The Unrealistic Reality of Unplugging

The idea of unplugging to relax – gain some peace and quiet if you will – while completely disconnecting from all tech distractions is tempting. There have been many times where the idea of completely turning off my phone for an entire day seems alluring. I have friends who disconnect their Facebook temporarily during busy times of their lives such as during finals or report card season. But is the all or nothing approach all rainbows and lollipops? Being addicted to your phone isn’t creating a healthy relationship, but this “yo-yo” relationship of using tech and detoxing from it continually, in my opinion, isn’t the healthiest approach either.

When first signing up for the debate, my team and I rushed to sign our names up under the “agree” side. Our first instinct was that we were becoming too dependent on technology and we need to unplug. We were interested in arguing with the side we felt most comfortable with at the time, and being interested in mindfulness within the classroom and cultivating a lifestyle of balance, arguing the need to unplug felt most natural. “Let’s do this!!”…. “Oh, wait…we’re too late!” But guess what! I think I learned more than I ever could by arguing the opposite side of my initial beliefs. To be honest, I’m not completely convinced anymore that we need to unplug. I believe we can remain plugged in and make smart choices about when and how we use technology. Let me tell you why…

Although the above video makes a powerful statement.I don’t think this issue, like nearly every debate is so black and white.  If you heavily overuse social media and don’t have any balance in your life you may be able to relate to this video – although he is very convincing, I would like to reflect on the flip side! Tech is not all bad, all of the time! Why do we have to rush to extremes. Technology can’t be that bad if ultimately each time you escape to detox for a day, a week, a month… you always return to adapting to the world of tech. Technology is naturally part of how we manage our day to day lives, communicate with others and overall how our world works! It just is.

However, after researching, discussing, questioning and re-reading again I began to feel completely disconnecting was unnecessary. When I decided to unplug for an entire day, the ultimate test of what side of the debate I really was on, it felt unnatural.  It’s not unusual for me to put my phone down for hours on end, but I noticed during the times I consciously isolated myself from tech, it was difficult when I wanted to ask a question, make plans or take a picture to remember a moment. This isn’t how I would naturally live my day to day life so why am I trying to create a life that isn’t authentic to how I regularly live. I lead a happy, healthy lifestyle without having to disconnect from everything because I’m in control of how much time I spend on my phone and ultimately whether I even need to have it out.  It wasn’t realistic for me. In fact, the idea of unplugging completely made me feel more stressed than actually staying connected while spending my time with tech more mindfully. Can I go on a hike without my phone. Of course. In a world that revolves around tech it’s great to escape it for a short while, but to completely unplug for long periods of time was only making it more difficult to connect with others who purely rely on tech.

If everyone around me wasn’t using technology, sure it would be easy! It would be just like it was when we were younger – ah the nostalgia. But cutting myself off from tech made me feel disconnected from friends and family when they continued to rely on communicating with tech. I only see my parents a handful of times each year – disconnecting from tech would completely change the relationship I have with them and many of my other friends and family members. Some argued during last night’s debate that cultivating relationships purely online isn’t authentic or “real” communication. But considering the alternative – no technology – I would choose to continue building relationships online with close friends who move away for a new job. Having a conversation with my niece over Facetime is much better then the alternative snail mail that 2 year olds wouldn’t understand anyway. I know people who completely build an entire relationship through tech, after only meeting briefly while traveling etc.  Many people meet the love of their life online. Who are we say relationships formed online are not authentic. Sure, communicating with strangers online is extremely impersonal, and not all communication is going to create meaningful relationships. There are different ways of communicating online and offline for different purposes. However, tech does allow me to strengthen relationships with friends and family despite long distances between us.

Why do I need to completely disconnect when I could use self-control and make the choice to focus my time on other activities. For me, unplugging or disconnecting feels unnatural and unrealistic. A lot of people disconnect from social media accounts only to post the status “I’m back – what did I miss?” after a few short days. Our physical lives and digital lives are intertwined. Taking a break from being connected to others seems more unbalanced to me than learning to live with technology by creating positive habits. Balance is just that- balance. It doesn’t refer to an “all or nothing” approach. I don’t think we need to choose whether to connect or disconnect but rather stay connected without constantly being glued to your phone. I’m capable of going for a walk or out to coffee with friends without checking my phone. I can create a balanced lifestyle while remaining plugged in. I believe it is important to unplug in the sense that our phones shouldn’t control meaningful moments in our lives. I don’t believe in having face to face conversations with others while on my phone (It’s called manners people!), and I can enjoy a beautiful meal without feeling the need to take a picture of it and post it to social media at the dinner table. I’m not saying we should be plugged in at all times, but we should be able to remain plugged in and adopt healthy actions. How we shape our lives can affect how we use technology.

Technology – the very thing that creates stress and anxiety with over use, can also help us to create balance in our lives. Some of the ways I choose to unwind involve technology. Although I don’t need to constantly be with technology, there are certainly benefits to using it and after reading more on the topic I realized just how much I use technology to help unwind. First of all, tracking my run using the Fitbit or Runkeeper apps keeps me as motivated as the music I play to keep my pace. Music is big for me and using a yoga playlist during my practice on the mat helps switch things up or just relax after a busy day. There are also apps for guided meditations that also help people relax in positive ways. Why can’t I unwind while being still accessible to the digital world. After all, isn’t that what balance is all about?

Some may argue that we are losing touch with one another because of the amount of time spent using technology. However, the article In Defense of Tech: Why We Don’t Need to Unplug argues that tech brings us closer together and lets us stay connected to one another more than ever before. It states the real culprit is the american lifestyle with only 57% of people using up their vacation time and the workaholic lifestyle. It’s not technology itself that causes stress, but the ways in which we interact with it – especially for long periods of time. We need to learn to make decisions throughout or day that create balance, and learn when our bodies alert us to take a break from tech.

Tim O’Reilly encourages us to see the power of technology and questions “How can we use the capabilities of our devices to build human experiences?” Like most things, technology can also be viewed in a positive or negative light. But instead of focusing on the addictive, unhealthy and negative aspects of tech, we could choose to focus on the ways technology enriches our lives. Sure, some people are addicted to their phones, but not everyone displays these addictive behaviors. It is possible to adopt a balanced approach while making the most of how you integrate technology into your daily routines.

Shelly Turkle argues that we have “second self” online. However, I’m more drawn to the idea of digital dualism which argues that our physical and digital realities are one in the same. Our lives online are so meshed with our personal lives that a separate is difficult to achieve and unnatural. Who we are online is an extension of our lives offline. 

I found an interesting Huffington Post article, “Closer Together or Farther Apart”  that begins with grandparents feeling disappointed in their grandchildren for being on their phones and “not communicating”, when actuality they are connected and communicating exactly the way digital natives do. 24770825616_5292a3aef7 This generation grew up with the internet and it’s not going away anytime soon. This article mentions that “digital immigrants” or baby boomers who had to adjust to technology see things differently. This reminds me of the “tech ruins childhood” argument because we often judge the generation after us  as being “less in touch” or “too
Photo Credit: B_earth_photos via Compfight cc
dependent on technology” because their childhood may look different than ours. Different is not a bad thing, however seeing children communicating primarily through tech when we grew up mailing letters and having to answer our phones with even knowing who was calling, makes it easy to quickly form an opinion that the “old way was the best way”. If you didn’t grow up with this lifestyle, you may be more apt to believe this new way of communicating is driving people further apart. For digital natives, this is just how the world communicates! Here is another additional read that gives some pretty solid examples of how technology is bringing generations closer together.

Why Everyone Should Unplug suggests that “even brief activities such as taking a short walk (sans phone, of course), spending time in nature, or daydreaming can help the brain reboot. But without free time (i.e. totally unstructured and without Facebook, idle web surfing, or TV), it’s impossible to fully learn new skills and keep the brain at its cognitive best”  I completely agree that time away from tech is extremely important for our health and well-being, but argue that we should be cultivating balanced practices every day. It shouldn’t have to be all or nothing! We should be able to experience the best of both worlds without completely abandoning such an integral part of our every day lives. Unplugging for an afternoon or a day or two? Sure thing! But to feel the need to purposely remove myself from all tech for weeks at a time could be an indicator that I need to look at how much time I’m spending on technology in the first place.

It’s all about balance! Do you regularly disconnect? Do you think it’s possible to create balance while co-existing with technology?



Summary of Learning

I can’t believe it’s already time to share my summary of learning. This semester has gone so fast and I have really taken in a lot of information in a short period of time. I really enjoyed the debate structure of the class. I found comparing both sides of every issue challenged my own thinking and I learned a lot. I feel much more confident and comfortable with talking to my students about digital citizenship and I appreciate the resources shared in class.

Aside from my take aways from each class, that I describe in the video, I also enjoyed getting back into blogging. It was a challenge at first to switch from academic writing to a blog style of writing, but it was also an invited change. I had blogged before in my undergrad many years ago so it wasn’t too difficult to find my way back into it with only a few “forgot my password”  and googling “how to” moments needed. (Hope I wasn’t the only one!)

Some Key Points of Learning Include:
– The value of stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things
– The importance of critical thinking, considering alternate viewpoints and researching the other side. The debates were powerful enough to change my thinking and that’s when the most personal learning occurred.
-Technology is merely a tool. A powerful tool. It’s up to the people using it to make good decisions. It’s easy to blame technology for cyberbullying, unhealthy gaming habits, inequality,  and ruining ones childhood however these issues are much more complex and boil down to how tech is being used.
– Before now, I had never learned about the SAMR model. This caused me to reflect on my own use of technology in the classroom and strive towards designing lessons that reach the transformation stages.
– This leads to reflecting on how tech is used in the classroom and whether or not it has the potential to create equity in the world. Technology can benefit many students, especially those who require assisstive technology. However, placing computers in the hands of everyone in the world will not demolish social hierarchies. Education and training regarding the use of tech is essential.
– The importance of learning about digital citizenship and teaching students about their digital footprints.
– Reflecting on the critical partners we have the school level and whether or not their serving students in the way the relationship was intended to.
– Technology is about balance. This is a reoccurring theme each week. Although it sounds enjoyable to shut everything off for a day or a weekend and completely disconnect, it harder to do than it sounds. I feel more stressed out being disconnected from technology – personally causing more stress and anxiety wondering if anyone is trying to get a hold of me for emergency type situations although it is unlikely the fear of the unknown still exists. I think I’m completely capable of creating a balanced lifestyle while co-existing with technology without going overboard. After all if it’s part of our everyday life, we should learn how to co-exist with it without the need to completely abandon it for an extended period of time.

I chose to use Emaze to complete my project. I had never used it before but just wanted to try something new.  Although it was a bit of a learning curve figuring out a new program it was user friendly (with only a few speed bumps) and I would recommend it to others for future projects. I hope you enjoy my summary of Learning!|MigiznbiouvkivTlxdzanavoikljmtAoilyzvwTqhipxTdxuzE|0nukPowered by emaze

Best of luck in your future classes and I hope everyone has a fabulous summer!

Has Public Education Sold Its Soul to Corporate Interests?

Although I’m not a fan of most school-business partnerships, I can see why some speak to the positive outcomes as a result of the relationship. When I close my eyes and think of product placement, and companies striking deals to gain access into our schools I hear children knocking door to door with tubs of ice-cream, boxes of chocolate, vending, and lists of name brand magazines. Thinking back to my own school experiences I remember the issue of product placement within my school as the first vending machine was delivered housed with popular coke products. School Community Councils often jump at the chance to go ahead with these fundraisers because of the return attached to the name brand. Boxes of chocolate, pails of ice cream and stacks of magazines being sold by kids door to door means money for our school. In fact, our school participated in many of these fundraisers this year and just last week we received a much needed volleyball net and jerseys. Without the year of fundraisers, there wasn’t enough money to purchase the net and without the net, the future of our students volleyball season was looking grim. There was a benefit of this relationship but were “our” eyes focused on the return and missing the cost of the investment? It did help our school but is it ethical?

Photo Credit: Shreyans Bhansali via Compfight cc

Many schools are turning towards Google education tools to support classroom learning.  I had never really thought about my division having to subscribe for these tools before this conversation. This is one partnership that I feel benefits my students. The features on Google Read and Write alone have made reading and writing more accessible to students. I have witnessed student gain more independence in a short time of using it. Students who can now focus on learning content without struggling to put their thoughts down on paper. Sure, some may argue this is still selling out to corporations, but in this case my students directly benefit. In my opinion, it’s a partnership that works.

I choose to send Scholastic book orders home with my kids. Did I ever consider it selling my (or perhaps my students) soul to corporate interests? No. I have been so focused on how it can help my struggling readers that perhaps I didn’t look into the flip side as critically as I could have. However, My once bare bookshelves have now been filled with hundreds of good fit books, suited to my readers interests. Studies show how the impact classroom libraries can have on students. In one study “classroom libraries increased reading time by 60%”  When I first started teaching, reading was not as accessible in my classroom in comparison to the selection I can now offer after using Scholastic. Students ordering these books are often reluctant readers that find a book that catches their eyes, motivates them read and suddenly they realize reading is fun. Of course, students don’t have to order but the option is there and many parents have commented that they are glad it’s coming home because it has helped them do more reading at home.  It may be the literacy teacher in me, but Scholastic is a partnership that I don’t feel ashamed of because of the doors it’s opened for my students in making reading accessible in the classroom. Some people feel Scholastic offers more toys than books, (Yes – a downfall) but I don’t feel this has got “in the way” of student reading.

In my eyes, it all comes down to funding and frankly, I find it really disappointing. Schools are struggling to operate with limited resources and therefore often count on school-business partnerships to make ends meet. It isn’t right, but it’s reality. However,  there are many instances that are much more alarming than small fundraisers and Scholastic book orders. Take school testing for instance. Standardized testing has become big business. Testing companies like Pearson lobby to pass laws regarding testing because of the return it provides to their company. The video The Big Business Behind Public School Testing  discusses the problems with companies like Pearson having so much control within schools. Students are failing grades based on test results in some states, and we are all too familiar with stories of using tests as a means of teacher accountability.  It’s difficult to take on these corporations when they have so much power within schools because of funding decisions. How can this one size fits all model that Pearson offers, support learning with so much pressure on the test itself and not growth, learning or student success.

Photo Credit: opensourceway via Compfight cc

It was alarming to read in the article Pearson Education -Who Are These People, that Pearson Education would “take over teacher certification in New York State as a way of fulfilling the state’s promised “reforms” in its application for federal Race to the Top money.” If a company like Pearson has this much control over teachers, it’s hard to believe that we haven’t sold our souls to corporate interests! It’s scary to think about. Think about how much money our school division pays to Pearson alone. Do you feel the investment is worth the return? I have a hard time seeing the value in resources designed around test taking. Let’s put this money towards our students in ways where the focus is return on success – not money.

Big corporations trying to sell what to teach and how to teach in their neatly wrapped resources can be deceiving. Teachers preaching about the latest book being sold at their last teacher conference isn’t anything new either. We need to be carefully and think critically about the what resources we use because after-all, they are also just another company trying to make a dime off of the growing business of public education. As teachers, we need to critically analyze how we decide what resources should be used and consider how it impacts student learning.An investment with little return is not something to advocate for being in our schools – but often we see these big investments with little return entering our schools time and time again. It’s big business and because of this, unfortunately, it’s also very political.

I found the debate interesting. The disagree side made the point that “School’s need critical friends”…. This stuck with me. As much as we don’t want to come to terms with it, relationships with partners are going to have to exist. It’s true but we need to choose these partnerships wisely. As Dean discussed during the debate, having to rely on private corporations is a scary thought, but if there is no value, we need to be able to approach our leaders and question why this partnership is happening. Public Education continues to be “Big Business”

How do corporations impact you and your students?

Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

Is social media ruining childhood?

Well no. I mean,  yes? In some ways? But it doesn’t have to be this way…

It’s another confusing debate topic – which explains the close split vote of nearly 56% of Tuesdays class agreeing with the statement, leaving 44% taking the positive outlook and disagreeing.

I first signed up for Facebook in 2007, my grade 12 year. Before then, I chatted with my classmates, all people I knew, on instant messenger. I wasn’t trolled or bullied and I certainly didn’t feel like it ruined my teenage years.  Although I wasn’t using social media to it’s full extent. My profile settings were private and I didn’t utilize the online communities. I didn’t feel like it affected my life in negative ways – if anything it gave me people to talk to as I couldn’t just meet my friends at the mall, or grab something to eat, in the rural farming community in which I lived. I wasn’t old enough to drive and the nearest sign of civilization was 30 minutes away. At times, I felt isolated as it was, so I couldn’t imagine not having that outlet to stay connected to my friends. Social media didn’t impact my teenage years the way I’m reading about today – but social media has changed, especially how it is being used.

Photo Credit: LivyAnn via Compfight cc

Today children are growing up much differently than I had, just as my childhood was much different than that of my parents. When social media came into play, I was transitioning from a teenager into an adult and I never knew what it was like to be just a preteen impacted by the digital world. Today, in the article How Social Media Affects Children, research shows “Almost half of 11- to 16-year-olds say they were bullied on social media, according to a study published by GirlGuiding last year (PDF).” Cyber-bullying is a huge issue that has led many children to take their own lives. It isn’t uncommon for many others go through difficult times of depression and mental health issues because of what is happening to them online. It’s devastating and if this is happening on social media, it is clear social media has greatly impacted many children’s lives in negative ways. As the agree side of the debate noted, now bullying follows kids home and we can’t escape social media.

I thought the You-Tube video “A Social Life” was very interesting. It is about a young girl with an addiction to social media. The life she appeared to be living online was nothing the one she lived, as she spent the whole day refreshing her feed, checking for likes, and taking pictures of a seemingly perfect life instead of spending time actually building the life she wanted to have. It’s common for people, especially children or teens trying to fit in, to want to project an ideal lifestyle, receive the instant gratification from friends liking their photos, and feel pressured to keep up with “snapping” everything they do via Snapchat. I feel that getting to wrapped up in documenting everything through a phone for the sake of sharing it with others can cause one to miss those “in the moment” occasions. However others are able to take a quick photo for memory and still enjoy the moment. I question whether the different between these two types of people causes me to question whether they are actually taking the photo for themselves to enjoy … or are they doing it for others?  For those who are addicted to social media, perhaps it is ruining their lives, but this is not the case for everyone and it depends on how it is being used.

Photo Credit: birgerking via Compfight cc
When I consider the nostalgic memories of my own childhood, almost all of them included playing outside. With children more focused on technology, it is evident children don’t spend the same amount of time playing outside that my generation and the one before mine have experienced.The same article also claims that “British children spend an average of three hours a day on the internet, up by an hour on a year ago, the 2016 Childwise Monitor report found. Among 15- to 16-year-olds, the figure rises to almost five hours.” Spending more time online often means less time outdoors. I don’t want to see playing outside becoming obsolete in the next generations to come, but I also think the way children use technology depends on how they are exposed to it. At some point, if children are spending all of their free time in front of a screen, most parents would introduce boundaries around the use of tech. But this isn’t an option in all households and we know many of our students don’t have boundaries around tech use.  Therefore, we must teach students to be smart about the ways in which they use tech  so they are capable of making those decisions on their own.

Although social media has created a different childhood for many, does it necessarily mean that social media has ruined childhood? That’s a pretty strong statement if you ask me. Impact childhood…yes. Ruin? Lets not exaggerate.

Again, the common theme of each weeks debates is that technology is a tool, which has the power to be used for good or bad but the real power is with the one who uses it. It is your decision how you use social media and bringing education and awareness to issues like cyber-bullying, addiction and proper internet use is imperative to whether social media has a positive or negative impact on one’s life. I think we are often quick to blame technology for being the source of so much “evil” in our debate topics, but we are forgetting that it is up to the people using tech themselves as to whether they use it in positive or negative ways. People make the decisions. People need to be educated about digital citizenship and proper internet use. It is up to adults – parents and teachers alike – to educate and have conversations with their children about proper internet use and internet safety.

Photo Credit: keepitsurreal via Compfight cc
It’s impossible to shield children from the using technology -after all it’s not going anywhere – but we can teach them how to use it in appropriate, positive and meaningful ways.

We often hear about the negative stories surrounding social media, but there are also many great things that social media can offer such as resources, community, communication and support – to name a few. Just because childhood today might look different than 30 years ago, it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Our world is different and will continue to change and develop what childhood may or may not look like. Instead of trying to eliminate our children’s use of the internet entirely and use blanket statements like “Tech is bad!” and “Social media ruins childhood!” let’s think critically about how we choose model, educate and view social media. In fact the article 5 Reasons Why Social Media Might Actually Be Good For Your Child outlines 5 key benefits which include:

  • Keeping up with Friends
  • Collaborate with Schoolmates
  • Discover new interests
  • Get prepared for the future
  • Get creative

Anything in excess can be come dangerous or harmful. But using social media in moderation can allow for some really positive experiences that children in past generations were not able to experience. These new experiences and ways of learning can actually improve one’s childhood. So why do hear about the negative stories so much more often than positive?

Instead of complaining and shielding kids from social media – or what I like to think of as  being reactive in how we deal with social media use – let’s be proactive and teach how social media can enhance our children’s opportunities and interactions with the world around them.




Technology Creates Equity – If only it were this simple.

Technology.  It can create opportunities we would perhaps never had access to before its existence. It opens us up to a world of possibilities – if we choose to utilize it in positive and purposeful ways.It can certainly provide a wealth of information as a source of access to education which in turn can completely increase one’s opportunities for future growth and development. Technology is incredibly powerful – but is it powerful enough to create equity in society?

This was the hot topic surrounding this week’s Great Debate and one in which had me a bit perplexed. There are arguments from both side of the debate in which I agree and although I would like to believe technology creates equity in society, I don’t entirely buy it. If only the solution for the divide within society was this simple, but unfortunately there is no simple answer and the situation is much more complicated. Technology can create opportunities for equity but unfortunately will not create equity across the board. Technology can solve a lot of problems and provide support for many but it’s not the single cure to the worlds societal divides. I believe technology has the potential to level the playing field for many people, but to suggest it can create equity for all leaves me picturing  a “One size fits all” mindset where handing laptops out to everyone is supposed to suddenly fix everything. Giving everyone the same thing and expecting diverse changes is unrealistic.

26701766821_7bea494826 (1) Close your eyes an imagine if everyone in the entire world was given a computer. Would the world’s problems disappear? Would everyone be able to have access to the same opportunities? Would everyone even know how to use it as a productive tool for education and be able to lift themselves out of pverty and abolish heirarchies within society? Unfortunately, giving everyone one computer may sound fantastic at first glance, but as the disagree video mentions “Putting a laptop in the hands of a child doesn’t magically eliminate the power structures in society.” Kelsie says it best in her latest

Photo Credit: leighblackall via Compfight cc             blog post “Technology and Band-aids” when she says “Technology is a tool. It does not solve problems by itself. It’s like expecting a hammer to build a house by itself and being dumbfounded when it does not. A hammer is only part of what is required to build a house.”

“Fair is not always equal” – 5 words my students know all too well. Walk into my classroom at any time of the day and you will see a variety of tools being used to give children what they need to improve success. This might look different for every child – whether it’s a hoki stool for a busy body, fidgets to increase focus, headphones to eliminate distractions, FM systems to ensure everyone can hear the teacher, bean bag chairs for students in wheelchairs to join us at carpet time and increase the level of inclusion, speech to text technology for the reluctant writers and computers so students can finally share a full paragraph of writing as opposed to a few words written by hand. Distributing all of these supports equally would not serve as beneficial to all. Rather, each tool is given deep thought and consideration before being assigned to a student.Research and expertise are often required to learn more about how to properly support each child. Most importantly, I’ve had to learn what tools help which students and how the goal or student outcome can be achieved for the individual (not as a collective group). Without knowing how to properly use the technology itself, it’s not yet effective. Training is critical in whether technology is being utilizing for the maximum benefit of the student, or if it’s simply just existing. The article What Works: Research Into Practice warns us, “Assistive technology tools are only helpful if efforts are made to implement them effectively for student use. There are  numerous barriers to this, including limited training for students and teachers, and limited access to technical support. Doing the same thing for everyone (being equal) is not helpful, and in my mind stating “technology” itself is the answer to creating equity is the equivalent of providing everyone a hoki stool and a calculator and expecting everyone to achieve grade level expectations on tomorrows math test because of it.

The tools in my classroom have been made available to provide an opportunity to do something the student previously otherwise couldn’t do. Technology is the same way – it’s not going to benefit everyone the same way, but depending on the situation, it can offer support that has the potential to substantially improve one’s circumstances. Technology is powerful and it can provide a variety of ways to support students in the classroom, as well as people in all kinds of  occupations, especially for those who benefit from assistive technology. Although it has the potential to benefit everyone, not everyone has access to it. It’s a great thought of if everyone had a computer, just as I wish every child had access to books and arrived to school ready to learn. It’s not this simple and simply owning the tools alone is not enough to create equitable opportunities.

Photo Credit: Paul of Congleton via Compfight cc

In the article Ed-Tech’s Inequalities, Justin Reich suggests  “open educational resources might actually expand educational inequalities”, referring to the Matthew Effect and widening the achievement gap. I’ve understood the Matthew Effect in relation to reading instruction, but it also applies to technology. Students from less affluent households use technology in different ways then those in affluent households. The article refers to  Research that suggests “students in affluent schools are more likely to use computers for creative and experimental projects; students in low income schools are more likely to use computers for drill-and-kill exercises.” Wealthier students are using the technology differently and widening this gap.  Not only is there a gap, but the gap continues to widen. Just as its’s important that people have access to technology, one must question how they are actually using their devices. Simply owning technology does not level the playing field.

Technology is a tool that can benefit many who use it, but there are many barriers to break through aside from technology alone to close the achievement gap and create equity in education, and in our society.


Student Privacy – Is It Fair to Share?

In a world where the need to check social media has become as much of habit as looking at your watch, do you ever wonder if we are sharing TOO much information? Reading many “hot-head” status updates and viewing countless pictures from others that pop on my Facebook often leave me shaking my head and cause me to  question whether we are TOO quick to post TOO often? With too many “TOO’s”  to keep track of, it all comes down to the issue of oversharing online. What are the repercussions of oversharing and who does it impact?

Unfortunately, I believe oversharing can lead to big problems with privacy, especially when the one who is doing the oversharing is sharing information or photo’s of others without their consent. 7772620936_28a0cbdfa0It seems like common sense to ask permission, but unfortunately this isn’t always the case with ease of posting, and the lure of receiving instant gratification from others through a like or re-tweet.  However  what doesn’t sit right with me is the fact the person doing the oversharing is often not the only one dealing with the consequences. For example, parents that overshare information, including embarrassing stories and pictures, of their children often think
little about the permanency of the post and Photo Credit: verbeeldingskr8 via Compfight cc   how their choices may come back to haunt                                                                                              them in the future. Justine Stephanson makes a very interesting point on her most recent blog post, stating “With many parents participating in different forms of social media their children are no longer anonymous at birth. Some children are digitally born before their actual birthday as many parents post ultra sound pictures or make a pregnancy announcement.” Parents are creating a digital footprint of their children before they are even born! The importance of being aware of what one posts is becoming more important than ever before.

What happens if the one oversharing is a teacher, sharing student content or photos. Is it fair to share?  I assume teachers mean well and have good intentions but this does happen often in the form of classroom Twitter account,  Facebook pages and blogs. As Kelsey, Shannon and Danielle explained during Tuesday’s debate, Teachers may not even realize we are exposing the students we are meant to protect. Teachers need to make sure they have parent permission, which may need to go beyond the typical media release form.

Juan Enriquez poses the question during his TED Talk, “What happens if Facebook, Google, Twitter, Linked In, cell phones, GPS, travel adviser – all of the things you deal with everyday turn out to be electronic tattoos? And what if they provide as much information a26002074343_d81806c5e6 (2)bout who and what you are, as much as any tattoo ever would?” I believe what we do online does share a story about who we are, and most important leaves a digital footprint – our own digital tattoo.

A tattoo becomes a part of you and it’s aim is to represent a part of who you are. I wonder if my digital footprint is an accurate reflection of my authentic self? The problem is, our students (including myself) are Photo Credit: The Daring Librarian via Compfight cc
still learning about digital citizenship and preparing to use online communities in positive ways. They are going to make mistakes.  However, the main take away from Tuesday’s debate was the importance of educating kids in today’s digital age who may not be as aware while quickly posting pictures they may later regret. In the article Teachers -Take Care of Your Digital Footprint, Meredith Stewart makes the point that “If you aren’t controlling who you are online, some else is or will.”As I was leaving high school, social media was becoming much more popular and I can remember feeling uncomfortable when someone posted a picture for everyone to see without even knowing a picture was being taken. Not that what I was doing was bad (at least let’s hope not), but I certainly would not like to see every picture from my teenage years resurface for anyone and everyone, including future employers, to see years later.  I didn’t feel fair and it didn’t feel right. I wonder if some students ever see themselves on a class blog, or school twitter account and feel the same way. After all, according the the article Does Sharing Photos of Your Child on Facebook Put Them at Risk states “According to the online recruitment site Career Builder, around a fifth of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates, and close to 59% say they would be influenced by a candidate’s online presence.” Being aware of photo’s that might be problematic to another’s future should be at the forefront of one’s mind before posting, but unfortunately not everyone thinks about it until it’s perhaps too late.

I try to follow the golden rule: If you wouldn’t print it on the front page of a newspaper or feel comfortable sharing the post with your boss – don’t do it. My students are eager to share the work they are proud of, and pictures of our learning with parents online. I find it motivates my younger students to do their best work, and they feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when sharing this quality work with an audience. Technology has opened a window into our classrooms for parents to feel more “in the know” than ever before. My students love being able to show their parents what they have been working on by checking out our weekly class blog update, just as parents enjoy seeing their kids in action and taking a more active role in asking questions about a new project or extending what we are learning at school. It allows me to be more transparent and proactive in keeping parents in the loop.

I really enjoyed learning more about how Kathy Cassidy uses technology to enhance learning and teach students to use technology safely and effectively. I particularly enjoyed her point about kids who are connected have a different worldview. This video demonstrates the importance of modeling the use of social media and inspires me to work towards using online portfolios. Although I love using a class blog, I have never really thought about the dangers of posting pictures in such depth  until this class and it does make me consider switching to a more private form of sharing – such as portfolios that only parents have access to. It definitely gives me something to think about when preparing for next year.

If we are going to share, we must have clear and upfront conversations with parents, collect permission and  stress the importance of being “share aware”. First, educating ourselves as teachers about the footprint track we leave behind while using technology and then passing this onto to our students.

Avoid regret and become “share aware!”



Can Too Much of a Good Thing Be a Bad Thing?

Is Technology Making Our Kids Unhealthy? 

Technology is flooded with many positive aspects. Yet I’m noticing, in the last few weeks  more than ever before, that it appears for every positive aspect technology can be used for, there is also a negative “flip side”.  After all – if there wasn’t two sides to every story we wouldn’t be having such interesting, thought-provoking debates!

In my eyes, the benefits of technology far out weigh the negative aspects – so I pose the question… Can too much of a good thing be a bad thing? 

There’s no question about it – the research showing the effects of too much screen time is extensive. As Aubrey, Jennifer, and Jayme-Lee explain in their video, “80% of communication is online”.They made a strong argument, grounded in research, about how technology impacts physical health (neck injury, increased snacking, limits physical activity), mental health (lack of sleep, aggression, depression), and our social well being (addiction, cyber bullying, relationships). The article Sneaky Ways Technology is Messing With Your Mind and Body first not only made me realize I need to quit touching my face so much, “…our phones are actually teeming with bacteria”, but also addresses many physical and mental effects that I can relate to. For example, sore eyes and headaches from too much screen time, sore neck and back from hours of report card typing an15361058736_18beac0d7e_dd don’t even get me started about the “text claw” from scrolling 5 minutes too long. I try to spend the minutes leading up to bed either on my yoga mat or reading a book in order to get a solid nights sleep and wake up feeling refreshed. However, it always seems very counterproductive  when my partner insists on falling asleep to the TV. Now I too am conditioned to falling asleep along with the late night talk shows and pay for it in the morning when I can’t seem to get out of bed. In the article, Trouble Sleeping – Maybe It’s Your iPad Phyllis Zee, a neuroscience professor at Northwestern University claims “…if you’re using [the iPad or a laptop] close to bedtime that light can be sufficiently stimulating to the brain to make it more awake and delay your ability to sleep.”
Photo Credit: r.nial.bradshaw via Compfight cc

Although I can’t deny the enormous amount of evidence proving too much technology can affect our health, I would like to play devil’s advocate and stress that many of these things listed above are preventable and based on the choices one makes. It is technology itself creating obesity in children? Or is it simply the decisions made around how technology is being used? I believe our choices in how we use technology play a huge role.  If I choose to use my phone before bed and fall asleep with the T.V on, I pay for it the next morning.  Sneaky Ways Technology is Messing With Your Mind and Body also draws attention to the fact that “excessive social media use may increase our stress levels”. However, again I can choose not to spend hours on end using social media and reduce the amount of stress and anxiety that stems from using technology.

But what about those times I need to meet a deadline? Those times where the luxury of choice is not an option. I can relate to Heidi Warren‘s most recent blog post as she states “Sometimes I look at the notification bell and open my email to all the post notifications and just feel overwhelmed.  Wondering where to start and how to tackle the constant flow of new information.” It can become overwhelming and it’s not surprise people feel the need to spend hours online “catching up”.  I was once the the type of person that unfortunately wouldn’t stop working on a project I started until it was finished (not the way to create a balanced lifestyle by the way). My instinct is still this way, but I’ve learned to make better choices – just as one might have the desire to play video games for days on end until they pass the game.  You can imagine why my first experience with starting a Twitter account was overwhelming because I felt the need to keep up – but “keeping up” with every post isn’t and was never the point. Realigning our thoughts and goals around technology use is crucial to avoid the painful consequences addressed by the agree side during Tuesday’s debate.

I understand that sometimes it’s not a choice and many people working desk jobs don’t have the choice. The reading Determining the Effects of Technology on Children claims “60% of jobs today require technological skills, and this is expected to increase to ninety percent in the next fifty years.” Technology becoming a large part of our day, if it isn’t already, a reality. Technology doesn’t automatically correlate to unhealthy lifestyles.  I think it’s important to learn how to create balance in our lives if technology plays a major role in your day.

Unfortunately, children don’t always have the same ability to make such wise choices, especially without really understanding the all of the research and effects to their health that we understand as adults. Just try taking an iPhone away from a 3 year old and you will see what I mean. I feel children should be able to use technology in healthy ways but boundaries should be established. If children don’t have any boundaries and choose to use technology for hours on end everyday, I agree technology likely is making these kids, but not necessarily all kids, unhealthy.  The article Obesity in Children and Technology  claims that “the average child spends upwards of seven hours watching television, browsing the internet and playing video games each day.” Yikes!! What happened to the great outdoors? Not only do I feel we should educate children about safe ways to use technology, but just as importantly teach the benefits of an active lifestyle. We shouldn’t feel the need to overact and ban technology from our classrooms or homes, but rather by advocate for an increase of physical activity for students at home and school while leading by example.

In perhaps my only claim to fame, Saskatchewan In Motion‘s School Advocacy video also addresses the issue of obesity in children. “Less than 15% of kids are getting the physical activity they need and on average Canadian youth are sedentary for over 8 waking hours each day.” To blame this solely on technology alone is a bit of a stretch in my eyes, although it certainly may be a contributing factor in many situations.

Despite it’s effects when used excessively, we can’t ignore the amazing things technology does for us. It helps us stay connected, and we can seek help for any situation where a supportive community or information is needed including depression, anxiety or bullying. Apps and devices like Fitbit and Runkeeper, to name just a few, keep us motivated to stay active and perhaps reduce the amount of screen time in our lives as a result.

The article  Researchers: Forget Internet Abstinence; Teens Need Some Online Risk brings up an interesting point about allowing kids to experience small online risk and learn how to handle situations on a smaller scale to prevent larger online risks. I feel this relates to the increased controversy of schools banning WiFi. Technology isn’t something we should be “protecting” our kids from, but rather using it as an opportunity to learn about issues they want more information on, and address issues like cyber bullying head on. We can’t shield kids from technology for their entire lives in order to avoid online problems, but we can educate them on internet safety while introducing them to the amazing opportunities that can come from using it.

In the article titled Determining the Effects of Technology on Children, Sherry Turkle states “naming technology as either good or bad will not solve the issue. … computers are not good or bad – they’re powerful. I think we’re getting ourselves in a lot of trouble thinking there’s an Internet or a web that has an impact on children.” There’s many good things I feel would be great in excess – love, laughter, friendship and of course- puppies. However, when it comes down to technology, I believe too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. I agree with Ian Temple‘s statement that we need to “… make sure that the benefit outweighs the harm” when it comes down to technology. The key thing is recognizing where the fine line between good (appropriate use of tech) and bad (over use of tech) is, before the blessing of technology becomes a burden on your life.