Do we Need to Unplug to Create Balance?

This past week I have spent a lot of time analyzing how I go about my daily life with technology in it. As I moved from day to day throughout the past 7 days, I found myself asking if taking my phone with me certain places was really necessary. I noticed a lot. For example, in the mornings, when I get my daughter out of her crib, I find myself automatically grabbing my phone to take it with me to grab her. The thing is, if I were to get a phone call or text when I was getting her up in the morning, I wouldn’t stop what I was doing with her to answer it anyways, yet I am so programmed not to live without my device, that I just have it with me always.

As I moved through the week, I also took time to look at the people around me. Yesterday, for example, I was at the Belle of the Ball, (princess party) with my 3 year old. My daughter was so excited about seeing the princesses and wearing her princess dress, that it was impossible not to feed off of her enthusiasm and get caught up in the moment. When we got to the party, my first reaction was to want to capture every moment, so I could share it with my husband when I got home. And, well, to be honest, that’s kind of how the party started out…. and then I got to looking around the room. Cell phone after cell phone was out doing the exact same thing…capturing the moment, but we were all IN THE MOMENT, and very few seemed to be soaking it in first hand. It made me think about the video “I Forgot My Phone“, that Justine posted in her blog this week. There was more picture posing going on then dancing, and I took a step back, looked at my phone and decided to tuck it back into my pocket and take in the moment first hand. I didn’t need to turn off my phone, or leave it in the car to do this, I just simply put it away and enjoyed my daughter’s excitement with her in that moment. IT. WAS. AWESOME.

But, just becauseBraya princess I happened to take this picture, I’m going to share her cuteness with you all anyways! haha Sorry!!! What I did realize in this moment though, was that this one photo we took before we left the house, was enough.
The memory was there for her to look back on in the future, but capturing the moment did not need to be the main event of this special moment with her.

 

Throughout this past week I have spent a lot of time considering what Unplugging  means to me. I’ve also thought about if I feel that it is necessary. Awhile ago, I randomly came across this video on Facebook.

This week I wasn’t surprised to see it again when it came to the weekly readings. This young man makes some excellent points. He states that while “technology claims to connect us, connections have gotten no better”. I think he is right too. I agree that using devices enables us to avoid face to face interactions when we want, but also helps us to make connections to those who are far away with the touch of a button. I think it is something that we need to think about. There are definitely endless advantages to having technology accessible, but there is an URGENT need for people to find a balance of how much tech time is enough… or where that limit is when it comes time to put the phone away and plug into the reality around you.

Sophia Breene, guides us to consider many important points in her article Why Everyone Should Unplug More Often. She points out that “spending tons of time online can actively harm relationships, interpersonal communication skills, and mental health.” As we have gone through this class this semester, I think we would all agree that this is valid. What I disagree with however is the need to UNPLUG in order to prevent this from happening.

Here is why:

Unplugging to me, means disconnecting from all sources of non-face to face communication. Phones. Emails. FaceTime. etc. To me, unplugging, really means, becoming totally inaccessible. And, frankly, I don’t think this is necessary in order to get the cleansing effects of not using technology. Put your phone in your pocket, and keep your hand out of it. Put your phone on the counter, and leave it there. I don’t think there is a need for it to be totally unplugged, rather a balance needs to be created.

Last year, a friend of mine made the decision to unplug from technology from 10pm until 8am every week night. It seemed a harmless, and maybe even healthy idea. Here is what went wrong. One night, her father had a heart attack. He was transported to the hospital by ambulance and later passed away. Family from all around desperately tried to reach my friend, but was unable to reach her. Staying up-to-date with technology, she no longer had a landline and was virtually inaccessible during this emergency. As a result, she never made it to the hospital in time to see her father before he passed. To me, and my friend, this was a tragedy. Having to have someone drive to her house to get her in person, almost seemed like a blast from the technological past. But it was the reality of unplugging. 9223503647_e12e740835_b Photo Credit: Trojan_Llama via Compfight cc

This is just one reason why I don’t agree with unplugging. What I do propose instead, is to find a balance. Choose times/situations/ scenarios where you decide that your phone will not be pulled out. Create a balance and stick to it. It is all about setting limits and being true to them. It is just as freeing to put your phone on the shelf and leave it alone without having to turn off, if you can handle NOT checking it every 5 minutes. One thing that I have done is allocate special ring tones on my phone to my husband, siblings, parents, and daycare provider. This way, I can keep my phone with me and be aware that I am receiving text messages or phone calls, but not have to race to my phone when I am in the middle of other important daily events, without worrying I will miss an important call or text. This has worked really well for me until now. Alternatively, putting my phone on the “do not disturb” setting but including the people who need 24/7 access to me in my “favourites” is another effective way of being able to disconnect from technology without needing to be 100% unplugged. Through doing this, the people in my favourites, can still get through on my phone, while the beeps and bells on my phone notifying me of new Facebook posts, snapchats, instagrams, Google Plus community posts,  etc., can be minimized while I am plugging in to the reality around me, preventing me from missing life’s simple pleasures of day to day happenings.

Instead of unplugging, perhaps it would be better if the concept of “creating balance” catches on and helps people to develop and follow new protocols for how to connect (without going crazy) in the Internet Age. Sophia Breene has many helpful suggestions.

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Photo Credit: PaprikaMuffins via Flickr

Mary Beth Minton, had a helpful Ted Talk where she pointed out that it is easy to limit the screen time for children by “filling time playing in snow, laying on floor playing with toy, and sparking imaginative play”. I think if tech time is provided to children in moderation, balance can be created. Of course this also goes back to the role modelling that parents provide for their children. If parents limit their child’s tech exposure, but are constantly connected to their device, there will be inconsistency, and it will only be a matter of time before the child finds their way to being connected at all times like their parents.

So, there you have it. Do I think it is necessary to unplug? No. Do I think it is necessary to set boundaries to limit times and situations when devices should be present? Absolutely. As we become more comfortable with the way that technology is integrated into our everyday lives, I think, we, as humans, will become better at finding this balance, and in turn become better connected with the outside world we are living in. This is my hope, and my goal. I look forward to continuing to find this balance in my life, as I model this for my children as they grow and look up to me for guidance!

Thank you to everyone in my EC&I 830 class for helping me to open my eyes to the bigger tech. picture out there! I am so glad that we embarked on this journey together! I look forward to seeing many of you in the future in other grad courses along my way! Have a great summer everyone… and thanks for reading!

 

Summary of Learning

Well, this semester has been AWESOME! I couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable course to undertake during my mat. leave! To all of you who spiced up my learning with your awesome blogs and thought processes, thank you. Alec and Katia have a great course here and I feel that what I have learned will impact my teaching, as well as the way I carry out my personal life when using technology. I love it when a class actually “connects” and is directly transferrable into the classroom. Thank you for giving me the skills to make myself a better and safer teacher and parent! Enjoy my summary of learning! I had a lot of fun making it!

Have a great summer everyone!

Danielle

Below is my script from the video:

EC& I 830 should be proud to say that it is a class that not only furthers teacher’s abilities to update (or shall I say, “reboot”) their comfort, knowledge and know how in the Ed Tech world, but also provides some great advice to follow when developing a digital identity.

This course gave me the opportunity to spend time really reconnecting with technology in ways that I am confident will impact my personal and professional digital footprints for years to come. Through this class, Youtubing, and some serious googling, I have become comfortable with the multitasking life of the zoom room, blogging on WordPress, making iMovies, tweeting, G+ communities, PicMonkey, creating Youtube videos, and making a few ridiculous Snapchats of me avoiding doing my homework.

I also learned a substantial amount about being safe online and the importance of being share aware.

EC&I830 has guided me to consider the different shoes that walk throughout the wide world of technology. Let’s take a few minutes to look at just who wears those shoes!

The Child

Learning about children using devices and social media has taught me how important it is for children to have proper guidance and leadership. From a young age they need to be taught the dangers of using technology and social media in the wrong way, and they also need to be educated on how to keep themselves safe when they hit unchartered water and run into tough situations. They need to learn through meaningful lessons, just how permanent their digital footprints can be when they post and share online.

Children also need to be encouraged to live a life that has a balance. A balance between tech time, outdoor play, face to face interactions and other healthy experiences is sure to help children prevent many of the health issues that we discussed in the debate about children’s health and technology.

The Parent

Before taking this class, I would admit that my solution to kids and social media problems was simply that I wouldn’t let my kids use social media at all, until they were at least hmmmm say 35. However, my kids will one day thank all of you, along with Alec and Katia, for helping me to get the bigger picture and to realize that this really isn’t THE solution. What I have learned is that parents need to be educated. They need to stay up to date on what kids are using and teach them from a young age how to stay safe and make smart online choices. I’ve learned that Parents also need to be mindful of their child’s digital footprint right from the moment they consider sharing their first ultrasound photo online. This is the start of their child’s online identity, and parents are the ones who decide what their child has shared. Make wise decisions. Consider if these photos are ones your child would want shared when it is a decade or two later and they are applying for jobs.

Also, parents need to lead by example. They need to model the power of unplugging regularly from technology and seeking a balance in life off of devices. Taking care of ones’ mental and physical health can be done by making sure that there is balance. Suggestions like using “Pay to Play” and “cellphone parking lot baskets” in your home can be great ways to remind people to connect with the face to face world regularly and on a daily basis.

The Teacher

What can I tell you about the teacher? Well, probably the most significant thing I’ve learned this term is that “ignorance is for the ignorant”. Assuming that avoiding technology because teachers are not comfortable is not an option. Although there is not enough time and money spent helping teachers to stay up to date with the fast changing technology, teachers need to be advocates for parents and students in safe practices. Request PD. Become Share aware. Educate, network, and communicate with colleagues about Ed. Tech that promotes safe and relevant practices. Be mindful of how technology CAN promote equity amongst different learners in your class and also how it can potentially play against it. Consider how googling things is changing the ways and the extent that our students learn now-a-days. Use it to maximize the learning for all learners and strive to close learning gaps by accessing technology to support all students.

Administrators and Division Leaders

Throughout this class, it became very real to me how important it is for all of the different roles in the education system to fight for technology implementation. Division and administration leaders need to strive to help educators stay up to date. The importance of funding PD opportunities is very real. Though funding is not always available and resources limited, divisions need to realize the importance of staying up to date with working technology in the schools. Additionally, division leaders need to recognize how technology can impact learners depending on their geographic location, and socioeconomics.

This course helped me to see how important divisions are in providing guidelines and leadership for teachers so that they have clear understandings of safe and appropriate practices when sharing online.

Finally, Leaders need to be mindful when choosing the corporations that they accept funding from. Recognizing the impact they may have (positive but most importantly negative) on learning is important before signing on the line and accepting these Ed. Tech. partnerships.

After taking this course, I realize that there is nobody out there forcing me to catch up in the “digi” world. The push to stay up to date is all on me. I also realize, that the way I use social media is and will continue to affect the way my children, students, colleagues, administration and even potential employers see me. Not only that, but I recognize now, more than ever, that they choices I make today, may last long past the likes and comments left below the content I choose to share on social media. I am the gatekeeper of safety for the young minds I care for. The role I have in the digital world is a large one, and it is time for colleagues and educators across the globe to realize the magnitude of their actions professionally as well as personally, today, tomorrow and for years to come in the ever permanent digital future.

Thanks for tuning in!

What’s Your Currency?

Sitting on my patio with a Pepsi in hand, I sit staring at this can thinking about the power of that tiny label in front of me. That simple aluminum can, with its’ blue, red and white circle label, prompting a debate about corporate interests in education these days. What can I do? Well, I tip the can back….take a long cool sip of ice cold cola….. and think.   Is this whole corporate issue really such a big deal? 6929893636_0a4b991953_k

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: acrossthe-distance via Flickr 

When I think of my classroom and the different “freebies” I have been given over my 12 years of teaching, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have a plethora of stuff. From puppets to posters to free subscriptions, I have stuff, and I mean, A LOT of stuff. Would I say that this stuff has enhanced my teaching? Definitely. Would I say that I have always used these items in the exact way they have been set out to be used? Absolutely not. Would I say that having access to these items has enabled me to be a better teacher on the salary and funding that I have been granted? Most definitely. Have I sold out my students in what amounts to a Faustian bargain? I’m not convinced that I have.

In today’s current world, with the leadership in Saskatchewan’s provincial government that we have, our teachers are being asked to survive with the leanest of the lean. It seems that when we finally master a plan for surviving on what amounts to be, shall I say, bread crumbs (thank you Brad Wall) we eventually get slapped with even bigger cuts that leave teachers scrambling. What are we to do in order to ensure our students don’t get left with scraps for those who show up to teach, when all of these cut backs do away with the future of our province? Well, we do what we  preach. We learn to think outside of the box. We begin to find ways to deal in other currency. Or, we simply ditch the field that we are in, and go to where money talks….which clearly isn’t in education.

what's it worth?

Photo Credit: queenbeeamy via Flickr

The idea of corporate involvement connecting with education isn’t new. As Justine and Tyler mentioned in Tuesday night’s debate, this is something that has been happening for years and will likely continue to occur for many years to come. Though controversial and not seen as a positive by many educators, there are definitely positives to having corporate sponsors become connected and invested in schools. In my professional opinion, companies like Scholastic Canada and Smartboard have been enhancing classroom experiences for years.

More and more corporations are offering Ed. Tech programs and software that are being advertised as “free”. But here’s the catch. They aren’t necessarily, really “free”. Their cost doesn’t just deal in the currency of money. Their cost comes in the form of data, BIG DATA, information, statistics, all the fun stuff that we like to think of as “our” personal information.11119067793_37956fdf1d_o

Photo Credit: Jim Kaskade via Flickr

That being said, is it a big deal, or little deal, to share this information if in return, you are able to access different services that can enhance the quality of education? Some might have a problem with this, but for me, I think it is a pretty sweet deal.  I guess I see it like this:

I think we need to look critically at the ed. tech. available to us. Before jumping on the “free” or “funded” bandwagon, we need to decide if the ed. tech. being offered is actually something that will enhance student learning. We need to ensure that we understand what we are seeing as well as what is going on with the products and information that we are producing. We need to ensure that we take the time to familiarize ourselves with what we are being offered, tailor it to our class and then only implement it in ways or parts that are enhancing the education of students. Lia De Cicco-Remu, director of Partners in Learning at Microsoft Canada states that, “you have to show them how to use it pedagogically.”

There is a big buzz about how companies like Pearson profit from the standardized testing that they promote with their product lines. They even profit more so, from students who fail these tests and need to repeat them. I guess my thoughts on this are that we need to be vigilant and take the time to consider what products we bring into the classroom and the effects that these products will have on our students. So, if standardized testing is something that certain corporations are promoting, maybe we need to agree to steer clear of those and look further down the line at corporations that are advocates for learning, through literacy (Scholastic), athletics (Milk), and other areas of education that promote learning of the whole child. We are not short on finding corporations that want to work along side teachers to help students reach their full potential. Is standardized testing a problem of its own possibly?A problem that corporations definitely use and thrive on, but one we should have the smarts to know better than, when deciding which corporate sponsors we open our division doors to?

If these corporations earn their keep while actually enhancing the education system along the way, I have no problem with this, if done with caution. When we look at the way that Saskatchewan is heading with education, we are going to need to continue to think outside of the box to find ways to help our students achieve excellence. Sitting on the sidelines and criticizing the government is definitely merited, but is not going to fix the problem at hand. Maybe it’s going to become a case of the private sector stepping in to help out. As long as we do our homework, work alongside the corporations we deem trustworthy, begin steering clear of the ones (like Pearson) who are not, and proceed with our eyes wide open, I really don’t see any other rectifiable way to find a solution for the problem Saskatchewan is currently in. Do I realize (as Alec mentioned), the result of opening doors to corporate funding will likely create less funding by the government? Yup… I sure do. But ladies and gentlemen, look around. Read the papers. Is that not what the government is already doing? It’s just a matter of time before there is simply, nothing left to take.

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Photo Credit: rockindave1 via Flickr

Do I think this will change education? Yes…..but I think the government is currently changing education here….at a fast, sickening, and depressing rate.

I am very interested, and nervous, to see where our education system is at a decade from now. Hopefully, somewhere, between here and there, we fall into the right hands. I am hopeful that there might still be some good politicians out there, that recognize that they got to be as wise as they are, from some amazing teachers that motivated them to be excellent, along the way.

End rant.

 

Safe Passage to Social Media: Strategies for Educating our Youth

Is Social media ruining childhood?

The safety of our children online, has been a hot topic since the beginning of online time. With technology advancing and the right to access the internet being declared a right by the United Nations, it is becoming more and more obvious that the question should not be whether social media is ruining childhood, but rather what can be done to ensure that social media does not ruin childhood.

14080251476_27b446a44e_bOver the past decade, the increase in use of social media has created a variety of issues for our children. Some of these issues include but are not limited to: cyberbullying, loss of face to face communication, physical and mental health issues, the permanence and lasting effects of digital footprints, and the reality that internet is aiding our children in growing up much faster than they did when I was a child.

Photo Credit: Raban_Holzner via Compfight cc
While I do agree that social media is having a negative impact on our children these days, I think that it is important to recognize that with technology becoming an ever more present factor in daily life, we must find ways to alter how we coexhist with social media so that it is not something that is ruining our childhood, but rather acting as an enhancing factor in the daily lives of all. I could not agree more with Kelsie Lenihan’s comments stating that “we cannot expect children to remain in the past when they represent our future”.

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With that being said, I have taken some time to compile a few excellent resources that provide some clear and concise strategies that parents and educators can use to ensure they are addressing social media and their children in the most beneficial safety promoting ways! (Don’t be afraid to click on many of these awesome links!)
Photo Credit: Lupuca via Compfight cc

Top 10 Strategies for Parents:

  • Sit down as a family and make an online-use plan. Set the parameters of this plan up as a family and stick to it. Meet and revise the plan with time to ensure that everyone is sticking to it.
  • Be aware of your child’s activity on social networking sites. Friend them. Make this an necessity prior to them being permitted to sign up for any social networking sites. By doing this, you are not only able to monitor your child’s activity to an extent, but you are encouraging your child to consider who the other viewers might be that can access their profile, causing them to think things through before posting them to the world.
  • Pay to Play. Encourage kids to earn screen time by balancing it with equal amounts of reading, chores or playing outside.
  • Talk about the risks of being online with your children. Make them aware of how rumours can affect others when spread online. Discuss cyberbullying and identify what this looks like as the bully, bystander and victim. By discussing what to do when this happens, your child will already have the skills at hand when they find themselves in unchartered waters and trouble arises.
    Safer Internet Day 2016: Red and Murphy talk to Smartie about helping your friends online from UK Safer Internet Centre on Vimeo.
  • Educate children about online predators. Teach them: not to download from unknown sources, to tell adults they trust if something doesn’t feel right, never to reveal personal information, never to agree to meet face to face with strangers, to stop communication completely if content shifts to a sexually suggestive nature.
  • Educate yourself before letting your child have access to new or unknown sites. Being aware of the safety features of sites can be a powerful tool for parents. Knowing where to go to access this information is key. Using sites like safeinternet provides parents with excellent and easy to understand information about all of the latests sites and apps that children are likely to use.
  • Discuss spot checks with your child. Taking the time to check browser history, review downloads, and monitor social media use by your child will help them to be prepared before submitting questionable content to the web. Explaining that this is being done before hand and discussing why, is a very necessary conversation to have rather than simply doing this behind your child’s back. Open communication and trust is key.
  • Place computers and keep devices in central locations in the home, such as the family room. Maintaining device free bedrooms, prevents problems that can arise when they are not being monitored. Cellphone parking lots are becoming a popular designated area in homes for devices, and for good reason.
  • For children under 12 years of age, consider having their emails routed through the parent’s email first. With practice and earned trust, can come more freedom in the future, but there needs to be a starting point for this trust to be earned as children begin using the web wisely.
  • Discuss how trust can be built with your child. Trust is the grounds to earning more freedom. It is not a right to use the internet, it is a privilege and with time this can be earned. Start at the beginning and by the time your child has earned their freedom, you will both feel confident that they are capable of the obstacles ahead.

Top 10 Strategies for Educators:

  • Teach lessons on how words can hurt. Teaching students to take responsibility for what they say online before they say something they will regret is a very useful tool to have.
  • Be vigilant and in the know. Stay up to date on where kids are going after they are done with Facebook. (Check out this resource, really.)
  • Practice using social networking sites in a monitored environment. Find sites that are safe, encourage engagement, and help quieter students to find their voice.
  • Start educating children at a young age. Instilling good practices in children at a young age will help them to grow wise and prepared for the open road of technology.
  • Practice having students navigate sites using the smart board as a class. Have them make choices as a team that cause them to internalize what safe and risky practices may be. By doing this as a class, students and teachers can have real conversations about common risks and healthy practices when using devices.
  • Show videos (see example below) that spark conversations about online etiquette. Through these discussions, compose a social networking contract with your students (rather than just making one for them to sign). Have students take this document home to discuss with their parents before signing it and returning it to class.

Safer Internet Day 2016: Molly and Harvey discuss rules on being kind online from UK Safer Internet Centre on Vimeo.

  • Ensure that teachers are up to date on the latest social networking trends their students may be using online. Using professional development opportunities, taking online courses or refreshers, and even simply surfing the net to stay in the loop, will help educators to educate about the most relevant and up-to-date social networking sites.
  • Navigate resources like Safeinternet with your class. By examining sites like this as a class, students will become familiar with where they can go for help if trouble should arise.
  • Stay up to date on what you are doing that could put your students in harms way. The Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools is a fantastic read for any teachers looking to keep their students safer online in and out of the classroom.
  • Discuss how trust can be built with students. Trust is the grounds to earning more freedom. It is not a right to use the internet, it is a privilege and with time this can be earned. Implement a system that rewards students for good device usage. Promoting a healthy online presence is something we can do by simply explaining what it looks like.

By taking the time today, to ensure that our children remain safe using social media tomorrow, we can continue to protect our children and ensure that social media is only promoting the positives for our children as they work to successfully protect their digital footprints moving forward into tomorrow.

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Photo Credit: mkhmarketing via Flickr

The Road to Equity….

Is technology a force for equity in society?

7126917183_8889b5ab80 In order to take a solid stance on either side of this topic, one must begin by taking the time to examine both sides of the coin.

Photo Credit: Jackman Chiu via Compfight cc

26701766821_7bea494826_bOne must first have a clear understanding of the terms “equity”and “equality”  in order to comprehend its’ impact on society. Equity, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “fairness or justice in the way people are treated”. Equality, is defined as the “sameness, or equivalence in number quantity or measure”. As I am a visual learner, I believe it is sometimes easier to grasp this concept pictorally.
Photo Credit: leighblackall via Compfight cc

One of the major problems today with our society is that not all people are able to understand that in order to create equity, the way things are adapted and differentiated for one person, may vary greatly from one person to the next. This is often a problem, because people who do not take the time to understand these differentiations, commonly deem this action as being unfair, when it is in all reality, the very opposite. 

Let’s begin examining equity and technology by looking through a variety of lenses:

The Child

When looking at technology creating equity for our children in society, we must look at this from 2 different positions.

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Photo Credit: through the lens 2012 via Compfight cc

First, social media is providing an avenue for children that can promote the rapid rush through childhood and into the adult world, often at speeds that don’t allow for kids to remain, innocent kids. At the same time, the concept of being a child, is constantly evolving. It is important to recognize that children are not static, but rather, a social construction. Technology provides children a space where they can create friendships, seek support, and where they can be creative and curious. With the proper parental guidance, this can be an excellent avenue to help children become advocates for their learning. 

Our Health

When considering the impact of technology on equity, it is important to look at this through the lens that examines its affect on our health.

On call 24/7Photo Credit: Helge V. Keitel via Compfight cc

On one side, the use of social media and technology has created an increase in mental health issues. Some of these issues include anxiety, stress, sleep deprivation and addiction. The increase of these seems to foster a view that would create a larger divide between people as they struggle with these issues. Looking at how technology impacts equity in society from another lens, paints a very different picture. On the other side, Dr. Mendez is one of many doctors who have been using technology to revolutionize the access to fast health care for those people who might not normally be able to access it. Through use of robots and innovative ideas such as doctor in a box, there may still be inequities in our health care, but “more” people are gaining access to quality care, where they would not normally be privy to this. 

Communication

When looking at communication, we must take a deeper look at how it affects people for the better and worse. One of the negative impacts of technology is that it does not promote healthy face to face communication skills. It gives people a screen to hide behind, and prevents them from having to learn how to socialize in a natural environment that is free from technology. As a result, “real world” communication skills are diminishing, which walks hand in hand with the problems of technology on our health. On the other side however, the technology apps and devices are opportunities for many to have a voice where they might otherwise not. Global connections for family members are increased, communication through email and text is promoted, and access to tools promoting collaboration between people and groups locally, nationally, and even globally become accessible. 

The Disabled

When looking at the disabled, I see only one side to be considered, and this is the advantages and equity that can be promoted through programs such as Google Read and Write and Aski. Yes, there is certainly an issue of being able to access some of the technology out there, however, when we are looking at “equity”, technology definitely promotes a greater movement toward being equitable for the disabled when they are able to use the programs and software available to them that give them a voice and ability to learn.

Demographics

Those living in poverty without access to technology, along with those living in remote locations might argue that technology only further perpetuates the digital divide (also known as the Digital Matthew Effect). Daphne Koller discusses some great advantages to Coursera.

However, at the same time, it is important to recognize that open educational resources might actually expand educational inequalities. Those considered privileged, may become more privileged in this situation while those living in lower socio-economic and remote locations may not have access to these free services (that would undoubtedly help them) only creating a further divide, rather than fostering learn gin opportunities for all.

Support

Currently support is needed in many areas to promote equity being created in society through technology.

6347903993_4d1370e4d8 Photo Credit: LeonArts.at via Compfight cc

I agree 100% with my colleague Kyle Ottenbreit when he stated that “technology can be an equating force in society, but it will require meaningful and long term government support.” In order to promote equity amongst all people, the government will need to invest substantial time, funding and resources in order to promote this equity. Currently there are many obvious setbacks in ensuring that technology is equitable for all, however, as society, technology and humankind evolve, the evolution of this fight for equity amongst man, will undoubtedly evolve as well.

Betsy Baumon, posed some excellent questions in a recent blog. She asked:

Who will benefit from the digital revolution in education? And how can we work together to ensure that massive trends in digital publishing, education technology, cloud computing, and big data create positive impact for all students?

It is through questions like hers, that we can come up with a voice that will fight for equity that can be created through the use of technology in society. As for now, we have a long road ahead. We have begun this journey to change and this is absolutely necessary. With time, we will create the education and awareness necessary, along with proper supports, to foster an equitable technologically savvy world for all.

 

The Art of Losing….

Losing is not something that I overly enjoy. Growing up as a competitive athlete, I have always taken things like this past week’s debate, well, seriously. So it came as no surprise that experiencing a loss to the extent that we did, hurt, hmmm…. just a bit. But, here’s the thing. Every great coach I’ve had in the past has always helped me to reflect on my performance, and helped me to see that, it is truly through losing, that one can gain the most.

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Photocredit: ryry602 via Flickr

I knew going into the debate that we were fighting the underdog side of things. Technology is everywhere and we are in an Ed. Tech. graduate class. So why would anyone agree that “openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids”? This was what my team set out to find out.

Our opponents, were very well rehearsed and prepared for this debate. They had their facts polished, their arguments timed, and their cute little kiddo rehearsed and ready for action. Lisa, Stephanie and Haiming Li were hot to trot! In the end, they were the ones that got the victory card, but looking back on things, I feel as though I may have won more in the long run. This debate opened my eyes to some vital components necessary for safe classroom blogging and student sharing, that before now, I was (sigh) naive and uneducated about. So, even though we didn’t win the debate, what I did win in knowledge that I can put to use in the future, made it all worth it!  Let’s take a look at just what that learning was!

First, and most importantly, awareness in sharing of any sort online is essential. Through reading blogs of colleagues this week, it is very apparent that we have varying levels of comfort in our own class. Yet, we all seem to agree that understanding the permanency of our digital footprints online, is crucial before taking steps toward sharing student content online. Each uploaded document, photograph, comment, that is shared about our classes and students adds to their digital identity and it is important that we understand the permanency of these actions, as they are very much like permanent digital tattoos.

Secondly, guidelines. Guidelines are very important for teachers to follow in order to know what should and should not be shared, and most importantly how to go about doing so in a safe way. Saskatchewan actually has an excellent document, Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools, that identifies many great policy guidelines to help educators implement safe online sharing practices. The message it teaches: “Respect. Educate. Protect”. Here is the problem. Not enough people know about this. When my team looked up guidelines for safe sharing, guidelines were difficult to find, and not always up to date. The Saskatchewan document never came up in a search. If we have such a document out there, how do we help teachers to know where to find this? This document should be available on every Saskatchewan school division homepage. AND teachers should read it!

Technology and social media are here to stay. Making the decision that sharing student content online isn’t fair, isn’t the answer. Technology is not going away. So, we as educators, we need to provide scaffolding and educate others on how to be responsible digital citizens. Alec Curos shares his views on the digital world in his Ted Talk by stating that “digital media has changed our world”. He reminds us that when policies are put into place and teachers are educated, sharing can be a powerful and healthy learning experience for students. So what do we do?

Well, we educate. First, we educate the educators. Next, education for students and parents alike, will help ensure content sharing is safe at a personal and professional level. Here are 20 quick do’s and don’ts that can act as a quick guideline checklist for anyone before taking the plunge and submitting something to the ever permanent cyberspace.

Educating Educators- Through courses like EC&I830 and 831, we are taking the steps to become the advocates for our staffs and school boards. Reading the Sask Policy Planning Guide by Alec and Katia would be a huge bonus to anyone taking the time to read it! Teachers like Justine Kyle are doing an outstanding job of this already. Take a look at some of the amazing lessons that she is using in her primary classes to promote healthy digital identities. This is what we need to see more of! This is the key to starting in the right direction.

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http://Photo Credit: SFB579 Namaste via Compfightcc

Educating Parents- Many people have had moments of regret upon posting something online, much like Linda Geddes. Following a few easy steps might save some posting regret down the line. Madden and Smith suggest 1) limiting the amount of personal information that can be found online 2) changing privacy settings regularly 3) deleting unwanted comments, & 4) removing names from photos. These 4 steps won’t guarantee being able to avoid harms way, but it is a good place for parents to start. Providing parents with clear media release forms, and also educational opportunities enabling them to stay on top of the latest tech talk, is also a great idea. Parents want to keep their kids safe and are willing to learn. They often just don’t know where to turn to find this information.

Educating Students- Educate our students. Start young. Lead by examples and teach students how to create a healthy digital footprint. Provide lessons for students that are centered around digital citizenship. Model it, model it, model itLead by sharing examples of what oversharing can do to harm students in the future. Make students aware. Learn from our mistakes as a team, and have conversations about what could be done differently in the future.

Through taking these steps to further educate students, parents, and teachers alike, we can create a digitally safe environment, that helps students to grow as citizens in face to face interactions as well as online.

The positive definitely outweighs the negative side of sharing online if proper skills, and use of tools can be instilled in the minds of our youth starting at a very young age.

We are capable of creating a digital world that is safe to exist in. It will take time, education, caring, and awareness. But, it is most definitely possible. I look forward to doing my part in helping my students to begin this exciting and ever-changing journey!

 

 

Device Devotion is “Tech”nically Not the Only Problem

When considering if I feel that the internet is making today’s youth more unhealthy or not, three things come to mind.

#1) Yes it most definitely IS.

#2 ) Technology is not the only problem. Increased exposure to fast and processed foods, raising costs in sports and recreation fees, having both mothers and fathers working full-time jobs, all contribute to the devastating decline in the health of today’s youth, along with many other factors. Technology, once again, is only ‘part’ of the problem.

#3) It is not just youth that are being affected by the amount of time people spend on the internet. Children, teenagers, adults, and even seniors (insert vision of my Grandmother watching the Gameshow network all day long) are all contributing to this Global problem.

Being a person who loves sports and the outdoors, I have some pretty strong opinions on whether I feel the internet has made our children unhealthy. First, I think it’s important to point out, that like Kristina Hatch’s article suggests, there are definitely aspects of technology that are better preparing our children for tomorrow, especially in the increasingly digital world that we live in. However, I don’t feel that the good is so far superior to the damage it is also inevitably creating in our world.

This week’s debate team, along with author Lindsay Holmes, gives a very specific list of some of the health concerns that arise from overexposure to the internet. Some of these concerns include: wrecking your spine due to bad posture, increase of blemishes due to bacteria building up on phones, lowered sperm count, and strained eyes, just to name a few.

Additionally, like Asap Science’s Youtube video points out, social media has proven to be addictive. Getting ‘likes’, and ‘page hits’ create a feeling of gratification that keep internet users coming back for more. This addiction has been labelled a psychological addiction rather than a substance addiction, however, the negative impact can be extremely consuming. We have to admit it, we are all victims of this to some extent. This class is a prime example of that.  I know that I, for example, am always curious to see who I have sucked in to reading my latest blog. With classroom blogs, I love watching to see how many parents actually log in to see what we have been doing. When the results are favourable, the feeling is great. However, on the flip side, when you shoot, you wait, and dog gone it, you far from score, and nobody reads what you’ve written, the feeling of disappointment lurks behind like a tail on a dog. There’s not much you can do about it…. except minimize how much time you devote to spending online.

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Photo Credit: Adrian Salgado via Compfight cc

Additionally, the Livestrong article, also pointed out that nearly one third of America’s children are obese in today’s world. Together with this article, the debating teams also acknowledged that children are spending upwards of seven hours a day in front of screens. ANDDDDD Huston, we have a problem! (Play the video PLAY THE VIDEO!!!)

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Even Steve Jobs didn’t think that children should be getting access to iPads and devices as much as they are today.

So where do we go from here? Technology is far from going away. In time, we are only going to continue to get more surrounded by this digitally charged world. If exergaming is the closest to getting exercise that one can get, it’s a place to start, or it can be part of the bigger picture. It’s not all on it’s own bad, but it just shouldn’t be “everything”.

I once heard a parent say that they never ever told their child they couldn’t have their device… but the rule in their house was, before you get it, you need to earn the time you want to spend on it, by playing outside for the number of minutes you wanted to be on the device. So, before getting the iPad for an hour, they had to go outside and play for an hour to earn that time. As my children begin to grow, this system seems like a decent idea. My colleague Kyle Ottenbreit, notes that while he does not feel personally responsible for what students do on their own time outside of the classroom, it would be beneficial if society as a whole created an awareness to the dangers that can occur as a result of too much screen time. He also suggested watching a video on nature that has 2.7 million views to date. PEOPLE, GO OUTSIDE! You don’t need a video to get the drift! That being said, nice touch Kyle! It was funny.

At the end of the day, we need to maintain balance. We need to find a way to keep up with this digital world, but still maximize the non-digital opportunities and adventures that life has to offer. Now go outside, take a big breath of fresh air, and get back to your blogging my friends! 🙂