Author Archives: Katherine Mihial

Do educators have a responsibility for developing students’ digital footprints?

I believe that educators have a responsibility to teach digital citizenship in schools. However, how students present their digital footprints online is out of teachers’ control for the most part. Can we influence what they might post in the future? Hopefully. But, most of our students already have a digital footprint. By digital footprint, I am referring to what information can be collected on any student by researching them in online databases. Students who enter kindergarten might even already have a digital footprint because their parents have been posting about them on social media for the first five years of their lives. By the time students reach middle school they have usually created at least one type of account whether it be on social media, video games, and most commonly, school email addresses.

Parents have a very large role in teaching their children about their digital footprint. Most commonly, they will be teaching this by example. Most children are growing up with parents who also have their own personal digital footprint and they are going to look to their parents as role models for what that might look like. Education for parents around digital footprints and our digital identities is crucial for our students understanding of it.

Many families don’t understand documents such as media release forms and digital contracts that are often used in schools. Parents must give permission to schools to post pictures and school work of their child on school platforms and public platforms. There is often a lack of understanding of what those documents actually mean. People can feel that their information is going to be given out or that their privacy isn’t going to be protected. They often feel forced to have a digital identity at school and in the workplace.

Growing up I was always made aware that what you post online will stay out there forever. Even if you think that you can delete it, that is not always the case. I believe that I learned that from both my parents and my teachers and I didn’t have formal digital citizenship education like students do now. I remember being in high school and always thinking to myself that my parents would kill me if I ever posted pictures or posts involving illegal activities, bullying or just inappropriate content for a teenager. But, I was probably one of the few kids who actually had my parents on Facebook. Maybe that was the way that my mom kept tabs on me haha. Then, in university, I was constantly being told by professors and instructors to keep my social media clean and private, because it could be used against me in a job interview in the future.

Teachers have very limited resources currently and it often feels like we are experiencing an uphill battle when it comes to teaching digital citizenship alongside parents. Through digital citizenship education, we can teach students to be more aware of their digital footprint and the impact that it can have on them. We can’t however be expected to develop, mould or shape their digital footprint for them.

The Advantages & Disadvantages of Online Learning

Now, I may be a tad biased because my group was arguing that “Online learning is not detrimental to the social and academic development of children.” For this blog post, I will be able to share a bit from both sides.

Online learning provides unique opportunities for those with any type of disability both visible and invisible. Accessibility is often one of the most challenging barriers for students to be able to attend school in person, and this is heightened even more with a disability. It helps accommodate those that require physical adaptations, flexible schedules, assistive technology, and one-one support. Students that may be struggling with their mental health can take advantage of online learning to best support their differing needs during different chapters of their lives. Students who have difficulty attending school in person on a regular basis can experience much greater success and build a sense of community in an online space. The freedom to participate in online school just about anywhere around the world with an internet connection is bringing education to places we never dreamed possible.

Disabilities

Students who have physical, chronic, or mobility issues benefit from the convenience of taking courses online due to accessibility issues in many facilities such as physical space, access to support, or equipment that is compatible. Those with visual impairments may find it easier to log on to a computer to report to class than to make the trip to school. People with hearing impairments often use a number of technological accommodations, many of which fit nicely with the online learning platform. In addition, one of the primary benefits of online education for students with learning disabilities is the ability to work at their own pace and review materials and video lectures as needed. For students with certain types of disabilities, like dyslexia and visual processing disorder, the ability to manipulate digital texts by changing the font style or size can help them process and retain written information.

Mental Health

Online learning also benefits students tremendously for those struggling with their mental health. Students, particularly those with severe anxiety, depression, or mood disorders may feel more comfortable working in the comfort of their own homes rather than in a large classroom setting. Online learning can ease the pressures of bullying and harassment and can help support students during challenging periods of their adolescents. Others can appreciate the freedom to tend to school work whenever they feel up to it and around therapy or other appointments.

Travelling

As well, many families experience transient lifestyles depending on employment, family dynamics, participation in sports or the arts, and travel preferences. Some students miss a lot of school if they are consistently travelling or moving from place to place frequently. Students in these situations can take advantage of online learning and have a consistent school experience and sense of community where ever they are. Parents that travel frequently for work can spend more time with their children. Student-athletes and performers benefit from the flexibility of online learning to fit their training schedules. Separated families that have parents living far away from each other can spend longer periods of time visiting.

Customized

Online learning also allows for a customizable experience that is flexible and promotes the development of online tech skills. Both my students and I as a teacher improved tremendously over the past two years regarding online skills for the classroom and assessment. I am much more comfortable navigating online classroom spaces both from my experience teaching and being a student in my master’s courses. I wouldn’t even be completing my master’s right now if it weren’t for an online option since I live out of town from Regina. I also save so much money by not having to travel to the University of Regina, pay for parking and most likely spending money on food and snacks as well because I wouldn’t be able to go home for supper in between.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZsvsZ0Au4A

Some do not benefit from online learning and that is okay. They do not feel like they are taking advantage of the full learning experience without being in a traditional classroom setting. Some don’t have reliable internet access. Some just prefer to be in-person versus meeting through Zoom. As Chris mentioned in our presentation, learning options should be treated like a buffet, the more choices the better. Online learning is not replacing in-person learning, but it certainly is a great alternative for some.

Social Media Ruining Childhood? Maybe. Maybe Not.

Wow! What incredible presentations for this evening’s debate. My first initial thought on this debate question was that no, social media is not ruining childhood. Watching the videos only furthered my beliefs.

Social media is ruining childhood just like the television, cellphones and the print press did for previous generations. We are often fearful of change and believe that if youth don’t have the same experiences that we did or our parents did, they are missing out. If the skill of swimming was discovered only twenty years ago, we would still be deciding what size pool is safest for kids and how slowly you should walk on the pool deck so you don’t slip. The rapid pace of change that we are experiencing as a society with the evolution of social media is one of the main factors as to why parameters around social media use have been such a challenge to establish for both children and adults. In addition, some parents need to stop romanticizing their childhoods and spend less time booking their children’s schedules and more time engaging in unstructured play.

Jennifer’s analogy about children learning how to swim really hit home with me. Many children start learning how to swim from a young age as little as just one year old, and it can take many years before they go swimming alone, unsupervised or without any guidance. This is a perfect comparison with using technology and social media. If we as teachers and parents want our children to be strong and independent tech and social media users, we have to guide them through the learning process of how to navigate the online waters in a safe way so that in the future, they will be able to build their independence. Hence, teaching all aspects of digital citizenship that is age-appropriate. There are many dangers involved with learning how to swim as a child, and that is why there is supervision and boundaries set to keep children safe and enjoy the learning experience. Just like parents, schools and social media companies have a responsibility to engage children with social media with boundaries, limits and laws to protect them.

When I was growing up I was handed social media without any parental guidance or true understanding of the risks. To no fault of my parents, but I was learning much faster than they were. I was fortunate enough to have previously developed critical thinking and decision-making skills outside of social media. I was able to identify if something felt off or potentially dangerous. However, not all children are in this position.

I also really gravitated to the disagree side because they mentioned how previous childhoods looked much different than today, and that is okay. Every childhood from generation to generation is going to have differences or else we wouldn’t be evolving as a society. Today’s children now live in three worlds: the real world, the imaginary world, and now, more increasingly, the virtual/mobile screen world. Many children seek out online friendships and relationships because they aren’t able to find those connections in their schools and communities. Many students feel isolated in school or with their families because they aren’t given the opportunities to connect with others to whom they relate with. Those that are marginalized often in smaller communities can feel like they don’t belong and struggle to feel accepted. The online community can sometimes be the only place where they can seek refuge and feel welcomed and empowered. They can explore different communities in a safe space that might not even exist for them IRL.

Social media is here to stay and it has already made a gigantic impact on all ages. Moving forward, teaching age-appropriate digital citizenship is essential for our children to be able to navigate social media and the online world so they can be prepared for independent use. We don’t throw a sixteen-year-old in a car for the first time when they are of age to take their driver’s exam. We prepare them for a couple of years beforehand with guidance and practice so that they can take off the training wheels and take their test with confidence. Having kids use safe and parent or teacher-guided platforms that are closely monitored and highly secure allow children to practice the skills of social media before they venture out into the world of Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok by themselves.

In university, I took a handful of outdoor education classes at the U of R. I was fascinated by our required reading “Last Child in The Woods – Nature-Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv. As students, this book was almost gospel for us. Or, that’s at least the way our instructor made it feel haha. If you ever had Nick Forsberg or any of the other wonderful outdoor education seminar leaders then you know what I am talking about! Nature-Deficit Disorder is a non-medical term coined by journalist Richard Louv to describe the growing disconnect he observed between people and nature. He indicates that people, especially children, are spending increasingly less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of physical, mental health and behavioural problems. However, we can not solely blame technology and social media for this. When you compare Canada or the United States to northern European countries such as Denmark or Sweden, the society’s culture around their way of life and what they value is much different than here. Denmark and Sweden have full access to social media, but their approach to how they balance it with family time and being outdoors is vastly different.

I still have my copy sitting on my bookshelf!

The dilemma that I often experience as a teacher is balancing the responsibility of teaching and modelling digital citizenship with parents. Not all families have the same knowledge base on social media use and children are coming to school on both ends of the spectrum. Some students are not allowed to use social media at all because parents are afraid of the negative effects of social media, and others use it freely without any guidance or parameters and directly experience the negative side effects of social media. I hope that these conversations will evolve into integrating a digital citizenship curriculum into Saskatchewan schools. As teachers, we are enhancing learning in the classroom with technology and social media and we know students are coming with various skills. I also hope that this can be better communicated with parents so that certain standards can be established amongst communities for the betterment and safety of our children’s digital futures.

B.Y.O.D.

Cellphones should be banned from the classroom. Yes or no?

So many perspectives to consider on this debate question! I have many personal experiences that I am drawing from both as a student, and as a teacher.

I will begin by sharing my experience as a student with a cellphone. For my entire kindergarten to grade eight schooling, I did not have a personal cellphone. Around grade six I remember my friends and other students started bringing iPods, digital cameras and flip phones to school. Oh, those were the days when you needed all three. Very quickly, rules around cellphone use in school were very much zero tolerance. It would be taken away at first sight and a parent would have to come to pick it up from the office at the end of the school day. Did this stop us from using them during the unsupervised time? Absolutely not.

As I transitioned into high school I was given my first cellphone. The rules were:

  1. Always answer the phone when mom or dad is calling or texting.
  2. Do not rack up over charges on the phone bill.
  3. Do not send mean and inappropriate messages to others.

If I did any of these items mentioned above, I would have my phone taken away for a period of time as punishment. As a pretty level-headed and responsible teenager, I think I only had my phone taken away once, but I know this is not always the norm for others. Did I sneak some text messages during classes throughout the day? For sure. But, I also never let my grades slip due to distractions or lack of focus because of cellphone use. This can be said for my experience in university as well. Knowing how to engage with cell phones appropriately is an important life skill. Mobile phones can be silenced during class or study periods, and active only in appropriate places. For the most part, these were pretty basic but important rules about having a cellphone. However, the capabilities of smartphones compared to my LG Rumor and Blackberry are vastly different and require a lot of different guidance and privacy protections.

Gosh I felt like the coolest person on the planet with this phone!

When I walked into my very first grade 6 teaching job five years ago it was an entire school-wide rule that students were not to use cell phones during the school day. From 9:00-3:35 cellphones are in backpacks, cellphone homes or left at home. It made for a much easier transition into learning my philosophy around classroom management and not having to manage students becoming distracted or in trouble for using a personal device at school. Did it eliminate all cellphone problems? Nope. But, it drastically reduced them compared to other colleagues in different buildings. Since then, my classroom policy has always been no cellphones. We have access to an entire laptop cart that we share with one other classroom. I’ve always told students that anything they think they want to do on their cellphone for school, can be done using a student device. I also have found that only about half of my students actually have cellphones that they regularly bring to school as well. However, that doesn’t mean that I won’t ever allow cell phones in the future, especially if I ever end up teaching an older grade or have less access to devices. While the problems with cellphones in school are valid, and clear consequences for misuse should be enforced, implementing a blanket policy forbidding the resource altogether would be severely counter-intuitive and unrealistic!

Recently, I have been letting my students use their cellphones for certain activities where they were required to take pictures of videos because the quality is so much better. I spent an entire lesson discussing with my students how there is a time and a place for using personal devices. If students have clear parameters around what they are using cell phones for, they are more likely to respect the regulations around them. Just like social media and digital citizenship, we have to teach students how to responsibly use cell phones in a learning environment. These skills will transfer into their extra-curricular experiences and their future employment opportunities. Sam Kery, from the New Ed Tech Classroom on Youtube, points out that encouraging cellphone use in the class can promote more engaging lessons, and can teach students how to use the app versions of different platforms. There is more potential for digital creations and the opportunity to share and connect with others.

At the end of the debate, I did end up switching my vote from agreeing to disagree and I think that many others in the class felt the same way as well. Let me know your personal thoughts or experiences with cellphones in the classroom both positive and maybe not so positive!

Social Justice through Social Media? For Teachers?

This debate topic felt very personal to me as I reflect on how I use social media both as a personal consumer and as a professional as well. I have sort of selected which social media platforms are for my personal use, and which are for my professional use. I use Twitter, Discord and WordPress to share my professional thoughts and reflections and they are public for anyone to search. Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram are all set to private accounts and it is only used to communicate with my friends and family. Tiktok is one account that I actually let my students follow because it is an account created just for our Valley Ridge Retrievers account. During the height of Covid-19, I was enjoying creating Tiktoks with our dogs and the litters of puppies that we had.

When it comes to using social media as a medium for social justice, I believe that it is an extremely powerful tool for creating and spreading awareness quickly to a large audience. For example, movements such as Black Lives Matter spread like wildfire because of the impact social media has on our communities. When it comes to my personal participation in social justice on social media, I am starting to realize that I might fall under the category of “Slactivism” as Brook and Dalton mentioned in their presentation. I very often will “like” and “share” posts on Facebook and Instagram related to various issues such as women’s rights, Indigenous rights, gun violence, and pride just to name a few. However, I would not say that this act of liking and sharing on social media is considered “Social Media Activism” as an act on its own. Genuine social media activism goes beyond the hashtag.

How am I a social justice activist? I hope that the conversations and lessons that I have with my students are making an impact on them and our communities. We very often will have group discussions surrounding current events and dive into some of the systemic issues that we face in our society that lead to inequalities and mistreatment of others. If anything, the activism that I engage myself in on social media is often sparking my interest to initiate these conversations with my students and explore these issues in a learning environment where my students can feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and experiences if they want to. Should educators express their political opinions in the classroom? “The majority of educators do feel that it is necessary to talk about the political happenings dominating the news coverage. Key issues such as race, gender equality and LGBTQ rights have been at the forefront of many student discussions outside of the classroom, which can lead to misinformation very quickly.” – Persaud, Education World Contributor.

To tie back to the initial debate topic statement, teachers should promote social justice on social media responsibly.

Now, I am sure Katia wrote this statement in this way for a certain reason because it can be interpreted in a few different ways. The first way that I can view this question is that if teachers are promoting social justice through a social media platform then yes, they should do so, responsibly. Teachers are often ridiculed for sharing their thoughts on certain issues online especially if they do not align with the beliefs of their school or the community that surrounds them. Teachers are often attacked because society believes that they should be neutral when it comes to political issues because parents don’t want educators to be pushing a specific agenda on their kids. In recent years I quickly became familiar with the term “Indoctrination” being used against teachers. However, staying neutral or silent is also a form of oppression all on its own. Ultimately, any institution that is government-funded is automatically political. In the spring 2021 semester, I took the course called “Politics of Education” and there is simply no escaping it. Dunn states in an article titled, “Is political neutrality in a classroom actually neutral?” and he concluded that, “education is inherently political. Choosing to maintain the status quo and further continue to marginalize certain groups.”

In comparison, one could read this statement as “Teachers should be required to promote social justice on social media, responsibly.” This is where alarm bells started going off in my head because my first thought was, that there are still so many working teachers that still have not decided to engage in social media for whatever reason it may be and don’t even have accounts that exist. The choice of whether or not to use social media is a personal one and I believe it should definitely stay that way within the workplace of teachers. I know that teachers are promoting social justice within their classrooms. They have been before social media existed and they will continue to do so even afterwards as well.

I applaud and support the educators that are courageous enough to use social media as a medium for social justice. Those that are comfortable standing up on a digital platform are helping to push boundaries and make real changes for the future of our students. Sometimes teachers shouldn’t be neutral. Most of the Politically charged rhetoric we hear is not an intellectual exercise. It’s not a theoretical debate. These are real-life incidents impacting actual humans on a regular basis. Unfortunately, some educators can feel caught in situations where they can’t always take the risks associated with certain activism due to not aligning with the values and beliefs of their employer or potentially risk tarnishing their reputation in a community which could result in losing their position.

Is Cursive Going Out of Style?

To quote Dr. Taylor Swift – Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, “when we (technology) go crashing down, we (teachers) come back every time ’cause we (basic skills) never go out of style. “

Basic skills such as spelling, mental math, and cursive, should not be replaced by technology. Entirely. It is very easy for adults to forget what the learning process of these skills feels like. Try to imagine right now not knowing your multiplication facts, not knowing how to sign your name, and constantly being ridiculed for your spelling. Having to solely rely on technology to perform these skills can often leave you feeling dependent and at a loss if you can not access them. Do these tools offer additional support for those that struggle to learn these skills on a basic level? Absolutely. However, the ability to fall back on a learned skill when at school, in the workplace, or in everyday life can be a great asset when technology fails us.

(This time around I made sure to try out the tip that Dalton, Leah and Kelly gave me about how to add pictures into my blog post differently. For this photo, I added a column block and split it 30/70 and I was able to add a photo to the left and then a text box to the right. Yay for learning new things about WordPress blogging!)

In addition, learning these basic skills can promote creativity and spark personal interest. For example, a student who learns cursive in school may end up pursuing calligraphy or visual arts and might not have ever tapped into their full creative potential. Fine motor development at a young age is also extremely beneficial for all fine motor activities that we perform in all areas of our life. Students who are quick to memorize their multiplication facts and can apply that skill to their problem-solving abilities might feel drawn toward the maths and sciences. And like the debate mentioned, companies who consistently have spelling mistakes often suffer great consequences in their sales. Those with spelling mistakes on their resumes miss out on opportunities based on a first impression judgement.

I personally have always printed. But I have no issue reading cursive writing because I understand it. I remember being forced to handwrite everything in grade 5 and absolutely hating it. Once we all moved into the 6th grade we were relieved that we were able to switch back to printing. I always enjoyed practicing my signature growing up. I made it through university being able to handprint notes and still keep up with the lecture. And I do value the effect that handwritten notes had on my learning capabilities versus those typed out.

In Educhatter’s article about Mathematic Deficits, Fredericton’s manager of Kumon Math and Reading operation quotes, “There’s a widening gap says Connell. She finds that students do not know their fractions, and can not do long division or basic subtraction and borrowing operations. Students don’t have the skills at hand to engage in problem-solving and higher-level math.”. I see this as a teacher myself. It seems that students are memorizing their multiplication facts later and later. I believe I had mine memorized by the end of fourth grade. I currently teaching 6th and 7th graders that struggle to remember their times tables and rely on their multiplication chart in their agendas and use calculators. I know that once they move up into the higher grades, it is going to take them much longer to complete higher-level questions, and potentially get lost along the way.

In contrast, Edutopia’s article written by Tom Berger on “What we lose with the Decline of Cursive” shares that cursive is historically associated with good character and virtue. These skills supported the qualities of an “Ideal Christian”. Is cursive writing just another way to separate society into classes? Those who can and can not handwrite? With the evolution of the typewriter, however, the decline of cursive writing has been steady. And, thanks to computers and smartphones, now more than ever we are seeing cursive writing removed from school curriculums where they are most frequently taught.

I would like to point out that as an adult I actively only use printing except when spelling my name, use calculators when doing mental math, and always use Grammarly spelling check when typing. These tools enhance my ability to check for errors and ease these processes. Could I manage without them? Yes. But, at this point in time, I don’t have to go without them, so I might as well take advantage of them while I have access to them. I still went through the valuable learning process of understanding the cursive alphabet, spelling and grammar practice and understanding my multiplication tables. When my grandma writes me a handwritten card for my birthday I am able to read it and cherish those memories. When I am writing my own thoughts on paper I can spell my words correctly for others to understand and proofread well, and I can fall back on mental math when a calculator is not right in front of me.

I have struggled as a relatively new teacher as to whether or not I should be doing weekly spelling tests and mad minute practice sheets with my students. Part of me thinks I am failing my students if I don’t, and the other is telling me that it might not benefit them in the long run. And that there might be other ways to learn these skills other than drill and practice. What are your thoughts?

Has Technology Led to Greater Equity in Society?

There are many factors to take into consideration when adressing the question of whether or not technology has led to greater equity in society. I apologize in advance for the lenghtly post, but there are so many items to tackle. Some specific variables to consider in this debate include geographic location, socioeconomic status, access, funding, and professional development opportunities. Here is North America, is it very easy to view this issue through rose coloured glasses since technology is readily available to so many either in their personal or professional lives. However, the inequalities lie right within our own neighbourhoods.

This debate covered a vast amount of different talking points both for and against the topic. It left me feeling unsure of my position. Maybe after I finish this blog post I will feel more pulled in one direction or other. Turns out if you Google “Technology equality in Education” you will find million of articles to both support and discredit both sides.

Lets start with the Digital divide.

Not only do developing nations not have access to internet, but over 40 million American’s do not have access to broadband internet. This is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. This video above states that the biggest challenges that they face is bringing internet access to places it has never been before, mostly in rural areas of each state. And, reducing costs of internet access that already exists. This can be said for Canada as well espeically bringing reliable internet access to our students who live in rural areas such as farm land and indigenous reserves all across our province.

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority’s 2014 Factbook found that 87 per cent of Canadian households are now connected to the internet, compared to 80 per cent in 2010. The country ranks 16th globally in terms of internet penetration rates. However, CIRA also found that while 95 per cent of Canadians in the highest income quartile are connected, just 62 per cent in the lowest income quartile have internet access.

Sunny Freeman, 2014. https://www.huffpost.com/archive/ca/entry/digital-divide-canada-broadband-access_n_4995560

The inequality gap has alway existed, but was exasterbated during the global Covid-19 pandemic. Students who identify as minorities, those in a lower socioeconmic status, families with multiple children, lack of parental support, and those that live in rural areas consistently feel the impact of the inequality gap when it comes to technology. Families that struggle with additions, mental health, and affording reliable devices, and wifi will always be at a disadvantage compared to those that don’t. Additionally, researchers are beginning to document a digital Matthew Effect, in which the already advantaged gain more from technology than do the less fortunate. As with books and reading, the most knowledgeable, most experienced, and most supported students are those best positioned to use computers to leap further ahead those who don’t.

School divisions also see the inequality gap as well when it comes to funding and technology literacy in schools. Government funded schools are starving for funding in every sector. Inner city schools and publically funded schools have extreme differences in their access to student devices and internet connections compared to those that are privately funded or are in traditionally middle to upper class neighbourhoods in the land of “white suburbia”. All children are created equal, and they deserve to be treated like so in our education systems. Unforatuntely, we also have to tackle the systemic problems that exist in education to be able to do that.

Let’s switch gears.

Now, this video doesn’t exactly represent the use of tecnology leading to greater equity, however it still brings me to tears every time I watch it so I wanted to share it with you all. It does however, lead me into my next section on how technology has increased equity for those with disabilities.

People with disabilities both visible and insivible has been struggling to be accepted in society for centuries. Only in the last few decades have there been very real and promising innovations that have made living day to day, going to school and working become a viable option for those that having differing abilities. The world of assistive technolgy has made it possible for so many to have equitable opportunities that didn’t exist before. Even though they come with a heafty price tag, government grants, insurance and savings programs can help off-set the costs of this expensive equipment.

I’d like to share my husbands journey with assistive technology. He was born with substanial hearing loss and was diagnosed as hard of hearing when he was just one year old. Ever since then, he has relied on hearing aids, lip reading, FM systems, subtitles, speech therapy and interpretting body language and facial expressions to navigate the world. He has about 20% hearing on his own, and about 70-80% hearing with heading aids depending on the external environment. When he was going through schooling from 1996-2010, he relied mostly on his teacher using a clunky/scratchy FM system and sitting close to the front of the room to be able to lip read. This often left him feeling singled out because everyone new it was specifically for him. Today, schools have implemented bluetooth audio systems into every single classroom. I wear my mic religiously not only to help students hear me speak (which was very helpful while wearing a face mask) but also to save my voice from projecting all day long.

Additionally, the advancements in hearing aid technology development has increased significantly over the past decade. Just last week my husband was fitted for new pair of hearing aids that are water proof, rechargable, connect to his bluetooth on his phone and car, and are able to significalty reduce background noise in loud/echoey environments where lots of people are talking all at once. During puppy class, he gives the instructor a small microphone that they can clip onto their shirt that speaks directly into his hearing aids so that he can participate in a large group setting and still understand all of the directions clearly while moving around the room. As technology becomes more advanced, people with disabilities quality of life often increases.

Technology has led to greater equity for a lot of reasons. People have gained a lot for independence in their personal and professional lives because of it. Access to education has been made possible to many different communities only because the online option is now available. We wouldn’t have been able to supplement any learning at all during the shut down of the Covid-19 pandemic without any access to online school. Traditional school does not suit every single family and the option to have remote school as an option permanently has allowed many the opportunity to graduate. Many advocates believe digital technology has the potential to dramatically expand access to education to underserved children worldwide. – John Ward, 2015. All in all, education was not equitable before technology, and I hope that with the right implementation and tackling of other systemic issues in our society, we can use technology to bridge the digital divide in the future.

Let me know if you have any experience using assistive technology personally, as a teacher or parent!

Does Technology Enhance Learning? Read to Learn More…

Today’s debate topic discussed whether or not technology enhances student learning. As a spectator of this discussion, I felt tugged back and forth for and against this debate. This topic was a great opening presentation for this class because it is the essence of educational technology in schools right now. Some may view this debate as simply black and white, however, I find this divide is very grey.

Here are a few of the notes I took from each side of the opening statements.

Agree: Technology DOES enhance learning.

  • Access to information that is up to date, relevant, and from multiple different perspectives.
  • The ability to facilitate learning by differentiating instruction, engaging students with hands-on learning and utilizing different programming.
  • Opportunity to connect with others that may be in remote or far away locations where in-person visits would not be possible.
  • Preparing students for the realities of life outside of the classroom. Using technology in everyday life and the workplace.
  • Technology is not only enhancing education, but it is enhancing every single sector that humans interact with daily. For example; health care. “If in 1970 you had knee surgery, you got a huge scar. Now, if you have knee surgery you have two little dots.” – Sarah Kessler 8 Ways Technology is Improving Education.
  • Supported by the provincial government as it promotes collaboration, teamwork, and increases individual tech skills.
  • Allows access to differentiated assessment, adaptations, modifications and assistive technology for students that required additional needs to be successful in the classroom.

Disagree: Technology DOES NOT enhance learning.

  • The largest complaint is that technology is a distraction to students and their learning. Students struggle to regain focus on the task at hand when being bombarded by the devices that they are using.
  • Students aren’t retaining information as well due to attempting to vigorously copy notes down verbatim, instead of handwriting shorthand notes while actively being engaged in the lecture or discussion. – Mueller and Oppenheimer
  • Students experience connection issues, failing devices, or extreme frustration when navigating so many different platforms and websites.
  • Real-life connections with other human beings have taken a back seat to artificial, online relationships. This has created extreme social challenges for all ages where students have difficulty communicating with others that are right in front of them.
  • Technology and social media have been keeping children and adults indoors more often than outside. This has had a direct effect on both mental and physical health with staggeringly high numbers of anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns.

Like anything in our lives, a good rule of thumb is everything in moderation. Excessive amounts of television, video games, screen time, social media, anxiety, and work can be detrimental to all aspects of our health. On the flip side, excessive amounts of water, sunshine, exercise, and planning, (which are usually considered “good things”) can also have a negative impact as well. Extremes on both sides of the argument are never a good thing.

Our society has applauded those who can become “Master Multi-Taskers”, instead of rewarding those who focus on one task at a time and dedicate their full attention to it. We must be in three places at once, even if it is digitally, to be successful and please others. However, when we constantly multi-task, we essentially take longer to complete the tasks at hand due to distractions.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that when I do have a specific reason to ask everyone to set aside their devices (“Lids down,” in the parlance of my department), it’s as if someone has let fresh air into the room. The conversation brightens, and more recently, there is a sense of relief from many of the students. Multi-tasking is cognitively exhausting; when we do it by choice, being asked to stop can come as a welcome change.

Clay Shirsky – NYU Graduate Interactive Tellecommunications Program

To build off of Nicole’s closing statement, technology in the classroom is not going away. We need to focus on teaching our students how to utilize technology in a way that actually does enhance their learning because it is interwoven into our daily lives. I strongly believe that the Saskatchewan curriculum requires a specific section on their website that address grade-appropriate outcomes for teaching digital students within the classroom. Just like we assess relationships in Phys. Ed, we can assess the ability to use tech tools in a responsible and effective way. We already are expected to teach digital citizenship within my division, however, it is not regulated and I have to find extra time to meet the needs.

All in all, technology does enhance learning opportunities for students when used effectively. The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education finds that technology can produce significant gains in student achievement and boost engagement, particularly among students most at risk. When teachers are given the proper training to be able to teach and continuously revisit digital citizenship and digital literacy with their students, they can use technology as an enhancement for learning, not a replacement for it.

A look into my daily use of Technology.

When I think about what a “day in the life” looks like for me regarding technology, the first thought to pop into my head was the 9 to 5 theme song (praise Dolly Parton). I use technology from the moment I wake up, until I go to sleep. The 9 to 5 workday has blurred the lines between our professional and personal lives thanks to having direct access to all of our files, contacts, conversations and information all in one place. The pandemic heightened the need to be able to connect digitally, however it became almost an expectation to have instant responses regardless of the time of day or day of the week.

I’d like to compare my use of technology to my husband’s because it is clear that opposites attract. When it comes to digital applications, I am someone who cannot have unread notifications on my phone for very long. My husband has over 2000 unread emails on his email app and it kills me slowly every time I see it. My hundreds of OneDrive files are neatly organized into subjects, units, assignments and so on, and my husband has 50 random documents on his desktop from 2011 to 2022. I believe that people who use technology in both their personal and professional lives have an advantage compared to those who don’t. This is simply because of exposure to multiple different applications and the time spend using the programs and devices.

Technology has completely embedded itself in my daily life. As a younger millennial born in 1995 I grew up with technology as it was evolving from the chunky, slow, desktop computer, to the state-of-the-art smartphones in our pockets. I also identify with a lot of “Zillennial” pop culture content a.k.a my love for Tiktok, but I still remember a time when technology did not rule our lives. I have learned and grown alongside technology. I have a decent understanding of utilizing technology both in my personal and professional life and I continually learn new tools and platforms as they become available.

A normal morning for me looks like this Monday-Friday.

6:30 AM – The alarm goes off on my iPhone sitting on my wireless charger stand with my iWatch and Airpods (Sorry to the androids users if you’re reading this)

7:00 AM – Listen to music through my iHome speaker while I get ready for the day and make breakfast (Big Swifty over here waiting for a double album drop on Friday the 13th…fingers crossed) During this time I have also checked numerous apps such as the weather, news, and apps with notifications and probably sent a message or two.

7:30 AM – Listen to a podcast through my apple car play on my 30-minute commute to the city from my home at Last Mountain Lake (Today explained, Papaya Podcast, Social Studies Podcast, Dear Hank & John, DST, Unlady Like just to name a few).

8:00 AM – Arrive at school, enter my classroom, turn on my projector, log in to my school device and open the numerous websites that I use on a daily basis as a teacher who has gone mostly paperless planning-wise.

  • Planboard (Online day planning website)
  • MSS for attendance
  • Seesaw (Student portfolio & digital assignments)
  • Outlook – Emails from staff and parents
  • Microsoft Teams for morning announcements
  • Powerpoint for Morning Meeting
  • Wordle & Canuckle for our daily word game

Before my students have even walked in the door I have set up my day utilizing technology and it doesn’t stop there. However, I still like to have a balance of both hands-on learning, physical copies, and digital learning within the classroom. Throughout the school year, my students have gained so many new digital skills, and my hope is that they transfer those abilities to their future classes.

I am consistently connecting with people in a digital way. My students and I connect digitally through Seesaw, and during the height of the pandemic, we connected in a way that we never thought possible. The skills I acquired during online teaching have been transferable to my online master’s classes such as this one. I connect with coworkers and parents digitally mostly through email. And, I connect with friends and family through various social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Messenger, and Tiktok.

I know that for my own mental health, having some time away from my devices serves me very well. I often feel that I have so much screen time during the week at work and at home, that I really try to take advantage of the weekend and stay off of the computer, limit my scrolling time and enjoy a tv show or a movie distraction-free with my phone sitting in another room. I am starting to think that a scheduled digital detox would be something to consider when I am feeling at my lowest. I would love to hear if anyone has similar or different daily experiences than I do regarding technology use. Maybe it’s less, maybe it’s more. Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts!