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!

https://app.emaze.com/@AZLCZQOI/summary-of-learning?autoplay&kun0|MigiznbiouvkivTlxdzanavoikljmtAoilyzvwTqhipxTdxuzE|0nukPowered by emaze

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

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Google – The Learning Finish Line?

If only I had a dime for every time I said “Hold on – I’ll Google it” …

But is google turning us into “passive acceptors of ideas or facts?” as Grade 3 teacher Janelle Preston suggests. A google search may have the potential to spark learning and grow curiosity but how often do you take your google search this far?

Should schools teach anything that can be googled? 

Selling Your Soul to Google
Well…let’s not go that far. But perhaps I’ve traded my long term memory for the ease of technology doing the work. Besides, why should I bother thinking for myself when Google can do all of that hard thinking work for me? Although it has made my life easier – I feel as though I drew the short end of the stick. cfeec6a7a471c205dcd7a7f4c835d6df.pngWhat does this mean for learning? Is google limiting the extent in which we explore questions? Let’s hope not, however statistics show that “The average number of Google searches per day has grown from 9,800 in 1998 to over 4.7 trillion today.” With the world at our finger tips I believe the ability to think critically is more important than ever before. Today, anyone with a cell phone has immediate access to information available in their pockets – information often forgotten as quickly as the time it took to discover the answer. But as the video How the Internet is Changing Your Brain suggests that Google amnesia may be problematic and schools are now teaching students not the value of knowing everything, but the value of using the information they have by connecting curriculum to real life.

I question what our schools, our lives and our world would be like if merely taught students things that could be googled. Would children grow into adults without the ability to analyze information, make connections, form opinions and articulate their thinking in a way that demonstrates a deeper level of understanding? Perhaps most importantly, could they apply these facts or knowledge to new situations having only memorized a piece of information? I believe that focusing on the memorization of facts alone can be dangerous for the development of a young mind. Critical thinking and developing a deeper understanding of the how and why behind the fact is, in my opinion, more important than being able to recite it from memory itself. What good is knowing an answer if you don’t actually understand the reasoning behind it?

I Don’t Know. (Insert shoulder shrug here)
Student: 2 +3 = 5
Teacher: How do you know what?
Student: I don’t know, it’s just what it is.
Teacher: What are the 3 major functions that are basic to plant growth and development?
Student: I know, I know! Photosynthesis, respiration and transpiration.
Teacher: Exactly – But what is really happening? What does that mean?
Student: I don’t know.

i-dont-know-google-it_1073
I don’t know! I don’t know! I don’t know! As teachers we hear this all too often. I’m continually posing questions in an attempt to spark knowledge and grow curiosity, but it worries me that my students are not doing the same and asking these questions for themselves. It’s a challenge to break others habit of searching for the answer before even thinking about the answer. The problem isn’t with the response “I don’t know”, but rather the lack of curiosity and interest in exploring the unknown for themselves. When I was in grade 3/4, if the teacher posed a question we put our fashionable (at least in my eyes) “thinking caps” on and used comprehension strategies like drawing on prior knowledge, asking questions and creating mental images, make and adjust predictions and explored topics until we reached the answer on our own first. I worry because today I feel “I don’t know” is  often quickly followed by “Can I google it Ms. C?” Having the answers so readily available is at times both a blessing and a curse.

Google Search Vs. Giving the Old Brain a Good Workout…
We quickly forget the answers to the questions we google because these pieces of information often don’t make it into our long term memory. Although our fingers (and of course our phones) did the most work to generate the answer, our brains did not. In order to think critically, or brain relies on the information in our long-term memory to make connections to the world around us. I worry that Google is not only changing how we think, but perhaps more importantly the way we store information. After all, short term memory is most used by google users and as our reading suggests “browsing prepares for skimming instead of learning.” Perhaps I no longer have to store information in my long term memory, because Google can do that for me. I often catch myself relying on a Google search, or my auto-dial to find the answers to my problem, or the phone numbers of my  loved ones (numbers I once knew by the way!) without having to think for myself. Personally, losing my independence to a Google search engine or an electronic phone book is a terrible feeling.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the being able to find answers to the random questions that go through my head in line at the grocery store at the click of a button, but I question whether this way of accessing information is creating a virtual finish line for learning. I find the answer, I close the app, and I continue with my day without having to think for myself. Is this really learning?  What happens to our ability to think critically if we always take the easiest route to an answer – a Google search.

Blooms Taxonomy 
I believe memorization still has a place in our learning, but is only just the beginning of the learning process. Those whom solely expect students to memorize and regurgitate answers are only hurting students. Memorization, or a google search for that matter, should never be the end of the learning process. I teach younger students, and we often create fun songs, raps and rhymes to remember pieces of information – but this is almost always during the first or second lesson of a topic. Once they have a general understanding of what something is, I can dive deeper into a topic, scaffold their learning using an inquiry approach and create higher order thinking. I believe it’s what you do with that information after you remembered it that is important.  Memorization has it’s place, but we must build upon that information to reach the analyzing, evaluating and creating phases of learning.

Blooms_Taxonomy_pyramid_cake-style-use-with-permission.jpg

I believe both learning facts and developing critical thinking go hand-in-hand. Without one or the other students may be missing a major piece of the learning puzzle – and Nemo likely would never have been found.

Now Let’s Take Everything You Just Learned and Flip It Upside Down…
Flipping Blooms Taxonomy?
Have you ever thought critically yourself about models like Bloom’s Technology? Shelly Wright thinks that the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy model is wrong.

In the article, Flipping Bloom’s Taxonomy, Shelly proposes that “Rather than starting with knowledge, we start with creating, and eventually discern the knowledge that we need from it. I think the narrowing pyramid also posits that our students need a lot more focus on factual knowledge than creativity, or analyzing, or evaluating and applying what they’ve learned. And in a Google-world, it’s just not true.”

If Google is in-fact changing the way we learn, maybe it is beneficial to  reconsider how the framework is organized?

bloom_pyramid-2

Are you second guessing everything you once knew? Good! Because that’s what learning is and should be about. If you’re anything like me, your mind may be a little blown right now. Although this model, like most things, may have its flaws, learning should challenge us in the way Shelly’s proposed flipped model has. One thing I do know for sure is this last debate has really provoked some interesting discussions and has certainly challenged me to think critically. What do you think about the flipped model of Bloom’s Taxonomy?

As the education pendulum continues to swing, I believe we as teachers must not rely on one approach alone. Critical thinking should  build from previous knowledge (which also includes memorized pieces of information – or google-able facts) and therefore both play a role in learning. Diving deeper, analyzing, evaluating and questioning and creating may be more hard work, but it’s also creating new connections in the brain. I can’t justify that memorization without understanding is truly learning. Teaching facts that can be googled is important because it provides a starting point for learning to occur – but it certainly should not be the finish line.