Week 3 of the Great EdTech Debate has come and gone and let me tell you, this was an interesting one thanks to the contributions of my EDTC 400 classmates! This week’s topic of debate focused on openness and sharing in schools and whether or not it is unfair to our students. My initial thoughts on the topic? Well i’m glad you asked! After reading the topic, the first thing that came to mind was a feeling of uncertainty, as the idea of openness and sharing in schools has always been something that has been considered “normal” to me. For as long as I can remember, the school I attended always shared our work online, whether it be through blogs, Facebook pages, emails, or other online platforms for communication. With this in mind, I could not relate to the belief that openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids and was therefore drawn towards the disagree side of the debate. Based on the pre-vote results, the large majority of my classmates took the same stance as me, with just under 90% of the class voting against the statement that openness and sharing is unfair to our kids. After the debate was completed, the post-vote showed a significant shift in positions, with the debate ending in a 50/50 split! The results literally could not have been any closer! The class was now divided down the middle thanks to the thought-provoking points made by both debaters! I will now take the time to outline the major arguments made for each side of this debate, as well as provide my own perspective following the debate and further research on the topic.
Arguments for the “Pro” Side
The pro side of this debate argued that openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids. The advocate for addressing the injustice that students face due to schools sharing their information online was Ashley, who had her work cut out for her following the results of the pre-vote. Contrary to the class beliefs, Ashley was able to lay out a very convincing debate addressing how although technology has become increasingly popular and is utilized in the classroom in many positive ways, there are also many issues concerning the impact that sharing students work online has, several of which I will address below.
- Student consent is not always considered: In Ashley’s opening statement video, she began by addressing how schools often require parent consent before sharing their child’s
information/work online, however they don’t always ask the students themselves for permission. Often time parents will consent to their child’s information or work being shared online, however this does not mean that the student is also comfortable with this sharing. Kerry Gallagher identifies how there are a number of reasons why students may not be comfortable with their information being shared online in this article. Some of these concerns include a fear that their work will be copied, the desire to keep their ideas to themselves, as well as a fear of a loss of privacy. While this article also addresses how some students want their work to be shared with others, it stresses the importance of giving students a voice and the power to make this decision for themselves, which leads to the next debate point…
- Teachers are controlling their students digital footprints: When a student’s information is shared online, it quickly becomes a part of their digital footprint, which Technopedia defines as a trace of an individual’s online activity at any point in time, including activities, actions and communications. This means that the information or work that schools share about their students can quickly become a part of a student’s digital footprint and follow them throughout their lifetime. Students, like all individuals, should have the right to form their own digital footprint and have in a say in what they share online once they are educated on how to appropriately conduct their online presence. This education in the area of digital footprints is essential for students, as addressed by Kathleen Morris in this article. When teachers post without the student’s permission, they are contributing to the student’s digital footprint. This denies students the opportunity to shape their own digital identity in a way that they desire and are educated on.
- Sharing students work online can lead to bullying and embarrassment: Cyberbullying is a huge issue in society today and as Ashley cited in her video, Statistics Canada’s cyberbullying statistics state that 1 out of every 5 individuals ages 15-29 have experienced cyberbullying. When schools share students information online, this can potentially expose them to an increased likelihood of cyberbullying. Additionally, Web Wise identifies that posting students images and information online can lead to unintentional embarrassment, as this content can be misinterpreted or misused by those who come across it.
- Teachers are putting students in the public eye: Privacy, whether it be online, in real life, or any setting, is something that all students should have the right to control. By posting
students information online, teachers are putting students into the public eye. While privacy setting are beneficial, questions have been raised as to just how private these privacy settings are. Robert Merkel’s article “There’s no such thing as privacy on the internet anymore” provides insight into the many barriers to privacy that currently exist on the internet and how just because you set your settings to private that doesn’t mean you are safe. With this lack of privacy comes some concerns, many of which were mentioned above, including plagiarism and bullying. This article by PureSight also identifies how students images can be misused in negative or inappropriate ways. For example, consider children whose images have become meme’s. While these photos may provide a laugh, they don’t take into consideration how these children will feel when they grow up and discover this, leading to further embarrassment. PureSight also identifies how online sharing can bring about safety concerns if a student’s locations is shared online for anyone to access. This could result in students being targeted.
Arguments for the “con” Side
The other side of this debate focused on positive aspects of openness and sharing in schools. Although the debate opened by identifying some of the dangers related to sharing student’s information online, there are also many benefits that can arise from this sharing and openness. Dryden led this portion of the discussion, identifying some great points in regards to these benefits and how sharing student’s information online is becoming an asset to education in general, allowing for the development of more opportunities and opening doors for the development of strong school-home relationships.
- The foundation of teaching is sharing: Dryden’s opening statement video began by identifying the important role of sharing in teaching. The sharing of knowledge and experiences is the very bedrock of teaching and education. In Chapter 6 of the book “Game Changers”, David Wiley and Cable Green address how education cannot occur without sharing. This sharing refers to the school, teacher, the students themselves, parents, and all those involved in an individual’s education. One of the characteristics of a good teacher is having the ability to share knowledge effectively and with a purpose. Anyone can share information online, but a good teacher is able to share in ways that are beneficial to the students and their learning, as well as in ways that benefit others. When teachers exhibit sharing, students are then encouraged to do the same, which can lead to enhanced learning, connections, and opportunities.
- Importance of being open in the classroom: Openness is another important component to learning and education in general. Openness involves developing open and welcoming relationships between teachers, students, and parents, therefore forming stronger relationships that promote sharing, acceptance, curiosity, and ultimately, trust. In this article, Brian Gatens identifies openness as one of the five main pillars of trust, along with kindness, reliability, competence, and honesty. Trust is an extremely important component in education and sets the stage for learning and the development of safe and effective environments in which students can feel comfortable to express themselves and thrive. Effective openness and trust go hand and hand and you cannot have one without the other. It is also important to recognize that openness also involves the ability to adapt to differences and the information that students share. Routines may be ideal, but teachers cannot rely on every day to bring about the same activities, challenges, and experiences in regards to openness and sharing, hence the need for adaptability.
- Importance of documented learning: Sharing students’ work online is a way of documenting their learning for assessment purposes, to show progression, to receive recognition, and connect with parents or those close to students. Parents are always curious as to what their children are working on in the classroom and while projects are often sent home, there is no guarantee that they make it into the hands of parents. This is where online documentation can benefit parents, students and teaches alike. In this document on pedagogical documentation, Dr. Terry Campbell and colleagues support this emphasis on the importance of documentation by identifying how it has a powerful affect on all aspects of learning, as it supports, encourages and inspires learners to examine their thinking, feeling and beliefs about themselves and how they learn. Making documentation digital can work to enhance these experiences in ways that regular documentation cannot, such as allowing for information to reach a larger audience, receiving immediate feedback, making instant connections, and several other aspects that are unique to online documentation, all of which can enhance the learning experience of students.
- The keys to success: Dryden ended his debate by summarizing the key components to education, including communication, trust and adaptability. These three components are interrelated and work together to influence a child’s learning experience. Sharing and openness in the classroom provides numerous opportunities and benefits to students if these three components are met and adhered to.
While I began this debate in support of openness and sharing in the classroom, my eyes have been opened to the many ways in which this could be perceived as unfair to students. Both debaters made some great arguments and I found myself agree with statements that both of them made. So where do I stand? After considering all the arguments made and the discussions that were had among the debaters and the class, I still maintain the belief that openness and sharing in the classroom is extremely beneficial to students IF it is done in an appropriate and respectful manner. I feel that students should have a say in what is shared about them online, however teachers also need to recognize that students are not always educated or responsible enough to understand the consequences of their actions and implications that their online activity can have. For that reason, I feel that the first step all teachers should take is to educate students in regards to online activity and identities so that they can make informed decisions about what and how they want to contribute to their digital identities.
The question here is so much more complex that “should we or should be not share students information online”. This question requires us to consider:
- Who is sharing the information?
- Who is the information being shared with?
- What is the purpose of sharing this information?
- How is the information being shared?
Answering these questions may be different depending on the student, teacher, parents, and/or school. Not all students will feel the same way about having their information online and this extends to parents as well. While some students may be excited to share their information and work with the world, others may want to share their information with a select group of people online and not make it publicly accessible for all. The motivation or purpose of sharing information online may also vary from student to student, whether it be to get others input, to receive recognition, or so on. Finally, the method in which information is shared will also vary. This may involve having to focus on sharing students work anonymously or without being able to identify the student in the images, or it could be very direct. This is all very situational and is all about finding a balance. In my opinion, while there are definitely steps and considerations that need to be taken into account, there is no single correct way to share student’s information online. I do feel that no matter how you get to the point of sharing, that sharing and openness in classroom has more benefits than drawbacks. Sharing provides a platform for students to express themselves, connect with others, be heard, and sets students up for their future. Lets face it, in this day and age being able to find someone online is considered to be important and while students may not understand that at a young age, they can begin to explore the idea of forming their online identities in a safe and supporting environment. To summarize some of these major points and understand the ways in which teachers and schools can ensure safe and responsible sharing, check out these “10 Internet Safety Tips for Schools and Teachers”.
Recommended Topics to Explore:
In closing, I would like to share a few apps/programs that were shared with our class by Professor Katia Hildebrant:
- #Comments4Kids – This is a hashtag in which teachers can share their students work in order to get feedback and recommendations from others. This hashtag works according to the belief that connecting and collaborating with others can lead to learning benefits for all students.
- Kid Blog – a blogging platform in which students blogs are aggregated under a teacher blog, allowing for the teacher to have control while still giving students a platform to express themselves.
That’s all for this post! Thank you for reading and I would love to hear what you think about this topic! Feel free to leave your comments, critiques and questions below!
Until next time!