Learning Together: My Mentor Experience

This semester of EDTC 400 has been one of the most challenging, though-provoking and enjoyable experiences of my University career. Not only have I learnt so much about the EdTech world, but I have also learnt a lot about myself as a future educator. One of the main components of EDTC 400 that added to my learning and development was the mentorship, in which I was given the opportunity to mentor 3 fantastic future educators throughout their EDTC 300 journeys. To be completely honest, the idea of mentoring other University students was something that initially terrified me! When I first learnt that I would be responsible to supporting other individuals as they began to develop their PLN’s, I felt as if I had the weight of the world suddenly placed on my shoulders. I began to question myself, worrying that I was not nearly knowledgable enough with regards to technology to be able to assist others. I have never labelled myself as a “tech-savy” individual and because of this I thought that I was ill-fit for this mentorship role. After all, how could I teach others about how to use technology when I still had so much to learn for myself? These thoughts and questions caused a lot of stress and worrying leading up to the point in which I was assigned my mentees. I had some time to give the idea of being a mentor some more thought and I decided that if nothing else, I would walk into this experience with a positive attitude, and boy am I glad that I did! Not only did this mentorship experience allow for me to connect with and support other educators, but it also allowed for me to share and expand upon the knowledge that I had gained from my EDTC 300  and EDTC 400 experiences, and learn more about myself and whether or not teaching through technology was something I thought I could handle!

My Magnificent Mentees

Before I get into my role as a mentor and the ways in which I feel that I was able to contribute to the learning of others, I would like to first introduce my mentees and share a little bit about their journeys this semester! I was partnered up with 3 wonderful ladies to mentor throughout the semester, each of whom were at a different stage in their programs. I would now like to take this time to introduce each of my mentees, explore some of the interactions we had over the semester, and highlight the many ways in which they amazed me with their hard work, dedication, and talent, all while contributing to the development of their PLN’s!

  1. Miss Brooklyn Mantai is a middle years education student studying and the U of R who I was honoured to get to mentor this semester! For her learning project, Brooklyn decided that she would teach herself sign language, which I found to be extremely ambitious and inspirational. One of the main reasons that pushed Brooklyn to choose this topic of study for her learning project was because she thought that it would be beneficial for her job, in which she works at a First Years Learning Center with young children who are still developing their language skills. This really showed Brooklyn’s passion for education and her commitment to her future as an educator! Through following Brooklyn’s sign language journey, I saw so much growth in terms of her signing, but also her confidence! In her earlier blog entries, she was more reserved and not always sure of herself. As she progressed through the semester, she became a lot more confident in herself and her tech abilities and this was shown in her blog posts, as she started to incorporate more resources, links, and even video components that showed her signing! Brooklyn also had a very positive presence on Twitter, sharing inspirational quotes, articles and resources with her followers! She also incorporated a lot of her classroom experience into her Twitter activity, which allowed for some really fantastic discussions! When it came to mentoring Brooklyn, I felt as if I was learning so much from her, especially with regards to her learning project! I made sure to comment on all of her learning project posts, as I felt like I was taking part in her journey with her! These comments of mine focused on providing encouragement, asking questions, and providing constructive feedback! I also worked to bridge Brooklyn’s blog and Twitter activity by sharing her progress with my followers as well! Please don’t hesitate to check out Brooklyn’s blog here or follow her on twitter! Here are some of the major comments, tweets and interactions I shared with Brooklyn throughout the semester:

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2. Miss Maytlind Mallo is in her final semester of her middle years education program at the U of R, meaning she is so close to becoming an educator! Well I was initially nervous to mentor someone who is further along in the program than I am, Maytlind was an absolute joy to interact with! Maytlind was extremely active on Twitter, sharing great articles, resources, and personal thoughts and questions. The two of us engaged in countless conversations, which really helped with forming a strong relationship between the us! In addition to being active on Twitter, Maytlind also wrote some fabulous blog posts! For her learning project, she chose to explore the world of painting and ended up blowing my mind with her natural talent! I found it hard to believe that she had not been painting for years prior because her artwork was beautifully done! She also shared some really fantastic resources that I have bookmarked to use in the future with my students when we work on art projects! My mentor role with Maytlind focused a lot on providing my opinions when she asked and also encouraging her to explore different ways of showcasing and documenting her work! This was something that she definitely grew with throughout the semester, as she went from text only posts, to incorporating pictures, to eventually creating her own videos! I loved seeing her explore different technological tools and find what she was comfortable using, as well as having her step outside of her comfort zone to try some new approaches! All in all, I can say with great certainty that Maytlind is an extremely talented individual who shows a passion for learning and teaching! I definitely recommend checking out her blog and following her on twitter as she prepares to embark on this next chapter of her journey!

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3. Miss Danica Fehr is my third mentee that I have had the pleasure of working with throughout this semester. I can honestly say that without even meeting Danica that I know she is an extremely kind, caring and dedicated future educator. Her Twitter activity is one example of the many ways in which she goes above and beyond to contribute not only to her own learning, but to others as well! Danica shared so many amazing resources throughout the semester, tweeted many of her classmates, and took part in several twitter chats to expand her PLN! Danica was also very open to connecting with me and asking me any questions she had, which made my job as a mentor so much easier! I felt like we truly developed a great relationship, one that will not end when our EDTC journeys come to a close! For her learning project, Danica took on the task of learning to play the banjo, in which she intricately documented her triumphs and pitfalls, as well as her overall growth. Danica’s bright personality came through on all of her online platforms, but looking back at where she started and where she ended off, I can see so much growth in her comfort level with technology. She utilized text, video, and even polls to add to her blog posts and connect with her readers. I would often leave comments or share Danica’s work on twitter, which she was always welcoming of and showed that she truly wanted to improve through interacting with others! Go check out Danica’s journey on her blog and give her a follow on twitter, as I know you will not regret it! Here are some of the major interactions shared between Danica and myself:

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My Role & Responsibilities as mentor

Throughout the entire semester, I was responsible for checking in with my mentees on a regular basis to help and support them in any ways that I could! I was able to connect with my mentees using 3 primary platforms, including the Slack Community, their WordPress blogs, and Twitter! I will now take a closer look at how my mentees and I were able to connect and support each other through each of these platforms!

The Slack CommunityWhile I was new to the Slack Community this semester, I found it to be very similar to the Google Community platform that I used in EDTC 300, so it was easy to quickly connect with my classmates and mentees! I started off by sending out a group message to introduce myself to all of my mentees and ensure that they knew that I was always willing to lend a hand, provide my input, or share my knowledge with them whenever they needed it! I also took this opportunity to provide some advice for approaching their semester of EDTC 300, such as ensuring that they stay on track with their blog posts and choose a learning project that really interests them and would be something they would enjoy doing! I was extremely happy to hear back from all of my mentees right away, as they seemed very eager to start EDTC 300 and told me that they were happy to have someone to help guide them!

Over the February break, I decided to send another group message out to my mentees to do a bit of a mid-semester check-in! Although I had been interacting with each of them weekly through all of the different platforms we used, I wanted to share some general advice and recommendations that I had for them moving into the second half of the semester! This is where I encouraged them to really dive into the world of twitter and take part in some education chats, as I found them to be very beneficial. I also commended them for keeping up with their blog posts and tweeting, encouraging them to stay on track as the semester gets busier! Finally, I decided to share with them a few of the different websites and blogs that I found to be very useful for educators! As per all of my interactions with my mentees, I closed off by wishing them the best of luck and making sure they knew that they could also count on me to help them and if I didn’t have the answer I would help them find someone who did!

This past week was my final group message to my mentees, in which I decided to thank them for the amazing experiences they provided me with! I told them all about how much I was able to see them grow as educators and individuals over the course of the semester! This was when I as a mentor really saw everything come together, especially when reflecting back on the first group message I sent in comparison to the last! Even though the semester has come to an end, I did my best to let my mentees know that I hope they continue contributing to their PLN’s in meaningful ways and that I would love to stay in touch with them as we continue on our journeys towards becoming educators!

The Blogging Community: Each week, my mentees were assigned 2 blog posts, one that was based on their weekly class discussions and one about their learning projects! My responsibilities here involves following along with their posting and providing comments, feedback and advice. This involved supporting my mentees in writing blog posts that were dynamic, well formatted, and showed their personalities! One of the major pieces of advice that I provided my mentees with regards to their blogging throughout the semester was to mix things up by incorporated images, videos, links, polls, slideshows, or any other tech components that would add to their posts and take them to the next level. I began the semester by focusing on commenting on each of my mentee’s learning project posts. Since each of my mentees only posted one learning project post per week, I made it my goal to comment on each of them. This commenting ranged from providing advice and guidance, to sharing resources, or simply being a motivational figure! Each of my mentees chose learning projects that I was not experienced in, so I often found myself learning more from them than I felt I could ever teach them. Nonetheless, I felt that it was important to provide that encouragement when and where I could, as I know that I experienced moments of doubt during my learning project and the helpful comments of others really pushed me forward! As the semester wore on, I began to comment on more of my mentees blog posts than just their learning project ones. Since EDTC 300 was fresh in my mind from this past spring semester, I recognized many of the assigned post topics they had and found myself experiencing some flashbacks that motivated me to check out my previous blog posts from EDTC 300. I then used my experiences to contribute to my mentees posts by sharing different resources that I found throughout the semester and simply engaging in conversations about what they were learning, what was confusing them, and how they were working around said confusion! Overall, the blogs were the perfect place that allowed for me to really individualize my mentor approach to fit the different personalities and needs of all my mentees, while also learning from them in the process. Here are just a few of my blogging interactions:

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The Twitter Community: The third major platform that I was able to utilize in supporting my mentees was Twitter. Most of my mentees were relatively new to the twitterverse or had very little experience with it. As I previously indicated in my Slack messages to my mentees, I did my best to provide as much advice as I could when it came to twitter, such as ensuring they were following other educators, sharing their ideas and resources, and expanding their PLN’s by taking part in twitter chats. This point about the twitter chats definitely caused some worry among my mentees, which I could relate to very closely! I was so nervous to take part in twitter chats during EDTC 300, but I have now fallen in love with them, participating in at least 2 a week! This comfort level came with experience so I did not expect my mentees to jump on board right away, but I did see them take part in a few chats, some of which I was actually in as well! I loved seeing them share their ideas and interact with other educators, making me a very proud mentor! Twitter was also one of the platforms that I used to draw attention to my mentees and their blogs. I did a lot of retweeting when they shared tweets about their learning projects, urging other to show them some support and check out their progress! I also made sure that  I was tweeting in ways that were very accessible to my mentees, in which I used the #EDTC300 whenever possible so that they could easily locate my tweets! Some of my mentees became huge fans of Twitter, tweeting multiple times a day and often times retweeting what their peers and other educators had to share! It was so great to see their tweeting and follower numbers increase throughout the semester as they formed new relationships and expanded their PLN’s! Check out a few of my tweets directed towards and shared with my mentees:

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FInal Reflections on My experience

While I started this semester off feeling absolutely unprepared to take on the responsibility of mentoring other EDTC 300 students, my feelings have changed completely! My initial fears revolved around not knowing what to say or how to support my mentees as they progressed through the semester. I was worried that I would come across as too bossy or too reserved, never being able to find that balance. However, as I started to write this first message to my mentees, these fears seemed so silly to have. The moment I began working with my mentees, I was really surprised to see just how much I had to share and how easily the conversation flowed! I was also happy to see how quickly my mentees responded to me, showing that they were excited to have my support! This is when my feelings shifted from nervousness and doubt to excitement, as I realized that this was an amazing opportunity to support others, while also having their support in return and to learn more about myself as an educator.

Although I may have been the one who took on the role of mentor, I cannot believe how much I learnt from my mentees! I did not expect to walk out of this mentorship experience with having gained so much from the amazing individuals that I worked with! They introduced me to so many amazing websites, tools, apps and resources that I cannot wait to use in my classroom someday! My mentees also opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and approaching education and blogging through the ways in which they individualized their experiences! Overall, I think that this mentor-mentee relationship was equally beneficial to all of us. Was it challenging? Of course! I cannot tell you how many times I felt as if I was not knowledgable enough on their learning project topics to provide input or how many times I caught myself scrambling to find something helpful to share. The fact that two of my mentees were older than me and further along in the program also added to my nervousness and self-doubt, as I was concerned that I could not support them in the ways that they deserved! However, by addressing these concerns of mine and keeping a positive attitude, I was able to shake off that self-doubt and focus on giving my mentees everything that I had! They also made my job so much easier by staying on track and being extremely active online! At the end of this semester, I can say with certainty that the mentoring was my absolute favourite component of EDTC 400!

Looking back at the semester as a whole, I feel as if I contributed to the learning and development of my mentees in several ways. In turn, I have also learnt a lot about myself as a future educator and just how capable I am when it comes to supporting the learning of others! One interesting thing that I noticed was that I took a slightly different approach to mentoring each of my mentees. For one of my mentees, the majority of our interactions were through twitter, while my other mentees were more active on their blogs and the comment sections there. This really taught me how there is no one single right way to be a mentor, teach, and support others! It’s important to always provide this support and guidance, but that does not mean that the guidance has to look the same for everyone, as all learners are unique! This is a valuable lesson that I have learnt and feel it will definitely be something I keep in mind as I progress towards my future as an educator. Another surprising take away that I had from this mentoring experience was finding out just how much I myself have learnt about technology! As I stated earlier, I have never considered myself to be a very “tech-savy” person so I never actually realized how much I have grown in the past few semesters! I was able to recommend resources to my mentees, give them twitter and blogging tips, and help them with navigating different websites, something I never imagined myself being able to do at this stage in my education career! This really instilled with me a sense of self-confidence that I have been looking for and will benefit me as I progress through my program and become an educator! Even more so, I have come to see that I am capable of teaching through and with technology! I have not taken very many online courses before, but with the limited experience I do have, I never thought that I would be able to teach that way! To my surprise, I did just that throughout this semester with my wonderful mentees! I would definitely be open to trying out online courses in the future, as I have been introduced to so many possibilities that they provide for both the learners and the teachers!

Although I provided a small look into the interactions I shared with my mentees on the different online communities that we were involved in, you can find a log of all my mentoring here!

I would like to thank my mentees for being absolutely fantastic to work with and I cannot wait to keep the relationships we have formed going! Don’t forget to follow all of my mentees on twitter and check out their blogs!

Sincerely,
Miss Lauren Sauser

Our Summary Of Learning Website

I cannot believe that this semester of EDTC 400 has come to an end already! While this was a very busy semester, it went by extremely fast and I have learnt so much in this short period of time! Not only have I gained more knowledge with regards to technology and the role it plays in education, but I have also learnt a lot about myself as a future educator, my values, and the many ways in which I feel that I will be able to incorporate technology into my classroom one day!

For my summary of learning, I decided to team up with Miss Aurora Lay-Street and Miss Sydney McGrath to collaborate on a final project that really touched on everything that we gained from this semester of EDTC 400! We wanted to do something that was not only creative, but also took advantage of our newly develop tech-related skills! After some brainstorming, we decided that we would create our very own website to  provide a comprehensive overview of our EDTC 400 experiences! We chose to use Google Sites as our website platform, as we found it to be very user-friendly and customizable to fit our needs and personalities. We set out to create our site by incorporating image, tabs, links, resources, videos, and other tech components to really make for a diverse website! There was so much that we wanted to include but we decided to really focus in on our own personal take-aways, as well as what we think others would value from knowing with regards to educational technology and how this technology has and can continue to revolutionize education!

Major Areas of focus for our website

Our website is comprised of 5 pages, each of which we explore in our summary of learning video. Here is a brief description of each page to help lay the foundation for the video that follows:

Home Page

 

1) Home/Introduction – Our website opens to a home page that provides an introduction to thewomen behind the website, in which we used our Bitmojis to represent ourselves and our personalities! We also each shared our main take-aways from the class, highlighting how we each grew in different ways!

 

Tech Topics

 

2) Tech Topics –This is where we shared and reflected upon some of the different tech-related topics we discussed in class, including the different EdTech models, net neutrality, cyber safety, fake news, and several others.

 

 

Classroom Resources

 

3) Classroom Resources – This page focused on the mini-lesson component of the class, in which we shared and reflected upon the different resources that our classmates and ourselves presented in our lessons, as well as the lessons themselves.

 

 

Class Debates

 

4) Class Debates – This is where we explained, linked to, and reflected upon the different debates that we participated in over the semester. We structured this portion of the website to allow for anyone to be able to access the debate videos that were presented in class, while also providing insight into just how complex each topic is!

 

PLN

 

5) PLN – Our final page on our website focused on the development of our PLN’s. Here we discussed the major platforms used in EDTC 400, including Slack, WordPress/Weebly, and Twitter, as well as provided tips and information that we have learnt with regards to contributing to further developing our PLN’s!

Summary of Learning video

After we created our website, we used Screencastify to record a tour of it, in which we provided explanations and insight into what we have learnt and how we feel this class has contributed our professional development!

So without further ado, here is our summary of learning video!

Although our video does provide a tour of our website, we would love for you to check out our entire website for yourself here!

I have also linked our video script here!

In closing, I would like to extend a huge thank you to Katia and all of the EDTC 300 and EDTC 400 classmates that contributed to my learning over this semester! I wish you all the best of luck in your futures and hope to stay connected via twitter, blogs, or any other platform!

-Miss Lauren Sauser

 

Neutrality vs. Activism: Promoting Social Justice Through Education & Technology

The end of the semester and EDTC 400 is quickly approaching, which means we have reached the end of our Great EdTech Debate series! I can’t believe how fast this semester has gone by, but even more so, I can’t believe just how many diverse, exciting, and thought-provoking debates we have engaged in as a class! We have covered topics ranging from social media use by children, to the role of technology in achieving global equity, to the implications of cellphone use in the classroom, and many more! All of these topics were extremely complex, often times branching off into other sub-topic areas and raising even more critical question! In every debate, the role that technology plays in education has been explored in some way or another, which is why our final debate topic was the perfect one for bringing all of the other debates together. This week’s final debate topic was “educators have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice and fight oppression – Agree or Disagree?”. After reading this topic to be debated, I knew right away how I felt about it, as I do believe that as educators we have a responsibility to use technology and social media in ways that support our students in all areas of life, which may involve having to address some complex and controversial topics. However, interestingly enough, I think that if this topic were to have been introduced to me prior to taking EDTC 300 and EDTC 400, my stance would be completely different. Considering how none of the teacher that I had growing up embraced technology beyond Microsoft Word and Google, I never really thought of technology and social media as being platforms for enhancing education or as something that could be utilized by educators to promote social justice issues and fight oppression. Through engaging EDTC 400, I have learnt so much about the power of technology and the ways in which it can transform not only education, but society as a whole! Although I have only just began to explore the EdTech world, I already feel as if it is a valuable platform to utilize in bringing awareness to social justice issues and supporting students in learning more about the world around them!  With all of this newfound knowledge and understanding, I honestly cannot imagine becoming an educator without embracing technology in ways that will support my students in developing into critical thinkers. With all things considered prior to the pre-vote, I thought that the majority of the class would feel the same way! After all, our entire EDTC 400 semester did involve topics surrounding many social justice issues! Here are the pre-vote results:

Pre-Vote Results

As you can see, just under 3/4 of the class took the same initial stance as I had, believing that we as teachers do indeed have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice and fight oppression! However, a good portion of the class did start out on the disagree side, which really interested me with regards to what their possible reasoning would be! Since I am still learning a lot when it comes to technology and the role it has in education, I thought that this debate could potentially open my eyes to some dangers or concerns that I may have been overlooking with my initial stance! To be completely honest, that is exactly what ended up happening! In order to provide a little more insight into this topic, I will now be summarizing the debate and the discussions had throughout the class!

Arguments for the agree side

In this week’s debate, Mr. Jesse Simpson took on the agree side in which he argued that teachers have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice and fight oppression. Jesse did a fantastic job with laying out some very strong points that supported his stances, many of which revolved around the importance of using our voices as teachers to really make an impact, with technology and social media being one of the many ways in which we can do that! Jesse’s debate covered a multitude of topics, but his debate video was primarily structured around 3 points that I will now be summarizing:

1) Staying Neutral is Problematic: Jesse opened up his side of the debate by sharing a quote by Alyssa Dunn which states that “education, at its core, is inherently politically driven”, meaning that teachers should not be afraid to address controversial topics, such as gun violence or

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

racism, due to a fear of sounding too political. By avoid these topics that may be important to students, we as educators would simply be ignoring their fears, interests and concerns, therefore marginalizing them as individuals. Additionally, Jesse also went on to discuss how trying to maintain neutrality and objectivity in an occupation that doesn’t really support it only leads to further damage when it comes to student development, as this neutrality can often lead to misunderstandings. As this article states, choosing to remain neutral is a political choice in itself, which only further highlights how remaining 100% neutral really isn’t possible when it comes to education. This same article that Jesse shared with the class further explores how remaining politically neutral is not an effective teaching strategy, as it acts to maintain the status quo that leads to further marginalization of students. This article addresses how the push for remaining politically neutral in the classroom has led to teachers not addressing important topics due to a fear of receiving backlash. This is something that many teachers have began to speak out against, fighting for their right to ditch neutrality and start focusing on the controversial issues that their students really care about. One great example of this can be found in this article that Jesse shared that contains a letter written by former teachers in which they explain why they feel it is important to take sides and speak out about important issues!

2) The Many Risks of Staying Silent Online: While many people may believe that teachers should remain silent online in order to maintain neutrality, this is not beneficial in the sense that it teaches students nothing about digital citizenship. Fake news has taken over the internet and it’s important that students learn how to differentiate between news that is and is not accurate, which is something that cannot be done if teachers take a silent stance on politics. If teachers are not willing to talk about controversial and political issues, then their students will be left on their own to figure things out for themselves, often leading to misunderstandings and confusion. This avoidance of controversial and political topics also allows for fake news to grow and thrive. The best way to stop the spread of fake news is to simply talk about it, which will not only benefit the students in the present, but will also help with providing them with the skills that they need in order to detect the mountain of fake news that they are bound to encounter in the future. This article that was posted by The Mercury News explains why teaching students how to detect fake news is important and how these lessons can be integrated into many subject areas. This article also addresses how it is important to capitalize on students’ interests and that incorporating real-world fake news is a great way to do this! To re-state an important message that Jesse shared several times throughout his debate, silence is complicity and further maintains the status quo that we want to avoid. As teachers, we should be speaking up on all platforms that we can, whether it be in the classroom or online.

3) Using Technology & Social Media Effectively can be Beneficial: Jesse used his final debate point to provide some input into how teachers can effectively use technology and social media to model active digital citizenship and literacy. As teachers, it is important that we understand how to effectively use technology and social media so that we can support our students in doing the same. This article by Torrey Trust addresses how we as educators should act as role models, guides and leaders in education, which includes maintaining a professional online presence. There are so many amazing benefits to using technology and social media in education, many of which are lost when teachers chose to remain inactive or silent online. Teachers are human-beings too and should speak out about issues that they feel are important rather than remaining silent. There is a time and a place to speak up and that is something that teachers need to be able to gauge for themselves. To quote Jesse, “sharing and getting involved is key” so instead of always remaining neutral, it’s important that educators find their voices and use them in positive ways that will support their students! Using technology and social media not only benefits the students, but the teachers themselves as well. Social media is a great platform for teacher to connect, share ideas, form relationships, and learn from and with each other. This article explores some more of the many benefits that teachers can experience when they utilize technology and social media. At the end of the day, the ways in which educators use and model technology and social media can and will directly influence the way that their students view and use it as well, so the focus here should not be on avoiding these platforms, but figuring out how to use them effectively!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Arguments for the disagree side

On the other side of this debate stood Mr. Daniel Lee who strongly defended his belief that teachers do not have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice and fight oppression. Daniel really surprised me with his side of the debate, as I felt that he had the more difficult side to support, especially considering his audience of EdTech students! Daniel’s debate featured a few main points that really dove into the dangers that we as educators face when it comes to addressing social justice issues in the classroom and online! Here is Daniel’s debate video, which I will now be summarizing along with other points that he was able to raise throughout the class discussion!

1) Teachers are Under Constant Scrutiny from the Public (Parents): When it comes to being a teacher, there is no denying the fact that scrutiny and judgement come along with the occupation. Teachers often times do not receive the respect, recognition, or appreciation that they deserve, as those around them are constantly picking apart their every move. Daniel brought up the old saying of “those who can’t do teach”, in which many people believe that the job of a teacher is “easy” or that anyone can do it, which is not the case at all. One of the main sources of judgement when in comes to the teaching profession comes from none other than the parents of the students being taught. This article that Daniel shared with the class examines some of the major reasons why teachers are looked down upon by parents, including the fact that teachers don’t work typical 9-5 jobs and do have the summers off, negative personal experiences with teachers, and the fact that many feel that they know what all the job of a teacher entails. It is not unreasonable for parents to want to fight to ensure that their children are receiving the best education possible, but this often leads to more controversy than progress, as parents often blame teachers and point out the ways in which they feel their child should be educated. As this article states, it is important to recognize that a child’s education is not solely a result of a single teacher and his or her approach to education, but also relies heavily on the learning environment as a whole. This is something that many parents fail to recognize, as it is easier to blame the teacher than to consider all the factors that may be influencing their child’s education. This is not to say that parents do not have their children’s best interests in mind, as parents often do know what is best for their kids, but to assume that they could provide a better education than teachers is making a leap that is hard to justify without having a working understanding of how teachers operate in the classroom. With all this being said, the fact that teachers are continuing to be judged for their approaches, beliefs and behaviours in the classroom and online further supports the belief that remaining neutral is the best way to avoid scrutiny and possible backlash, which can range from insults and negative comments, to even losing their job.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

2) The Education System is Political: In Daniel’s second point, he agreed with Jesse that education is indeed political, but took this point in a different direction. While Jesse stated that teachers should not avoid discussing controversial topics due to a fear of sounding too political, Daniel argued the exact opposite. In his debate, Daniel shared this article that was published by CBC News that outlines a story about a teacher who worked at a Christian school and was denied a contract simply because she was living with her male partner. According to the article, this violated a clause in her contract that forbids any sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. Obviously there are many concerns that arise with this story, as many education advocates have began to question why provinces continue to fund schools that discriminate against their employees. Aside from these concerns, this story really highlights how when it comes to the teaching profession, the distinction between teachers’ personal and professional lives is not always clear cut. Another example of this that was shared with the class prior to the debate involved a current story published by The Washington Post about a New York teacher who was fired after students got ahold of her topless photos. This teacher did not send or share these picture with her students and had no idea how they got ahold of them, yet she was still judged and held responsible for her actions by losing her job. The reasoning that was given for firing this educator was that she was seen as a poor role model for her students, something that was decided based on a single set of photos that had nothing to do with her teaching capabilities. This leads into a whole host of other issues, such as the argument that this treatment is sexist, discriminatory, and unjust. These stories further highlight how no matter what teachers do, they are going to be judged and therefore they must be careful with regards to what they do, say and how they present themselves on and offline, as anything can be twisted and used against them.

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

3) Students are Easily Influenced, Therefore Teachers Should Have a Neutral Standpoint: The role of the teacher is very complex and multidimensional, in which it is important to recognize that teachers have a strong influence on their students. Along with the label of teacher comes a certain degree of authority and power, which can be used and misused in many ways. With this power comes great responsibility, especially when considering how the words and actions of teachers can directly impact their students’ beliefs, values, and education. In Daniel’s debate, he explained some of the reasons why children are easily impacted and taken advantage of by others, including the belief that teachers are always right and the fact that the rational part of the brain is not fully developed until the age of 25, making young minds especially susceptible to outside influences. To highlight this point, Daniel shared this article with the class that talks about a teacher who organized a classroom pipeline protest for his grade 3 students. This was extremely controversial and problematic, as it was clear that the students themselves did not have a comprehensive understanding of what they were standing for and were far too young to be able to learn everything they needed to understand in order to make informed decisions for themselves. Through my research, I came across an article titled Why Are Schools Brainwashing Our Children?  that also discusses this pipeline protest, as well as other controversial classroom discussions and movements. This article goes on to state how faculties of education across Canada and the Western World are beginning to incorporate social justice issues into elementary education, with problems arising with regards to the ways in which teachers are interpreting social justice. There is a fine line between what is and what is not appropriate when it comes to incorporating social justice issues into education, a line that many struggle to identify. More and more teachers are continuing to confuse fact with opinion, often times presenting their own opinions as facts or reshaping proven facts to come across as opinions. Either way, teachers do have the power to potentially “brainwash” their students by speaking up around social justice issues in inappropriate ways, therefore planting seeds of bias within the impressionable young minds that they are teaching. With all of this considered, Daniel really supported his belief that teachers should remain neutral, providing only the facts and then letting their student make their own decisions and develop their own opinions. This article provides more insight into just how important remaining neutral in the classroom and online is, further exploring the topics of influence, polarization, and disruption.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Class discussion & Conclusion

As I stated earlier, this was the perfect topic to close off our Great EdTech Debate series, as it really brought together all of the different debates that we have engaged in over the semester! Throughout the entire debate, I found myself constantly reflecting back and drawing inspiration from the previous topics that we explored, using the knowledge I have gained to think more critically about the topic being addressed! I think that this is something my fellow EDTC 400 classmates did as well, as I saw many parallels drawn between the different debates! Overall, it was a great topic to explore as we move one step closer to becoming educators ourselves!

The pre-vote results indicated that the majority of the class, myself included, believed that we as educators have the responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice and and fight oppression. Following the debate, I stuck with my initial stance and was not at all surprised to see that most of the class ended up sharing this stance in the end! Here are the post-vote results for our final debate:

Post-Vote Results

As you can seen, Jesse was able to gain even more support, with just under 85% of the class landed on the agree side. While Daniel’s supporters may have dwindled, he did a fantastic job with defending his side of the debate and managed to maintain a few loyal supporters! I personally found many of the points that Daniel discussed to be very valid concerns, but I simply could not ignore my own personal beliefs that were only further supported by Jesse in his debate and by the class in our dynamic discussions. Before closing, I would like to further explain why I took the stance that I did, as well as reflect upon some of the comments and points that were made by my classmates throughout our discussion!

Image by Geralt from Pixabay 

One of the things that has always contributed to my desire to become a teacher has been my passion for raising awareness of important issues that often do not receive the attention that they deserve. I am a firm believer in the idea that even though some topics may make people uncomfortable, that does not mean that we shouldn’t talk about them. By avoiding every controversial or uncomfortable topic in the world, we as teachers would be doing exactly what Jesse said in his debate about ignoring our students fears, interests and concerns. Furthermore, I have never and will never view addressing social issues in education as a “one and done” approach, as although talking about these issues is important, simply having a conversation on the topic and nothing else is pointless, as it does not get to the root of the problem or promote critical thinking. Ashlee made a great point in our class discussion about how teaching about social justice is more than just one lesson, but it involved ingraining these issues and topics into all areas of study, as well as the importance of educators leading by example. I agree with this 100% and it is something that I feel plays a huge role in the way that I view and value education.

Another important discussion point that was really emphasized throughout the debate and that I mentioned earlier revolves around the importance of teachers being able to differentiate between fact and opinion. I do believe that there is a time and a place for teachers to speak up and share their opinions, but in doing so it is important to also ensure that they are not confusing proven facts with opinions. A few examples the that highlight how facts can be misrepresented as opinions that Katia brought up and the class addressed include areas related to white privilege, the anti-vaxer movement, racism, and the “flat earthers”. While many people may believe that these topics can have different opinions or perspectives, this really isn’t the case, as each of these facts are strongly supported by evidence. With this in consideration, I do understand where teachers speaking their minds could potentially lead to trouble when it comes to topics such as these, but I don’t think that this is enough to warrant a call for total neutrality. Instead of remaining silent, I feel that teachers should focus more on educating themselves on the issues and then using this information to support their students in examining, reflecting and forming their own opinions where opinions are appropriate. There is nothing wrong with teachers putting a conversation aside until they are able to gain more information on the topic, which is more beneficial and responsible than trying to come up with potentially inaccurate and biased comments and information on topics they are not fully knowledgable on. We as teachers do not need to be experts on every topic under the sun, but that does not mean that we don’t have to make the effort to learn more and support our students in approaching controversial issues and topics that they are interested in. The way I see it, talking about these social justice issues does run the risk of potential backlash or other concerns as mentioned by Daniel, but to not talk about these issues that are plaguing society does not prepare students for entering a world in which they are going to be encountering these topics! This is a really fantastic article that focuses on how many students even believe that teachers should be given the opportunity to voice their opinion, if and only if it is done in an appropriate and respectful manner! As teachers, we have a platform to bring attention to the important issues by making our voices heard, as well as supporting our students in doing the same, which is something I think is much too important to remain silent on! To summarize much of what I have shared from this week’s debate and my own thoughts, this TedTalk delivered by Sydney Chaffee addresses why social justice does belong in our schools, a talk that I feel is definitely worth the listening to!

In closing, I would like to share one of my absolute favourite education quotes that I feel directly applied to this debate and my core beliefs as a future educator:

“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela

Thank you for following along with my debate posts this semester! I would love to hear your thoughts on this final debate!

Lauren

Embracing Technology & The Changing World

“Back in my day…”

How many times have your parents or grandparents started off a conversation with this phrase? I know mine have countless times before. Additionally, how often did the comments following this phrase have to do with technology and how we are taking it for granted or becoming too dependent upon it? In my experience, this was often the case!

We are currently living in a society in which technology plays a dominant role. Everything from the ways in which we communicate with each other, to education and learning often involve and rely on technology in some way. Whether we are texting, tweeting, instant messaging, surfing the web, or simply watching videos, there is no denying that technology is a huge part of our lives. With this being said, this week’s EDTC 400 debate topic, which was the second last in our 9 part series, explored whether or not we have become too dependent on technology and would be better off returning to the “good old days” before the Internet and smartphones took over. Now this is an extremely bold statement to make, especially considering how I have just outline a few of the many ways in which technology is dominant in society. Unlike nearly every other debate that we have engaged in this semester, this topic had me firmly standing on one side. While I do understand and recognize that technology and its inappropriate utilization has and continues to cause many problems, the positives always seem to outweigh the negatives in my mind. Throughout my EDTC 300 and EDTC 400 experiences, I have been exposed to countless ways in which technology can be used to enhance education, open up opportunities, and form relationships. This knowledge, along with my own personal understanding of my reliance on technology in my day-to-day life, had me disagreeing strongly with the debate statement. When it came time for the pre-vote, I was confident in casting mine on the disagree side, which is the side that the majority of my classmates took as well. Here are the pre-vote debate results:

Pre-Vote Results

 

As you can see,  just over 75% of the class started the debate off with the same stance as I had. While I was pretty confident that my perspective would not be changed, I entered the debate with an open mind and a willingness to be persuaded because as I have learnt throughout the past 7 EdTech debates, you never really know what to expect when things get rolling and the discussions start rolling! Both debaters laid out some very solid arguments, which I will now be summarizing and responding to below!

Arguments for the agree side

Miss Jayden Lang was tasked with taking on the agree side of this debate, arguing that we have become too dependent upon technology and need to re-evaluate the role it plays in our lives. Following the pre-vote results, it appeared that Jayden really had her work cut out for her, however she was able to make some very valid points with regards to how technology has negatively taken over our lives. Jayden’s debate video was structured around 4 key points which I will now be outlining, along with providing insight into some of the resources she shared.

1) Physical & Mental Health Effects: Jayden started off her debate by introducing the topic of “distracted walking”, and how it is leading to increasingly higher rates of injury and in some cases even death. More and more people are becoming so involved with their devices that they can’t take the time to put them away long enough to safely travel from place to place. It may

Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

seem harmless to zip off a quick text or make a phone call while crossing the street or walking through the mall, but this form of distraction often causes people to veer off course, leading to injury. These injuries are not as uncommon as many would believe, as this CBC news report shares that a 2014 study found that nearly 10% of all pedestrian accidents are due to distracted walking, with cellphones being the number one form of distraction. Additionally, Jayden went on to explain how there are also many negative metal health effects associated with technology use, with addiction being a major concern. In the article Could You Be Addicted To Technology?,  Shainna Ali discusses how excessive, unhealthy technology use has been linked to several physical, social, and psychological problems. While there is no “official” diagnostic criteria for technological addiction, several studies have been conducted that explore how dangerous technology can be in terms of mental health. The Effects of Technology on Mental Health links to several studies conducted by different Universities that strongly support the belief that technology is negatively impacting our mental health. These studies highlight some major mental health concerns that arise from technology use, including but not limited to anxiety, depression, social withdrawal, and loneliness. Additionally, Jayden discussed how high levels of technology use may also be impacting our memorization skills, as people are now feeling less of a need to memorize things that they can simply find the answer to online. This relates back to our second EDTC 400 debate delivered by Sydney and Aurora, in which they explored how the internet, specifically google, has changed the way we look at education, replacing the need for memorization with quick access to answer to all of our problems.

2) Society Is Losing Skills Once Valued: Jayden’s second point launched right into how we as a society are losing basic skills that were once viewed as valuable to technology. One of the major areas of concern is with regards to social skills, which have taken a hit since the rise of technology. Jayden shared a statistic from a survey conducted in the United States in which nearly 75% of respondents said that they would rather send a text message than have a conversation with someone face-to-face. Liberty Classical Academy published an article titled How Technology Affects Your Social Skills, which highlights 5 crucial in-person social skills that people of all ages are losing to technology, including eye-contact, phone skills, conversation, spatial awareness and dangerous distraction, and attention span. All of these skills are critical to developing healthy relationships, yet technology may be preventing them from fully developing. Jayden further expanded on this topic of lost skills by addressing how we have become over-reliant on GPS systems, which puts us at risk for getting stuck in dangerous situations. This article explains how satellite navigation doesn’t always work as well as we like to think, therefore relying solely on a GPS to find your way can be problematic. There are so many considerations that need to be taken, such as the possibility of the devices signal being lost or jamming, or user error. When we rely heavily on these devices and don’t feel the need to learn basic navigation skills, we may find ourselves in some challenging and even life threatening situations! Social and navigation skills are just two of the many skill areas that are suffering at the hands of technology. Even the smallest of daily life skills that were once seen as “normal”, such as reading a clock or remembering someone’s phone number have lost their their place in our lives. This article provides a more in-depth look into just how many skills are being lost or altered due to technology!

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay 

3) The Downside of Technology Dependent Classrooms: While we often depend on technology and comment on the ways in which it improves upon education, this is not a universal belief. Jayden shared how the Program of International Student Assessment (PISA) conducted tests that found that schools who maintained a moderate level of technology use had higher test scores than those that heavily relied on it. Is Our Growing Reliance on Technology in the Classroom Healthy? is an article shared by Jayden that supports this claim. Additionally, this article also addresses some other common concerns related to schools and their over-reliance on technology, such as the high costs of integrating tech into the classroom, unequal access for students in and outside of the classroom, and as mentioned above, decreased memorization and learning. Jayden took things even further by introducing the Waldorf  Approach to Education, which involves tech-free schooling that focusing on engagement in the arts and hands on learning. While this would lead many to assume that a lack of technology would put these students behind the rest, many studies have found the exact opposite as being true. Stanford University conducted an extensive review of Waldorf Education and the results showed that students from these schools were ahead in many ways, including showing much higher student performance on standardized tests, lower rates of problem behaviour, and an increase in happiness, engagement, and a love of learning. In addition to these research findings, the long standing debate over typed vs. written notes was brought up in Jayden’s debate, in which she pointed out that handwriting notes allows for better learning, as it provides opportunities to practice skills such as memorization, synthesizing information, and collaborating with others. This article outlines some of the pros and cons of each form of note-taking, ultimately stating that there is much to consider and each individuals’ personal preference must also be taken into account. While typing notes is often faster, speed does not always meet superior learning and may not always be reliable. Computers can easily lose their charge, get hacked, or crash completely, which can place students in a challenging situation. With this in mind, it is important to recognize that relying too heavily on technology based note-taking and learning in general can lead to trouble.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

4) Missing Important Moments In Life: The final point that Jayden discussed in her debate recognized how technology has started to take over our lives to the point in which we are no longer truly living them. The Telegraph published this article, in which they discuss how technology is causing us to miss out on some very important moments in our lives, including everything from concerts, to sporting events, to speeches at weddings, and even major milestones in our children’s lives, such as their first steps or words! One of the statistics from a survey conducted that was shared by Jayden showed that 4 out of 10 people feel that they don’t fully experience moments in their lives due to technology. So why do we continue to live our lives this way if we know we are missing out on all of these experiences? We’ve become addicted to technology and the opportunities it provides us. While not all bad, depending too much on technology can rob us of our ability to live in the moment! More often than not, people who video tape or photograph their experiences are doing so to share it online with others. The ironic part about this is that the person posting these videos and images is having to witness the experience for the first time alongside their followers, as they never truly experienced it for themselves. As expressed in this article, we are living during a time in which we act according to the idea that “if you don’t post about it then it didn’t happen”. We try to form our perfect online lives, which are fuelled by FOMO, social comparison, and the need to feel like we belong and are valued. At the end of the day, it’s interesting to consider why exactly we are so reliant on documenting these experiences. Is it to have a way to always remember them? Or it is more about showing the rest of the world what you are seeing and experiencing, or in many cases, what you aren’t? I came across this article which really highlights the importance of living in the moment and knowing that there is a time and place to disconnect!

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Arguments for the Disagree side

After hearing from Jayden and her side of the debate, Miss Kiera Eastley tackled the opposing side, arguing that technology is a valuable addition to society and should be embraced rather than avoided! Kiera structured her side of the debate around 4 major benefits that she believes technology has in our lives. These major benefits were outlined in Kiera’s video below:

I will now take this opportunity to dive deeper into each of these major benefits that Kiera mentioned by summarizing some of the key points made with regards to each of them!

1) Technology Provides A Platform for Connecting & Collaborating: Kiera started off her debate by identifying some of the major ways in which technology has allowed for us to become more connected. This article written by Dex Torricke-Barton that was shared by Kiera discusses how technology has formed an online community that allows for people around the world to connect with each other instantaneously and in ways that we never would have thought possible before. These different forms of technology have allowed for society to move beyond the barriers to communication that once seemed unavoidable, such as distance, time, and income. Technology has replaced less efficient forms of communication, such as having to travel to interact with others or sending letters in the mail. While there is nothing wrong with writing hand-written letters, when it comes to efficient communication, it simply cannot compete with the ability to dial someones number up on the phone or shoot off a quick text to share the same content! The benefits of instantaneous and wide-spread communication go far beyond the ability to connect with friends and family. While many may argue that online activity takes a toll on our relationships, this article challenges this belief by outlining how technology actually opens up a whole new world of possibilities when it comes to forming and maintaining relationships with people around the world! Additionally, just because we communicate through technology, that does not mean all other forms of communication are lost. Tech-driven communication is simply a different way of connecting and collaborating that could not be done using traditional methods of communication!

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

2)  Technology Provides Power & Opportunities: The benefits of technology and its ability to allow for people around the world to connect and collaborate go far beyond simply staying in touch with our family and friends. Technology is a powerful tool that we are able to hold in the palms of our hands, providing us with countless opportunities to make our voices heard and

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

have an impact in the world. This leads into the topic of digital activism, which is the use of digital tools such as the internet, cellphones and social media to increase awareness about issues and work towards changing them. Dex Torricke-Barton goes on in his article to share some of the major revolutionary movements and campaigns that have been able to occur due to technology. Some well-known examples include the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and the #refugeecrisis thread that quickly gained a following on twitter. This TedTalk by Alexis Ohanian provides another great example of the power of the internet allowing for people to come together and making their voices heard by contributing to a movement started by Green Peace to fight back against whaling. These are only a few of the countless movements that have had a global impact through the use of technology to connect people across the world, allowing for them to share ideas and collaborate in ways that bring them together to truly make a difference and as Kiera stated in her debate video, gives power to the powerless. This is especially significant for children who often feel as if their voices are not heard, that they can’t make a difference, or that they don’t matter. Nancy Lublin delivered a TedTalk back in 2012 in which she shared her experience with texting and how it should not be seen as a form of distraction or waste of time, but rather a platform for people to make their voices heard and seek out the help that they need. Nancy discussed how she created a crisis help line for children to be able to reach out and find support online. Because of technology, more and more children and adults are able to receive the help that they need and often times would not otherwise have access to. Whether it be increased education, health care, social support, or awareness, there is no denying that many of the opportunities and power available to us today would not exist without technology!

3) Technology Leads to Increased Efficiency: Another major benefit that technology provides is increased efficiency. Whether it be time, money, or resources, technology has the potential to make tasks and everyday life easier. Speaking from an education perspective, eSchoolView recently shared this article outlining some of the many ways in which technology increases school and learning efficiency. By integrating technology into the classroom, both students and teachers can see a significant increase in efficiency when it comes to accessing content, resources, tools, and materials. For example, rather than spending countless hours in the library working on a paper, students can use technology to access resources online in less than half the time! This concept of increased efficiency extends beyond the classroom and into our everyday lives. With all the advancements in technology that have taken place, our cellphones now carry nearly all of our tools and information. Cellphones have become multipurpose tools that make our lives easier by having everything we need in the palm of our hands. This article by Katy Evans provides a look into just how many different tools our devices have become. One single device can now be a calculator, map, compass, bank card, fitness tracker, camera, movie player, remote control, textbook, speaker, and gaming system all at once! If this doesn’t scream efficiency, then I don’t know what does!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

4) Technology is a Tool for Facilitation: Kiera’s final argument brought together all of her previous points by recognizing how technology is a tool for facilitation. Whether it be communication, collaboration, opportunities, power,  digital activism, or increased efficiency, technology plays a significant role in enhancing each and every one of them. This article that Kiera shared with the class provides a rather comprehensive overview of the many ways in which the world has changed for the better due to technology. This is not to say that all tech is good tech, as even Kiera herself recognized that technology has caused many problems. However, technology has indeed become a powerful and valued part of our lives and therefore the argument could be made that stepping back towards a world in which technology is not as dominant would be a step in the wrong direction. When we look at all the ways in which technology has improved and revolutionized the world, the list seems to be never ending!

Conclusion 

This debate was yet another lively and controversial experience, in which both Jayden and Kiera did a wonderful job with supporting their side! Before I provide my final thoughts on the topic, I would like to share the post-vote results:

Post-Vote Results

As you can see, Jayden was able to made some headway by gaining a few supporters on her side of the debate, which I really commend her for considering how I thought she would have a hard time defending her side, as we are taking an educational technology class after all!  Ultimately, the majority of the class maintained their stance on the topic, voting against the belief that we have become too dependent on technology and should return to the “good old days” before the internet and smartphones took over.

So where do I stand on this topic? 

While I walked into this debate standing firmly on the disagree side, I will admit that some of Jayden’s arguments really had me questioning my stance! I found myself swaying back and forth between the two sides, thinking to myself “wow, that’s a very good point” or “I never considered that before”. With all the information considered, in the end I did end up sticking with Kiera on this one! In my opinion, technology has led to so many advancements in all areas of life that to say that we should get rid of it all together seems unrealistic. Although I do still believe that technology has an important place in my life and the lives of others, I also think that in some cases we have become too reliant on it and this can have many negative impacts on our lives, many of which Jayden discussed in her debate. She also shared one statistic with the class from this article that stated that children between the ages of 8-18 spend an average of 44.5 hours using technology per week, which accumulates to nearly 2 full days per week! To me, that just seems absolutely crazy and extremely unhealthy. While many of the points made by Jayden were extremely valid and worrisome, when looking at all of the cons to technology use, I can’t help but think of something that Kendall mentioned in class. She made the statement that we have began to place too much trust in technology, but maybe it’s not the technology that needs to be blamed, but the users are the ones who should be held accountable. Think about it, yes technology leads to many issues such as accidents from distracted walking and driving, a loss of valuable life skills, cyberbullying, laziness, and missing out on life moments, but is it the technology doing that to us or is it the way that the technology is being used? In my opinion, technology will never completely take over or replace those who use it, therefore it is our responsibility to employ the technology we have available to us in responsible ways. As we have discussed extensively in throughout the semester, we need to learn how to find a balance when it comes to how and when we use technology. There are so many benefits to unplugging every once in a while and taking a step away from technology, but that doesn’t mean that we need to eliminate it from our lives all together. In considering this topic of debate, I don’t think that we need to go from one extreme to another. Striking that balance that we desire cannot and will not be achieved if we aren’t willing to give technology a chance! I think that instead of reminiscing about the “good old days”, we should start channeling that energy into making the world we are experiencing today better!

In closing, I would like to also share a thought that I spoke briefly on at the end of the debate in which I mentioned how not all people who once lived without technology are against it! A personal experience of mine involves my grandparents who once had no idea how to use technology and are now very active texters and facebook users. Yes it took some time for them to warm up to the idea of using technology, as it was not something they ever thought they would do. However, after they learnt more about it, they fell in love with the many ways in which it allows for us to stay connected with each other. For me, this just goes to show how we cannot make generalizations about people’s views on technology without allowing for them to experience it for themselves! One great example of this was highlighted by Ashlee in our first EdTech debate, in which she shared a video of the CNA Speaking Exchange in which seniors were able to connect with students in Brazil. These interactions benefited not only the students who were working on their English, but also the seniors who were given the opportunity to connect and form relationships that they would not have been able to without technology! Here is the heartwarming video for those of you who didn’t get a change to watch it!

That’s all for this post! Feel free to leave your thoughts, questions, comments, or stories below! Do you know of anyone who was once against technology but have changed their perspective? Or vice versa?

Lauren Sauser

Public Education & Corporate Interest: Providing An Education, But At What Cost?

Week 7 of the Great EdTech debate provided my EDTC 400 classmates and I the opportunity to explore the relationship between public education and corporate interests. To be completely honest, when I read the debate topic “public education has sold its soul to corporate interest”, I wasn’t really sure what exactly the debate would entail. With this in mind, I decided to ask myself what I knew about the relationship between public schools and large corporations, specifically EdTech companies. In reflecting upon this question, the first thing that came to mind were the ideas of opportunity and innovation. As I have learnt throughout my EDTC 300 and EDTC 400 experiences, technology is a powerful tool in education that can revolutionize the ways in which we teach and learn. When it comes to providing technology, corporate support is often required to ensure access. In this sense, healthy relationship between corporate companies and public education systems (or any education system for that matter) is essential to achieving these goals. On the other hand, I do recognize that at the end of the day, the majority of corporations are concerned with one thing and one thing only; turning a profit, meaning they may not always have the students, teachers, and education systems best interests in mind. Just reflecting upon the limited information I did know about this topic, I was already able to see the pros and cons of taking either side of the debate, which just proved that this was going to be another lively and controversial topic!

I initially struggled with choosing which side of this debate to take during the pre-vote. After compiling all the pros and cons in my head, I decided to cast my vote on the agree side, supporting the idea that public education is indeed selling it’s soul to corporate interest! After the class casted their votes, the results were very close, with just under 60% of the class taking the same stance as I had prior to hearing what the debaters had to say! With this in consideration, I entered the debate with an open mind and was ready to expand my understanding of the topic at hand!

Pre-Vote

Before jumping into outlining the debates presented, I would like to share the post-vote results to show just how much of a shift took place following the debate. As you can see from the image below, nearly the entire class ended up voting in favour of the claim that public education is indeed selling its soul to corporate interest. Talk about a shift in perspectives! Now that I have laid out all the voting results, it’s time to take a closer look at the debates that got us to this point!

Post-Vote Results

Arguments for the agree side

For this debate, Miss Liz Dornstauder took on the agree side, arguing that public education is indeed selling its soul to corporate interest. Liz’s debate video was very thorough, in which she structured her argument around 5 key points, as well as provided several readings and videos that strongly supported her stance on the topic.

1) Common Core Standards: Liz began her debate by launching into explaining the Common Core Standards, which started in the United States when two men name Gene Wilhoit and David Coleman approached Bill Gates with the idea back in 2008. The Common Core Standards are a system of academic standards that clearly outline what students should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. As explained by Liz and CommonCoreStandards.org, the basic idea of these standards was to put in place  a nation-wide curriculum in which all students receive the same education that prepares them for life beyond high school. While on the surface this may sound like an admirable goal, the Common Core Standards are extremely controversial and problematic in many ways. For starters, the implementation of these standards occurred rather quickly and with little discussion. Liz shared a blog post by historian of education and research professor Diane Ravitch, in which she discussed how unlike most business ventures, the Common Core Standards did not implement any pilot testing and were written with very little public awareness. This swift implementation is extremely controversial, especially when considering how so many people were left in the dark with their questions and concerns disregarded. Liz went on to raise a great point in regards to how the education students receive should not and does not necessarily always need to be universal in terms of content that is focused on. Additionally, these standards seem to take on a “one size fits all” approach to education, which completely overlooks the important of individualized learning, a topic discussed further in this article. 

2) Push for Standardized Testing: Pearson is a company that most of us have probably heard of before, as they are responsible for supplying most of the textbooks in North America. Whether it be in through elementary, high school, university or beyond, it is more than likely that Pearson has played some role in your education. In addition to textbooks, Pearson also creates most of the standardized tests in the United States, including the SAT’s and state exams, both of which are mandatory to graduate and to be accepted into post-secondary schooling. These standardized tests are another controversial area of debate, as although they are mandatory, many question whether or not they have a place in education. “Do Standardized Tests Show an Accurate View of Students’ Abilities” identifies some of the positives of standardized testing, such as being a consistent assessment tool that measures achievement for collage readiness and provides a resource for teacher assessment. On the other hand, the article also addresses many of the cons of standardized testing, including undermining innovation, critical thinking, and promoting teaching to the test, which Liz identifies in her debate as leading to weaker education and unfair impact on students. Liz also shared a very eye-opening video called “The Big Business Behind Public School Testing”, which discusses how companies such as Pearson push standardized testing not as a means of assessing students to help guide instruction, but as a means of obtaining more profits. These standardized tests start for students as young as grade three and must be taken each year. If a student fails, which over 40%  do, they must continue to take the test until they obtain a proficient score, with Pearson cashing in with each re-write.

3) Company-Dictated Information: While Liz provided a considerable amount of information with regards to how textbook companies like Pearson push standardized testing, she also went on to reflect upon the textbooks that these companies produce themselves. “Why Education is a Big Business” notes that the biggest publishers in the world today are by far education publishers. Due to their popularity, these companies are hard to ignore and when it comes to education textbooks, publishers have the power to control what information is being shared. In her debate, Liz shared a fact that Texas buys the most textbooks per capita and therefore many textbooks are geared towards this target audience. “How Texas Inflicts Bad Textbooks on Us” is an article that I came across by Gail Collins that further explores this topic. Collins discusses how no matter where you live, if you or your children attend(ed) a public school, it is likely that the textbooks had a Texas influence. This is challenging when it comes to teaching in locations that differ greatly from that of Texas, as there are many discrepancies that exist, such as in language and translation. This does not take the needs of all students into consideration, as the focus of these textbook companies is once again profit over progress.

Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

4) Corporate Sponsorship & Health Effects: Corporate interest goes far beyond textbooks and curriculum, but also includes other forms of sponsorship. This article that was shared and discussed by Liz presents a rather shocking statistic that over 50% of public elementary schools in the United States are sponsored by either Coca-Cola or Pepsi, with this percentage jumping to 80% in public high schools! There are positive impacts for students and schools when it comes to corporate sponsorship, such as providing more opportunities, as the money provided in exchange for advertisements and selling of products can be used to buy sports uniforms, score clocks, fund field trips and classroom technology, as well as other components that the school may not otherwise be able to afford. This article also provides some major benefits of corporate sponsorship funding that can help non-profit organizations such as public schools. While sponsorship does provide opportunities, it is important to consider what companies are being represented in the school. “Why Schools and Corporate Brands Shouldn’t Mix” identifies how studies have shown that children consume 45% more unhealthy snack foods after being exposed to its advertising. These studies showed that when children are consistently exposed to a brand in an environment in which they are being educated, whether it be on posters, televisions, drink machines, logos, or any other form, they will make unconscious and positive links to that brand. This can lead to children adopting unhealthy habits early on that can follow them through life. In Liz’s debate, she attributed this issue to a bigger problem, identifying the need for corporate sponsorship as a sign of an underfunded government, suggesting that if we properly funded public education then there would be no need for corporate sponsorship.

Image by Atlantis Curry from Pixabay

5) Education vs. Business: The final point that Liz discussed in her debate touched on how many Universities are beginning to structure themselves and function more like businesses rather than places of education, and are treating students like customers. The move towards privatization of higher education has led to many concerns for both students and citizens. “Privatizing Canada’s Public Universities” discusses some of these major concerns, including tuition increases in which students paying more for less University education. This idea of receiving less of a University education involves diminished resources, such as libraries and lab equipment, as well increased class sizes and reduced course choices. For many students, this privatization means that they are unable to afford university in the first place, which is a major concern in today’s society in which very few career paths do not require some form of higher education. Another area of concern is highlighted in this article shared by Liz, which discusses how the desire for constant improvement does not align with cost-effective decision making. While students are racking up debt, Universities are doing everything in their power to attract new students as consumers rather than supporting the students that they already have who are struggling. With all things considered, it would appear that these Universities are beginning to resemble corporations rather than institutions for education.

Arguments for the Disagree side

Following Liz’s arguments supporting the belief that public education is selling its soul to corporate interest, we got to hear from Miss Shaleen Hengen and why she believes that this is not the case! Shaleen’s debate video highlighted 4 major points as to why public education is not selling its soul to corporate interest, raising some very thought-provoking questions and interesting perspectives to consider!

1) Technology in the Classroom is Beneficial: There is no denying the fact that society’s reliance on technology has grown substantially in recent years, and with this rise comes an increase in school’s reliance on technology in the classroom. The article “The Role of Technology in Education: Increasing Student Engagement and Learning” highlights how technology has changed the way we approach learning, assessment, and communication, allowing for the exploration of options that otherwise would not be possible with typical classroom tools and resources. There are so many benefits to implementing technology into the classroom,  including increased engagement, collaboration, and support with regards to individualized learning. These benefits not only impact students, but teacher as well, providing them with the knowledge, tools, and resources needed to enhance their teaching. “Ask the Expert: Smartly Investing In Education Technology” is another great article that builds on these benefits by identifying how investing in EdTech can help to achieve education equality, changing education and the world. The potential that technology brings to the classroom is astronomical, but not all schools can access this technology without the support from larger corporations. Many school team up with companies such as Microsoft and Google to provide these tools for their classrooms and enhance learning and education. As Shaleen points out in her debate, all technology is tied to some sort of corporation so just because schools use the tools that are provided does not mean they are “selling themselves out”, but simply making the most of the tools they have available to benefit their students to the highest extent possible.

Image by edar from Pixabay

2) Determining A Platform: When it comes to corporate partnerships, schools do not make their decisions on a whim. There are many factors that are taken into account during the decision making process, including cost, benefits, reliance, and ease of use. In this article shared by Shaleen, experienced elementary teacher Janet Huger-Johnson discusses how decisions should always focus first on providing opportunities for students and teachers, with an emphasis on what will ultimately benefit the school as a whole. An important component here is teacher involvement, as they are the ones who have first-hand knowledge of the students and what their needs are. This document provides an extensive step-by-step guide to the development of positive school-business relationships. These processes are very complex and involve extensive research, deliberation, planning, experimentation, and evaluation. It’s important to recognize that corporate-school partnerships are not formulated overnight, but involve a process of searching for a match that will lead to the most benefits for all those involved. Every school and corporation is unique and therefore not all schools will benefit equally from partnering with certain corporations. This is where the decision-making process comes in, in which schools must devote their efforts to finding a compatible corporation to work with by weighing the pros and cons related to how these partnerships can benefit the students, teachers, and school community.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

3) Moving Away From Bad Business: As Liz explained in her debate, Pearson is an extremely controversial publishing company that is problematic in many ways. Shaleen built off of Liz’s points by explaining how schools have began to notice these issues and move away from their partnership with Pearson. “Everybody Hates Pearson” discusses how Pearson has lost a considerable amount of support, with parents, teachers, and others seeing it as being a company obsessed with controlling every aspect of education, including curriculum, textbooks, testing, and so on. Schools all across the world are beginning to distance themselves from Pearson and search for alternatives that better align with their core beliefs and goals for education. This article shared by Shaleen provides a more in-depth look into the recent decrease in support for Pearson, as well as discusses some of the major issues regarding curriculum and standardized testing, much of which were addressed by Liz previously. This move away from “bad business” is one way in which schools can be viewed as not selling their souls to corporate interest, as they are willing to disassociate themselves from major businesses that do not have the schools best interests in mind.

4) Ethical Consumption: The final point addressed by Shaleen in her debate involves recognizing a need for taking a step back and looking at society as a whole and how nearly everything we do and use is tied to some sort of corporation. Everything from the devices we use, to the vehicles we drive, to the software and apps we engage with are linked to some sort of corporation and this applies to education as well. Global Finance published this article that lists the largest companies of 2018, which highlights the range of corporations that contribute to and play significant roles in our lives. To suggest that schools should avoid or disregard certain tools and technology simply based upon the fact that they are linked to large corporations would be illogical, as we would not expect this of people in their day-to-day lives outside of the education system. Yes schools need to be careful in considering what tools/resources we use and who we affiliate with, but using the tools provided does not mean that a school is “selling their soul” anymore than you are in reading this post. The overriding point here is that there is no avoiding corporations and therefore the focus should not be on avoiding consumption, but rather ensuring ethical consumption.

COnclusion

Reflecting back on the debate, it is interesting to see that there were several discussion points that were agreed upon by all parties, including the fact that large publishing companies such as Pearson are controversial and do not necessarily act with the schools’ and students’ best interests in mind. While Shaleen reflected upon how many schools are beginning to move away from Pearson, Liz emphasized how this transition is not occurring as rapidly as it should, as Pearson still remains the monopoly in both Canada and the United States. I agree with both debaters that schools should be distancing themselves from corporations like these, as the number one concern should always be what is in the best interests for the students. Another point of agreeance was around the idea of a nation-wide curriculum being ineffective and not taking into account diverse learning requirements based on ability, location, language, or other differences. As I stated earlier, taking a “one-size-fits all” approach to education is problematic, as we cannot and should not expect all students across the nation to learn entirely the same content, at the same rates, and so on. We need to be able to adjust our curriculum based upon the students we are teaching, not be confined to a strict and universal curriculum that encourages teaching to the test and discourages individualized learning.

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

One discussion point that I found to have the most controversial standpoints throughout the debate was with regards to corporations funding schools with their main goal of creating lifetime consumers. Shaleen shared how she was not on board with the idea of schools giving in to corporations and allowing for them to create life-long consumers, emphasizing how we are all individuals who have the power to make our own decisions. In contrast, an interesting class discussion was sparked when Liz made the point that we are beginning to rely so heavily on companies but at what cost to our students? This led into a discussion on how all corporations care about is making a profit and creating a generation of life time consumers. The idea was thrown out to the class that maybe (and most likely) schools are raising consumers because that is exactly what society wants. While unnerving, this is something important to consider when exploring the relationships between schools and larger corporations. This led Aurora to share a documentary with the class titled “Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood”, which sheds light on the impact of corporate companies influencing children at a young age to grow up into consumers of the products they are profiting off of. Here is a short trailer for the documentary, while you can find the entire online version here.

So Where Do I Stand?

This debate has really opened my eyes and given me a lot to think about! Both Liz and Shaleen made some great arguments supporting their stance on the topic and the class discussions only further complicated my decision making process. In my opinion, this is another one of those debates where each question posed brought forth several other questions to consider. Much of what was discussed and argued in this debate boiled down to a larger overarching issue of a lack of government funding for schools, as well as unethical use of funds provided. This then leads to the ultimate question as to who is to blame? It would be easy to place all the blame on the government, making the claim that if they would provide adequate funds then schools would not have to resort to corporate funding and sponsorship to provide their students with the tools, resources and support they need for a proper education. However, Katia also raised an interesting question in regards to what role do schools play in all of this? Are they the helpless victims here? Or do they have the responsibility to fight back and find other ways to get money? These are questions that are not easy to answer and that is why I struggled so much with choosing a side for this debate. In the end, I ended up sticking with my initial belief and voted that public schools are indeed selling their souls to corporate interest. After weighing all the points made by both debaters, as well as the class, I feel as if corporations rarely ever have students’ and schools’ best interests in mind and that is something that I think is dangerous when it comes to education. In my mind, the students needs and interests should always be a main priority, so for companies to manipulate these needs in order to turn a profit and benefit themselves seems to be very concerning to me. Yes, I do agree that corporate funding provides many amazing opportunities for schools that otherwise would not have access to said opportunities, but where do we draw the line? Corporate funding is a rather slippery slope in which schools can get caught up in. Again, maybe if the government provided the appropriate funding for schools in the first place then this would not be such a hot topic of discussion. Just a little food for thought!

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

Final Thought:

I wanted to close this post with one final thought that has been bouncing around in my head since the debate took place. Shaleen mentioned how when it comes to schools deciding what companies to team-up with, the teachers have a say and can provide their opinions. While this a good point and is likely true, to what degree are these opinions actually being considered? There is no one who knows the students and their needs better than teachers, so why don’t teachers have more of a say in matters such as which corporations a school will work with and how the money they receive will be spent? To me, this seems like a missed opportunity to truly make a difference in schools. Teachers have the power to advocate for their students, but when they aren’t listened to or given this opportunity, who is really benefiting in the end? The corporations, that’s who.

Thanks for reading this week’s blog post! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic! Don’t be afraid to leave a comment or question below!

Until next week,

Lauren Sauser

 

Social Media & Childhood: Searching For Balance

This week’s EDTC 400 class was one that I had been waiting for all semester, as it was finally my turn to take on the role of debater in the class’s 6th EdTech Debate! In this debate, I went head-to-head against my fellow classmate and friend, Kylie Lorenz! The topic of the debate this week was “is social media ruining childhood”. I stood to represent the “agree” side of this debate, arguing that social media is indeed ruining childhood, with Kylie taking on the “disagree” side. Not only was this debate a lively one, but it also brought forth some very thought-provoking points and raised some great questions that caused me to rethink the way that I look at the role of social media in the lives of children. I knew that this was going to be a very divisive topic and I was honestly surprised to see that I had just over half of the classes support before entering the debate, as shown in the pre-vote results below! It’s a very bold statement to make in saying that social media is ruining childhood and therefore I knew that many of my classmates would really need to put some thought into it before they casted their votes!

Pre-vote Results

Since the results were nearly split down the middle, I knew it was going to be an interesting and close debate! In my own personal research, I came across so many pros and cons for each side and therefore I was prepared for Kylie to make some great arguments! I will now outline my arguments, as well as the arguments provided by Kylie to provide an overview of the debate as a whole!

My Main Arguments (The “Agree” SIde)

Unlike many of the other debates that have taken place in EDTC 400 so far, I was able to start this debate off strongly supporting one side. Personally, I am not a huge fan of social media and never really have been. While I do recognize the benefits of having social media, many of which I will share from Kylie’s debate, I have always seen the negatives as outweighing the positives, especially with regards to the use of social media by children. As I stated in my debate, children are beginning to engage in social media at a younger age than ever before. While most social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, require users to be at least 13 years of age before signing up, one of the articles I shared with the class titled “Is New Technology and Social Media Ruining Our Children’s Lives?”, notes that over 75% of social media users ignore these age requirements. This is easy for children to do, as most of these website use a “honesty self-report” policy in which children can easily lie about their age. With all this being considered, I structured my debate around 4 key points as outlined in my debate video:

I will now take this opportunity to further explain and summarize the points discussed in my debate video, along with provide additional findings from my research on the topic!

1) Social Media Is Damaging to Children’s Mental Health: Throughout my research, I came across several articles, studies, and reports that address how social media is negatively affecting children’s mental health. These studies connected social media use to an increase in the rates of depression, anxiety, lowered self-esteem, hyperactivity, and several others mental health concerns as discussed in this article. While the impact that social media has on youth varies from individual to individual and depends on a variety of factors, research conducted in recent years has placed emphasis on a few key areas of concern when it comes to social media use in teens, including:

    • FOMO – FOMO, which stands for “Fear of Missing Out”, is a feeling of anxiety that is often felt by individuals (both children and adults) when they are exposed to online content that makes them feel as if they are missing out on something important that is going on in the lives of others. As explored in this article, FOMO is not something new that is seen within society, but it has become increasingly common in the lives of children since the rise of social media. Through social media, children have the ability to know what others are doing at all times, which leads to several mental health concerns, such as obsessive behaviour, lack of sleep, and others as mentioned above.
    • Facebook Depression – As defined in this research journal, Facebook Depression is a form of depression that often arises from children and youth spending extensive amounts of time on social media, such as Facebook. While the name emphasizes Facebook as being a major source of depression, all social media platforms have the potential to contribute to these symptoms, often leading to social isolation. With children beginning to spend more time on social media and engaging with it at a younger age, they are experiencing a greater exposure to these feelings of depression that often are difficult to detect early on.
Image by Simon on Pixabay
  • A Source for Social Comparison – Children and teens are constantly comparing themselves to others, seeing how they stack up in all areas of life. Through social media, children are provided with yet another platform for social comparison. In the article “The Dangers of Social Media That No One Likes to Admit”, Yousra Zaki identifies Instagram and Snapchat as being the most damaging platforms when it comes to social comparison, as they are very image-based. With these image-based platforms, it’s easy for children to compare their looks to others, when in reality the majority of the images shared online are heavily edited or filtered, leading to unrealistic expectations and poor self-image. Regardless of this knowledge, these social media sites continue to promote a “compare and despair” attitude, in which children compare themselves to others and focus on the ways in which they feel inferior.

In addition to being damaging to children’s mental health, social media use also has negative impacts on children’s physical health. The time children spend on social media is often at the expense of the time that could be used to enhance their physical health. As outlined by the Canadian Sedentary Guidelines, children ages 5-17 should spend no more than 2 hours of their day engaged in recreational screen time. Physical activity is an important component to children’s physical and mental health and with children spending increasingly more of their time on social media, they are often missing out on many positive childhood experiences, such as learning how to ride a bike, playing community sports, or simply taking their pet for a walk.

2) Social Media is Addictive & Making Children LESS Social: There is no denying that social media has become increasingly dominant in children’s lives, but while many view social media as simply being a part of their lives, social media addiction has become more common in children over the past ten years. The addictive properties of social media that are often overlooked cause children to obsess over it and make it their main priority. Many children have began to spend so much time on social media that it actually takes away from other childhood activities. Recent statistics from Common Sense Media report that the average 8-12 year old spends 6 hours per day online, with the average for teenagers jumping to a whopping 9 hours per day! Out of this portion of their online activity time, much of it is spend scrolling through social media. Compare these statistics to the information shared above by the Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines and it’s clear to see that children are spending over 3x the recommended amount of time online. In addition to social media addiction being a major concern for today’s youth, research has also found that while social media may have been created with the intent of increasing socialization, it does the exact opposite. As outlined in this article published by PSYCOM, many valuable life and social interaction skills, including empathy, communication and adaptability, require practice. More and more children are beginning to communicate with others by sending instant messages and pictures, liking posts, and tagging them in online content rather than speaking with them face-to-face. While this does allow for them to connect, it does not teach these children the essential life skills that will contribute to their well-being in life. If the way that children communicate with others continues to follow in this pattern, these children will grow into what Melissa Chalos refers to in her article as “socially-disabled” individuals, never having developed the social skills necessary for engaging in meaningful interactions with the world around them.

Image by ijmaki on Pixabay

3) Social Media Use Contributes to Digital Footprint & Privacy Concerns in Children: One of the biggest dangers associated with the increased use of social media by young children is that they have not yet developed the knowledge and understanding of the dangers that exist online, or as to how to appropriately conduct their online presence. Without having this knowledge, children are more likely to share and post inappropriate content and information about themselves for others to see, therefore leading to privacy concerns. Many social media sites ask for users to share information about themselves, including their birthday, where they live and go to school, their photos, and so on. While this may seem harmless, Yousra Zaki writes about how the sharing of this information can easily fall into the wrong hands and this is dangerous for children, especially when they are not yet aware of how to look out for those who may be targeting them online.  Additionally, many children are only starting to learn about the power of their digital footprint and how everything that is posted online can last for ever, regardless of whether or not they delete it. Further, as this article states, even if children are not posting pictures and information about themselves online, it is very likely that their friends are. All information shared about a child online, whether it be by them, their friends, family, teachers, or others, contributes to their digital identities and can affect them down the road. Children need to develop the knowledge and maturity necessary to responsibly and positively contribute to their digital identities and when children as young as 6 years old have their own social media accounts, it is unrealistic to expect them to have gained this understanding and be able to apply it to their online social media activity.

4) Social Media Facilitates & Fuels Cyberbullying: The final point that I discussed in my debate video was with regards to how social media facilitates and leads to an increase in cyberbullying.  Cyberbullying is not uncommon and it can happen to anyone, whether they do or do not have social media themselves. In my video, I discussed some statistics shared by Teen Safe, in which nearly 35% of children have admitted to being victims of cyberbullying and over 85% of children see cyberbullying happen on a regular basis. Cyberbullying provides a platform for children to bully others, in which children can say what they want when they want by hiding behind their devices. Often times, cyberbullying is done anonymously, which not only makes it permanent and harder to track, but also gives the children who cyberbully a sense of security in knowing that they likely will not get caught. With this element of deception that social media provides in mind, it is easy to see how more often than not, the children who bully others online do not engage in the same behaviours offline. As shared in the article “Cyberbullying: Social Media and Teen Depression”, extensive social media use negatively impacts the way that children think and feel about others. Due to social media providing so much distance between the person who is bullying and the person on the receiving end, many children experience a decrease in empathy that can be carried over into other aspects of their lives. Circling back to my first point, cyberbullying also leads to many negative mental health concerns, such as depression and anxiety. In extreme cases, cyberbullying can even lead to children taking their own lives. A well known example of cyberbullying leading to suicide involves a young girl named Amanda Todd, who posted a video online about her cyberbullying experience before taking her own life. Unfortunately, the story of Amanda Todd is not a rare one. Puresight provides insight into several true stories of cyberbullying that have lead to young individuals taking their own lives. With this rise of social media, cyberbullying and suicide rates have increased rapidly, which is yet another reason as to how social media is having a negative impact on children.

Image by johnhain on Pixabay 

Kylie’s Main Arguments (The “DIsAgree” SIde)

After having conducted my research and constructing a debate around the belief that social media is ruining childhood, I was interested to hear what Kylie had to say with her debate from the opposing perspective! Kylie did a great job with her debate, as she brought up several strong points that supported her stance on the topic! I found myself thinking that she was sharing some very logical arguments that I had not thought of myself during my research! Here is Kylie’s debate video, followed by a summary of the main points discussed in her side of the debate:

1) Social Media Opens Doors For Children: Kylie’s first point that she used to support her side of the debate was that social media provides countless opportunities for children to learn, explore, and be exposed to new experiences! She provided some great examples, such as the ability for children to explore things that they are passionate about and possibly even find a career path that they are interested in! As discussed in one of the articles shared by Kylie titled “5 Reasons Why Social Media Might Actually Be Good For Your Child” by Michael Sheehan, new “things” are being shared on social media all the time, which although can be dangerous, also provides an area for discovery. With the simply click of a button, children can access videos, posts, resources, and tools through social media that can allow for them to learn in ways that they otherwise would not be able to. This reminded me of my mentees who are currently in EDTC 300 and how they are using social media to learn new hobbies/skills. For my learning project, I learnt how to decorate cakes through watching videos on YouTube and following bakers on Instagram and Facebook. I was able to learn so much about something that I was passionate about without having to even leave my house or spend a single penny, which truly is amazing! With this in mind, Kylie also mentioned how taking away these opportunities for children to follow their passions and explore new things through social media would be depriving them of a powerful learning opportunity. In addition to these new possibilities, Sheehan identifies how social media also opens up doors for children to form, maintain, and grow relationships with others. Not only does social media allow for children to stay connected, but it also provides opportunities for collaboration, interaction, and socialization, all of which are important components to childhood!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

2) Social Media Gives Children A Platform for Taking a Stand: Another benefit of social media use for children that Kylie discussed in her debate was that it provides them with a platform to take a stand, stay informed, and make their voices heard. In the article “5 Reasons You Don’t Need to Worry About Kids and Social Media”, Caroline Knorr explains how there are many positive that can come from children connecting, sharing, and learning online. Knorr shares how large social networks expose children to the issues that are being faced around the world and provides children with a voice to address these issues that they never had before. Through social media, young children can now have a larger impact and are beginning to make their mark on the world earlier than every before. This resource provides some amazing ways in which young children can have an impact through social media, whether it be supporting anti-bullying campaigns, raising money for charities, or simply standing up for their beliefs! “Youth and Social Media: Power to Empower?” addresses some specific social media campaigns that successfully engaged children, one of which being the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I recall participating in this challenge as a young teen, in which I recorded myself having ice water dumped on me and then uploaded the video along with my nominations for others to do the challenge and donate to the ALS foundation! This campaign utilized social media to get people of all ages involved in making a difference in the world, which is one way in which social media can be seen as benefiting children!

3) Social Media Promotes Mental Health Initiatives: While cyberbullying is a major concern when it comes to social media use and children, it is also important to recognize that social media also provides support and resources for those who are experiencing bullying. This topic is explored by Angela Barnes and Christine Laird in their article “The Effects of Social Media on Children”. In this article, Barnes and Laird mention how social media allows for children to seek help that they otherwise would not have access to without social media. This can be done anonymously and therefore children are able to receive the support they need without having to draw unwanted attention to themselves. Additionally, not all children come from homes that provide the emotional support they need, therefore turning to social media is often their most easily accessible option! To illustrate the power of social media platforms in promoting mental health initiatives, Kylie provided the example of the Bell Let’s Talk campaign that takes place each year in which Bell donates money to mental health initiatives every time someone tweets, texts, or posts using their hashtag. Without social media, campaigns like this could not have as large of a reach and children likely would not be able to contribute in the ways that they can today.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

4) Social Media is Unavoidable: Kylie‘s final debate point is one that I agree with 100%, and that was that social media is unavoidable. Social media is not “new” and it definitely is not a fad that will be going away any time soon. With that being said, Kylie made the argument that we might as well embrace social media use by youth rather than trying to fight it. This is a valid point to make, as I did mention in by debate how children are beginning to use social media at a younger age than ever before and are spending more time using social media than children did in the past. With this in mind, it is important to consider the role of education in children’s social media use. Kylie stated that rather than trying to avoid social media use with children, we should focus on teaching them how to use it appropriately. As outlined in “Teaching Kids to Be Smart About Social Media”, there are many things that parents and teachers can do to support children in using social media in responsible ways. One of the most important considerations to take is with regards to being open with children and letting them know that their online activity matters. By simply laying the foundation for safe social media activity, such as teaching children how to think before they post and the importance of privacy, children can then use these platforms in the most positive and effective ways possible.

Conclusion

This truly was a great debate to be a part of, as so many amazing points were brought up, leading me to question not only my stance, but also the question being debated. Before I dive into my final thoughts on the topic, I will share the results of the post-debate vote:

As you can see from the results, this was a debate that I did not win! However, I feel like I put up a good fight and considering how I was arguing in support of such a bold statement, I think it’s fair to assume that I had my work cut out for me! Kylie did a wonderful job with laying out her side of the debate and made some great arguments, as I have outlined above! I think that the class discussions were also very thorough, as I found that new questions were being raised every time the microphone was taken over by someone! This really made for an exciting and elaborate debate! Overall, the final results of the class vote were still quite close, which goes to show that this topic is a tricky one and from what I heard from my classmates, they really would have liked to have an “in the middle” voting option!

So Where Do I Stand?

Now that the debate that I have been waiting for all semester has come to an end, I find myself looking back and reflecting upon how I felt walking into the debate and how I feel now. Initially, I completely agreed with my side of the debate so I walked in thinking that my mind was pretty set. However, I cannot deny that Kylie and the class opened my eyes to some important considerations and clarifications that need to be made before making the claim that social media is ruining childhood. Some of these major areas include:

What is “Childhood”  & How is it Changing?
One consideration that was brought up was with regards to how we often romanticize the past, thinking that the childhood we experienced was so much better than the childhood that children are currently experiencing today. This is something that I had not considered before, but upon further reflection I see it as being very true! I cannot tell you how many times my mother has said to me “my childhood was so much tougher than yours” or “you guys aren’t experiencing childhood the way we used to…what a shame”. While these statements may be true, it is important to recognize that experiencing a childhood that differs greatly from the past is not necessarily a bad thing. Considering how the world is changing (and with it social media), maybe we need to accept the fact that childhood is changing as well. On the other hand, there is no denying that this generation of children are experiencing challenges that children of the past did not have to experience largely due to social media. For example, cyberbullying and suicide rates have increased immensely since the rise of social media, a topic I touched on in my debate. While bullying does occur both on and offline, cyberbullying is different than traditional bullying in the sense that it is easier to participate in and is harder to regulate. This is a form of bullying that children did not have to worry about in the past but have to worry about now, which can be seen as one way in which children face more struggles today than children did in past generations. In contrast, social media has allowed for children of this generation to stay more connected than children in previous generations, which could be viewed as one way in which children today have it easier than children in previous generations. There are so many pros and cons to be weighed and the scales always seem to be tipping back and forth!

Social Media Solves Problems, But It Also Causes Them:
As Kylie outlined beautifully in her debate, social media has the potential to provide children with support, power, and opportunities that they otherwise would not have access to. Additionally, Kylie discussed how social media can help aid in the solving of bigger issues, such as cyberbullying and providing mental health support. While I cannot deny that these are valid points, I could also argue that many of the problems that social media is helping to solve were partially caused by social media in the first place. For example, countless studies has linked social media use to depression and other mental health issues in youth, however social media also provides access to supports for dealing with mental health issues. The same goes for cyberbullying, where social media provides a place to obtain support when experiencing cyberbullying, but it also provides the platform for cyberbullying to occur in the first place. In this sense, social media can be seen as being a vicious cycle of problem causing and solving, which makes the topic so much harder to simply agree or disagree with!

Final Thoughts: a need for Education & Balance

At the end of the day, I do still maintain my belief that social media is having more negative impacts on childhood than positives. I simply cannot overlook how for every positive I come across when it comes to social media by children, I also find several negatives that outweigh these positives. I am a huge advocate for focusing on personal health and well-being and therefore to see all the negative ways that social media is impacting children’s mental and physical health makes it hard for me to jump on board with endorsing it. With this in mind, I feel it necessary to acknowledge that I am definitely not against social media use by children in general. I love how it has the power to connect people across the world, enhance learning and opportunities, and bring joy into the lives of those who use it. However, when considering how social media is currently being used by children and youth today, I do not feel like the majority of users are engaging with it in the most positive ways. Although I maintain this stance that the cons of social media in children’s lives outweigh the pros, I don’t think that it has to always be this way. In my opinion, children can engage in social media in a healthy and positive way if two key considerations are taken into account:

Education:
I feel that many of the negative social media impacts and experiences that children have can be attributed to a lack of experience and understanding, which is where we as educators can step in and help provide that education that children need to be conscious and responsible social media users. Kylie touched on this in one of her debate points and I think it’s a very important point to be made. Of course children are going to engage in social media regardless of whether they are educated on it or not, which makes providing these educational opportunities so important. This involves teachers being willing to learn about social media and how it is changing so that they can support their students as they begin to explore it themselves. A perfect way to educate children about social media is by incorporating it into the classroom so that they gain first hand experience with using it in a safe and supportive environment. While this does not guarantee children will never encounter negative consequences of social media use, it does provide them with a deeper understanding of how to use it appropriately and ways in which they can cope with the dangers and downfalls they may experience online. This article provides some great ways in which teachers can incorporate social media into their classroom!

Balance:
Throughout this entire debate, I found myself agreeing with points made from both sides. Through hearing what my classmates had to say, the word that kept popping up in my mind was balance. I talked a lot about the negative impacts that too much social media use can have on children in my debate, while Kylie discussed how completely denying children the opportunity to have access to social media can also prevent them from experiencing many of the amazing opportunities it provides. Considering both sides of this debate, I have come to realize that we should not be looking at social media use as an “all or nothing” concept. While an over reliance and addiction to social media is not healthy, I do not think that the answer to solving these problems is to wipe social media out of the lives of children all together. Instead, we should be focusing on finding that middle ground where social media is a part of children’s lives, but is not their entire lives.

In summary, do I think that social media needs to be banned for all children and we need to revert back to the childhood that was experienced by the previous generations? Of course not! But do I think that we need to re-evaluate the way in which children are using social media and when they begin to use it? Definitely! Regardless of how we view social media, it’s a part of children’s lives and not something we can avoid, therefore I think it may be worth shifting our attention towards focusing on HOW children use social media rather than only focusing on its current impact. Social media places so much potential in the palms of children’s hands to change and impact their lives, but the way they choose to/are taught to use it will ultimately determine whether that impact is positive or negative!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Thanks for reading! I had so much fun with this debate and I am definitely glad that I got to try something new with this debate format! Please feel free to leave your thoughts/questions in the comment section below! I would love to hear what you think!

Lauren

 

The Great EdTech Debate: Social Media Ruining Childhood

In this week’s EDTC400 Great EdTech Debate, I will be going up against Kylie Lorenz, in which I will be arguing that social media is ruining childhood. This post will provide you with access to my debate video, required readings, as well as additional sources of information to further your understanding on the topic. I can’t wait to deliver my debate on Tuesday!

My Debate Video

Required Readings 

“Smartphones and Anxious Kids: Mental Health Issues and the iGeneration”
 This article by Melissa Riddle Chalos identifies the many ways in which smartphones and social media are impacting adolescents’ mental health. Chalos identifies how this generation of children, also known as Gen Z or the iGeneration, have lived their entire lives with smartphones and social media and therefore don’t know what life is like without them. The article addresses how everything adolescents and teens do now revolves around their smartphones and social media accounts, which leads to addiction, poor social skills, cyberbullying, depression, suicide and other negative physical and mental health concerns.

“Is New Technology and Social Media Ruining Our Children’s Lives?”
This article discusses the ways in which children of this generation are experiencing a childhood that differs greatly from the childhood that was experienced 20 years ago. The article explores how the popularization of technology and social media has changed the way children conduct their day-to-day lives. With children beginning to engage in social media at a younger age than ever before, the article addresses the dangers that these children are facing due to their early exposure and over reliance on social media.

“Cyberbullying: Social Media And Teen Depression”
This article by Mary Sauer explores the connection between social media use and cyberbullying. Sauer identifies how excessive exposure to social media increases the risks of cyberbullying and depression in children and teens. The article also provides suggestions as to how to combat these negative impacts of social media use through education, restrictions and privacy precautions. Sauer focuses on the role of the adults in children’s lives in monitoring and regulating social media use and cyberbullying.

Additional Articles

“Social Media and Teens: How Does Social Media Affect Teenagers’ Mental Health”
“The Dangers of Social Media That No One Likes to admit”
“Social Media Destroying Youth’s Lives”
“PureSight Online Child Safety – Real Life Cyberbullying Stories with Devastating Consequences”

Additional Viewings

“TedTalk: Teens and Social Media”
“Can We AutoCorrect Humanity?”