Category Archives: Weekly Blog Posts

The Potential of Social Media Activism

The word activism makes me think about protests, signs, marches and fighting for change – trying to make the world a better place.  But this is only one part of the picture.

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Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue Flickr via Compfight cc

Simply defined, activism is  “taking action to effect social change” and involves efforts that “promote, impede, direct, or intervene in social, political, economic, or environmental reform“.  In other words, activism can have both positive and negative effects on the social agenda of specific groups.

For the purpose of our class, we discussed activism through social media and were asked to consider the following questions:

Can online social activism be meaningful and worthwhile? Is is possible to have productive conversations about social justice online? What is our responsibility as educators to model active citizenship online?

What is social media activism?

Social media activism is essentially using the platform of an online forum to lead or support a cause. It’s activism behind a screen.” (The Journal – Queen’s University)

“Bringing change or awareness about a cause through the use of social media, by posting or sharing ones thought about a particular event or issue.” (Life of Anna)

These definitions are very basic, but “social media activism” is somewhat self-explanatory – it is activism using social media. It could be liking or sharing a post on Facebook or using a hashtag in online posts to bring awareness to a particular issue.  If you use social media, you have probably viewed or participated in hashtag activism:

You may have added a filter to your Facebook profile picture to temporarily support a cause. Or clicked the retweet button to raise awareness while drinking your morning coffee. The question we must ask ourselves is if social media activism is meaningful and worthwhile and looking at the positive and negatives is one way to explore the answer.

Pros of Social Media Activism

“Successful maneuvering of social media platforms creates significant changes in society through the impact of an individual who cultivates awareness and makes knowledge accessible to millions.” Human Rights Education Research Outreach

Social media activism can:

  • Spread a message to a large audience very quickly
  • Organize events easily (like the Women’s March)
  • Allow marginalized groups to express their views freely

Using the power of networks, “online activism allows activists to organize events with high levels of engagement, focus and network strength” (The Conversation).  The ability to share, like and retweet instantly allows movements and causes to gain traction very quickly and draw in a large audience.  For example, when a tragic events occur, vigils are planned, shared and attended in a short time frame, all thanks to social media.  Larger events are organized in locations all over the world through hashtags and social media posts.

Greta Thunberg stops by City Hall, tells Mayor Valérie Plante she’s “still very overwhelmed” by the march today in Montreal. Calls crowd of 500,000 “unbelievable.” #climatestrikemontreal pic.twitter.com/Mz8vYrjXjU

— T’Cha Dunlevy (@TChaDunlevy) September 27, 2019

Finally, the good, badly and ugly part of the Internet is that you can post and support whatever you want at any time.  A positive example is that people all over the world can be part of Pride festivals, even if they are unable to attend in person.

One of the greatest things about social media is the platform it can give to otherwise isolated and marginalized people. Entire communities have developed and grown together over social media, and this has exponentially strengthened many activism campaigns. Social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter allow people to organize events and communicate on a medium that is accessible to anybody who has an email address, internet, and some kind of connectable device. This vastly increases potential audience size, and ultimately increases the possible effect that these campaigns can have on policies, politics, and everyday life.The Power of Social Media in Modern Activism

Cons of Social Media Activism

“The ease with which current social movements form often fails to signal an organizing capacity powerful enough to threaten those in authority.” Zeynep Tufekci

Unfortunately, social media activism has drawbacks:

  • #Slacktivism
  • Spreading misinformation
  • Unable to promote “real” change

A 2014 Maclean’s article explains that a “slacktivist is someone who believes it is more important to be seen to help than to actually help. He will wear a T-shirt to raise awareness. She will wear a wristband to demonstrate support, sign a petition to add her voice, share a video to spread the message, even pour a bucket of ice over her head.”  All of this takes place instead of offering time or money which could truly help a cause.

Image result for actions speak louder than like buttonsMy classmate Brooke dives into a deep discussion of #slacktivism and a few articles that explain and criticize the movement.  She included this image (shared in class by Dr. Couros) that highlights the problem with #slacktivism.

“If our desire for social change extends beyond the resolution of a single issue, we need to close our laptops, turn off our phones, and spend time in the presence of others.” – The Walrus

With the ease of liking and sharing posts or adding a hashtag, it is inevitable that the wrong information will be passed along.  #FakeNews is a perfect example of deliberately sharing misinformation, which was particularly problematic during the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election#Kony2012 is another example of a movement that exploded on social media without really understanding the true facts.  Social media activism has the potential to raise awareness, spread a message quickly and help grow a movement.  But it is important to not disregard the power of slow-growing, face-to-face, grassroots organization. Wael Ghonim (an Internet activist that helped organize the social media campaign during the #ArabSpring) discusses challenges facing social media today and how it can be used to promote real change:

Before we can have conversations about social justice online, I think it is important to discuss the concept of a digital citizen and to understand three different ideas of citizenship as discussed by Westheimer and Kahne in the article, “What Kind of Citizen“.

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Screen-captured image from class with Dr. Couros
  • Participatory – actively participates
  • Personally Responsible – acts responsibly in their community
  • Justice-Oriented – seeks to understand root cause

Katia Hildebrandt writes about the Digital Citizenship Guide in Saskatchewan Schools , which explains that,

“digital citizenship asks us to consider how we act as members of a network of people that includes both our next-door neighbours and individuals on the other side of the planet and requires an awareness of the ways in which technology mediates our participation in this network.” 

With this knowledge, we are able to explore the possibilities of using social media to talk about social justice issues online.  Below, I have shared Brooke’s (she made some excellent points in her post this week!) example of how each type of citizen may participate, using the food bank as an example:

The personally responsible citizen might donate money to the food bank online or share an article about how the food bank is in need of donations.

The participatory citizen might create an online fundraiser, like a GoFundMe page, where people can donate to the food bank and use their social media page to highlight some of the issues related to perceived injustices regarding food security. They may also decide to volunteer at the food bank.

The justice-oriented citizen might use their social media page to share potentially controversial articles, and viewpoints which spark discussion about the root causes of food security, inviting others to join the discussion and organizing followers to contribute to participating in working towards social change in online and offline spaces.

The conversations about social justice can happen online, but they are more effective when they are rooted in offline organizational efforts.  Another point is that online discussions should take place with the intent to promote change or raise awareness, rather than use the post for personal gratification (for example, getting lots of likes or shares).  But how do we teach our students to use social media to have meaningful conversations about social justice issues online?

Educator Responsibility

As educators teaching students who only know a world with social media, we should:

In Spring 2018, I participated in a joint Regina Public Schools/Regina Catholic Schools project called #YQRActivistArt.  The project involved bringing the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra to Regina with an opportunity for our students to see the group perform live. To participate in the project, you had to commit to producing an art project in response to a social issue.  Through planning and collaboration with other classes, our students chose social issues they wanted to explore and created an art piece to raise awareness about the issue.  Every school did something different, and my students presented their projects in a school wide gallery opening:

The reason I share this story is because of the importance of teaching activism in schools. My students were engaged, motivated and excited to spread awareness and it allowed us to have conversations about meaningful and worthwhile ways to share information about different social issues.  The guide, “Facilitating Activist Education” explains by teaching about activism, students may become “engaged citizen-activists – people who see themselves as capable of affecting positive change for social and ecological justice”.

By starting with offline activism experiences for our students, we can then move online with confidence.

“Edtech, at its very core, is about privilege” – Katia Hildebrandt

Hildebrandt explains that by participating in social media activism, we take a few things for granted, like access to educational tools, computers and the Internet.  With this privilege, she adds that “we have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to social inequities and injustices. We have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to those who have no privilege to risk.”  Furthermore, as educators we have the responsibility to teach our students about this privilege. Wasting our time with #slacktivism is not an option because we have the power and ability to promote real change with our access to edtech tools and social media to support these efforts.

Jeffrey Knutson explains that, “we need to teach digital and media literacy in the context of empathy and understanding each other’s differences. Talk about integrity, the importance of humility, and other important SEL (social and emotional learning) skills while working on digital citizenship and media literacy.” He also provides two Common Sense Education tools to lead the teaching and learning: SEL Toolkit for Educators and the Digital Citizenship and SEL Guide.

Finally, Yes Magazine shares four tips for using social media activism:

  1. Take advantage of interactive activism opportunities in online communities
  2. Make sure your activism is accessible and inclusive
  3. Remember that small steps are critical to getting the work
  4. Share the work that other activists are doing

To engage our students, we need to provide relevant tools and information to “speak their language” (using social media and edtech). Through conversations of digital citizenship and offline activism, we have the ability (and responsibility) to mold the next generation as informed and compassionate citizens who care about social justice issues.  Let’s use social media to make the conversation relevant for our youth.

“Social media activism is great for so many reasons: It is more widely accessible, it gets conversations started, it sustains momentum, and it helps empower people who may have never thought of themselves as activists.”Yes Magazine

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

Let’s Talk About OEP

This week in EC&I 831, we were fortunate to have a guest presenter, Dr. Verena Roberts, speak to us about Open Educational Practice (OEP) and examples in a K-12 educational setting. Prior to this class, my knowledge and exposure to OEP was very limited, as well as my understanding of the concept in general.  I am going to explore:

  • what is open educational practice?
  • what are the pros/cons of OEP?
  • what should OEP look like in an elementary (primary grades) school context?

What is Open Educational Practice?

First, let’s consider Dr. Roberts’ very thorough definition:

Open educational practices (OEP) in K-12 learning contexts can describe an intentional design that expands learning opportunities for all learners from formal to informal learning environments. Individualized open readiness can be demonstrated contextually, as a result of  teachers and students co-designing for personally relevant learning pathways where learners can collaboratively and individually share their learning experiences, that encourages communication of meaning through multiliteracies, that blends curriculum and competencies and that promotes community and networked interactions with other learners and nodes of learning from multiple cultural perspectives in digital and analog contexts (Roberts, 2019).

In Dr. Roberts’ presentation, she highlighted a few key elements in her definition: intentional design; expands learning opportunities; and formal to informal learning environments.  Open educational practices focus on the process over product and the idea that learning happens everywhere.  Furthermore, she discussed the importance of collaborative opportunities to create meaningful learning experiences that are personally relevant.  Finally, learning takes place in a community of networked learners blending curriculum and competencies.

To try and wrap my head around OEP, I did some more research to understand the goal of OEP.  Luckily OER Commons provided a specific definition:

The goal of Open Educational Practice (OEP) is to build the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that support and improve teaching and learning. Using open educational resources (OER) presents unique affordances for educators, as the use of OER is an invitation to adapt, personalize, and add relevancy to materials that inspire and encourage deeper learning in the classroom and across institutions. –OER Commons

This definition highlights how OEP can support teaching (as well as learning) and allow educators to differentiate open educational resources (OER) for their diverse student needs.  The key factor here is that by adapting material, teachers are able to provide relevancy that will allow for quality learning experiences.

Although this is not a review of a specific Open Educational Resource, I found OER Commons to be very useful in my perusal of OEP.  In particular, there is the ‘OER Commons Virtual Academy’ with a series a modules to help “advance your open educational practice”. I recommend checking this area out if you are not sure where to start or are new to OEP.

oer commons

A few pros of OEP:

  • ability to adapt material for relevant learning experiences
  • collaborative learning opportunities
  • high engagement among students

These are only a few of the positives of OEP, but they resonated with me as the focus is put on the learning experience of the student.  This relates back to Dr. Roberts’ explaining a flipped learning environment – from formal learning to informal environments as a way to engage students and focus on the process rather than the product. Teachers are able to design learning opportunities with students using open educational resources.   BC Campus Open Ed states:

When you use open pedagogy in your classroom, you are inviting your students to be part of the teaching process, participating in the co-creation of knowledge.

The idea of co-creating knowledge with your students sounds fulfilling and dreamy. But also a little “pie in the sky”, which leads me to some potential drawbacks of OEP.

A few cons of OEP:

  • learning curve for teachers to understand how to use OEP with students
  • limitations in certain classroom settings (ex. primary students vs. high school students)

In a small group class discussion, we talked about how exciting and meaningful these kinds of learning experiences would be with our students, but that the thought of using an OEP was a little daunting.  It feels like it would be a lot of effort to get set up using OEP with our students, and as Loreli mentioned, teachers may not have adequate time to find good open educational resources.  Teachers need to be very invested and see the potential benefits in order to take the time to learn and implement OEP.  Furthermore, it appears to be difficult to find resources appropriate for primary students compared to the vast array available for middles year and higher students.

But, luckily Dr. Roberts introduced our class to her framework, Open Learning Design Interventions (OLDI) to facilitate this process.

What should OEP look like in an elementary (primary grades) school context?

 OLDI (Roberts, 2019) takes place in four stages:

  1. Building Relationships
  2. Co-Designing Learning Pathways
  3. Building & Sharing Knowledge
  4. Building Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)

Using this framework, teachers can begin the process of incorporating OEP in their classroom.  Dr. Roberts also explains that younger learners (up to age 11) experience a “Teacher-Led Walled Garden of Open Exploration”.  This means the teacher helps provide different experiences for their students through inquiry-based learning opportunities. Some examples that could work for primary grades include: Skype in the Classroom, LiveArts Saskatchewan broadcasts and PenPal Schools.

Amanda tweeted asking her followers this question:

Including the image in her tweet helped show educators that they may already be using open educational practices without realizing it!  Amanda has some great ideas of how to use OEP in the primary classroom.

While this is by no means an exhaustive look at OEP, it is a start and will hopefully encourage you to learn more about how you can include open educational resources in your teaching practice.  We have to remember that our roles as educators are shifting to teaching students how to access, assess and apply knowledge by allowing creative learning opportunities. OEP is great direction to move towards if we want to continue to engage our students with personal, collaborative and meaningful learning opportunities.

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

 

Sharing is Caring: Let’s Discuss Open Education

In our EC&I 831 class this week, we began a discussion of open education and the culture of sharing. The term “open education” is something I have heard many times, but I have never taken the time to really understand the concept or what it means for educators and learners.

“The idea of free and open sharing in education is not new.  In fact, sharing is probably the most basic characteristic of education: education is sharing knowledge, insights and information with others, upon which new knowledge, skills, ideas and understanding can be built.” – via OpenEducationWeek.org

The quote above suggests that sharing in education has always taken place.  We share with our colleagues during breaks in the staff room, lending hard-copy books and resources, professional development sessions and more recently (in the last decade), through online platforms. My classmate Amy points to a great summary of open education through Tony Bates’ blog post, “What do we mean by ‘open’ in education?”.  Furthermore, Bates’ explains that “open learning must be scalable as well as flexible” because in an ideal world, “no-one should be denied access to an open educational program”.  This is the part that makes open education exciting to me as the opportunities to share and collaborate are endless.

Since the beginning of my career, I have searched Pinterest or TeachersPayTeachers for inspiration or resources and I usually try to find something that I can manipulate for my own needs and students.  Turns out what I am really looking for are Open Educational Resources (OERs) that line up with the “5 R’s of Open Education” as described by David Wiley:

OER Infographic: Open Educational Resources can be used for free and without permission.
Image Source: Fort Hayes University OER

A unique aspect of OERs is that the creators “waive some (if not all) of the copyright associated with their works, typically via legal tools like Creative Commons licenses, so others can freely access, reuse, translate, and modify them” (“What are open educational resources”).  I think this is the part where I start to get a little overwhelmed and confused about what is considered fair dealing for educational purposes.

For example, in my division we have professional development groups called a “Community of Practice” (CofP), which are self-selected groups of educators with similar interests.  A couple of years ago I partnered with another colleague to create a CofP specifically for arts education teachers in French immersion schools.  We felt that there was a lack of resources for this particular area of arts education.  We developed a shared Google folder, Pinterest page, YouTube playlist, etc.  But, things started to get a little bit “icky” when people considered scanning in songs from hard copy books into our shared folder.

icky
via GIPHY

Was this okay? Since we were using it for “educational purposes” and not sharing it beyond our group, did it fit into the fair dealing rules?  Correct me if I am wrong, but I think that because the original resource was not created as an OER, it still had traditional copyright rules.  If someone created a collection of French songs through OER Commons, then we would definitely be able to share the work using the 5 R’s of Open Education.

In my own practice, I have created unit and lesson plans for arts education and shared this folder with other teachers.  If the resource is an OER, I include it directly in the folder.  Otherwise, I simply include a resource list to make sure I am complying with copyright guidelines.  This folder was created for me as a place to store my resources, but I made it a shared folder because, why not! I think it is important that we share ideas among educators and stop reinventing the wheel.  Plus, sometimes I get other resources shared back in return!

sharing is caring
via GIPHY

As a side note, for anyone who was in band or choir in elementary and high school, did you ever receive photocopies of music? Entire scores copied for hundreds of students? This definitely does not fall under the “short excerpt” fair dealing guideline.  A conversation about musical score availability online is a whole other world, but I will say that a simple Google search with “(title) pdf free” will pull up just about any piece of music you want. That is why I rely on websites like MusicNotes to make sure I am using authorized music either personally or with students. Other sites like Scribd also have musical scores, but often they look like scans of hard copy books.

As we begin to scratch the surface with the endless possibilities of open education, we should bring the focus to “Why Open Education Matters”.  I love this video from our class since it is short and sweet and highlights how open education helps remove barriers that prevent students from high quality education. Students and teachers can have access to updated resources online.

Why Open Education Matters from Blink Tower on Vimeo.

Open education and a culture of sharing is important to me as an educator because meaningful experiences can take place through collaboration and community.  Why is open education important to you?

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

My love-hate relationship with social media

I would consider myself an ‘early-adopter’ of technology, especially with the Internet and social media.  As a millennial (born between 1981 and 1996), I grew up in a time when using the Internet was a new way of life as I learned alongside new developments.  E-mailing, peer-to-peer music sharing websites (like Napster and Limewire) and instant messaging (MSN Messenger) were all part of my elementary school years.  I remember coming home from school, connecting to the dial-up internet (who can forget that connection sound?) and beginning a series of online chats with my friends over MSN. This was the beginning of my social media ritual that would continue and evolve over the next 20 years.

1 Millennials
Source: Forbes.com

Since I was figuring out these sites at the same time (or before) my parents, they didn’t have a lot of control or understanding of what I was doing on the Internet. An example: Yahoo Chat Rooms. One of my best friends growing up has a brother (who now makes his living creating video games like this one) who was very computer savvy. He helped us create Yahoo accounts so we could join large Yahoo chat rooms with strangers from all over the world. We even figured out how to participate in audio chat, usually with adults. Keep in mind we were young – in grades 4 and 5. All of this took place with our parents oblivious to what we were doing and before conversations about cyber safety existed. Did we tell them where we lived? Did we give out other identifying info? I don’t remember and I shudder to think of the potential dangers we could have encountered. Long story short, if there was something new on the Internet, we tried it.

Fast forward through high school (Hi5, MySpace and eventually Facebook) and I began to see the negative or bullying effects of social media. Does anyone remember the “Top Friends” feature on MySpace?

1 Todays kids
Source

Then you add in the “relationship status” feature on Facebook…sigh.  It wasn’t all terrible though, as it was a really cool way to connect with people from around the world.  In grade 12 I went on a school trip to Europe, and our group joined with another group from a small school in southern California. A decade later, I am still connected with some people from this trip and we keep in touch sharing photos of our growing families and professional endeavours.  Heading to university, I was able to join ‘Class of 2011’ groups on Facebook and ‘meet’ other students before starting classes.  This was extremely helpful to discuss everything from textbooks to the first social gatherings of the semester.

I have spent the last decade exploring successful and failed social media including Google +, YouTube, Skype, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Vine, Weebly/Blogger/Wordpress, Tumblr and Snapchat.  Some have held my interest longer than others as I feel they add value to my life.  Other apps are cool ideas, and should be really successful, but they don’t seem to have the same staying power as more popular apps (like TikTok or Vine [in it’s prime]).  For example, I used the app “Mazu” with my younger nieces, and I thought it was a really positive experience.  It was created to help teach digital citizenship and the positive power of social media.  But then they just stopped using it one day. (Possibly a reflection on the short attention spans of this new generation?)

I am now at the point with social media that I feel “too old” to learn about some new networks, like TikTok.  All I know about TikTok is my nieces and nephews had it for about 5 minutes and became WAY too obsessed that my sister (their mother) made them delete the app.  As an arts education teacher, I feel like TikTok could be useful for ‘research’ and to reach my students, because we could learn some of the dance crazes like “The Git Up” or “Hey Julie”, but that’s why I use YouTube.

Even dating apps like Tinder and Bumble came after I met my husband, so although I understand the ‘swipe right/left’, it is something I will never experience in my social media journey.

When I consider how social media has affected my personal and professional life, I have a lot of positives but a growing list of negatives. Here is an example:

Snapchat: The only way that I communicate with my 16-year old niece. We have a great relationship and tell each other everything, but if it’s not face-to-face, it’s through Snapchat.  According to my niece, it is the only way she communicates with her friends (not through texting or other messaging). Why? Because the chats are not saved unless you want to save them and also through snapstreaks. The stress of snapstreaks is something I know all too well, as I send and receive a picture of the wall every day to my niece to maintain our streak. We have been doing this for 910 days. NINE-HUNDRED AND TEN DAYS. I even have a reminder in my phone – “Snap!!!!! Streak!!!!”. What is the point of this?! It actually causes stress in my life because I am afraid of losing the streak and how it would affect our relationship. Before I gave birth to my baby, I gave my niece my Snapchat login info so she could maintain the streak when I went into labour (turns out my baby came quick and we didn’t have to worry about losing the streak).  Is this the world we live in now? I was about to give birth, but one of my concerns was maintaining the streak as I felt like it is part of my relationship with my niece.  That being said, I still do it every single day with no end in sight. (Insert shoulder shrug emoji here).

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On a positive note, social media allows me to share milestones, travel and important events with friends and family.  I can stay connected with people wherever they are in the world and maintain important relationships.  In my professional life, I used Twitter, a personal website and LinkedIn to create a following that led to a full teaching studio of piano students within a few weeks.  These positive networking experiences helped me grow and maintain my business.  I also enjoy using Twitter to connect with other educators and sharing what we are doing in the classroom.  LinkedIn has allowed me to interact with people in other industries that share common activities (like same universities and volunteer commitments).

But with these positives, there are also negatives like #fomo and feeling left out when not included in social activities.  I think this is something that is an even bigger issue with our students and something I look forward to exploring further in this course.  Also, as a new mom, I have spent A LOT of time on my phone perusing Facebook and Instagram while holding a sleeping baby. It is hard not to compare your baby to other babies and get wrapped up in the “Instagram vs. Reality” world. And then there are sponsored posts/ads (are they listening to our conversations??) that make me feel a little bit uncomfortable. Finally, as a teacher, I find that I get a lot of student follow/friend requests that I must decline.  This is not necessarily a negative, but it does require having a conversation about privacy with my students.

In a recent conversation with my sister (mother of 4 of my nieces and nephews), I said “I hate the internet! I hate social media!”.  I could see how it was affecting my sister and her kids and the daily struggles she is having with them and access to social media.  She wondered if she should unplug the wi-fi? Move to a deserted island? How can we turn this around? What has to change to make it a positive part of our daily lives?  What can teachers do to help our students navigate the constantly changing world of social media?

On that note, I have to go take a blurry picture of my face or the wall and write the letter ‘S’ to maintain a daily ritual.

1 streak

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready