I hope positively impact student learning.   In regards to technology being distracting, well, how I do say this, of course it is!  I know if I am bored, it is easy to grab my phone and look at something I find more interesting.  I am also guilty of responding to a text while I am in a Staff Meeting or somewhere else where I should be listening (never this class of course 😉 ). So rather than seeing this as an obstacle, I think it’s a teachable moment where we can practice the skills of self-regulation, discussions about appropriate and inappropriate use of tech, the power of active listening and how that aids engagement and learning.  Simon Sinek had a great video that went viral a few years ago talking about how tech can limit those opportunities for human connection, but also the power it has in our life.  Trevor and Matt spoke about this, but if we do not teach those skills in our classroom how can we expect student ts to learn those skills to use in the workplace and in their personal lives? 

Finally, Matt and Trevor’s point about technology executives preferring that their children do not use technology at school is an interesting one.  Do they know something we do not? Or . . . are they able to give those lessons in a controlled environment with their expertise that supersede a teachers understanding of technology?  I draw this analogy, if Michael Jordan is my dad (old school reference, but the Last Dance made me think of him and 90’s basketball was the bees knees!) do you think he should teach me about a fall away jumper, or will the Physical Education teacher be a great coach for that skill??

With all that being said, Amanda and Nancy shared really interesting insights that I agreed with. But Matt and Trevor took an argument in a Technology class and showed great points of what all teachers need to consider. They shared the other side of the coin, a side we must consider to ensure sound pedagogy is at the basis of any tool that is used in class- technology related or not. At the end of the argument, I actually changed my vote from the beginning.  Due to Trevor and Matt’s points, I believe that technology can enhance learning AS LONG as there is sound pedagogy at the foundation of the lesson and thus ultimately sided with them.  What I found while listening to the two sides of the debate is that Amanda and Nancy showed the potential of tech enhancing learning, and Trevor and Matt’s points got me thinking that there must be a foundation of pedagogy prior to tools being used.  Overall, both sides made me consider how we, as potential future leaders, in our schools need to say tech has great power, but with great power comes great responsibility!  Therefore, before we use tech, let’s make sure we are aware of the benefits, challenges and be able to name the reason why we are using it!  It’s a balancing act that both sides show great opportunities, so the more we can understand both sides the more we can be conscious of how we use it in our classrooms, and how can empower students and staff to utilize good teaching practice regardless of the tools being used.  

A Day in the Life. . .

In the immortal words of The Beatles- “I read the news today, oh boy”.  I feel like those lyrics are incredibly relevant in our current daily life. How every day there is “news” and a new development happens that the world reacts to which sets the next few steps for people.   When I first read the question, the word current stood out to me.  It made me reflect on the world’s current perspective, how the world is currently operating, and how in a few short works our current lexicon has phrases like “plank the curve”, “social distancing” and “contact clusters” being used by all people around the world.  Therefore, when I think of my “day in the life”, I have to remind myself that our current situation has evolved quickly, that the fluidity of this situation highlights that we are adaptable beings who are tremendous at taking situations that are incredibly overwhelming to find a new normal within them.

Through technology, I have maintained some “normalcy” of what life looked like before the pandemic.  I am able to connect with my colleagues via Microsoft teams where Staff Meetings are facilitated.  I have found the meetings to be efficient, for people to be receptive to the procedures and protocols to connect with students during this time.  I have also noticed collegiality and immense support from a far.  Outside of staff meetings, teachers are connecting in teams to ask questions, to seek input, to learn of new platforms that they can use so that their students continue to learn in an effective and engaging way.  This collegiality, creativity and ability to respond to Remote Learning has blown me away.  Technology has given me the opportunity to observe and participate in these interactions in ways that would have been impossible without the use of tech.

Personally, I felt lucky to feel fairly prepared for Remote Learning.  I have been teaching Online Learning for the past 4 years and feel comfortable using an LMS platform (Moodle) to facilitate my courses.  Within that platform, I can upload documents, embed YouTube videos, I can add videos of myself teaching content, and I can add audio of a lecture or explanation of notes.  Furthermore, I can diversify assessment with feedback that incorporates audio, video, built in rubrics and gives immediate feedback on multiple-choice questions.  I have also had the privilege of having 1-1 access for my students through the Connected Educator Program.  This has allowed me to infuse technology in a blended way throughout my courses instruction.  My hope is that because we had been using Moodle for their learning that they felt comfortable with it, and it (hopefully) eased anxiety about what Supplemental learning would entail on their end.  Not only did I integrate Moodle into student learning prior to distance learning, the students had a lot of experience with other tools.  One such tool that I have used often is Flip Grid.  I believe it is a critical skill to not only write about what you think, but also to articulate it.  The more we practice how we say things, to feel comfortable with using our voice I believe we are more apt to use it in all areas of our lives.  To help with uncertainty and nervousness I modelled expectations by recording my own stating the intention of the activity, the questions I would like then to answer and welcoming them to Supplemental learning.  I hope that seeing my face, seeing the questions modelled to them, and providing space to share would create comfort and ease to the new journey we were starting.

I have designed my Supplemental learning into asynchronous modules on Moodle.  I wanted to be cognizant that student’s daily lives are incredibly unique and diverse. I did not want to overwhelm the students with meetings times because they are working, caring for younger siblings, taking care of household chores and many other things (as I learnt via the Flip Grid activity).  However, with that being said I also see the benefit of meeting synchronously.  Therefore, I facilitated a synchronous lesson where my students and I invited a Wisdom Keeper to share his knowledge of the Natural Law within Indigenous Spirituality.  In order to honor their schedules I used Microsoft Forms to conduct a survey of a time that would work best for them. Once the time was decided, the meeting was conducted through Microsoft Teams.   This meeting was not only incredibly informative showing a deeper understanding of and connection to Indigenous Spirituality; it was also AMAZING to see the students!  In their reflection most students spoke about the ability to connect face to face in a responsible manner was the highlight for them.  They not only connected to the content, they also connected with one another.

Education has changed.  The delivery is different than we are accustomed to. There are many opportunities in this new setting as we are on the front lines to define and create effective, engaging, meaningful education that affects students learning in ways we never imagined.  Teachers are showing resilience, creativity, care and concern in Remote Learning.  This comes as no surprise, as that’s what teachers do- we teach!  Teachers are responding to the call to teach students in so many amazing ways and technology has been a critical component to this process.  This situation has not stifled opportunities for learning and connection.  I am so proud to be a teacher.

A little about me. . .

Hi everyone. My name is Jacquie Murray and I am an employee of the Regina Catholic School Division. I have had the privilege of teaching for this division for the entirety of my 14 year career teaching Catholic Studies in the High School setting. I love that my job requires me to have significant conversations with young adults about their belief systems. I get to walk the path of learning, self discovery and naming what one can hold to be true on a spiritual and human level alongside my students and grow in the process as well. My ultimate goal is to provide space and a language for their beliefs, to discuss how rituals, rites and celebrations offer space to interact with those beliefs, and that we grow in our perspectives when we share and learn with compassion and understanding. At the end of the day, I want my students to leave our space knowing that learning more about who they are, what they hold true, and having an vocabulary about it will serve them in their future lives, careers and families. The more we can name our belief systems, the more we can reflect on how they serve us and limit us. Furthermore, the greater awareness we have about who we are, the more we can make purposeful choice that aligns with our inherent personalities and serve the world from a place of authenticity and passion.

I believe technology affords our modern era a really unique opportunity to connect with others in a meaningful way. Everyday we make choices about what influences our beliefs and our perspectives by the content we choose to share an follow. One can choose to simply “follow” or take in content that affirms ones belief systems, or we can open our perspectives to new ways of thinking, being and knowing. I hope that students leave my space realizing that the 4 walls of our classroom plants the seeds of understanding, but everything and everyone can serve as our teacher and allow us to better understand ourselves and each other. I hope they take those lessons and use them as they connect virtually with others.

This space will provide me with the opportunity to share my thoughts and how I am growing in this perspective as I continue down my path as a life long learner.