To Unplug or Not to Unplug… is that the question?

In a world so digitally dependent, where our entertainment, work and social relationships are deeply intertwined with technology, the concept of unplugging and walking away from social media and digital technology seems difficult, if not impossible.

Unplug Source

Even so, there are many that are concerned about this dependence — this need that we as a society have developed to be connected 24/7.   Many advocate for unplugging, suggesting that digital technology is bad for our brains, our productivity, our real-life relationships and that it causes anxiety and increases work-related stress.  Many suggest that social networks actually make us lonely and provide compelling arguments about why everyone should unplug more often. 

The Forbes article, Text or Talk: Is Technology Making You Lonely, expresses the concern that people use the internet to avoid our realities and “whether loneliness leads people to the Internet, or the internet to loneliness, it seems that many of us turn to the internet to avoid simply being with ourselves.”   It advocates for turning off our devices and spending time focused on real life relationships.  This is supported by the other article, Why Everyone Should Unplug More Often, which tells us that “scheduling regular “rest time” in the form of unplugging makes sense—like a muscle, the brain needs recovery time in order to develop and grow”

Brain Recovery Source

On the flipside, we have others arguing that unplugging is pointless, that technology is empowering and we should just use technology to relieve anxiety and stress.  To me, this seems dangerous.  I do not believe that increasing our use of digital technology, social networks and the internet are the solution to the social and personal ills that these things cause.

But I also do not believe that that everyone unplugging is the answer.  We cannot all simply disconnect.  We are too far down the rabbit hole for that.

Rabbit Hole Source

My classmate Steve talked last week about the challenge he does with his class, wherein he and all of his students unplug for a full month.  By the sounds of it, there are mixed levels of success from his students.  Although I see the attempt at doing this for a month as a very difficult challenge indeed, I do believe that there is merit in it.  Our students were born into a digital world, whereas many of us are able to remember a time when we were less digitally connected.  For them, the idea of being without their devices or internet access for a day,  let alone a month, is likely quite the challenge indeed.   A month might be a little extreme, but I do see the benefit of encouraging students to try to spend some time unplugged, interacting with real people, in a real environment.

I do believe that that looking critically at our personal digital technology and internet use, and perhaps curbing it a little might be worthwhile.  We’ve spent a lot of time in this course weighing the pros and cons of aspects of digital tech and seem to often come to the same conclusion — that it is fine in moderation, but can be dangerous.  If your usage is at the point of addiction, maybe it warrants a bit of a break.  Unplugging is rarely permanent, and does not need to be, but remembering that there is a whole real world out there is probably worth something.

 

In the blink of an eye…

… it’s over!

Well, this has been a whirlwind first class.  Not only have I worked to wrap my head around some of the contemporary issues of EdTech, but I’ve also developed many skills along the way.   Can you believe that I’ve never blogged before?

I had wanted to use PowToon to create the opening video for our debate, but the process seemed overwhelming.  We ended up using Prezi for it instead, a program that I am familiar with, but adding the audio layer and recording it with Screencastify added another layer of complexity for me.

But for my Summary of Learning, I decided to take on the challenge of using PowToon.   I haven’t really used much video or sound editing software since I was in high school  (more years ago than I care to admit) making videos in my Communication Production Technology class, so it wasn’t easy (don’t be fooled by PowToon’s claim that you can “get it done in 5 mins!”).  However, after a lot of time–a little more than five minutes– I’m proud to say that I did it!

This class and it’s format have been wonderful and I’m glad that I had this opportunity.

Check out my Summary of Learning (in two parts) below:

Part 1/2:

Part 2/2

 

Are Public Schools Pawns in the Capitalistic Game of Corporate Greed?

Coming from a school with a small student population and staff, tightened budgets negatively impacting our school is a reality.  We have no educational assistants in our school, currently have a half time LRT although many of our students have significant needs and we seem to be constantly threatened with the removal of teaching positions.   Because of the number of staff we have, it is tricky for us to even offer the full gamut of core credits on a consistent basis, which is problematic when working with a transient and inconsistent student body.    Seeing the news this week about the provincial government putting the responsibility on school boards to cover half of teacher’s salary increases really made my heart sink.  We already have had a tightened budget so I cringe thinking about what could come of it.

Budget Cuts   – Photo Credit: Humor Blog via Compfight cc

But we are not alone.  Under funding of public education seems to be the norm for schools in both Canada and the United States.  What can a school do when there are budget cuts and they have needs that require more money than is allotted?  When schools are not getting enough public funding, they are forced to look elsewhere.  For many, corporate sponsorship seems to offer a pretty good bargain.  Funding for laptops, classroom materials, big ticket items like a new gym or scoreboard or maybe even staffing can be found through business and corporate sponsors.

We were reminded during last week’s class that corporations and businesses have been involved in school for a long time.  And why wouldn’t they be?They have a vested interest in education — school is helping to shape the minds of young people that will grow up to be potential employees and consumers of their products, so of course corporations want to be able to influence them in any way they can.

There are many that believe that corporate involvement in schools is a good thing.  As stated by Judah Schiller and Christine Arena’s article, How Corporations are Helping To Solve the Education Crisis, “today’s public schools were designed for 19th-century industrialism, not an era of globalization and interconnectivity,” and corporate sponsorship and involvement in education is the solution to the myriad of problems that come from this outdated system.   Citing statistics about poor national results from students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects, and stating that “in the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs has been three times greater than that of on-STEM jobs,” while “80% of the jobs created in the next decade will require some mastery of technology, math and science,” this article suggests that many “talent-hungry corporations … view the problem as an opportunity.”

There are many examples of how corporate involvement in schools can be helpful. The case study on schools that have embraced Google provides a list of a number of schools that have benefited.   I myself use Google Apps For Education extensively at my school, both with students and with colleagues — I find it to be extremely useful.

Google in Schools   Image Source

The list of companies that invest in education is vast.  Some provide monetary support, while others lend a hand by giving the school technological supports and devices.  This support, however, is not often without strings attached, restricting other companies’ involvement and marketing to students.   Many great examples can be found in this brief article from the Alberta Teacher’s Association.  It talks about the M&M’s primary math textbook, Colgate’s classroom kits and storybooks, and the McDonald’s Go Active Fitness Challenge (Ironic, no?), while pointing out more resources on the subject, like the documentary Corporations in Classrooms  that suggests that corporate marketing in this way is “designed to create brand-name consumers instead of learners [and that] school districts should fight to keep classrooms free from marketing.

Not all companies are there to advertise, however.  There are other ways to make a buck by playing the education game.   Pearson, for example, has entrenched itself firmly in the education market and its’ involvement in and monetary gains from standardized testing is astounding.  In my opinion, this is an example of a company being allowed to have too much impact on how we do business as schools.

Image Source

I very much understand where the need for corporate sponsorship comes from.  I feel the squeeze of tightened budgets and can understand the appeal of getting money or other forms of support from companies to support school programming.  However, I am  unable to dissociate from the feeling that companies are not doing this for the greater good or the benefit of students.  Even if they are not looking to directly advertise to students, they stand to gain from being involved in education.  Yes, companies may hope to improve education for students, but in the end they exist as part of our capitalist system and are in it for the money.

This being said, I understand the need.   The reality is that we do not receive enough public funding.  Can schools benefit from corporate involvement?  Yes.  Is the education business being looked at as a source of vast potential income by corporations?  Of course.

Does the benefit outweigh the disadvantages of being a pawn in the game of corporate greed?  I hate to say it, but maybe sometimes it does.

Once again, I advocate for balance — if the benefits are there and it is not detrimental to student welfare then perhaps it is something we need to accept.

Kids these days — They’re doing better than you give them credit for!

This seems to be a recurring theme from generation to generation.  Many people look back on their childhood fondly and use this nostalgic lens of what they thought of as normal to scrutinize what is going on with “kids these days.”    As my classmate Andres stated this week:

Although this question is tackling a modern-day issue, we’ve seen many versions of this argument come up in history. Whether it was Elvis being blamed for corrupting the youth of the 50’s with his dance moves, to people pointing the finger at violent videogames and Marilyn Manson for causing the Columbine shootings, we’re always seeking someone or something to blame [for] our kids’ actions.

Often these concerns have to do with the media that children and young adults are consuming and the impact that it may have on them.   Of course, I look back at my childhood with nostalgia, remembering the toys I played with, the shows I watched and the games I played.   However, when I look at some of these things as a critical adult, I would hesitate to suggest that they are great material for a kid.   I loved watching Looney Toons,  the Ninja Turtles and  the  Adventures of Tintin and  I took out every Asterix comic from the library on multiple occasions.  These were all overtly violent, racist, sexist and full of offensive stereotypes — things that I was oblivious to as a child.

tintin-red-indianImage Source

I’m not sure, however, that any of these shows that I watched, or books I read were given all that much attention.   In fact, I think that my mom tried to prevent me from viewing some of the shows that she thought were problematic — The Simpsons (“too offensive! he might get ideas!”) or Beetlejuice (“well, that’s just gross”).   I remember concern from my parents about the potential negative impacts of seeing these shows or playing violent video games, etc.    Regardless, my point here is that some parents had concerns about the media that their children were consuming then, just as they do now.   However, kids, myself included were still exposed to them and turned out ok. 

The concern we discussed this week was social media and whether it is ruining childhood and making kids grow up too fast by exposing them to vulgar, graphic  and pornographic content, lifting the floodgates for offensive ideas and language providing a platform for bullying and manipulation.

The group that argued the agree side of the debate — suggesting that technology is ruining childhood — made a point about the negative impacts of social media on mental health of children and youth, looking at the article “Social Media Affects Child Mental Health Through Increased Stress, Sleep Deprivation, Cyberbullying, Experts Say.”    This got me wondering about the impacts that social media has on the prevalence of self-harm among young people today and led me to look at article such as “Social Media is Redefining ‘Depression’.” It suggests that “exhibitionism of self-harm, suicide, depression, or self-loathing under the pretext that it is beautiful, romantic, or deep is hardly unusual,” and in it’s discussion of online communities based around these ideas suggests that “for a fragile mind, these communities seem to provide the perfect solution: support, understanding, acceptance. To be accepted by this community, they have to advertise their suffering.”  This negative side to social media really worries me.  It definitely is an example of some of the darker sides of the internet.

I also took a look at another resource mentioned in the group chat last week, CBC’s Sext Up Kids, a documentary that discusses the sexualization of teens and young girls in mainstream media and the impacts of readily available pornography on youth.  This too, got me worrying about the impacts of social media and technology on young people.

However, despite some of these strong arguments about the negative impacts of social media on our youth, I am not convinced that it is destroying childhood.

Are these all realities of the internet and social media?  Yes.  Do kids deal with some things that we did not when we were children?  Yes.  But is it ruining childhood? I don’t think that it is.  Students have resilience — they are born into a digital world now. They are exposed it and they learn to deal with it.  This is their reality and they are much more comfortable with it and able to navigate it than many adults assume or give them credit for.  That being said, the teaching of digital literacy and digital citizenship for our students is of utmost importance for helping them navigate this digital world safely — even though there is a lot that they could probably teach us about it.

Is there a place for breaks from technology and social media?   Would there be benefit to kids spending more time offline, face to face and outside?  Maybe — there is plenty of research and writing to indicate this(check out, the Last Child in the Woods and the idea of Nature Deficit Disorder).    Maybe we just need to make sure that there is a balance.

tree   Photo Credit: @bodil via Compfight cc

 

Not a Force for Equity, but Still a Force for Good

 

equity vs equality

equity vs equality  image source 

This past week, I participated in my first debate.  My partner, Ainsley and I argued the point that technology is NOT a force for equity in society.    Feeling nervous about delivering a five minute opening statement (interesting how that works, given that we are all teachers and do this all the time in real life), we decided to make a video to share our initial arguments.

The other team delivered some great arguments about all of the opportunities that technology provides for leveling the playing field in society — robotic healthcare, assistive technology, and online education opportunities.   Improved medical help, technology to assist in overcoming barriers to education, and free access to university level courses are great!  All of these things are positive additions to society and will be amazing assets for many people.  But our argument was that these (and other) technologies do not help EVERYONE and that given the definition of equity, cannot be considered forces for equity in society.

We reinforced our side by arguing that:

  • Technology does not improve access to education for everyone. 
  • Technology does not  make education inclusive for all students with disabilities.
  • Technology does not narrow the achievement gap.

The two most important points from our argument were:

  1. Access to technology is something that falls in the hands of the privileged.  Location, socio-economic status, language, and ability all play a role in creating this access.  Therefore, although there may be technologies that can help work towards equity in education, not all people benefit from them.
  2.   The Digital Matthew Effect, explained here: Open Educational Resources Expand Educational Inequalities  suggests that even though most people are able to benefit from technological advances, it is those that are most privileged in society who tend to benefit the most.   Essentially it is suggesting not that technology does not benefit the disadvantaged — in fact, it DOES for the most part — but the affluent tend to benefit more.  The disadvantaged do benefit, but because the privileged benefit more, the gap only increases.

Also integral to our argument was much of what we found in Ed-Tech’s Inequalities by Audrey Watters — looking forward to having her in as a guest speaker in our class!

We wrapped up the debate with a pre-recorded closing statement.  Here it is:

As a final thought…

Is technology a force for equity in society?

No.   As my classmate Jeremy concluded, “while technology certainly is working towards creating an equity that didn’t exist in the past, we still have a long way to go before assuming that technology is the catch-all solution to all learning challenges in and out of the classroom.”

But does this mean it should be disregarded as a tool for improving education for our students?  

Of course not.  The benefits of using technology in the classroom are huge… and yes, they do help improve education for many.  It cannot solve all injustices and struggles in our society.  But just because it is not a force for equity does not mean that it is not a force for good.  We just need to be careful in touting it as a catch-all solution for societies inequities.

technology_featured

image source 

 

 

 

Sharing Online Benefits Learning

 This past week’s debate created conversations that garnered support for both sides. Although I agree that there are dangers associated with oversharing online and that we all need to be somewhat wary of the digital tattoos that we are creating and the potential long-term impacts of what we put online, I believe that that the benefits are too great to be disregarded.  Also, as Kathy Cassidy noted in her video, “digital is where the kids are at now.”  Kids are using digital technology and social networks to share with their friends, families and the world.  Is it not our responsibility as Saskatchewan teachers to teach them the importance of digital citizenship?  Is this not why Alec and Katia created this document?

Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship — Source Link

Benefits Overshadow the Risk.  Following are a couple of benefits that I see

Benefit 1 — Improved home-school communication

Online sharing of student work and accomplishment can greatly enhance home-school communication, keeping parents and families in the loop, which can be helpful for student motivation and gives students something to be proud of.   It allows student work to be displayed for parents and families to see, even when it is school work that might not be able to be sent home or shared at a celebration of learning.

My classmate, Steve Boutilier mentioned in his most recent blog post Call in in the Brigade – Debate 4 Response, when advocating for the importance of real-life, face to face interactions without the use of technology that we should, “instead of sending photos of work home, send work home.”  I agree with him that real interaction is important, that perhaps it is too often the case that “many important events in our kids’ lives are being seen through the screen of a phone,” and that sending a real tactile product of work home with students is beneficial.  That being said, however, my response to him was as follows:

“What about work that we (and our students) think should be shared with parents, family or the community that is not in a format that can be sent home?  I feel like a lot of project based and experiential learning could fall into this category.  There are plenty of examples of projects or activities that we could invite parents into the school to see, but not all parents can come.  There are also a lot of examples of learning that we couldn’t bring parents in to witness, even if they were able to come.  Videos or photos documentation of volunteerism, community involvement activities and a variety of hands on experience are a really great way of sharing them.”

I would add to this that digital sharing can lend itself to sharing more of the process as well — where the real learning takes place.  Sure, we can send finished products home to hang on the fridge, but what about the documentation of the path that led the student to that product?  Processes like that of Genius Hour are greatly enhanced by blogging to track the process of researching and exploring student projects.  Being able to share the process of learning with parents and families allows them to have a much greater understanding of how their child is doing in school.

More than just the process and products of students time spent in schools can be shared with families online.  Tools like ClassDojo make it easy to communicate with parents about  behaviours and accomplishments and can also serve to motivate students.   

Some of these benefits are laid out in An Apprehensive Teacher’s Guide to…ClassDojo.  This was a useful tool for me when I taught elementary school, both as a motivational tool with students and for generating communication with parents.  The information is private and safe, the student records are not permanent and are only shared between the teacher, student and parent account.

Benefit 2 — Connection to people and classrooms outside of your school increases authenticity and relevance of school for our students.

Sharing student work online with people outside of your school — other classes, authors, musicians, professionals, etc can have amazing outcomes.  It connects students with the outside world, allowing them to solicit feedback on their work from other students and professionals in the topic, giving them the opportunity to improve their learning based on this feedback.  Sharing allows students to consider different perspectives, understand worldviews other than their own.  Kathy Cassidy argues this in her video, Using Social Media in the Classroom , as do the students in this video that was included in Janelle Bence’s article The Benefits of Sharing Student Work in Online Spaces.

Bence suggests that “being transparent with learning also adds another layer of authenticity to education.  Authentic learning is not demonstrated by a worksheet that’s turned in to a teacher.”  To me this just reiterates my earlier point about using digital technology to share the process of learning not just final products, something that I feel has great value. 

Now, although I see much merit in sharing students work online, I do understand that there are potential risks of doing so, that we need to be aware of the digital footprints that we are shaping for them.  Of course any online sharing of student work and activities needs to be approved through parental consent, as well as that of the student themselves.  If a parent agrees to it, but a student is opposed to their work being shared, I would not share it.

Anyway, the consideration of potential risks lead me to the following:

My personal digital footprint

footprint

footprint

Photo Credit: L.C.Nøttaasen via Compfight cc

When it came up during the class last week, I was compelled to open an extra tab and do a quick Google search of my name (I wasn’t the only one, was I?)  As I expected, I did not find a whole lot — LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts that belong to other Ian Temples, not me.  I felt a little disappointed, but it wasn’t as though I had never done this before. However,  I just never really dug very far.  After the debate, when I was reading Teacher, Take Care of your Digital Footprint, I went a little deeper, using variations of my name and including a few key words that I thought might differentiate me from Ian Temple the actor.  Actually, who am I kidding?  All I did was add “Regina.”  This yielded better results.   The search turned up my professional twitter account, as well as barely used personal one, my school staff directory, a couple of documents linking me to organizations I have been involved in, some news articles about projects that I’ve been a part of and even an article I wrote as an undergraduate (anyone want to learn something about Magic and the Common People In Early Modern Europe?).   Based on what I found, someone could put together a few details about me, but I did not come across anything that I would not be ok with most people seeing.  I post pictures on Facebook, but try to keep my privacy settings up and I’m admittedly not all that active on other social media platforms (hence my last personal tweet being from 2011).  

Based on the point, however, that the article,  Teacher, Take Care of your Digital Footprint, makes that “if you aren’t controlling who you are online, someone else is or will,” I have begun wondering whether I should be making more of a conscious effort to create a positive digital footprint for myself given that searching my name does not bring up much that is actually connected to me.  After all, according to Reputation Management and Social Media, apparently most people “can be identified [online] with only three pieces of information.”  Not that anything I found through Google was negative, but perhaps I need to actively endeavor to increase my positive digital footprint.    As the article suggests, maybe I should be “further solidifying [my]self on the web… control how much information [I} put out there and what information [I] put out there; all in an effort to control [my] identity.”  I’ve since started an About.me page to make me more “googleable,” linking it back to this wordpress blog and my professional twitter account.  I think that this class is a great starting point for me in the development of my own digital footprint!

Resistance is Futile — Unhealthy Impacts of Digital Technology

There is no denying that digital technology has changed the way our world works and has impacted how we conduct our daily lives.  We all spend countless hours in front of screens for both work and entertainment and much of our daily activity is shaped, monitored and shared with the world through technology.  It has become an integral component of our social interactions and for many, our health and wellness.  

screen time –  Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc

The second debate in our class this week centred around whether or not all of this technology use is making our kids healthy or unhealthy.  Once again, there were great arguments made on both sides of of the debate, but this time I feel like I am more convinced of one side than the other.  Of course there are many ways that technology can, if used correctly and intentionally, be an agent for positive change to our health and wellness, but I don’t think that it inherently does so.  Not everyone uses technology in ways that aid in their health and the negative impacts that the use of digital technology has on our brain development and function as well as our physical health pushes me to fall more to the side of agreeing with the debate statement.

The group arguing in favour of this statement provided us with resources to support the idea that technology is a contributor to negative issues related to physical, social and mental well-being.   They outlined numerous ways that technology is detrimental to all of these areas.  The youtube video “5 Crazy Ways Social Media is Changing your Brain Right Now” describes ways that social media and technology is actually changing the way that our brains work.  The mention of “Phantom Vibration Syndrome,” made me do a double-take, as I’m confidant that this is something that happens to me.  I hadn’t really thought about it before, but the idea that it is a real phenomenon, experienced by a large number of people is pretty interesting (and perhaps alarming?”).  

Phantom Vibration Syndrome — LINK

The Huffington Post article, “Sneaky Ways that Technology is Messing with your Body and Mind,” also proved to be a little scary.  As a person who does not typically get enough sleep and has back issues, I wonder how much technology plays into this.  The vast list of negative health impacts that are (even potentially) attributed to technology use is hard to ignore.

Image link

The disagree side’s opening statement provided us with many ways that technology can be of benefit to our physical, emotional, social and intellectual health.  The video suggested that technology can aid in our physical well-being through fitness apps and technology like fitbits and with our emotional health by providing connectivity and support in online communities, platforms for activism, self-appreciation and raising awareness about mental health.          

                                            Photo Credit: Nicola since 1972 via Compfight cc                          

The group’s video also suggest that social networking and the ability to keep connected aid in our social health and that there are multiple opportunities with technology to improve our intellectual well-being.  While all of these opportunities have merit and provide potential for improved overall health, they do not negate some of the detrimental impacts that technology can have.  In the recommended readings from the disagree side, were directed to an article titled “Determining the Effects of Technology on Children,” that explores both the positive and negative impacts of technology on children.  We were advised to only read pages 1-15, which coincidentally describe the positive impacts of technology, while if one continues reading, the article eventually gets to a section that is aptly titled “Health Related Issues,” that delves into the negative impacts of technology on children’s health.  So even the resource intended to provide insight into how technology is NOT making children unhealthy describes how technology IS making them unhealthy!  
The argument can be made that it is not the technology itself that is harmful or beneficial for students’ health, but rather it is their habits and how they use it that is the real culprit.  However, because as a society, our lives are so technologically driven, I believe that, given the manner in which we use it, technology is indeed making our kids unhealthy.  Now, as Kristina E. Hatch’s article suggests, ”naming technology as either good or bad will not solve the issue” (p. 4).  The reality is that digital technology is so intertwined our our current social fabric that we cannot simply say that because it is making our youth (and us) unhealthy we should stop using it.  This is next to impossible because so much of our world has become dependent on technology  The disagree group’s opening video, said, “why resist technology — instead teach HOW to use it.” I would go further with this to suggest that we CANNOT resist technology — it is here and, short of some sort of apocalyptic event, will continue to develop and have a greater and greater impact on our lives.  Therefore, our best course of action is to take advantage of the opportunities that technology can provide for improved health and work to make sure that the benefit outweighs the harm.

BorgImage Link

 

A View from a Fence Sitter – Should Schools Teach Googleable Content?

In a world where Google has become an almost inextricable component of our society, impacting how we communicate, how we learn and in a remarkable way, the way our daily lives operate, it is undeniable that the information supergiant has had a significant impact on education.  

 

google world

Google World  LINK

The first of this week’s debates explored the statement “School should not be teaching anything that can be googled.”  This was an interesting conversation that left me with the feeling that, once again, my opinion balances quite steadily on the fence between the two sides.

 

 Photo Credit: Sanctu via Compfight cc

Should we, as educators, not bother teaching facts and information that a student could easily find online?  Perhaps in some instances we don’t need to.  For example, being able to recall specific dates and names associated with the history of the Number Treaties in the Canadian West–which could easily be found online– may not be as useful in our students lives as having an understanding of the long term societal impacts of them. I would argue that the year that Treaty 4 was signed and who was present matters significantly less than what the Treaty means for everyone that lives in the area.  Yet, is there a place for some of this rote memorization?  Are there scenarios in our students’ lives when they may need to be able to recall some specific information?   Absolutely.   As a construction teacher, I see the benefit in students knowing that a 2×4 is 3 ½ inches wide and  understanding how to add, subtract and convert fractions while we plan and complete projects.  Yes, one could pull out their phone and look up a conversion chart or find a YouTube video on how to add fractions together to figure out what the combined total length should be, or google the width of a 2×4… but it is not practical. Some knowledge and skills are just more useful to have without relying on Google.  Being able to just add 1/16” to ⅝” or know that the width of a 2×4 is not going to add 4” to the end of your wall saves time.

Width of 2x4

Photo by Ian Temple

Going into the debate and thinking about my own teaching practice, the students that I have worked with and the course I have taught gave me numerous examples that could be used as arguments for either side of the debate.  The articles and information shared by the debate groups–both of whom did a great job– served to provide me with some research based reasoning to support both sides and to validate my examples. Neither group pulled me to be a hard supporter of either side.  

Both sides of the debate seemed to emphasize that the use of google needed to approached with caution for a few reasons.  The agree side shared a video with us about how Google has impacted how our students think and that it is actually changing how our brains function.  The article they shared about How Google Impacts The Way Students Think, suggests that “it creates the illusion that answers are always within reach, even when they are not” but that “if users can Google answers to the questions they’re given, they’re likely terrible questions.”  They also shared  a TedTalk by Ramsey Musallam that served to inspire us as educators to disregard googleable content so that we might no longer just fill “the simple role as dissemination of content and embrace a new paradigm as cultivators of curiosity and inquiry [so that] we just might bring a little bit more meaning to their school day and spark their imaginations.”  This group seemed to be trying to emphasize that if we teach content that can be googled, we are not teaching our students to be critical thinkers or problem solvers.

The disagree side emphasized some of the practical reasons for teaching content that students could google.  Their first article, When Rote Learning Makes Sense,  suggested that given that according to Bloom’s Taxonomy, “effective knowledge acquisition has to come first” and that “thinkers must have knowledge, facts, data or information in their brains to combine into something new, or with which to judge relative importance or value.”  Another article that they shared,  In the Age of Google, should Schools Teach Memorization Skills, reinforced my example of needing to recall information and skills in the woodshop (as well as in other scenarios), suggesting that students will not always have access to Google, or that it may not be practical to use it.
As with many questions about best practice in education, the debate over whether school should not be teaching anything that can be googled, does not have an evident answer.  The arguments for both sides are valid.   If we were to replace the word “anything” with “some things,” I would emphatically nod my head in agreement.   Is there googleable information taught in schools that is unnecessary for our students’ education?  Absolutely.  However, there are numerous instances in which information that can easily be found online is better suited to be taught and memorized so students can have a true understanding of it and it can be recalled and put to use in a practical, meaningful way.

star trek nod

star trek nod  – LINK

Does Ed.Tech. Enhance Learning or Waste Time?

After this past week’s debate about whether technology in the classroom enhances learning or not, my head was swirling.   With this being the first online debate that I’ve been experienced, there was a lot to keep up with.  Between conversations in the Zoom Room, the side chat that was going on and checking out the links that my fellow students, I was left feeling a little like this.

Confused Urkel       LINK

Going into this class, I felt that technology in the classroom does, of course enhance learning.  If it didn’t, why would I be taking this course?  The disagree team seemed to have been given a rather difficult task, trying to convince us all that technology in the classroom does not improve the education of our students.  After the team arguing for the stance that EdTech is beneficial shared their opening video and presented their argument, I felt confident that I was right — that technology in the classroom does enhance learning.

Then the disagree team presented their argument.  I found myself agreeing with their points and wondering whether my initial stance was accurate.    I began thinking about the numerous roadblocks that I’ve hit and the headaches I’ve endured while attempting to integrate various technology into my classes.  We’ve all experienced students forgetting their passwords,  not having access to enough laptops, the wifi not working, etc.  The monetary costs of providing access to tech can be astronomical and this group got me wondering — is it worth it?

I’ve spent time this week considering how I have integrated technology in my own classroom — how sometimes it has proved helpful and other times it has not.  Why is this?  I think that the SAMR model provides a little insight.

SAMR Coffee                      LINK

When integrating technology at the substitution level, it is hard to see much benefit for my students.  If some new tech is thrown into the mix but the task itself has not changed, all that has really happened is adding potential for frustration because there is more that could go wrong.   Why mess around with getting all of your students logged into some new program when completing a task in a more traditional way is more efficient and effective?  Reflecting on my teaching, the times that the integration of technology has not seemed all that beneficial seems to have been instances where I was at the substitution level.

However, on the occasions where I have moved beyond substitution, and have been able to significantly redesign a task using technology, it seemed much more beneficial.    The integration of technology needs to be meaningful and be used for a reason in order to have a positive impact.  As Doris Wells-Papanek states in her  article, The Purposeful Integration of ‘Technology’ into Teaching and Learning Best Practices, “there is no point in requiring students to engage in digital activities unless the tools serve as purposeful vehicles of learning and are effectively integrated into a plan.”   AT (assistive technology) is a great example of truly purposeful integration of technology into classrooms — if technology is used in the classroom to help students with learning disabilities or other difficulties to achieve, by redesigning a task (modification) or making something possible for them that may have been inconceivable without the technology (redefinition),  then the technology has clearly been able to enhance their learning.

So if it is used with purpose, technology can enhance learning in a classroom.  Why then did the debate group opposing this idea garner so much support from our class?  Were they just really convincing or did their argument have merit?  Upon further contemplation, their arguments were accurate — technology can be expensive, it can be difficult to use, wrought with issues, and can cause distraction.    However, these issues do not negate the potential for educational benefit of technology.  Rather, they outline some of the many issues of implementation of it.  One of the articles used to support this side of the debate, The Missing Link in Educational Technology: Trained Teachers, suggests that “[e]ducational technology is not, and never will be, transformative on its own – it requires teachers who can integrate technology into the curriculum and use it to improve student learning” (p. 7).    To me this really just suggests that it is difficult to integrate technology on a meaningful, tranformative level without adequate support and training and is not proof that it does not enhance learning.

When we refer to integrating technology into our classrooms, we are referring typically to newer technology — personal devices, online apps and social networks, class websites and organizational tools like google drive.   Depending on context, educational technology can include other tools that we take for granted — pencils, chalkboards, textbooks and perhaps even school buildings themselves –tools that at one time may have evoked skepticism about whether they actually enhance learning.

Chalkboard  –   Photo Credit: quinn.anya via Compfight cc

In the TED Talk video, A different way to think about technology in education: Greg Toppo at TEDxAshburn,  Greg Toppo quotes Larry Cuban as saying that ed tech is “Any device available to teachers for use in instructing students in a more efficient and stimulating manner than the sole use of the teacher’s voices.” This talk, along with other resources we’ve looked at this week emphasize that technology has always existed in education and often has received criticism before being accepted as standard practice.  Although we can use this as an argument that current technologies are in the same category and that with time, the critics will be proven wrong and these technologies will become the norm, this is not necessarily true.  Just because something is new does not mean that is inherently beneficial.  Using technology just for the sake of using it does not create any meaningful change or benefit for students (remember the substitution level in SAMR?).  As my classmate Stephanie Pipke-Painchaud states, it is not the technology itself that enhances learning, but “it’s how we use it that impacts our learning and the experiences of others around us.”

So… where am I at after last week’s debate and resources, my own readings and reflection and looking at what some of my fellow students have said?   I really feel that this is not a black and white issue.   I went into last week with the mindset that technology undoubtedly enhances learning and left that evening questioning this stance a bit.   I think that at this point I am more of the opinion that technology in the classroom does not inherently improve learning, but rather that it provides the opportunity for enhanced learning if implemented purposefully.  The digital world is here to stay.  Our learners live in a world very different than the one that we grew up in and we need to adjust our teaching accordingly.    As stated in 5 Ways Digital Tools Are Transforming the Education Space,  “[a]mbitious, successful teaching and learning have become inherently intertwined with the digital world. Educators must be able to develop and enact rigorous, relevant instructional methods and formats while using digital tools effectively to underpin their instruction.”

 

 

 

 

Oh, hey! It’s me — Ian!

This is my first EdTech class.  I might even go so far as to admit that it is also my first masters class.  So far, so good–I think Tuesday night got me hooked.

As a  construction teacher, I don’t really integrate much EdTech into my class.  In fact, This is luddite laptop is about as high-tech as things get in the shop… just kidding (also, would someone actually pay that much for that thing?)  I am a believer in the benefits of technology in the classroom and integrate it whenevphoto of hammer wood & nailser possible.  Recently, I’ve been into using google classroom as a component of most of my construction classes.  The construction classes that I teach are often project classes integrated with other courses, like one I taught last year that combined Construction 10, ELA A10 and Foundations of Math 10, so there is ample opportunity for the use of educational technology, especially for keeping students organized.

Photo Credit: adam THEO via Compfight cc
In addition to being the construction teacher at Scott Collegiate, my position also includes being the the school-based facilitator for Following Their Voices, where I work with other teachers to analyze and develop our teaching practice to help increase First Nations, Metis and Inuit student success rates.    I’m always on the lookout for ideas and resources to share with the staff at my school and I think that I might get a few out of this course.

So what  else should I tell you about who I am?  I am a father of a wonderful young lady named Elizah-Jayne.  She’s five,  just finishing up Kindergarten and likes to keep me busy.  But who am I kidding —  I keep myself pretty busy.  I’ve got a second job as a bartender, am a bit of a night owl, am pretty much always working on some renovation in my 100 year old house and I sit on a few different boards and committees.  I like to travel when I’ve got time and money and have lived all over Canada.  My partner’s name is Allison and we recently got a Devon Rex and named him Leonard Nimoy.    Some might consider him to be a cat.

photo of leonard the devon rex

I look forward to connecting with and learning from all of you over the next few weeks.   I’m really excited about this class and I promise I will try not to fill every post with pictures of woodworking and cats.  Please feel free to connect with me on twitter @MrIanTemple