Category Archives: social media

Privilege Leads to Responsibility

This week we are to analyze and comment on social activism online and whether it can be meaningful, worthwhile, productive, and finally what our responsibility is as educators in teaching it and modelling it are.

At the start of the week and throughout it I realized that my position on social media has largely been one of do not rock the boat. I have on occasion participated in social activism, but it has generally been on the safe side. I have shared some news articles in the past, I have donated money to some drives, and I have been a good personally responsible citizen. Everyone is always happy to have me as a neighbour both physically and digitally, because I mind my own business and help out where I can. If you were to try to place my on the kind of citizen table that Katie Hildebrandt shared on her blog I would likely come in moving back and forth between the responsible citizen and the participatory citizen. I have on occasion organised things to help others, but I am more likely to help out with existing charities. Why have I not done more? Well to be honest because it makes me uncomfortable, it takes time, and sometimes I do not know what to say, and I feel that I am being intrusive. So how have the things that I have read helped me to see this differently or have they?

To start with there is the question of whether social media activism even works. Near the beginning of the week I came across and shared an article from about whether or not social activism accomplishes anything. You can read the article yourself but one of the conclusions it draws is that, “It’s often the case that the people or organizations you shame “publicly” via social media will never see the criticism at all. Your social audience is generally a group of like-minded people—those who have already opted in to your filter bubble.”

obtained from

So the article questions whether is it useful and I think that it somewhat missed the point, also that our filter bubbles are not as homogeneous as we think. For example my family and extended family are in my filter bubble on Facebook and Twitter. While I share a lot in common with my family I differ quite a bit politically and in many of my social justice views. Regularly things put up by them and friends of mine that I disagree with show up in my feed and  I sometimes comment on them. I also know from the comments I receive from them on stories I share, and things that I post that my stuff is showing up on their walls, and in their feeds.  So when I share a post it does reach people outside of the filter. In addition to that it increases the likelihood of something trending. This is not the only thing that the article brought up though. It also brought up the idea that people are less likely to do something concrete to bring about change as they will have already felt that the venting of their moral outrage will be enough. Again I think that this would be hard to prove. The ALS ice bucket challenge raised a lot of money, did this redirect money that may have been spent elsewhere? Probably. Would all of that money for sure been spent elsewhere? It is hard to say. Not likely. There was likely some new capital spent that otherwise would not have gone to charity. I suspect that it is not a zero-sum game. In conclusion it is difficult at this point to say conclusively whether or not social activism for sure works. I know from talking with my friends and family that there have been things that have changed my mind, behaviour, and have made me open my wallet. So I am voting that yes it works.

Okay so if social activism works what is my roll in it?

This one really made me think, and honestly made me uncomfortable, which is good. I will start by saying that I am very privileged in life. I am a white male. I have a stable high paying job (top 15% of earners in Canada). I have good health. I have had some things in life literally given to me, while some I have had to work for. While I have gone through some really difficult things at times for the most part my life has been very comfortable and likely will remain so. So why do I bring this up? Well because of the idea of rights vs responsibility.

When I read Katie’s article about silence speaking as loud as words I hit the first bold point and started to argue with it. What she said was, “If we are online, as educators, and we remain silent about issues of social justice, if we tweet only about educational resources and not about the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report in Canada, or about the burning of Black churches in the southern United States, we are sending a clear message: These issues are not important.”  I started to think about justifiable reasons that someone would have for not posting. Maybe they are really busy, maybe they are in a vulnerable position and making this kind of statement online may make their situation more volatile, etc. Then I reached her second bold quote,  “I have a responsibility to use my privilege to speak out and use my network for more than just my own benefit or self-promotion; not doing so is a selfish act.” This one diffused me. See, she talks about using our privilege. It is not the responsibility of the vulnerable to endanger themselves by doing social activism, it is the responsibility of those with privilege. (Although sometimes it does fall to the victims to say something like with #metoo.) What does this mean for me? Well it means that as someone with a lot of privilege I have a job to do. I need to work towards developing myself as a justice orientated citizen. I need to say something when I can, and also I have a responsibility to go looking for those opportunities. In other words I need to be willing to be uncomfortable, especially since I have a choice and many do not. 

With all of that said I do want to be smart about what I post. I really liked what Shelby had to say on her blog with her idea of 4 rules.

  1. “How will this be viewed by people who do not know me?”
  2. “How will this be viewed by people that do know me?”
  3. “Would I be okay if my students saw this?”
  4. “Would I be okay if my colleagues/family saw this?”

To this I am going to add that we need to remember that it is not our job to make our families and colleagues comfortable. It is our job to make them better. Hopefully they are doing the same for us. So I would add one more rule.

5. “Will this likely accomplish the change I want it to accomplish?”

With that said I realize that I am going to have to change my use of social media. I am going to have to come up with an action plan to change, just like Marley suggested on her blog. The only thing that is 100% clear in that plan is that silence is not an option.

Thanks for reading.



Digital Identity and Schools

We were asked this week to talk about one of a few different things and of the list, I chose Digital Identity. I chose digital identity because I feel like it relates to my learning project as it will be a topic that I discuss with my students while we are blogging and considering when we are presenting ourselves online.

Maintaining your digital identity is a complex task. This has a lot to do with the ability to take things from the internet and claim them as your own along with the fact that once it is online, there is no way to take it back and it will always be documented on the internet.

Photo Credit: Oliver Dunkley Flickr via Compfight cc

When I look at my digital identity, some of the things that I do to manage it is to do regular checks of my security settings on my various social media accounts as well as mediate and go on what I call an “unfriending spree”. I go through those who have the most open access to my accounts every 2-3 months and consider if they still need to be my friend or connection on my social media account and often unfriend quite a few people every time I do this. I have also become more selective on who I will be connected to.

Not only do I limit and restrict who has access to me on certain accounts, I also censor what I share, like, and comment on. I recognize that every time I engage with certain content online, others online are able to see what I have engaged with. When I go to share a video, like a photo, or comment on someone’s status, I always take a moment to consider how this will affect me as a teacher if someone sees it, can it be “used against me” in some way? That teacher hat never comes off and therefore I need to ensure that I am always acting “on duty”. I also have to consider my division’s procedure for Use of Social Media.

When talking with students, or when I see students interacting on various forms of social media, I try to share the risks of sharing online. My division has a policy on what students are allowed to share and I have dealt with some issues of inappropriate use of social media as an acting administrator in my building but I feel that more needs to be done in order to help students understand the effects of them sharing personal information online. This is part of the reason why I have chosen my major project to involve interacting online through blogs. The blogs will allow me to bring digital citizenship and some of the laws and regulations of sharing images, photos, and the work of others into the classroom in a real and applicable manner where they may demonstrate more “buy-in” to the ideas of being a citizen of the digital world and not just someone who uses it.

Do you have personal rules or procedures you use to ensure the security and appropriateness of your social media accounts? Do you add your students (current or past)? Does your division have a policy around social media that you are required or recommended to follow?

The Golden Rule

This week, we discussed social activism online and whether or not it can be effective.  Is it worthwhile?  I think it is possible for it to be worthwhile and meaningful if the people that are advocating for the cause are invested beyond just social media.  We discussed in class the idea of slackivism.  Wikipedia explains this to be the concept that people believe that are contributing to a cause by simply re-tweeting, sharing or liking a page.  However, sharing or liking something on Facebook, although a great way to create more acknowledgement towards a specific issue, does not solve the issue.  It is a way to share information and give people who actually WANT to create change, a medium to do so.

Image Via Wikipedia

One excellent example I found was Wael Ghonim: a social activist who used social media to help create the revolution in Egypt in 2011.  Essentially the movement began with the death of Khaled Said, and a picture that was posted and shared relentlessly on social media.  This sparked interest and Ghonim created a Facebook page to support this outrage.  He gathered hundreds of thousands of followers; then realized, it wasn’t enough to just gather online.  They needed to do something.  He asked his users an important question: “Today is the 14th of January. The 25th of January is Police Day. It’s a national holiday. If 100,000 of us take to the streets of Cairo, no one is going to stop us. I wonder if we could do it.” (TED, 2015)  And they did it.  The video goes on to explain the aftermath and the revolution we know today.  I think it is awe-inspiring that something so life-changing began on social media and with one picture.

As educators, I think we do have a responsibility to model active citizenship online, but it can be difficult.  As teachers, we are on the radar all the time.  Anything we say online can be traced, twisted, or interpreted the wrong way and it can affect us, personally and professionally.  The challenge then becomes to advocate professionally and ask ourselves questions before interacting online:

  • “How will this be viewed by people who do not know me?”
  • “How will this be viewed by people that do know me?”
  • “Would I be okay if my students saw this?”
  • “Would I be okay if my colleagues/family saw this?”

Although, it is unfortunate we cannot be as uncensored as other people can be online, are these not questions we consider before speaking out loud?  Why should what we discuss online be different than what we talk about in our classrooms or in our day-to-day lives?  And shouldn’t all people really abide by these “unwritten rules”?  We are taught from a young age to be kind, to listen to other’s opinions, to think before we speak, so why is it that as soon as we are hidden behind a screen and a keyboard that we forget these guidelines apply and become trolls, argumentative or outright rude?  I think the most important thing is that we model our personal beliefs and values and model the

Image via CCTV

ideologies that we would be okay with our students, our friends, and our families seeing and modeling too!  After all, that is our job and yes, sometimes it is hard to remain in this mindset in the heat of the moment, but these rules apply to the real world, why shouldn’t they apply to the online one too?

With Gentlenes and Respect

This week’s assignment for my ECI 831 class was to write about either dealing with fake news, digital identity or how social media could be a force for good or evil in the world. I found it a tough choice, but I decided to look at the fake news because as a science teacher it is the one that I have to deal with the most.

Science is not like most subjects, while most subjects (other than math) have things that are subjective, science is supposed to be about objective fact, so what possible fake news could there be? You would be surprised, well not likely. There are the fairly harmless moon landing deniers, all the way to the much more serious climate change deniers and then straight into the endangering us all territory, the anti-vaxers. All of these are my everyday students. They come to class with their already established world views and they have their social media bubbles protecting them. So how do I go about teaching them about how to be critical consumers of the information around them? How do I get them to change their minds? And how do I know I am right anyway? It is these questions that I will explore in this post.

I will actually start with the last question I posed. How do I know I am right? Well the truth is I don’t. But as a science teacher and someone who tries to use the scientific method, I am very confident that I am correct (at least on these three issues). To start with I have to explain that most people think science means technology and that is not true at all. Science is a method of trying to get at the truth of something by trying to identify all the stuff that is false and then whatever is left is held as truth. If you have never heard the scientific method described like this check out this video below.

So when I say that I am confident that I am right it is because I have invested my energy into trying to prove that I am wrong. The longer that I cannot do that the more confident I become in my beliefs. This is one of the ways that I use for myself when trying to determine if something can be trusted. I look up the best evidence against it and analyse the evidence to see if there is anything to it. The tricky part is deciding which information to give more weight to and which to discard as invalid, or less important. That is were I really liked the concept of “Four Moves and a Habit” for formalizing into steps a lot of what I was doing already.

  1. Check for previous work.
  2. Go upstream for the source.
  3. Read laterally.
  4. Circle back.

That now brings me to the title of this post, “With Gentleness and Respect.” I teach in a k-12 Christian School with about 40 kids per grade. This means that I know each of the high school students by name, I have taught their older siblings, and will teach their younger ones. Many of their parents I am friends with and know outside of the school. So for me relationship plays a part in this. I could bombard the student with overwhelming evidence that their point of view is wrong, but I have to look at what it is that I am trying to accomplish and ask is that the best way to go about it? Dr. Alec Couros mentioned in class last week that research shows people actually become more entrenched in their own views when confronted with opposing information.

“You’re still wrong, Dad.” (Watterson 6/17/1990)

As Shelby reminded us in her post we need to take the emotion out of the situation. At the start of the year in each of my science courses I talk with the students about how science works, how it is a truth discovery technique and also about how we need to feel safe to ask questions. I take time to setup guidelines with the students about how to disagree with each other without getting angry. I have a quote up on the wall that says, “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” This is a quote from a book in the Bible, 1 Peter 3:15. I tell the students that this does not just relate to their faith, but to everything. Any time they think something is incorrect they are to treat it with gentleness and respect, and this means being humble enough to admit when we are wrong. After all if you get into a huge arguement with someone you are still going to have to sit in the same room as them for almost every class for possibly another 4 years. It is better instead to humbly and respectfully say I disagree with that because of x, and if you do not have a reason to say that you disagree, and it is just emotion then remember that it is okay to change your opion based on new information.

Via: Giphy

So in summary, my approach to teaching the students about how to evaluate whether something is true is to:

  1. Use the scientific method, try to prove that it is wrong.
  2. Use the 4 moves and a habit to evaluate sources of information.
  3. Treat things with gentleness and respect. Be humble enough to admit when we are wrong.

Does it always work? No, I will sometimes have students tell me that they know the “correct” answers for the test and that they disagree with it. With that said though I know that they have heard the correct information, that they have engaged with it and for many of them it is simply a matter of time. In the meantime I have not destroyed relationship and they are still willing to talk with me about their beliefs and what things they are thinking through.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read this.

Teaching the Truth about Fake News

In today’s day and age, you can’t go a day without hearing some new rumour or supposed news story.  Even real news stories can have a twist of fake-ness to them.  So how does one educate the citizens of tomorrow how to distinguish between real and fake?  Students are bombarded with advertisements, viral videos and countless media outlets on a daily basis.  It is then vitally important to challenge them to be critical about what they read.

One way of doing this, is teaching them the proper way to research.  I often do this in my ELA B30 classes where my students are in charge of researching a global issue via  They need to discuss their issue and present relevant information for the class and also come up with viable solutions for this global catastrophe.  I encourage students

Image Via LifeHack

to find something they are passionate about and in most cases they do.  I’ve had topics such as Blackfish, global warming, overpopulation, refugees and war, and poverty.  These are REAL issues and my students gladly teach the class about why we need to act now!  Of course, with these issues comes two very different sides.  So, we discuss how to find credible sources, what types of things to look for in a valid website or post.  We discuss finding said information in more than one place and making sure as Alec Couros said in class, “take the emotions out of the equation.”  When people are revved up about an issue, it is human nature to find information that justifies our way of thinking and not information that challenges it.  Coralee discusses in her blog this week a lot about the Trump government and his accusations  that anyone who doesn’t agree with him is soliciting fake news.  She also makes an excellent point that someone is obviously believing this fake news.  To avoid this myself, I encourage my students to look at both sides.  What are the arguments for?  What are the arguments against?  How can they challenge these points appropriately and rebuttal?  The biggest challenge in teaching my students to think critically is getting them to remove their emotions from the situation.

Image Via FoxNews

The same works for day to day teachings.  It’s not something I intrinsically do but it’s something that when the opportunity comes up that I take advantage of.  It could be as simple as a rumour they heard at school.  If a student confides in me, I ask them “how do you know it’s true?”  It often gets them to pause and think about the source of

Via Tenor

information, even if it’s for just a second.  These little teachable moments are what matters the most because it teaches students to not only think for themselves, but it asks them to question the status quo and think about everything that they learn and hear.  In class if a student brings up a question and one I do not know for sure, I ask students to google the answer; but not just one student, a few.  This creates discussion around the answers they find as they criticize each other’s responses.  Whose answer is right?  Are they all right?  Is there a combination that is correct?  What sources did they use?  These lessons are the most important and they aren’t something that can be structured, only molded into a lesson given the right circumstances.

As for myself, I try to read many different sources on a certain topics before deciding on a correct answer.  It is more time consuming but then I can feel confident in the knowledge I am acquiring.  I recently watched “What the Health?” a documentary on617985582 Netflix about the meat and dairy industry in the United States.  What I learned on the documentary was enough to make me give up meat forever.  However, I realized that the story was completely focused on veganism the entire time.  Never bringing up the flaws in its own diet.  After thinking about the documentary a little more, I started analyzing it and discussing it with a few of my friends.  And then my search took me online to a plethora of resources both crediting and discrediting the documentary.  My head kllmwas spinning with information.  In the end, I did not give up meat or dairy because for one, I enjoy both of these things and come on, like I’m going to give up pizza!  This is just one example of debates online and my approach to critically analyzing what I read and see in this world full of information.  It is enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed, but it just takes practice to cut through the fluff and hopefully find at least a version of the truth you can feel satisfied with!

Social Media + Teaching = ????

When looking at social media, I took a moment to reflect on my first experiences with various networks. I had a MySpace account, I don’t think that anything that I had posted on it “about me” was true. I was still nervous about putting myself out there on the internet, where anybody could find me. I have had accounts with many other different sites, some that have come and gone, some that probably still exist somewhere but are rarely used.


I created my Facebook account in 2007 and, at that time, was one of the very first people in my school to get one. I know this from the confused looks I received from my peers when I asked them about Facebook. A childhood friend of mine had told me I should join the network, that it was the next big thing, and so I did. Facebook was 100% me and I definitely overshared (sometimes I hate seeing the “On This Day” posts….cue a major face palm!). Over time, I have limited some of what I share, I no longer update my status multiple times a day, I try to only share the important things, and I filter what I share and like based upon those that I am connected with on the site….more on this later.

I joined Twitter my first year of university in Alec’s ECMP 355 course. It was so different for me to experience and it took me a LONG time to decide that I like the platform (as in, I only really started enjoying using it during the Winter 2017 term for ECI 834)). It was too random for me to fully embrace the way it shared information.

When thinking about teaching in the digital age, I have to admit that I do not really know any other way. In internship I created a Wikispace with all of my assignments. Shortly after starting in my first (and current) position I created a classroom Facebook page and encouraged students and parents to connect. For me, many of the forms of social media have always been there. The major change that I have seen in my teaching career is the shift towards a focus of including these digital tools and various forms of social media into the classroom in a meaningful way.

App Networks Smartphone Mobile Phone Internet
via Max Pixel

Even though I may be considered a digital native in teaching, it does not mean that I do not have concerns over social media in schools. I worry about cyberbullying, about inappropriate content, and about not knowing how or when to interact with others online. I also worry about some of the things that I am guilty of: oversharing and sharing information that may not be safe to share (age, address, full name, etc.). I have many fears about having students online but none of them overshadow my strong belief that students today need to learn and understand how to use the internet and various forms of social media to access the knowledge they seek and, as Pavan Arora states, students need to learn how to apply the vast amount of knowledge that they can access.

I really resonated with Michael Wesch‘s comment that we need to be focusing more on what types of questions our students are asking as opposed to what and how are we teaching content. I think that this is a critical aspect of teaching in the digital age and have had many students ask me over my career “why am I learning this if I can just Google it?” or “why can’t I just use the app?” and each time I have stepped back and had to look at how I am teaching and how it can be more meaningful for my students. Sometimes, it comes down to a simple, yet unfortunate, “because that is what the curriculum asks you to do to earn the credit”, but often these questions cause me to come up with a new way of covering a topic, it pushes me to encourage students to come up with the content themselves through inquiry, a tactic that I enjoy using in my math class. By allowing my students to create the knowledge for themselves, they gain an ownership of their learning which helps them buy in to the other concepts that may not lend themselves to this as easily.

via Pixabay

By using blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms, we are helping our students learn to connect and interact with others from around the world in a professional manner. There is a definite need for ensuring that our students have a deep understanding of digital citizenship before embarking on this experience but, without allowing them to experience the open internet, I would argue that there is no way to be sure they understand what it means to be a digital citizen. When looking at integrating various types of technology, including social media, into our classrooms, Shelby mentions that we need to ensure that we are integrating the technology for authentic reasons as students can easily recognize when we are implementing something for the sake of implementing it. John Seely Brown and Richard Adler state that Web 2.0 is about connections, not just about information. I feel that this is the niche that social media can play in our classrooms. Brown and Adler also touch on research that demonstrates that a social aspect of education is essential and that students that meet in study groups tend to see greater success in their courses, something that is echoed in Jacque‘s mention of a student who regularly attends study groups. To push this to the limit, there is the case of a group of students taking notes simultaneously on a Google Doc and the interesting questions it raises about the importance of the course if these notes could be accessed without attending or could be forwarded to the next cohort of students.

Where do you fall on the scale of digital native to digital immigrant? Do you have a variety of different social media accounts? Which ones, if any, would you feel comfortable integrating into your classroom with either your personal or a professional account?


Regaining Balance -LAFOIP

If you have not read my previous post about LAFOIP, start with that.

Okay welcome back. So I have continued to look into this and have also received some emailed links about this from family members who were interested in this topic. What I have found is that school divisions are allowed within the law to continue to use an online product if they feel that it complies with LAFOIP. The process that they go through is called a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA). I have found two resources from other school divisions in other provinces, one in BC by Qualicum School district, and the other a whole using google document guide for Alberta schools. So what this means is that if my school (and school division) feels that information is safeguarded enough we can use it. There is not a law that states we specifically cannot use these tools but we must do so in a mature and well thought out manner. This seems much less scary than before. Of course we want organizations in authority to be protecting the information of the students, and to be holding themselves to the highest reasonable standards in regards to privacy.

Now as to whether or not I can continue to use google classroom for marking papers still I do not know. The PIA isn’t even started, and while I suspect that we like other divisions would find google to be a justifiable and manageable risk, there is not that guarantee.  For now I will comply with what I have been told and want for more guidance from higher up the food chain.

Thanks for reading.

Concerns of an Educator in the Digital (social) Media Age

This week we are asked to reflect on what we, as educators, feel are concerns about teaching in the digital (social media) age. And, further, to reflect on how we can balance these concerns with the need to prepare children (or other learners) to succeed in a rapidly changing world and uncertain future. I will address these concerns and possible solutions as an adult educator and as a mother of a preschooler.

As an adult educator at the post-secondary level, I try to be mindful of the types of digital media (including social media) I use to facilitate learning. As with most  educational institutions we have heavy curriculum, and tight timelines, that may not lend itself easily to utilizing certain types of digital or social media.  Micheal Welsh’s Tedx Talk on moving from students being knowledgeable to knowledge-able really struck a cord with me. Welsh shows a picture of a lecture theater full of (disengaged) students presumably being ‘taught to’. Welsh rightfully argues that this does not engage students in learning.

What really struck me was Welsh’s ideas of engaging students and enriching the learning experience. Welsh argues that students must be given the opportunity to practice obtaining knowledge. He advocates that educators present real problems to students, where the answer is not necessarily known by the teacher; give the students the opportunity to collaborate with others (even on a global scale), share and collect information, and publish it for others to learn from; and do all of this with relevant and available media.  So many ideas are buzzing in my mind in how this can be incorporated in some of the courses I teach… but only a few…

The challenge, as I have experienced, is in courses with very heavy curriculum, tight deadlines, and where the major assessment piece is a set standard test that uses the multiple choice bubble sheet. Faced with this, the student’s number one question is definitely “Will this be on the exam?”.  What then? How do we address the need to educate young adult learners to become critical thinkers, to practice creating knowledge, when we are only asking them to demonstrate their ability to understand what is in the course textbook?

I realize this is a dire picture to paint for higher education, and not all courses are like this, but I believe part of the limitation is instructor lack of understanding and use of digital media for educational purposes. In my opinion, institutions need to put more energy into encouraging and educating instructors in the multiple ways in which digital and social media can be used to open the world of possibilities for student engagement and enriched learning. Additionally, institutions need to understand the barriers educators face in understanding and implementing digital and social media in the classroom and address those concerns, such as heavy curriculum, anxiety of learning new technology, or work-life balance.

Concerns about young children and digital media

As a mother of a preschooler, I am concerned with the amount of screen time little children are being exposed to. If I remember correctly from our conversation during Tuesday’s (October 3rd) online class, children’s screen time averages 6 hours per day. Although my preschooler averages much less, she is still exposed. I have noticed that too much screen time causes overstimulation and her inability to regulate emotions when interacting with us. Marley, a teacher in the K-12 system, expresses similar concerns of her students being overstimulated by exposure to digital media, at home and in the classroom.

The insight I gained into a teacher’s thoughts on this issue, makes me wonder how I can ensure my preschooler’s exposure is meaningful. Because, let’s face it, digital media is, and will continue to be, a conduit to higher learning and connection to others. As a parent, I am one of my daughter’s first teachers and with that I have a responsibility to ensure the online content my daughter is consuming is both safe and appropriate. I need to consider ways in which I can help my daughter recognize the value of what and how she is learning by becoming more involved in her interaction with digital media.

I will admit as one who has intermediate skills when it comes to utilizing digital media, including social media, I still feel behind in what are the most current and innovative tools and apps that can facilitate meaningful learning for children or young adults. Embracing new ideas and exploring new-to-me digital media applications is opening a world of possibilities for me to facilitate improved learning experiences not only for my daughter, but also for my students at the post-secondary level.

Thrown Off Balance by LAFOIP

On Tuesday evening in my ECI 831 class we looked at how to incorporate more social media and open media into our classes. On Wednesday I spent some time looking through some of the readings and thinking about the given discussion topic, thinking about concerns in the digital (social media) age.  I was thinking along similar lines to Marley in making sure that I followed the SAMR model and that it was more than just digital substitution. I found myself also thinking along the lines of Roxanne about all of the unique opportunities that it would bring to the students. Also I finally found something in one of the articles that made me say out loud, “yes I want to do that!”. In John Seely Brown and Richard Adler’s article Minds On Fire, they talked about using blogs as a way to bring in genuine peer review and how it elevated their students work. I have been looking for something exactly like that in my senior science classes. Then on Thursday I was told by my vice-principal that we may have to re-evaluate our google classroom use in light of LAFOIP. She had just come back from a vice-principal meeting and one of the focuses in the meeting was about the ethical storage of student records and identifying data. She talked with me because I am the head of the technology committee in our school and also am the learning leader in charge of student data.  Then after school I went to a learning leader meeting at the board office and while we discussed many trends within the division and goal setting, etc, we also discussed LAFOIP and we were especially cautioned about social media use. So that has caused me to start to ask some different questions than I was before this, and it has derailed many of my thoughts prior to Thursday as I have been trying to sort out what does this all mean?

To start with many of you likely do not know what LAFOIP is. It stands for, “The Local Authority Freedom Of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.” The opening statement within the act states:

An act respecting a right of access to documents of local authorities and a right of privacy with respect to personal information held by local authorities.

From my understanding, and this is based on only about 10 minutes of a meeting and and hour of research so it is not extensive, this act is to protect individual rights and to ensure that the authorities that they deal with are taking their digital security seriously. There is a decent overview of it done by SaskSchoolsPrivacy, an organization that helps school’s understand their legal requirements. They also have a nice summary video.

Basically you should only collect what you need, store it securely, make sure only people who actually need it can even access it, and destroy it once you no longer need it.

So how does all of this apply to social media and to google docs? Doesn’t this just affect how we store student information, and things like report cards? Well not exactly. Anything that is produced by a student or a teacher is a record. That means that we are responsible for how those “records” are stored and accessed and what they contain. While I do not yet understand all of the implications, I was told that we need to make sure that only those who need the record have access to it. Here is where something like google docs comes in. Since I cannot guarantee that google employees, advertisers, etc might somehow have access to the information in the document, and I cannot guarantee where the file is stored, or how to access it in case of a request for information I should be very careful about what I use cloud storage for.  Now my entire high school staff is distributing and collecting assignments via google classroom through google docs and google drive, so this seems like a concerning piece of information. The positive is that I have been advised that for now I can continue to do assignments in this way as long as there is nothing too identifying within the shared documents, their name and grade is okay. A family tree assignment or personal reflection is not okay.  So for now it seems like I can continue to use google classroom. I have been told that I should not be making any comments on the assignments that they hand in which is really annoying. Apparently the comments are specific feedback, like a report card, that would have to be stored securely and I cannot control the google doc record 100% and therefore should not put confidential information there. All of this was verbal layman advise and not legal council so I also do not know if it is 100% correct. It is certainly something that I am going to be looking into as I am one of the people at my school who is responsible for how the school manages and uses social media in the classroom, and I am typically the one who trains others on how to use the technology. I do not want to make a legal mistake.

So to sum it up this week, my main concern regarding social media, and teaching in the digital age is what are the laws? What is my specific responsibility and what is the best practice? Also does anyone actually know if google classroom is legally allowed or not for providing feedback to students in the k-12 system?

Hope to figure out some answer to these before the end of the course. Thanks for reading.

Innovation Over Information

From Hawker Chase

I think my biggest concern about teaching in the digital age is teaching students properly about social media etiquette and making it actually authentic to their learning.  So many teachers feel like it is necessary to teach using technology and social media and end up doing it just for the sake of it.  I want to make sure when I am using it that it is actually authentic to the learning outcomes as well as engaging for them.  Students know when you are doing something just for the sake of doing something so it is important that the learning outcomes match the media you are using.

Another concern I have with teaching in the digital age is the monitoring of the World Wide Web.  If I were to implement blogging or social media in my class, I would be most concerned about what I am exposing my students to.  What happens if their work gets torn apart on the web?  What if it becomes viral?  What if an already emotional student gets more criticism than they can handle? Social media is linked to mental health, so now am I responsible to ensure their mental health remains high because I required them to be exposed?  How do I do that?  Do I need parental permission in order to expose students to a world they already have unfettered access to?

Click for more on social media and mental health

Along I have my concerns, it is imperative that we teach students about this digital world because they need to be successful.   Pavan Arora stated in his Ted Talk “Knowledge is Obsolete” that “65% of grade school children will have jobs that don’t exist today” (2014).  This means that as educators we have a responsibility to teach students not knowledge, because as Arora pointed out, it is obsolete.  At the touch of a button, you can access any information you need, so why continue to teach route memorization, when the more important skills are critical thinking, creativity, and innovation?

Michael Wesch also made a good point in his Ted Talk, “From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able” when he said that students aren’t learning anything in the classroom, they are learning to listen to authority.  What is that teaching the generation that will one day be in charge of our world?  Everyone has a voice and it is incredibly easy to state your opinion online for the world to see.  But what is more important is teaching students to use this voice in a positive manner and learn how to educate themselves with the internet and its abundance of resources.  Educators need to teach students how to cite information, how to interpret a good source from a bad source, and how to establish their own networks of learning online.  I’m not saying it will be easy, but it is the direction we are headed and as educators, it will be a lot easier to embrace this change, stop trying to teach information and be the “experts” and also students to find their own passion and creativity so they can become their own type of expert in a field that may not even exist yet.