A Journey Back Through EC&I 830

EC&I 830, it has been a slice! This debate style course was unique and interesting and it posed challenging questions for me to ponder over the course of the semester. I have my mind made up in some areas but others I am still stuck in the middle! Regardless, discussing the important issues in ed tech covered in this course has resulted in lots of new learning!

Check out the Summary of Learning created by my partner Erin and I and journey back through the semester with us!

I look forward to seeing some of you in the fall semester! Cheers!

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Whodunnit? Tech is the scapegoat for society’s inequity.

Our debate topic this week — technology is a force for equity in society — is, in my opinion, the most complex topic thus far. The previous four debates focused (from my perspective) on a more local-provincial level and at time national level. However, this topic seems more far reaching to me. Yes, it resonates locally, provincially and nationally, but also internationally and globally.

Team Agree mentioned several times that technology itself is the scapegoat for the corporate entity that produces it. True, a computer or cellphone is not to blame for inequity in society but rather the goals of economic expansion seems more at fault. The goals of massive tech corporations are deep seated in societal “values” of inequity that existed long before modern technology arrived. In fact, this article compares modern day government / corporate involvement in the digital world to the medieval feudalism.

Much of Monday’s debate had me thinking about my ED 808 class with Marc Spooner on Social Justice and Globalization. Typically, globalization and “words and concepts like economic growth, progress, development, and individual freedom are often presented to students (and all the rest of us, for that matter) as synonyms for ‘good'” (Bigelow, 2002, Rethinking Globalization: Teaching for Justice in an Unjust World, p. 308). This can certainly apply to the international expansion of technology and access to the internet. If we question concepts of economic growth, progress and development keeping in mind on whose agenda, for what purpose, who benefits and who suffers, these terms can be viewed quite differently. As Bigelow (2002) suggests, “globalization’s aim is to open up every nook and cranny of the earth to investment…Cultural diversity is the loser” (Rethinking Globalization: Teaching for Justice in an Unjust World, p. 262).

In the documentary, “Unschooling the World” (2010), Wade Davis discusses how Western power and thought often finds itself enmeshed in culturally diverse places as if to say, “here we are to teach your children” in the mostly blindly ignorant way. When Alec mentioned the notion of the “white saviour” last night, this is what he was referring to; the idea of the powerful and all-knowing North sent to save the South. With this type of bias in mind, you can imagine the assumptions made about what the South is like and the people that may inhabit it. However, often Western thought invades these culturally diverse places without being asked. These are places that are self-sufficient and prosperous nations that didn’t want or need the “help” they are so often forced to receive.

So, when we hear in the news that Facebook wants to provide free access to users in Africa, one lens to view this through is that Facebook is attempting to provide more equal access to users across the world citing digital rights issues. On the other hand, this story can also be viewed through the lens of digital colonialism. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg was “accused of acting like a digital colonialist: shouting about the right to the internet to mask true profit motives”. In another Ted Talk, Wade Davis argues that “the 20th century…is not going to be remembered for its wars or its technological innovations but rather as the era in which we stood by and either actively endorsed or passively accepted the massive destruction of both biological and cultural diversity on the planet. Now, the problem isn’t change…The problem is not technology itself…It’s not change or technology that threatens the integrity of the ethnosphere. It is power… dynamic living peoples [are] being driven to extinction but identifiable power inequity” due to the colonial powers that continue to exist today. 

When I look closer to home and think about my own experiences in a variety of schools with different socio-economic demographics, I see the digital inequity being lived out locally. This may be through device-to-student ratios, through access to paid applications and programs, through access to Internet/devices at home that may help or in absence, hinder learning and also the inequity that exists in money available through parent councils.

Further, I question digital equity or technology as a force for equity provincially as well. What about our federally run schools? What kind of access do they have? What kind of access is available in Saskatchewan and Canada’s more remote communities? When I see articles like this one, suggesting Internet upgrades in Saskatchewan Indigenous communities (or this one) I view the message with a critical lens. Yes, there are many positives to having digital access but keeping in mind the previous discussion, what risks are associated with increased access and what is being lost (culturally or otherwise) because of the presence of the technology and the corporations behind it.

We often use the image below to discuss equity, but did anyone ask, metaphorically speaking, to see the ball game in the first place? Or did some Western corporation suggest that the ball game was something we needed. Further, how does this discussion fit with the section on Education in the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada: Calls to Action? Who is making decisions about how digital access will influence (for better or worse) and affect the communities of young Indigenous people who are simultaneously seeking equitable educational opportunities as their non-Indigenous counterparts?

To clarify, when I think about inequity, I always refer back to what my professor of ED 804, Twyla Salm creatively acronym-ed RASH. That is, racism (culture), ableism, sexism and heterosexism. While most of my discussion in this post focused on cultural inequity and socio-economic inequity, I am not discounting other inequities that exist in our society and I thank Team Disagree for bringing light to some of these other issues. As a disclaimer to my earlier message, I do recognize the power of assistive technology for students. I recognize how technology has enhanced learning in my own classroom. I acknowledge how technology has shed light on massive social movements and in many ways, technology has allowed for minority populations or groups to gain increased positive attention. In this post, I am not attempting to discount any of these positive impacts of technology. But I do think we need to look a little deeper and reflect critically when we think about how technology can influence inequity in society.

I’d like to close in the following way…

Technology as a tool (computer, cellphone, etc.) is not to blame for inequity in society. The massive corporations that produce technology for the “betterment of society”, for “progress”, for “economic development” play a major role in increasing inequity in society. However, even corporations are the scapegoat for the true culprit in our inequitable society. Society as a collective including those that manage these large tech corporations are the product of hundreds of years of colonialism and colonial education. So, in the wise words of Hon. Justice Murray Sinclair, “Education has gotten us into this mess, and education will get us out“. Regardless of the technology or corporations that create it, education is the key to addressing inequity in society and helping us find a way out.

From Liability to Asset: A New Take on Social Media

What a great debate last night! Our topic: Is social media ruining childhood?

We heard opening statements from Team Agree and then opening statements from my team, Team Disagree. 

 

Here are the highlights from each team:

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On the flip side, social media  has the potential to strengthen relationships and offer a sense of belonging. Media Smarts tells us teens around the world have embraced social media to connect with others who can encourage them, mentor them, inspire them, and – most of all – show them they are not alone”. In Common Sense Media’s 2012 research study, “Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives”, teens indicated a that social media has a positive impact on their relationships and social well-being.

Mental health is another issue that must be examined in relation to social media. This article, How Social Media Helps Students Cope with Anxiety and Depression, presents a variety of examples in which students found solace in a social media platform. While I agree that social media can be the cause of mental health issues, this article demonstrates how it can also be a site of relief.

Mental health issues and bullying existed before social media. Social media is simply a tool that has created another avenue for mental health concerns and bullying to present itself within. This calls for the guided expertise of informed adults – teachers and parents – to engage in discussion with young people. It is increasingly relevant to teach youth about how social media can impact mental wellness as well as how to respond to cyberbullying concerns or how to be an upstander if they are witnessing cyberbullying.

Erin pointed out many important ideas when it comes to social media safety. She said ” Safety online is key. It is important that parents and teachers make an effort to be informed about what they are allowing their children to access online. As the public is learning lately in the news, reading policies is very important.  We suggest that parents should also be following the recommended age restriction set by online sites. Parents, teachers, and students need to be aware of the potential safety issues with online behaviour.  Thus it is key that parents and teachers help children learn what it means to be safe online and model these behaviours.  As Media Smarts shares in their article Social Media RulesHaving a family agreement or set of ground rules for using social networks is a good idea. It’s a great way for parents and kids to work together on how to be safe, wise and responsible online.” Media Smarts also explains that, “As kids begin to use tools such as Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and even YouTube in earnest, they’re learning the responsibility that comes with the power to broadcast to the world. You can help nurture the positive aspects by accepting how important social media is for kids and helping them find ways for it to add real value to their lives”. 

In an educational context, social media has the power to encourage learning in a globally connected way and encourage collaboration. According to Joanne Orlando: “Social media is a platform for sharing ideas, information and points of view. This can have important educational value: it extends the information young people can access while also giving them insight into how others think about and use that information. Maximum educational benefit comes from combining factual information with shared reflection. This can support a balanced, varied and “real” input for kids, which can help deepen their understanding of a subject”. This learning links to a final positive for team social media: the power of social media to create change for a better world. Social media is an outlet for young people to have a voice in social justice issues and create positive change. There are endless examples of students using various social media outlets to bring awareness to recent trending social issues such as Black Lives Matter, Me Too and March for Our Lives movements and the more recent Humboldt Strong movement which hit home in Saskatchewan. An article in The Guardian  discusses social media as a weapon for good in light of the Parkland shooting. The article states “the very openness of social media platforms makes it possible for voices in the midst of a mass shooting to find an audience and shift our understanding of events”.

The fact is, the vast majority of kids are doing the right things when it comes to social media, but social media receives a bad rap in (ironically) mass media which highlights all of the negative risks associated with its use.

The following is a transcript of our closing arguments and I think it wraps up this post nicely:

Social media is part of modern society’s landscape. It is not going away, therefore, we need to think of constructive and productive ways to manage how we use social media and how we teach young people to be responsible, active, participating members of society. To do so we need to look at elements of responsible digital citizenship, digital safety and kindness and digital wellness. Educating youth about the responsible use of social media should be approached at an early age to minimize the potential of adverse effects on their wellbeing. If this education happens early and is taught in effective ways, social media can enhance childhood development by strengthening relationships, offering a sense of belonging, providing support for young people, helping students develop autonomy and digital identity as well as encourage and enhance learning. As we have seen through various social media outlets, youth have the power through social media to make the world a better place. The generation of tomorrow have the potential to be the foundation of a better more inclusive, compassionate and empathetic society.  Social media will play a central role in determining how this society will be built. We as teachers must be at the forefront of helping our students acquire and develop the necessary skills to be the leaders of tomorrow.

What really sealed the deal for me and helped me plant my feet with what we (Team Disagree) were suggesting was reading this article: Generation Zers Take on the Social Media AgeThis essay, authored by seventeen-year-old Elena Quartararo, was one of ten winners in the New York Times Fifth Annual Student Editorial Contest where students write about issues that matter to them. This essay provides an insider perspective of a Gen Z youth on the relevance of social media and the “information superhighway” that today’s young people consider a vital tool in the progress of the human race in tackling substantial issues such as climate change, gender equality and mass shootings among many others. Access to information, global connections and platforms in which student creativity can lead to social change are among the positive aspects of social media cited in this article. This young voice is a gem — a diamond in the rough — attempting to dismantle the the negative perspectives of social media by the previous generations. It’s worth the read. 

Drum roll please…

The votes are in and I think it’s been our closest debate yet!

 

To Share or Not to Share? That is the question.

At the heart of our debate topic this week were issues of privacy, consent and online sharing as two teams mused over the topic of whether openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids. Team Agree started their opening statement with a bang by discussing the dangers of ignorance and permanence of children’s digital footprints as created by adults. Team Disagree argued for the reality of modern childhood experiences including the realm of social media. Their opening statement focused on safety as paramount and urged parents and educators to post based on being well-informed and with the appropriate intentions.

I have been thinking a lot about this topic; even prior to our course discussion. I continuously go back and forth between what is best for children: to share or not to share. I can certainly see the benefits and potential dangers of both sides of this argument. I really enjoyed how my classmate Melinda discussed that there isn’t necessarily and right or wrong answer but that you can do it right both ways.

Source – But which way should you choose?

I have thought a lot about how this would work as a parent who decides not to share photos of their children. Even though I value and respect this decision entirely, I can appreciate how challenging it must be to continuously advocate for your child to not have their photo shared on social media simply based on how increasingly entrenched social media is becoming in daily life. I constantly see photos of children at sports events, birthday parties and and other family events. Do you drop your child off at every birthday party and ask for photos not to be shared of them or have to police soccer games for parents potentially including your child in their photos? This seems like a really difficult job.

I also think of many parents who begin sharing photos of their child through pregnancy photos because they are excited about their new family member. In most of these instances, I would assume those people are not thinking about how their post is impacting their child’s privacy or beginning the life-long journey of digital citizenship before they are even born.

There are certainly many warning stories out there that side with Team Agree such as this story about an Austrian teen suing her parents for violating her privacy rights, the dangers of posting online and this article which indicates parents are responsible for protecting images of their children. In Data Collection, Political Candidate Edition, author Bill Fitzgerald reflects on how children’s information is being collected and stored in a digital paper trail like never before. These are but a few examples. However, the many of these potentially dangerous or personally harmful instances, the root problem can be explained away by this argument: “Each and every time we connect, we engage in some way that creates our online identity, our profile, our persona. And it happens automatically and too often without a lot of forethought about the identity that will be created” (ISTE EdTek White Paper, 2015). When we think about adults posting children’s images and data on their behalf, this issue becomes far more grand. As Buchanan et. al (2017) argue in this article, “Digital footprints can be an asset or a liability depending upon how well they are managed”. As adults — parents and educators — we need to do a better job of how young people’s online identity is managed so that their digital footprint becomes an asset.

Interestingly, Team Agree and Team Disagree overlapped in their selected readings in the area that mattered most: children’s safety and privacy protection. Both teams shared articles that highlighted the importance of thinking BEFORE sharing. Which makes sense because we ask constantly ask kids to think before they act or think before they post, so in all fairness, parents and educators should have the same question reflected back on them. In fact, in an opinion piece, Give Your Children a Chance at Privacy, author Amy Webb, urges adults to be more informed; a suggestion made by both Team Agree and Disagree.

In addition, Team Agree and Disagree also overlapped in regards to the role of the teacher/parent as an instrumental guide for young people. My classmate Channing shared a great quote: “Kids are growing up in a digital playground and no one is on recess duty“. We simply cannot allow this to continue to be true. As  “learning becomes more digital, educators at all levels are instrumental in building students’ understanding about how technology impacts both their personal and future professional lives. Educators are also instrumental in helping students develop lifelong habits to create and maintain a positive online identity (ISTE EdTek White Paper, 2015). The message here is simple: education about digital citizenship is as important for adults as for young people. Adults must also consider the implications of their actions when they are sharing on behalf of children.

While I believe all of this to be true, the classroom chat was a hot scene fueled by the debate topic this week. Much of this discussion focused on teachers being afraid to post online because of the ambiguity they felt surrounding privacy policies and the do’s and don’ts of posting online. So, my classmates (teachers who are informing themselves about these topics) could not agree on whether or not it was safe to share, whether policies in place regarding sharing of student information and images is adequate enough and despite the tips and tricks that are out there, what benefit or liability online sharing creates for young people of this generation.

To share or not share. That is the question.

 

 

I don’t know. Just Google it.

I have long ascribed to the paradigm of constructivism when it comes to teaching and learning. Constructivism says that:

“people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. When we encounter something new, we have to reconcile it with our previous ideas and experience, maybe changing what we believe, or maybe discarding the new information as irrelevant. In any case, we are active creators of our own knowledge. To do this, we must ask questions, explore, and assess what we know”.

However, during some deep reflection following our debate this week, I have realized my practice does not always match my theory.

This week’s debate topic was should schools not focus on teaching things that can be Googled. Two teams presented their thoughts; Team Agree found here and Team Disagree found here. At first I aligned myself with Team Disagree, but based on the discussion during the debate, I decided to swing in the opposite direction during the post-vote and side with Team Agree. However, similarly to last week’s discussion, I actually fall in the middle when it comes to this topic. This makes sense as there was significant overlap in what the two sides were arguing.

To start, let me just say that yes, I do think kids need to memorize their multiplication tables. I’m not sure I will change my mind about this, at least in the foreseeable future.

Now that that is out of the way…

I think Team Agree made some important points right off the hop. First, that knowledge is changing faster than ever and that knowledge is more accessible than ever. The value of knowledge is decreasing while the access to knowledge is growing. I am going to refer again to the Future Work Skills 2020 document that I have mentioned in previous posts (here and here). When I first saw this document last semester, I admit I found it difficult to think about how I am and can be teaching these skills. They seemed so daunting. If it true that 65% of our students future jobs do not currently exist today, it is extremely pressing that teachers are thinking about how these skills can be manifested in the classroom. My classmate Joe explores a similar discussion in his blog post.

In order for this to happen, the gap between the real-world and the goings-on in classrooms must bridge. If I don’t know something, I Google it. I look for an article or video. Why then, is it so bizarre for some to think that students shouldn’t be afforded the same real-world applications of the technology that is available to them?

If knowledge is more accessible than ever, using technology such as Google becomes a necessary tool to learn to navigate. And if skills like those below are expected in the work place of the future, then education needs significant nudge in the digital direction.

As Pavan Arora states in this video, teaching students creativity is paramount and this can happen by teaching them how to access knowledge, assess knowledge and apply knowledge. This is the first step in learning sense-making which leads to an increased understanding in the other future work skills. Team Agree also indicated that:

Students need to learn how to make choices, collaborate, communicate, think critically and be creative

which are all critical to the success of students as they gain competencies for the future. Deeply embedded here is understandings of digital / media literacy. (My classmate Channing describes these critical skills in more detail in her blog post). This constructivist lens allows students to move from passive to active learners and be engaged in the process of learning rather than listening to their teacher at the front of the room. I think back to my experience last semester in EC&I 832 and the learning that took place for me in that space. My learning was guided by our instructor Alec through discussion and teacher access and through collaboration, co-creation and leadership with classmates. I was afforded the opportunity to choose my own path and construct my learning in a meaningful, relevant way.

If I can have the freedom to learn through guided inquiry in my grad studies classroom, how does that understanding translate to my own teaching practice? How can we re-conceptualize our understanding of learning in which the process is more important than the product? How can I re-conceptualize this focus on process in an early elementary classroom? This is the part I find tricky. It is easy for me to see how this type of learning happens in middle years, high school and post-secondary education. In many ways I can see how this happens for young elementary students as well, but less so. It is easy to see this type of learning happen for older students because they have been taught the foundations and computer skills in earlier grades. 

With this in mind, I tend to take on a bit of the Team Disagree perspective. Team Disagree argued that learning should include a variety of tools and skills. They cited Bloom’s taxonomy indicating that lower level thinking is the basis of higher level thinking and knowledge application

Within Bloom’s taxonomy, there are many important skills being taught in primary classrooms which allow for students to gain the deeper understanding needed for the apply, analyze, evaluate and create levels of thinking that are required in the Future Works Skills 2020.

One article stated that students “should learn at a very early stage of ‘schooling’ that learning how to learn is largely their responsibility — with the help they seek but that is not imposed on them” (I often say to my students, “I can teach you, but learning is a choice”). I agree with this statement, but while deeper levels of understanding are certainly important, part of learning how to learn is also learning to listen, view, read, write, remember, understand, etc. which are perhaps now being considered more basic skills. 

As a primary teacher, I find some barriers to teaching through guided inquiry via educational technology. There is always is issue of access and time. With only 5 devices in the classroom, it takes a looonnngg time to complete any project with young people especially when the access to devices are limited in a classroom of 27 students. Further, at a young age their independence is also limited. At the beginning of the year, we spend a considerable amount of time learning to operate the computer and login. It is hard to imagine how we will learn to evaluate sources and use a variety of tech tools when we barely know how to use the device itself. We spend so much time learning how to use the devices in the classroom that I am often (perhaps unnecessarily) concerned about the valuable curriculum time we are losing. Even though I know that learning to use the device is essential for all of the deeper understandings that are to come. I suppose the answer to this is baby steps…but figuring out the logistics of planning for process-style constructivst learning is currently personally challenging (not that I don’t want to try!). I am still in the process of figuring out what this type of learning looks like for my learners in the place we are in and with the tools we have access to.

When it comes to the debate about whether teachers should teach subject matter than can be Googled or not, I think it is important to return to the word balance. Instead of doing one or the other, it is critical to find a good balance point in that the teacher teaches skills and multi/media-literacies combined with subject matter content. It is important to note that neither team discounted the role of the teacher; both sides considered the teacher as a crucial part of education. Our class also acknowledged that teachers cannot tackle these major educational paradigm shifts alone; professional development and support is crucial.

This post was difficult for me to write this week because I wasn’t entirely sure what my stance was. I didn’t know whether we should be teaching information that can be Googled or not. I am still quite conflicted. Thinking about this topic flips a lot of what we think we know about education on its head.

I have already started trying new things in my classroom and changing my pedagogy to match my theoretical understandings of education. I am trying to bridge the gap between the classroom and the world outside of it. So, while I am not entirely sure where I stand in regards to the debate topic this week, what I do know is that the Future Work Skills 2020 aren’t going to be obtained by continuing with the curriculum and pedagogy that we currently have.

As Alec said during our last class, we need to move students from knowledgeable to knowledge-able. This video is worth 18 minutes of your time, I promise!

Cheers!

P.S. My classmate Nicole expressed similar thoughts in her blog post, check it out!

Does Tech Enhance Learning? The Answer is Up to YOU!

After a few weeks off from EC&I 832, I am back at it for round two in EC&I 830. This time though, our class is set up debate style.

This past week the debate topic was:

Does technology enhance learning?

Our professor Alec started off the conversation by posting a padlet which allows others to post onto a continuum the degree to which they agree or disagree on the topic. While there were some clearly on the far left or right of the spectrum, most posts came with a caveat. Posts began with: agree – kinda, depends, disagree…to some extent, agree – mostly, and so on.

So, where did I fit on the continuum? Well, I tend to agree with this anonymous padlet contributor:

I’d put myself in the middle of the continuum and my answer to this week’s debate topic is: it depends.

But if I had to pick agree or disagree (which we had to do in the pre- and post-vote), I would place myself on Team Agree. This aligns with the thoughts of many of my classmates thoughts as well. In our pre- and post-vote results found below, you can see that just under 90% of the students in our class agree that technology can enhance learning.

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Pre Debate Vote

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Post Debate Vote

We saw two opening statements from Team Agree and Team Disagree as well as explored articles suggested by each team to support their arguments. My classmate Erin highlights the main points from the debate nicely in her blog post.

On a personal level, I am of the era in which I remember a world pre-Internet where we had notebooks for taking notes. In high school my cellphone was somewhat of a distraction but I could also easily throw it in my backpack and ignore it because it couldn’t do anything cool enough to warrant having it out that often. Plus texting with T9 is a little trickier to hide from a teacher because you have to pay attention to what you are doing.

I remember our first set of Mac computers in my grade 7/8 classroom on which we got to make PowerPoint presentations and while I spent time researching my topic, I also spent a lot of time picking background colours, images and transition effects. But that was close to 14 years ago now and we all know how tech has advanced since then. So I can understand how big of a pain (distraction) tech can be for classroom teachers.

Clay Shirky, a professor of new media decides after long-allowing devices to be used in his classroom, to ban them. He cites distraction or multi-tasking as the main reason for doing so in this article: Why a Leading Professor of New Media Just Banned Technology Use in Class. Shirky found that when he requests students not use devices in the classroom, “the conversation brightens, and…there is a sense of relief from many of the students. Multi-tasking is cognitively exhausting; when we do it by choice, being asked to stop can come as a welcome change.”

Brain Rules

Source – If you haven’t read this book, you should!

In his book, Brain Rules, John Medina (a developmental molecular biologist and research consult) writes about the inability for the brain to multi-task despite modern society praising so-called multi-taskers for their seeming ability to complete many jobs simultaneously. He states: “Multitasking, when it comes to paying attention, is a myth…The brain is a sequential processor, unable to pay attention to two things at the same time. Businesses and schools praise multitasking, but research clearly shows that it reduces productivity and increases mistakes”.

Shirky similarly argues, “Multi-taskers often think they are like gym rats, bulking up their ability to juggle tasks, when in fact they are like alcoholics, degrading their abilities through over-consumption.” He suggests “It’s not me demanding that they focus — its me and them working together to help defend their precious focus against outside distractions”.

I agree that in most debates about tech, distraction is likely to come up as a negative effect and rightfully so. But, I am not convinced that it is the answer to this week’s debate topic: does technology enhance learning? If we remove the distraction factor, does technology have the ability to enhance learning or not? To answer that question, I think it is important to turn to the SAMR model for technology integration.

If teachers remain in the Substitution stage where there is no functional change in student learning and creation, then technology does not enhance learning. However, with professional development (teacher support and training as suggested by Team Agree), teachers are able to move to the other three areas of the SAMR model in which technology can enhance and transform student learning.

Critical to this model of technology integration is the role of the teacher (both teams agreed to this). Technology does not and cannot replace the teacher. Teachers play a crucial role in implementing technology which allows students to be more prepared for the future. In this article, McKnight et al. (2016) indicate “Teachers play a critical role by organizing the learning environment to provide students with active, hands-on learning and authentic tasks and audiences for their work…Researchers have found that for technology to make a difference in learning, specific systems factors such as leadership support, frequency of technology use, and instructional models must be in place”. One example of an instructional model that must be in place is discussed by my classmate Amy. She explains how she teaches her students about the appropriate time and place for using technology and also about responsible tech use. It is not the device that matters, for it is simply a tool. What matters is how we choose to use the tool to prepare our students for the future.

This document, Future Work Skills 2020,  projects 10 skills areas that will be relevant in the future work force: sense making, social intelligence, novel and adaptive thinking, cross-cultural competencies, computational thinking, new media literacy, transdisciplinarity, design mindset, cognitive load management and virtual collaboration. Without diving to far into each skill area, it is easy to see how technology plays a big role in young people developing these skill sets. For my further thoughts on these skill areas, check out this post.

Team Agree argued that technology improves access, shifts teacher and student roles to a learning-center pedagogical approach and extends purpose and audience for students. Technology allows students to find their own answers, construct their own learning and present their learning in a personally relevant, meaningful way. Students can be transformed from passive to active learners.Students with special adaptations as well as those less likely to participate in a formal classroom discussion are afford more opportunity for participation. In addition, Technology allows for new kinds of immediate feedback and communication systems between students, teachers and families. Technology also fosters collaboration and social interaction which increases student engagement and deepens student learning. To support this, McKnight et. al (2016) found

“That teachers used technology to enable access to a wider range of learning resources, to keep the content current, and to provide greater depth and “richness” not otherwise available. Improved access also helped teachers to tailor or personalize instruction to meet a wide range of learning needs, including for students with disabilities. Our results also showed that teachers used technology to connect people with each other and to new information, ideas, and perspectives. This in turn enabled students to extend the purpose and audience of their work in an authentic way. Students actively sought their own information and shared their learning with a larger community outside of their classroom, which in turn created a greater sense of pride in and responsibility for their work. Perhaps most importantly, we found that technology transformed teachers’ roles as educators and activated cognitive processes that learning science tells us enhance learning”.

 

So, does technology enhance learning? I return to my original stance: it depends. When we think about this question we need to consider distraction but ask ourselves if we have given students the tools they need in order to manage device distraction. Have we set up the appropriate procedures for device use in our classrooms to maximize learning and minimize distraction? With the appropriate instructional and management strategies in place, we can move on to examining how we might integrate technology in a meaningful way so that it can enhance learning. The SAMR model is a good place to start thinking about this. What is it that we want students to do with the technology? How can technology allow for learning that was not previously possible?

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In my classroom, I teach from a blended learning approach, combining digital media with other more traditional teaching methods. Before we start learning with technology, we begin in September by learning how to use technology. Included in this learning is management of time, place and the tools we use when it comes to our devices. In a third grade classroom, this means learning about safety online, privacy, being responsible digital citizens and finding balance. All of these understandings must be in place before we begin learning with technology. In my opinion, this blended approach allows for technology to enhance learning in a meaningful way. Key to this approach is the teacher and as my classmate Wendy argued, “it’s not technology that motivates and engages students, its teachers. Bad tech isn’t good learning”. After all, we live in a digital world and students need the skills that technology is providing for them. Banning technology is a losing battle — it is not going away!

This week’s debate topic is not about tech as a distraction or whether or not tech is allowed in the classroom. This debate should focus on how teachers implement the use of technology in the classroom and what we want students to be able to do with the technology we provide for them. So, does technology enhance student learning? The answer is up to you, the teacher.