Why we all need to unplug!

In preparation for our debate, which can be viewed here:

 

I discovered that there was actually a lot to learn in the arguments for or against plugging in.

Among the most interesting, I found to be the arguments of Nathan Jurgenson and Sherry Turkle. While Jurgenson advocates in an augmented reality, Turkle argues that digital and real selves are very different in her Ted Talk that I found very interesting called Connected, but Alone?

An interesting experience that we uncovered was that of Paul Miller, who unplugged for a year, and came back to tell his story. He shared that in his experience unplugging, he did stop and smell the flowers. My life was full of serendipitous events: real life meetings, frisbee, bike rides, and Greek literature. With no clear idea how I did it, I wrote half my novel, and turned in an essay nearly every week to The Verge. I lost 15 pounds without really trying. I was a little bored, a little lonely, but I found it a wonderful change of pace.”

We did find so many great pieces that helped us make our argument that unplugging is not necessary. The 12 mobile apps that help relieve stress and anxiety were so interesting that I (ME!) downloaded a few of them and have been giving them a try.

I have to admit that ultimately I ended up on the wrong side of the debate, but I had a great time being there and I learned a lot. The reason that I wound up there was because I was too slow at using technology when signing up…ha. ha. As an academic, I see the value in both unplugging and staying plugged in. As a person, I wholeheartedly believe that we need, need to unplug.  Like Heidi  and Dean, I can’t wait to unplug and take a step  back from technology, because right now to me, technology means work. To be very honest, it has been a long two years of having evenings and weekends taken up by grad classes (even though I truly did love every one) and I am good and ready to frisbee my laptop into the lake off the dock.

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Photo credit: Nicole Putz. Echo Lake, May 2016.

Going back to my first blog post in this class, I shared with classmates that I am an advocate for place based learning and outdoor education. I will take any opportunity to take learning outdoors for myself, my kids and my students. I believe that having a relationship with the natural landscape is critical for developing relationships with others, developing critical thinking skills, social awareness, and cultivating ones personal well being; just to name a few ideas. I quoted Richard Louv as speaking to the concept of the hybrid mind, stating that technology and nature have a will forge a beautiful relationship as we move into the future.

“The best preparation for the twenty-first century, therefore, may be a combination of natural and virtual experience. An instructor who trains young people to become the pilots of cruise ships describes “two kinds of students, those who are good at video games, who are terrific with the electronic steering; and those who grew up outside—they’re far better at having a special sense of where the ship is. We tend to get one or the other kind.” The first kind of student, he says, has a talent he prizes. “We have a lot of electronics on the ship.” The second kind of student has another talent he needs. That student, using a wider range of senses, “actually knows where the ship is.”  The ideal pilot, he says, is the person who has a balance of high-tech and natural knowledge: “We need people who have both ways of knowing the world.” In other words, a hybrid mind.”

As a teacher, I feel like it is as much my job to protect the rights of children to have access to the outdoors as it is to teach them literacy and numeracy. Its not that I don’t believe that technology has a beautiful place in our future. But right now, it is threatening the thing that I believe in most, and for that I won’t back down. As we as a society learn to balance, people on my end of the struggle will be allowed some breathing room.

At this point in time, everywhere I turn I see devices. People are behind them, operating them, being distracted by them, and missing out. The average amount of hours that children spend now in front of devices and not having face to face interactions, experiences, or being outdoors is appalling. In the article TV is Still King of Media Consumption monthly American statistic where published in January of 2013.

I can’t get the moment out of my head when I was in the pool at the Sandra Schmirler Leisure centre with my little man, singing the wheels on the bus and splashing, and noticing that every….single…parent…sitting on the perimeter of the pool…was looking down their phone. This moment is burned into my memory. Luke Braun is with me on this one, stating “I have been at countless swimming lessons, soccer games and play dates during which not a single parent was actually engaging with their kids or watching them at all.”  So balance? Yes of course, we don’t need to unplug if we have achieved balance. But we are no where near balance. Perhaps when the newness of tech wears off of society a bit, we may be better at managing our time and unplugging effortlessly. But right now we live in a society where people are willing to risk their lives and the lives of others around them so that they can be on their devices while driving! If this isn’t a wake up call, then I don’t know what is. It’s a call for people to unplug and practice unplugging so that knowing there is a time and a place for being plugged in becomes second nature.

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Photo credit: Nicole Putz. Katepwa Beach, May 2015.

As students we just learned a great deal about technology; we are now ambassadors. As educators, we know that all great things are learned, so now we can go forward and teach. Have great summer everyone!

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Selling out, and selling fast

Our last debate was rather interesting. I found myself having a number of ah-ha moments- as this is one topic that to be honest I have not thought much about before. My laptop screen was filled up with “what about ” comments as I took notes. I found myself getting rather amped up over this topic and I did not expect to.

In the article Justine and Tyle shared called Corporate Involvement In Schools: Time For A More Critical Look out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Alex Molnar outlines 8 areas in which there has been significant increase in corporate investment in the last 15 years.

 

  1. Sponsorship of Sports and Activities 
  2.  Exclusive Agreements
  3.  Incentive Programs
  4. Appropriation of Space
  5. Sponsored Education Materials
  6. Electronic Marketing
  7. Privatization
  8. Fundraising
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After seeing these categories, two things occurred to me. One, is that we as Canadians have a tendency to look to our neighbours to the south on this issue in particular and make assumptions that corporate involvement in schools is an “American” thing. Two, that this assumption is incorrect. While it may be more prevalent in the United States, it has come to my attention through this is happening in Canada too.

Andres Araneda stated on his blog that “although companies such as Google, Microsoft and Apple have contributed greatly to developing modern Ed. tech that a great majority of us use on a daily basis, we can’t assume these companies are developing these tools solely for the good of our students. Education is an ENORMOUS market that IS going to be exploited, whether we want to see it that way or not.” I would have to agree with this, and accept the fact that we wont be moving away from marketing in education anytime soon. So this is on my radar……now what?

I keep coming back to guest speaker/troublemaker Audrey Watters staying that  “public schools were viewed as failing – failing to educate, failing to enculturate, failing to produce career and college and military-ready students. (Of course, public schools have always been viewed as failing.) They were deemed grossly inefficient, and politicians and administrators alike insisted that schools needed to be run more like businesses.” (Hack Education, 2016) So if education systems are perceived in this way, how are we ever supposed to move away from the idea that we need to be saved by funding from outside of government? Especially, as  Dean Shareski who is the Community Manager of Discover Education brought up; when we cant be so ignorant to actually believe that we don’t need funding from outside of government. After the lovely announcement from the Saskatchewan Party that occurred in the middle of our class, it is very clear that we as educators and the education system and a whole are in a very tough ethical and financial spot.

Another topic that Audrey spoke to that resonated with me was that “there’s an inherent conflict, I’d argue, between a culture that demands learning efficiency and a culture that recognizes learning messiness. It’s one of the reasons that schools – public schools – have been viewed as spaces distinct from businesses. Humans are not widgets. The cultivation of a mind cannot be mechanized. It should not be mechanized. (Hack Education, 2016)    This resonates with the teacher in me and brings up the importance of stories and narratives in the lives of my students, who certainly cannot and should not be mechanized. To me, this theory of education brings in a bigger issue of what exactly education is. I think  Stephanie Pipke-Painchaud would agree as she stated that“Stories resonate with me and it’s how we make sense of and remember the world… perhaps not always accurately as our stories are influenced by our own perspectives.” Getting away from the business model in school and capturing the messiness, the story…is easier said than done when you need the business model to keep you afloat.

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In conclusion, I see a big problem here but am struggling to come up with a solution. I don’t want to sound like Eeyore over here, but I feel that when Danielle stated in her blog that “maybe it’s going to become a case of the private sector stepping in to help out. As long as we do our homework, work alongside the corporations we deem trustworthy, begin steering clear of the ones (like Pearson) who are not, and proceed with our eyes wide open, I really don’t see any other rectifiable way to find a solution for the problem Saskatchewan is currently in”  she, and others out there are also struggling with this the reality of this predicatment.

Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

As I write write write this week, I am trying hard to get to some of the blogs written by my classmates that I have not visited yet. It is hard to reach everyone!

I started by checking out Kayla Brodner’s blog and she bought up a good point, that “with all the inequalities in our society, every childhood experience is different. Some are oppressed and deal with poverty, abuse, etc. Things difficult things many other people have never and will never face.” I think she raises an excellent point in terms of our debate, this argument is totally situational to a child’s home environment, parenting, and depends on inequalities a child may or may not face in their life.

The definition of childhood is so so different for everyone. I have openly discussed how I restrict technology for my young kids. This has garnered a lot of judgement from others. But you know what? Is not so much that I am restricting it, as we are just doing other things! I must do those things because there is a part of my own childhood that I am trying to preserve? This is true. I do think that my kids deserve to have a childhood like mine, and guess what. They are currently having a childhood like mine because I’m not sitting around as a parent or a teacher simply romanticizing my childhood; I get to re-live it every single day alongside my children and my students  through Outdoor Education, which I believe will be one thing in their narratives that will forever interweave their life stories back to mine. But children get older, and the inevitable happens! Jeremy shared in his blog his “preparing” for his son to be at the age where he will begin to use social media, which has been so helpful. He said:

“I feel the fear. But, instead of getting stuck in obsessing over the issues, I’d sooner try and find potential solutions to the problem. In thinking about my own son’s future experience, I’m not going to simply allow him to go onto whatever sites he wants. Using the Common Sense Media curriculum, I can easily find direction into how to best monitor and support my child as they make their first clicks online. -Jeremy Black

Parents look to other parents for support, encouragment and to learn.What we are often met with, is judgement. We think that our children and teenagers feel the heat, feel the judgement of others when they use social media? Try being a new mom!!!

I can relate to depression and social media, which is funny because I rarely use it. The first time I really started looking at instagram and reading blogs, however…was at a time when I found myself seriously sleep deprived, post par tum, and trying to calm an colicky baby who couldn’t be calmed as I prayed she wouldn’t wake my 18 month old who was sleeping in the next room. What I turned to in the middle of the night when the whole world was asleep and I was waiting my 45 minutes until she would be up again, (so no point in falling back asleep) was my iPhone. I relentlessly searched mom blogs for the answer to colic. Sometimes I read the same blogs and saw the same meanies, over and over again.

zo A peaceful moment in the eye of the storm -Zoey at 3 months.   Photo: Nicole Putz

Looking back, I now realize how wobbly I was post-partum. So I can truly relate to teenagers now-when you are at your weakest someone telling you it will get better, (specifically giving you a timeline that doesn’t happen) is traumatic. So is reading other people’s hostile and negative comments, even though not directed specifically at me, they were directed at my situation so still fell on my shoulders. Also traumatic. Seeing “internet perfection” everywhere you look and comparing yourself to it? Bingo. Perfect combination. I also realize now that it was not technology that was the problem, nor was it my baby. It was my own obsession in using these tools to fix something, that just needed time. Sometimes in life, we just need to be patient. This revelation however, is coming from a thirty year old, not a 13 year old. It made me realize how powerful social media and the internet can be.

Social media has changed things, very fast. We have to power to ensure that social media is positive for kids though regulation, education, and being positive role models. I think that some of the responsibility of social media getting in the way of childhood has to fall on the parents shoulders. Not that a parent can intercept every single risk that their child takes in life or online, but in the experience I just shared, I see that parents have a tendency to act hugely judgmental towards each other online and in person over guess what? Each others PARENTING. But our kids….. they are supposed to know how to be nice to each other, and non judgmental; despite the fact that their role models are not. If we are speaking to things within our control, we all have the ability to be nicer, kinder people, regardless of our socioeconomic status.

Erin Benjamin questions in her blog as to “why don’t we take a huge step and start discussing social media in early elementary grades and not wait until middle school when there are already a myriad of cyberbullying issues?” and calls us to “be vigilant and ensure the mental health of our students and children by recognizing social media likely isn’t going anywhere, but can be used to promote rather than hurt. Let’s lead them, from an early age, to use social media to amplify positive relationships.” I know so many families whose ‘thing’ is technology and it is what they enjoy doing together. So who gets to judge that? I know families who love to follow each other on Social Media and their snapchats and Instagram posts bring them closer together! We have all seen Stephanie Pipke-Painchaud’s  daughter interact with technology. She’s brilliant. It is very clear that Social Media is NOT ruining her childhood. Kids are using social media, so are parents. Its time to work together and use it for good, because as we all know, it is oh so powerful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Equal Equality?

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Lets talk about equality and educational technology.

Looking at Canada specifically, I think that our best example as to how technology may be a part of the answer, but not the whole answer; lay in the calls to action listed in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. If you take a minute to read through, these calls are mindfully and carefully written with the intention of telling the truth of residential schools, reconciling from residential schools and the closing the gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians. Not all gaps that the world needs to close are between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, but many are. For this reason if we are talking about closing gaps, I very seriously encourage Canadians to look at how we can as individuals and a whole work towards meeting these calls to action. In Canada, equitable access to technology may a a piece of the puzzle in meeting these calls and closing such gaps, but lets face it: the puzzle itself is complex. It is economic, it is systemically racist, it is imperialistic, it is historical, and it will not be solved until we acknowledge with truth and begin to reconcile the reasons for the gap in the first place

My colleague Janelle Henderson just wrote a kick ass entry on her beliefs on this topic. She quoted Annie Murphy Paul in Educational Technology Isn’t Leveling the Playing Field as saying:

“while technology has often been hailed as the great equalizer of educational opportunity, a growing body of evidence indicates that in many cases, tech is actually having the opposite effect: it is increasing the gap between rich and poor, between whites and minorities, and between the school-ready and the less-prepared.”

Susan B. Neuman and Donna C. Celano have agreed, stating that technology as “the very tool designed to level the playing field is, in fact, un-leveling it.” 

Why all these women are correct: You can’t necessarily put a long term goal in front of people who are living in the right now, who can’t even meet basic survival. We were given an example during the debate of Luke Braun’s experience teaching in London, where disadvantaged students were given laptops, which they near immediately pawned. Well OF COURSE those kids pawned their laptops. They didn’t see them as a means to an good ending…..they saw them as a means to RIGHT NOW. As Janelle said, we are living in a world where

“internet may be a basic human right, but it doesn’t mean we all need it.  What we need is proper food, clean drinking water, access to affordable health care and medical treatment, human rights, employment, positive family units, safety and security.”

-Janelle Henderson.

Too many of our students are coming to school without having their basic human needs met at home which undermines them as learners and puts them at disadvantages when accessing any sort of education, with or without technology.

This is another debate where I notice that there are a alot of factors being discussed, not simply socioeconomic status either. On a more personal level, I teach Grade 5 at a middle class public school in Regina. My students are not currently involved in any type of BYOD at school, in fact they are not allowed to bring cell phones to school. This is a school wide rule. Next year in Grade 6, they will begin integrating BYOD into their school days with education and supervision from teachers.

The most serious issue I see as a professional is what Jeremy mentioned in his blog, which is that “there is a significant amount of time and pd opportunities that will need to be provided by schools in order to ensure all teachers are capable of achieving mastery.” I personally doubt that I will ever get the opportunity to participate in PD for technology. I feel like even if the technology fairy dropped off 36 chrome books and a smart board for me tomorrow, would I be near the “mastery” required to close that gap? (if closing that gap was even possible) Not a chance. Access to technology doesn’t come with education, even in…education.  The lack of training for teachers is a perfect example of this.

My colleague, Kyle Dumont, states that “The parents have a role within this as well.  They will need to be involved in their child’s learning, they need to take a proactive approach, especially when the tech tool is a specific one designed for assistance with a diagnosis, or specialized learning plan put in place for the individual.  The parents then need to also be educated on how the tool works, and what its capacities/limitations are.”  In my classroom experience, this is a huge hurdle we need to overcome. I have a student who has been granted a chrome book for his personal use. Using Google Read and Write has helped him significantly, but at the start of the year it was a different story. Getting his mom and himself up and running was no easy task, and quite frequently they were unable to troubleshoot at home and therefore were unable to progress outside of school without the support. We were lucky to have our LRT attend a session on Google Read and Write that Kyle spoke of, and she has been a great support in teaching myself, and the students how to utilize it. There were countless hours spent outside of school…and this was for one out of my 28 students. Like many things that turn out to be rewarding, this experience was exhausting.

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The reason that I think that the issue of lack of education behind technology is the most serious is how it manifests itself into the bigger picture. I see the bigger picture to be the lack of education being put into the people who are one the other end of this such gap; the one that we are trying to close. As teachers we know that there is a lack of training for us when it comes to… well…most aspects of our jobs. But we are critical thinkers, we have a university degrees, we have privilege…and lets be real, none of us are on the wrong side of the gap.  By handing over technology as a means to an end we are shooting first, asking questions later…and we are expecting that technology and education are the same thing.

 

 

It’s never too late to be mindful

Ashley shared a blog post that started off my brainstorming on the right foot. She shared a insightful analogy on her take on sharing, illustrated as the good, the bad and the ugly. Just like any controversial idea, there were examples she wrote of for each. However, it is one small sentence at the end of her blog post that caught my attention. She said “We need to be mindful of what we are sharing and consider the lasting effects it will have.”

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A colleague and I at Douglas Park School are currently diving headfirst into the “trendy” but intriguing world of mindfulness, and during this journey we have found it to have had profound impact on our students, but also ourselves. In a nutshell, being mindful has been defined as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,” by John Kabat-Zinn.We are discussing sharing as it applies to a child’s digital footprint. Its not the digital footprint that they leave for themselves thats at stake, rather it’s the one we leave for them. As an eternal fence sitter during class debates, I do agree that it is morally imperative that we guide children to create their own digital footprints and become responsible digital citizens. On the other hand, I do think that oversharing of children on social media does indeed come with risk and I do have concerns over privacy, and personally feel that I like many others need more education around this topic.

Katja brought up a very interesting point that I was too nervous to discuss last week in the Zoom Room. She questioned along the lines of if it was the responsibility of a teacher to develop their own digital profiles and become educated in this field, and be a role model to their students. I noticed that people did not hesitate to agree that we should, and no one questioned it. This has been bothering me all week. While I do not question that this would be for the best, I must compare this answer to a field I am more farmilliar with. Shoutout to Phys. Ed specialist Jayme-Lee Lazorko, or Steve Boutillier (I feel like you may understand my conflict) what do you think about this? If a teacher is expected to delve into the grey area between personal and professional life and therefor personal and professional choices because of the content they are teaching….wouldn’t it be the same thing to expect that teachers follow good nutrition themselves if they are teaching students outcomes that have to do with making positive and healthy choices with food? Or what about all elementary teachers who teach their own Pys. Ed? Would we reply in the same way if we expected that teachers conduct themselves in a physically active way  outside of school?  Is it ok to say that we should expect teachers to follow guidelines in their personal lives because we all like Social Media, whereas come on…we don’t all like running or eating vegetables.

I appreciated the video shared by debaters that documented the classroom of Moose Jaw primary teacher Kathy Cassidy, and how she uses blogging in her classroom. I think that the example she gave of one of her students being able to easily access a clip of herself reading in the first grade, listen to that slip, and self determine her own growth is nothing short of incredible. She also has used sharing to connect her students to other students in different parts of the world, so they can compare and contrast their knowledge. For a young child to be able to see growth, make connections, and find meaning through sharing, this is the stuff that is changing education. Blogging in my classroom is a personal goal I have for next year. I can personally speak to the fact that while blogging for this class, I have found meaning in having an audience in my colleagues. I also know that I have experienced exponential growth and learning through having access to the work of my colleagues. I think its very important that we don’t forget about that part; that if we share, we make our work available for others to learn from and vice versa.

The reason that I personally try not to overshare photos of my children is that I truly believe that children deserve privacy. I think children are people, and right now it is my job to make decisions based on their best interests. I do not know yet, if they will WANT their photos on social media. Sonia Livingstone, professor of social psychology at the London School of Economics says  in the article Does sharing photos of your children on Facebook put them at risk?

“If you put information out there, you are a possibly putting your child at risk in the present, and you could be putting them at risk in the future. We don’t really have a good sense of how likely this is, but both are only likely to increase.” 

I had a moment of pure impulse last week. I had over heard one of my snapchat obsessed students talk whisper about snapchat for the 100,000 time during math class, so I blurted out “Ok kids, when we are done this math unit, we are going to spend the last week of school talking about snapchat and learning digital citizenship!!!!”

Soooo. That happened. I guess all the concern I have about risk that would make me disagree with the debate topic, well…I am about to learn all about it!

Here are my next steps:

Danielle wrote about “Educating Educators- Through courses like EC&I830 and 831, we are taking the steps to become the advocates for our staffs and school boards. I am very proud of myself for just BEING here, in this class. I am taking a step to educate myself and as a result will be in a position to help educate others. So next up for me, is reading the Sask Policy Planning Guide. I am embarrassed to admit that I did not know it existed, but also very , very relived it is there. This document is my imminent future.

Angela also shared an article called How to teach students to build a positive online identity which outlined five questions to get discussion happening around this topic. They are

  1. What information am I sharing?
  2. How secure is it?
  3. Whom am I sharing it with?
  4. What am I leaving behind?
  5. What are my rights?

I think this is a good start for me as I embrace upon this learning journey. I have exercised this is my own experience using social media, but lets face it. In limiting myself and my presence on social media, I also limit my experience and expertise dealing with situations that arise, and as a teacher and a parent I am beginning to question if this if this is actually  the outcome I intended.

I, like others in my class think it comes down to being mindful of sharing. I have caught myself on a few occasions choosing to not share the photo I was about to, because I was THINKING about what I was doing. Not totally sure of the meaning behind this, but I think being present in the moment of choosing to share or not to share, and making that a part of your practice, is enough. Social media has become second nature to us, and we do and share things without thinking. If we as adults can find a balance to sharing and be aware of what we are doing, we will see people using and sharing both in and out of the classroom in meaningful ways and sharing responsibly will be something that is passed onto the next generation. (If they are not already ahead of us on this one anyway, lets face it)  Amy Singh-you go momma. You are not that parent, because you are being aware, you are being present, you are being mindful.  I think that, is enough.

 

 

 

The Pursuit of Health in a Modern World

Yes I do agree that right now, technology is making us unhealthy. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and I have a great deal of faith in technology and in humanity to find balance between health and technology. Hence I will maintain my position, sitting here on this fence.

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Technology will be part of our world for the rest of our foreseeable lives. Ms Brunner believes that children must become accustomed to technology because the digital world is here to stay, and will continue to offer its vast amount of benefits. The digital world “lets us communicate and share and compete and play and inform each other and plan together. All of that is good for everybody, including kids, within some boundaries. Just like there have to be rules of conduct in real life, there have to be smart rules of conduct in digital life.” (Brunner, 2011)

Although I believe that these blogs are a place to connect academically, I would guess that Katia and Alec also have the intentions of us connecting on a personal level. I am a strong believer in sharing narratives between colleagues and even students, and therefor I am supposing that this is the blog post where I go ahead and expose myself to all of my tech savvy colleagues.  At the end of the term, we are supposed to choose 3 people who have most significantly influenced us and our learning. I don’t think this is possible by simply connecting to someones thoughts on an academic level, I think that who we choose to say influences us will be based on a personal level as well. I believe that a huge part of learning occurs when you make yourself vulnerable, which is what this is for me. Perhaps, this blog entry will allow you to connect with me. Perhaps not.

I am Nicole, and I don’t have facebook. I don’t have Twitter, I don’t have an iPAD and I don’t have cable. What I do have, is a husband and two energetic children: my son turned 3 this week and my daughter is almost 2 (you do the math). And of course, a rowdy classroom of 28 Grade 5 students. Can’t forget about them!

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Photo credit: Flickr via Compfight

 

The way in which we live our lives in not anti-technology. My husband and I stream TV when our kids are in bed, and we both have laptops. We listen to a ton of music and podcasts. We both text too much and I do throw up pictures here and there of my kids on instagram because they are so freaking hilarious. But we do try really, really, hard to balance our technology use for the purpose of our own health and the health of our children on a daily basis. So the result of this means that when our kids are awake, we dont turn on a TV. We haul our kids outside about 360 days a year. We crush books, and we cook, and and we break toys and make rather large messes and spend a lot of face to face time with them because we find that when technology isn’t in the moment, we do actually have lot of time to be face to face. And because when I went on my first mat leave, I made it a traumatic, difficult, awful goal for myself to not use my phone for texting and random randomness when I’m with my kids, and not to have a TV on. (As best I can, obviously. When both kids where screaming at me, and one was nursing, it was all I could do to not go plant one of them in front of something… ANYTHING). But this is not what I wanted my kids to think I looked like:

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In my very short time as a parent I have been heavily criticized on my (some say extreme) limiting of technology in our home probably more than the parent who allows their child the 7 hours of screen time a day. So ultimately, I don’t say much about it anymore to other people. (This is the part that makes me vulnerable in sharing with you folks.) It is unfortunate because in no way do the choices I make for may family mean that I am judging yours, if your goals are different. I see so, so much value in technology for adults and for kids! I know my kids are going to access technology, even soon. I know they are going to have phones. I know they are going to have days when they want to plant their butts in front of the TV for 8 hours, as do I sometimes! What I hope, is that we can establish healthy habits first and entertain more moments of rough, tumble, outdoor play driven by curiosity and imagination in the short period in a child’s life where this is all they need. My husband and I believe that they need to connect to nature and build relationships at this age, but not relationships devices. As Carol Dwek says: “Not yet”.  When the time comes, we hope to teach them how to have a healthy and happy and FUN relationship with technology. I don’t live my life this way because of a Ted Talk, but if there was one I liked, here is is. Check it out.

I am a person who is motivated by good health, being involved in sports, and am an advocate of spending time outdoors and getting enough physical activity. Clearly, the topic of health is important to me. As a teacher, I put a huge amount of effort and priority into getting my class outside and moving as much as I possibly can. Because we are near Douglas Park, we take a lot of our work outside and try to escape the school building frequently. In winter too. (This year we merged the tech in, we used GPS and took the iPads outside for many activities..shhhhhh….) However, health is so much more than being fit. In the article Rich kids use the Internet to get ahead, and poor kids use it ‘mindlessly’ author Jeremy Olshan analyzes Robert Putnam’s research  which “explores why the divide between the prospects of rich and poor kids in the U.S. has grown so much since the 1950s” and states that “changes in family structure, geographical and social-class segregation exacerbated the problem. As for technology, most of the kids Putnam profiles in the book had smartphones, but the poorest ones tended to use the devices “in completely different, mindless ways,” he said. “Not that this is their fault.” (Olshan. 2015). Out of the demographic I teach, I have specifically noticed a correlation between who I would classify as “unhealthy” students in my class and their reported use of technology. I can also throw in a third factor, which we can chalk it to being socioeconomic issues ultimately working against the “health” of my students.

Many (not all) of my students who use technology mindlessly and for hours on end, are home alone or with older siblings who are caring for them. Many (not all) of their parents are working, very hard at low paying jobs, among struggling with other social and economic issues that are at play in their lives. I am sure that most of these parents wish that they could be spending more face to face time with their children. But unfortunately, that is a privilege. My children, like many (not all) in my class whose technology is monitored by parents, are privileged. My kids are privileged with the time and attention of 2 parents who are employed by one job each, financially stable and educated enough on some of the challenges that children are faced with when it comes to technology to make a (hopefully) well informed decision about this very topic. My children do not have parents who are working 2, 3, 4 jobs with back to back shifts and terrible hours. They are not being raised or cared for in the foster care system, their parents are not battling incarceration or addiction or complicated health issues and they have healthy food on the table. While questioning if technology makes kids healthy or unhealthy is a very real issue, so is questioning the increasing rate of poverty facing families in Saskatchewan.

Here comes the ‘disagree’ side in our recent debate. After reading this, you must think that I would take the side of the ‘agree’ team. As a fence sitter, I do not!

In the article, Researchers: Forget Internet Abstinence; Teens Need some Online Risk, it is stated that “If adults want to help teenagers learn how to handle the big risks of Internet usage, the best thing they can do is to let them get used to handling smaller risks situations.” Four very real areas are discussed. Teens are subject to four very real online risk scenarios, and asked to reflect about their experiences.

  • Information breaches
  • Online harassment
  • Sexual solicitations
  • Exposure to explicit content

At this point, I am noticing a bit of a gap in this class being a parent of very young children and a teacher to students who are not allowed to have devices in class, and a handful do not even own them. Its clear that some of the issues we are discussing are very different when comparing high schools to elementary schools. At the same time, I loved reading this article because it really made me think and it pushed me a bit outside my comfort zone.

Ultimatley, after thoughtful reflection and response, it was found that “researchers said they were concerned about how teens “appeared to be desensitized to their online risk experiences,” they also noted that it was “good” that their participants also didn’t seem to be “adversely affected” and, in fact, showed resilience in dealing with problems as a matter of routine.”  Very, very interesting. Thanks so much to this debated team for bringing this article in. It has given me all new perspective, which I am sure was your intention!

That’s all for now. Like I said, I have a feeling that after this entry, some of you may find yourselves connecting with my views, while others do not at all. As an active person, I have really really struggled with the amount of time that I have spend behind a laptop during my graduate work. As this is my 8th class and I am nearing the end, I will very much miss the learning I have experienced. But I will NOT miss, the sitting down. We spent our morning out the cross country ski trails at Echo Valley Provincial Park, where we often go with our kids (along with White Butte). Check out either spot sometime if you have never been, both are beautiful and protect some of Saskatchewan’s last remaining  native prairie. It may provide some balance for you, as it did for me today. Now I am ready to tech.

kids
Photo: Nicole Putz. And no, I wouldn’t have been able to capture this moment in nature without my iPhone. Go technolgy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embrace the Mess

That is this blog entry.

Both agreeing and disagreeing with the question: should schools teach anything that can be “Googled?”

As I enter week 2 of debates, I am learning a lot about myself in a way that has nothing that has to do with technology. I used to think that I was somewhat sound in my convictions on some of the topics that have been discussed. I came into this course having experiences as both a parent and a teacher that have given me, what I perceived to be a pretty good idea of where I stood on most of these issues. However, as I read, read, read, and write, write write, I realize that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Maybe, this is because the debaters are doing SUCH a good job that I am feeling myself being pulled in all different directions. I am certain that it is in part, a result of accessing resources that are engaging to me (TedTalks, ect) and I feel like I am taking more away from some of these resources than I have in the past when reading photocopies were simply handed out by professors.

At this point in my journey, I am confident to say that I will likely be on the fence for a lot of these issues, because when I am participating in the Zoom Room, each and every comment that is brought up connects to a story. The narrative and experiences of my students as individuals, and their differences in gender, age, culture, and socioeconomic status to name a few factors, mean to me that I cannot answer in a blanket statement if I agree or disagree. It depends on the context of the situation, and which one of my students faces I envision at that moment in time.

If you need a concrete answer to whether I agree or I disagree in entirety, STOP READING NOW.

Should things that can be “Googled” be taught in schools?

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Photo Credit: theglobalpanorama via Compfight cc

 

No. Of course not.

We live in a society that is starting to be more and more reliant on technology every single day.  And we know that critical thinking is a skill of examination, not a skill based on memorization of the things that we as curriculum makers think that students will need to know, maybe…in the future for the job that they might have that may not exist yet, possibly…. We need to be process oriented, and basic skills will evolve within the process. We can’t dismiss the possibility that we don’t know everything about when knowledge is actually acquired along the process for every single one of our students, all the time. Waiting for students to achieve “foundational knowledge” aka “things that can be googled” could be detrimental in killing off the curiosity and passion they have for learning. I have had moments where days later, I will be mulling over a question and have “AH HA’ed” while folding laundry. (I am a mom, after all) Do we truly know, if that “ah ha!” moment has been triggered by the 9,999th moment of repetition by the learner? It is very possible that a moment of questioning the questions that have been continually questioned by the learner has lead to higher level thinking. Or because at a certain moment in time, a familiar scent may have triggered a memory of a lived experience allowing a learner to connect a memory to a puzzle which allowed them to achieve that level of deeper understanding of something they have been questioning. How do we know what goes on in that moment, which is different to every learner, and further differentiated by factors like learning styles, ages, gender, culture and socioeconomic status?

I loved: Ramsey’s 3 Rules

1)  Curiosity comes first. Curiously is starting to attract some attention, in a good way. I believe that engaging learners is just another term for embracing the curiosity that naturally drives kids.

2) Embrace the mess. Learning is so, so messy.

3) Practice reflection, (it deserves our revision) This is something that I can appreciate significantly more since I began taking my masters. As an overwhelmed beginner teacher, there was no time for me to reflect. I was simply trying to keep my head above water. However, as the fog cleared and I have embarked on this journey into graduate studies, I have become increasingly aware of how significant reflection and revision is to the learning process, both for myself and my students. I feel that in the process of drill and practice there is less room and meaning for reflection, which leaves a huge gap. When you are actually applying your knowledge through experiential learning there is room for higher level thinking and therefor reflection.

Yes, of course.

Rasmey Mulligan refers to his open heart surgery and taking comfort in the confidence of his surgeons curiosity. I would like to point out that we are all aware of the grueling amount of traditional schooling that doctors endure. A strenuous amount of rote memorization, to be exact. I am going to go out on a limb here and ask, is his doctor’s curiosity and willingness to attempt this trial and error surgery reliant on a foundation of skills, abilities and prior knowledge that we would consider to be “Googleable”?

In the article, How Google impacts the way students think, three areas of concern are outlined.

  1. Google creates the illusion of accessibility.
  2. Google suggests “answers” as stopping points.
  3. Being linear, Google obscures the interdependence of information

During the debate it was brought up, and referenced from this article in particular that Google gives students the illusion that answers are in reach when they are not, creating a false sense of knowing. Students don’t necessarily know, or remember and because it is so fast paced they are collecting just enough information that it is not maintained as knowledge in the long term, because they are more likely to remember where they got the information than the actual information itself. As teachers we have all been witness to this. However, I do not believe this is Google’s fault; that the illusion of accessibility is for students is created, nor that answers are seen as stopping points. And being linear???? This is where it gets messy. Replace the word “Google” with the word “memorization” and you could make the exact same accusations. These are all descriptive qualities of the traditional institution of SCHOOL. Google has not created these problems, school has.We have traditionally taught in a product rather than process driven way. Most of us in this class, likely attended schools where there was one right answer to the questions we were being asked. Work was linear, and it didn’t necessarily promote in depth learning or inquiry, and in some classrooms, it is still this way. Lets not blame to tool, or even the user. Ken Robinson states that the current education system (including curriculum) was “designed and conceived in a different age, based on an intellectual model of the mind”, by a bunch of wealthy, white men.

Ultimately…..

Learning needs to be balanced, and the system of education and curriculum needs to continue evoling. Every day I see professionals around me going to combat against an outdated system, and trying to not only teach but to assess in the way that supports this notion of critical thinking, by teaching basic skills and using inquiry to emphasize the learning process and reflection to be just as valuable to students as the final product. I do take value in the concerns of what happens when students only “Google” as reflected in this debate. However, I believe that these concerns will stay the same and simply be replaced by the next “tool” or “Google” to come down the line, unless we challenge the bigger picture which is the institution of education itself.

Learning needs to be differentiated. Some of my students should be allowed to bypass tasks, and use tools for technology that others don’t get to use. Why? Because fair is not always equal. I do understand that this runs risks of streamlining kids. I really do understand that. But I am a professional. I am trying my best, given the education and training that I have, to do the absolute best for my students. If I allow a students to by-pass a step and go straight to Google, trust me. That student being able to “Google it” may very well be a moment serving of HUGE celebration. For that student, the deeper understanding may be present in the action of being able to Google something.

Learning needs to be meaningful. This can be achieved through drill and practice too. In grade 6, I shot free throws in my front yard for more hours than I practiced my math facts. I wanted to make the basketball team. I did, make the basketball team, and I was addicted for life. I went on to play a lot of basketball in my day (Go Spartans!) and still play women’s rec league with a bunch of great ladies in Regina. This drill and practice of a skill, was meaningful to me. Ben Johnson refers to the body as another learning tool that can benefit from repetition. He states that “the body is another learning tool — another often-ignored concept. The body is connected to the brain and if you engage the body, you are engaging the brain too.He also claims that, like in my case, “learners feel an addictive sense of accomplishment when something has been memorized completely” (Johnson, 2010).