Mentoring Through Life

This semester I had the privilege to be a mentor for 4 students in EDTC300. This was an amazing experience, and I would do it again.

The most challenging part is honestly accountability, ensuring you are keeping up with those students, and making sure you mentor more than one person. I found myself hovering towards the one or two students who were more active on twitter and their blogs, when in reality I would have been better, if anything, to help the students who weren’t as active.

I also ran into a problem where one student did not have their blog setup properly and I could not find their posts. I had offered to help them fix their blog, and we had discussed their interest in that, but in the end they never made the time to do a zoom meet, or in person, to talk about improvements. You just have to try your best with recommendations, they might be used they might be ignored.

You might start out worried because you might feel “unqualified” to mentor someone, but this is not the case! As long as you keep up a discussion on their blogs, your cohors will find a way to ask questions that you can answer that are useful to them!

This really gives the feeling of teaching an online class in the sense that you have to be open online. You will have those students who are keen and active, and others who are falling behind and not as active. You will have those students full of questions and students who don’t ask anything. This is common and normal in the real classroom, but online you have the barrier of communication. You can’t as easily sit down and just talk to those students. I believe in the future I would love to attempt an online course, and witnessing two semesters of EDTC has really shown me how rich an online class can be.

In general, this forced me to move a bit out of my comfort zone, and really reach out to people, almost in an annoying way. For the active students, it was easy to continue the conversation, however for other students I never really got a reply so I was talking to myself the whole time. You just have to hope they are reading what you are saying and talking something from that.

As I said, this was an excellent experience that I quite enjoyed, and I had some great conversations this semester. I really do hope I can continue some of those conversations despite EDTC being over, however I am thankful for EDTC offering this opportunity in the first place.

You can view my mentoring log here

Do we need a refuge from Technology?

To unplug, or to not unplug, that is the question.

This week we discussed whether we have become too dependent on technology, and if what we really need is to unplug. The class seemed to take this with two different interpretations: with the idea of a permanent unplug, and the idea of a temporary unplug.

On the idea of a permanent unplus, we all disagreed. Technology has enhanced and altered life as it is, and I do not believe humanity could handle a random loss of all technology. Also, when we speak of removal of technology, waht are we speaking of?? Just digital technology, or industrialistic technology? Back to the bronze age, or the stone age??? Technology is a very broad term in that sense, but in general I do not think it will be beneficial to turn back, unplug, and ditch everything.

That being said, I do think a periodic refuge from technology could be beneficial. Many of us spoke about canoe trips up north, where you are 30 minutes outside of the cellular range, enjoying nature at its finest. I know previously we have had people back out or refuse to go when they discovered this, people can’t get away from their connectivity.

Considering the fact that for younger people they can get an onset of this “in the know” stress when they are disconnected, I do not think this is something that should be required or forced. However, I do believe that we should have the option opened, and if they are comfortable I think everyone should get a chance to experience nature in some way, without digital technology and connectivity, for even one day. I believe the “in the know” idea causes anxiety on both sides, when you are constantly updated and even when you are out of date. However, if we train from a young age to take occasional technology breaks, or social media breaks, I think this might decrease the amount of stress caused by being disconnected.

In general, I am torn by this debate. Personally I think temporary refuge from technology should be a good thing, but I am also not someone who has grown up with a cell phone in their hand, so I do not understand on the same level what that stress being without the device causes.

It makes me worried though, as I wonder if this very issue will prevent humans from experiencing some of natures treasures, and in that remove the value from those areas. With that, it is just a catalyst for more destruction of nature when society is not informed of the area, and they just hear “nature”. If this is a real problem, we will definitely see it in the next couple of decades. While I wish it wouldn’t be, if it is, I will be right there encouraging people to take their refuge, and experience nature.

Technology is great, but there are so many other great things as well, you just have to be willing to take the risk, unplug, and experience nature.

What is Childhood?

Social media is an excellent tool which we have access too. Allowing us to connect with peers from the past, distant relatives, professional networking, it has changed the way we interact in day to day life. In childhood though, is it a good thing? Is technology ruining our childhoods, or enhancing it?

This debate was incredibly interesting, because it was one of the few that we saw an almost entire flip of the opinion. Most of us began as agreeing, social media ruins childhood. However, by the end of the debate most of us disagreed.

In the sense of going outside, playing games, relaxng, interacting socially in person, not stressing out over drama, etc…technology does ruin childhood, And it does ruin childhood in the perspective of our childhoods because most of us grew up without technology, or with technology just coming into play halfway through our childhood.

Consider this! Moderns students and most kids nowadays have NEVER experienced life without technology! Isn’t that a crazy thought to wrap your mind around? You can see how this might alter the social media argument. See, these children have their own definition of childhood, and it is what they are experiencing right now. Nothing in the definition of childhood states that they must play outside, they must interact in person. Childhood is simply “the age span ranging from birth to adolescence.”

So, up until the very end of the debate the majority of class agreed that social media and the stress of “being in the know” is absolutely ruining childhood. However, Cassidy changed everything in her final debate statement with the comment: “What even is childhood”. This changes everything, because it makes you realize that your childhood is not the same as modern childhoods.

With this in consideration: technology is ruining OUR childhoods, however it is not ruining anyone elses childhoods. We have a different definition and that will not change, but as educators we need to be aware and considerate in the fact that these children have never lived without technology and social media, and their childhood is and will always be different because of this.

Is social media ruining childhoods? I doubt we will ever know for sure, it has its negative affects, but for now we have to consider that social media isn’t ruining modern childhood, and instead it is a defining foundational part of modern childhood.

Technology is a Force For Equity

The title is simple for this week! This isn’t entirely cause my creative cells stopped, however they are most certainly tired after an entire week of concerts.

The reason for the simple title is because I see no better way to word it. This is that simple, Technology is a force for equity, that should not be a question. Looking at this debate statement literally, not allowing the side conversations to become an influence: technology can and is used as a way to support students who struggle more, in a way that all students are on a level playing ground for learning. In particular, Google read & Write and similar applications are literally making it so students with disabilities could potentially learn in the standard classroom, simply with some assistance from the applications. And even if they don’t go to a standard classroom, their level of learning could potentially be a lot closer to that of standard students because of the equity this application creates.

There is the argument about poverty and whether people can afford technology. I recall during the 2016 library funcing scare, one good comment that came from Minister Don Morgan was the idea that “access to computers” is basically an essential service to survival in the workforce and society. While i did not agree with his defunding of libraries at the time, he did have a very good point with this idea. We will always have poverty, but society has to work to improve this poverty.

Another argument surrounds knowledge about computers. You can’t just throw technology at someone and expect them to know how to use it. This was what came from the One Laptop Per Child initiative, the studies showed minimal increase in learning and enhancement to education, and it is mainly blamed on the fact that they did not know how to use laptops efficiently.

There is no perfect solution to that, however I do believe the libraries play a very important role in this. The idea and philosophy of modern libraries, and especially Saskatchewan SILS, is that they are to be a medium where every person in society, no matter your age, background, or wealth will have the chance to access information and knowledge. The Saskatchewan libraries try their hardest to provide access to as much information and services as possible, which is why we are seeing more than books appear (e.g. 3D printing services, programming tutorials, an entire soundproof recording studio). While not perfect, i believe this use of the library to educate people on the usage of technology, and provide access to it, is the way we have to go to at least battle poverty on this idea.

Another consideration: a library is suppose to be a force for equity in itself, so the fact that our libraries are looking towards technology services as an offering should be another cue that technology is inherently a force for equity.

So while there might be some concerns about failed projects of the past, or the affects of poverty, I believe that in simplest form technology is absolutely a force for equity. As such, when the other variables are readded, I believe this just means we need to work harder to ensure this force for equity is achieved. Solutions can be synthesised and implemented, but only if we accept that the problem is there and try to fix it. If we decide instead to prevent equity because it might not work, we will never know if it would have worked, and we also will never be solving the inequality in the first place.

The only way to fight inequality and poverty is to try. If we don’t try, we will never know if equity can be achieved, and in turn you end up supporting and strengthening inequality, an idea I would assume most people don’t want to support.

Presenting Education! (Brought to you by Big Corporations)

This was an interesting week for debate, as both sides picked different topics! Emily picked agree on “Public education has sold its soul to corporate interests in what amounts to a Faustian bargain”, and Brian picked disagree on “Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids.”. 

The most interesting part of all of this however? Those two topics intersect perfectly! Most applications we use for openness and sharing in schools is offered by a corporation giving it free, but they don’t do it for nothing!

The idea behind Corps offering free applications to schools is so students:

  1. Become familiar with the product, or become dependent on it, causing them to be very likely to purchase the product in the future when they graduate.
  2. To try to outwork their competitors by making their product the standard. If everyone uses Microsoft Word in highschool, it is likely to become standard in the future. We see this with the increased use of Google Docs in recent years by younger people, as the schools have started adopting GSuite.
  3. Potentially to mine data – HOWEVER, this is very rare within the education sector. Due to the extreme opposition in general to data mining, and the increased observance of how Education data is handled, most large companies like Google have announced that they do not serve ads based on this data, and in general have placed stronger privacy statements regarding their education versions of the product. This is because for them, points 1 and 2 outweigh the loss in data profit.

So in a way, yes Education is “selling its soul” to corporations, but is it really a bad thing?  Funding for education is on the constant decline, and these free applications really make up for that. An potential concern is favoritism for a certain service, and the idea of point 1 and 2 being successful at monopolizing the sector. I believe we can find a balance, and from my high school times I know we can use that balance.

We can get access to GSuite/Google Docs, as well as Microsoft Office/Word, and allow the students to decide which they prefer. We can get both Adobe 3D max and Blender, Microsoft Visual Studio and Apple’s XCode. I think if we create options for the students, it can be really beneficial because many of them won’t have the opportunity to use these applications due to cost.

We also have to consider industry standards. As much as some might think using Adobe is supporting their monopoly, the fact is that a student cannot go into photography, filmography, animation, etc… without running into an Adobe product. This is something that only the industry can decide, and once they destandarize it the schools will have more power to give students choice, but until then the jobs dictate which programs you use.

In terms of openness and sharing, I used personal google applications since Grade 8 and it enhanced the school experience for myself and my peers. We would use collaborative editing to make documents from other sides of the city, Google hangouts to chat without holding up the phone line, Facebook Messenger to keep in touch with group messages. When you go into the workforce, openness and sharing is an expectation that you cannot avoid. You have to propose your ideas, share your data with coworkers, share the workload for projects, be open to working on a team. You cannot avoid this, and that is why openness and sharing isn’t unfair in education, it is literally a preparation for life.

So while the topics are suppose to conflict, I actually agree with both debaters! Emily is correct, education has “sold its soul” to big corporations, and this isn’t a bad thing if we are careful. Brian is correct in saying openness and sharing is a GOOD thing in schools, and this goes hand in hand with the applications we receive from “selling education’s soul”. I think it is a bit of a slippery slope, but with care these applications and opportunities to share are incredible for the student experience in education.

I believe we should continue using “free applications” for education,, and just instead should ensure we are trying to offer choices to the students. That way Education benefits from the cost, and the students will make the decision in the end for which application is the best, not the companies/education through an accidental monopolization. If the student gets the choice, all parties win.

What Causes Unhealthiness: Technology or Society?

The debate topic this week was “Technology is making our kids unhealthy: Agree or Disagree”, and it makes me wonder: Is Technology the direct cause or the scapegoat?

Technology is in every aspect of our lives now, and because of that society is making it more acceptable to always be on technology. A side affect of this is video games, and the fact that some children play them constantly. This does cause them to become unhealthy, but is this the cause of games, or is this because of society and “acceptable laziness”? I personally would argue this is not technology causing this, especially because many athletic people i know also play video games in their spare time and use technology all throughout their lives, and they do not have this side affect.

Society for some reason has accepted that laziness is an appropriate lifestyle for children and adults alike. It is acceptable to sit in your house for an entire day off, playing video games or surfing social media, watching netflix, etc…This is considered everyday activities now and because of this society accepts it. Now, there is nothing wrong with participating in those activities, however we have to also be aware of our health. Just because you can play a video game, or watch netflix, does not mean you shouldn’t leave the house at some point to go for a walk. Technology doesn’t directly cause this either, but it is what is to blame for everything! (according to society).

So my opinion on this is a big disagree. I will not argue against the fact that technology is definitely being utilized to become lazy and unhealthy, but I do not think it is the direct cause of that unhealthiness. You as an individual choose to become unhealthy, to become lazy, and instead you use technology when you could go for a walk. This can happen through any other activity, think about it: “Books are causing unhealthiness, children cannot get their heads out of the pages, and its beginning to show!”. That sounds kind of absurd, but it is the exact same idea as “Technology causes unhealthiness”. We have to recognize when we found the cause, and when we found a scapegoat, because in  this case Technology is not the cause, it is just our excuse.

The Power of Memorization: Good or Evil?

Schools have long been a factory for memorizing facts, but in the age of Google, should be really be memorizing stuff anymore? This week we debated on whether schools should be teaching anything that can be Googled.

I personally disagree with this, but not entirely. We should aim towards teaching students how to find this content online, just like we used to teach them how to find it in an encyclopedia. They might be able to search stuff, but that does not guarantee they can find what they need! We need to give the students these tools so they can find their content when inquiring using Google and the internet.

Also, memorization is not evil! It is actually a very powerful cognitive tool that we all will have to use in our lives. Due to this, I believe it is important to utilize that and train our ability to memorize. In math this is a big topic because memorization can slow your ability to “discover” and be creative, instead referencing your memory. However if you can begin with the discovery technic, and afterwards offer something memory based, these can be powerful together. Discovery is not complete by itself, and Memory alone does not offer a means for full understanding, but together they can be an incredible cognitive tool.

This also brings up the idea of multiplication table memorization. Personally, I still think students should be memorizing portions of this still. Mainly this is for on the fly referencing: aka head math. I believe everyone is capable of head math and they just need to work at it, but this memorization of the multiplication tables is a big aspect of that. This might be a dated opinion however, as I realize the need for this might be dwindling in the real world.

Lastly, if we aren’t teaching anything that can be Googled, students will never learn certain subjects. Lets take French and foreign languages. Without memorization, good luck learning a new language, they will be attached to google translate if they ever travel! There are many things you cna access through Google that might not be super helpful in realtime for students, and that is where there is still content that needs to be taught form the schools.

I generally am in the middle, I think we need to alter our content and teaching techniques, but I do believe we should still teach a lot of information that is Googleable.

Technological Enhancement – Is it a thing?

No, I am not talking about biogenetical modifications, or robotic arms. I am not talking about the retina fancy lenses that can solve all of your eye problems (though I would really love this!). I am talking about technology in the classroom; does it really improve anything?

I personally do not think this is a clear cut black & white answer. I was tasked to defend the “pro side”, however the “con side” did have some good points which I had struggled with in preperation. Overall, my answer to this would be Yes, if implemented correctly. I also had to differentiate the question a bit because it made me consider: does technology have to enhance learning to be good for it? Technology is still a tool just like our calculator and pencil, and while sometimes it might not difectly enhance the learning of the students, I still believe there is some merit for using it.

When technology is implemented with creativity it

Digital Identity – What does this mean to the Teacher?

Digital Identiy is a term I personally don’t hear a lot in every day life, however it covers a vast amount of popular topics that we do hear about. Digital Identity is the way you present yourself online, it is in a way your own personal definition. It was previously believed that your online Digital Identity and your offline “Real” Identity were seperate entities, but this is no longer the case, and really never was. What you do online will affect you offline and vice versa, it has become the continuum which defines you as a person.

So as an educator, what does this mean to us? How can we actually help students learn and develop a healthy digital identity? Do we even know what a digital identity is, or what ours looks like? We have seen countless videos and satires about House Hippos and Tree Octupii and this used to be what we considered digital and technological education. This might seem like an easy effective way out of teaching digital identity, but the reality is these are not effective in any way, and really lead to harm since the students then figure out digital identity uninformed.

The school is the first step in this process. While a teacher can tackle this concept alone, it is really something the school as a whole should be facilitating to ensure continuity across the grades. Whether this be planned professional development to inform the teachers, or an action plan/local curriculum to collaborate on digital literacy education. This also means the school should be encouraging against bad social media and online practices within the school, for example using snapchat while in class, taking pictures without persmission, etc… If the school is on board, the teachers will have a solid foundation to build upon.

The teachers are the next step, as they are one of the most significant role models in a student’s life. Considering the fact that students nearly spend more time in the classroom with their teachers than they do at home with their parents, the teacher has to make sure they are reflecting what they preach. You have to have a good professional online identity, and a positive personal one. You should be the exact model of what you teach and recommend in your lessons. If you tell the students not to post inappropriate photos on social media, they should not be able to check your profile and find exactly that.

Secondly, Teachers need to teach digital literacy with some obvious intent and effort. It should feel like it has the same significance as Math and English. If students sense your lesson or topic is a “tack on” lesson that is unrelated to anything and ungraded, than they will lose interest and not put as much care into the work. You should also include some examples of real digital problems that occured for people related to their identity, whether it be identity theft or repercussions of actions online/offline. An idea for some sort of assignment would be sleuthing assignments, have students “creep” each other online and attempt to find information that was not intended to be there. Social Media checks by the teacher could also be a possibility if planned correctly. This is the part where you have to get creative and come up with ways to teach this important subject in a serious, yet fun, engaging manner.

The last step is to teach and encourage good digital citizenship practices, specifically related to the mob attitude that has affected people through digital identity. We have a very hostile society right now which will chew up and spit out anyone online who goes viral for something even remotely negative. Whether it be an honest mistake or an intended insult, online society will still bombard social media profiles and dig up any and all information against that person. This is not something that is easy to change, and may never fully change, however if we encourage more forgiving practices in our teaching and lives, that is going to get us one step closer. Perfection tends to be impossible, but progress is not, and as teachers perfection might be the overhanging goal, but progress is what we need to aim for.