Category Archives: digital citizenship

Creating Community

What communities do you feel connected to? Why? Why do we need community? Benita and Melinda asked the same question this week. And I hope that I’ll leave you with one of many possible answers by the end of this post.

Whether fostering a community online or face-to-face, the instructor and students must establish expectations, participate in interactions, and develop communication skills. Like Schwier says, an environment doesn’t inherently develop into a community in which participants feel safe, belonging, committed and engaged. So, how do I plan to foster interactions using Canvas in my Music 9 prototype course?

Step #1 – Establish boundaries and participation rubric with students

Via edutech4teachers
                                     Via edutech4teachers
  • What rules are we going to follow in these spaces?
  • How often do you think you would need to participate for others to benefit from your contributions? Can you make this commitment?
  • What type of language are we going to use?
  • Learn about “Netiquette” and digital citizenship
  • Remember, chat comments cannot be deleted once they’ve been posted. You must be responsible.

Step #2 – Practice using the tools, explain their unique purposes/potentials

I plan to use the interactive and connective tools that are built into Canvas as the primary methods of communication: discussion, chat, conversations and conferences. We would practice using all of these tools and outline the expectations associated with each, before setting students “loose” to use them all.

The discussions section in Canvas allows responses to be organized by the question asked. Furthermore, students can add discussion questions if the instructor adjusts the settings to allow this. I would make sure that students would have access to this feature to increase the number of what Bryce-Davis calls “ringers,” which are new or unusual activities that “disrupt the established patterns and expectations just enough to renew interest” in the conversations. These discussions can be threaded, which allows members to focus in on particular comments of interest and follow that train of thought, rather than a stream of feed is more conducive to general comments. The threaded conversations help to ensure that discussion is organized and therefore potentially more meaningful and authentic. Small group options are available as well. Students can join particular focus groups based on interests or projects. Edutopia provides many suggestions in their Mastering Online Discussion Board Education Resource Guide. One idea is

“Instructional Discussion Boards should be used to meet specific course objectives and should be aligned with course content.”

For this reason, I would set the expectation for the discussion forum to be mostly related to the content of the course.

The chat section is a great option for students to socialize and build relationships. This area could be designed as a place for informal exchanges and for straight-forward student questions like, “When is this due?” or “What time are we meeting?”  It is important to note that comments in the chat cannot be deleted and are organized on a separate page from the discussion questions. Students would need to be aware of this ahead of time and know consequences for posting inappropriate comments.

Canvas also offers what they call Conversations, which is really just an email service. It’s a great option for one-on-one student-teacher interaction.

Finally, Canvas offers Conferences through a partnership with BigBlueButton, which is a web conferencing tool for synchronous online meetings, much like what we do with Zoom in EC&I 834. This option is ideal for group instruction or a more face-to-face feeling.

The combination of these tools is important. In his blog post this week, Adam said, “When looking for engagement amongst the class, it is vital to incorporate a number of different interaction opportunities.” The fact that Canvas has all of these tools within the same LMS means that students won’t need to check multiple providers to stay connected with their peers. When the log in to Canvas they will automatically be surrounded by opportunities to connect with each other in a variety of ways depending on the purpose of interaction.

Step #3 – Make the interactions meaningful, supportive and relevant

As I said before, setting expectations for each of the formats for interaction at the beginning of a course is crucial. The various forms of communication available, with students able to guide discussions, will make the interactions more meaningful than a strictly teacher-driven approach. Schwier says, “For a community to emerge, a learning environment must allow learners to engage each other intentionally and collectively in the transaction or transformation of knowledge. It isn’t enough that material is presented to people and they interact with the instruction. It isn’t enough that the learners interact with instructors to refine their understanding of material.”

Students also need to be taught the skill of asking critical or higher level questions for discussions to go beyond surface-level ideas and observations. Edutopia suggests teaching Bloom’s Taxonomy to ensure that students ask high-quality, purposeful questions.

Students need skills in research and citation as well, so that they find and support answers to their own and others’ questions.

However, my presence as the instructor in each of these areas will model meaningful and supportive interaction.

Schwier, 2001
                                Schwier, 2001

I think that required participation is also necessary, especially initially, to help students develop the habit of being a part of and contributing to the community. Icebreakers and introductions are important to developing historicity, which is an essential element of community.



I would also use rubrics for participation, as well as teacher, self, and peer evaluation to give students clear expectations and opportunities for feedback and self-reflection.

Step #4 – Troubleshooting

Edutopia helpfully outlines some Common Pitfalls so that educators embarking on this journey can avoid them. I think that I have planned for each of the concerns in my plan above. But the one that I feel I have the least control over is “Students may react in an inappropriate way by flaming other students or making disinterested or disrespectful comments to their peers or in response to assignments.” If this were to happen in a chat, there is one guide that says that the comment cannot be deleted. This is very concerning to me. If one student chooses to make a bad decision, it wouldn’t go away. I’ve emailed Canvas to ask why they’ve chosen this.

Step #5 – Learn!

By Frankieleon via Flickr
                                                                                By Frankieleon via Flickr

The primary benefit of creating a blended learning environment where students can connect online is that it improves the likelihood that they will learn more. Amy noted this in her blog post this week as well.  George Siemens’ Theory of Connectivity highlights the importance of networks in learning. I know this has certainly been true of my experience in EC&I 834.

Determining pros and cons myself of modern internet learning as self-determination.

Bear witness to all I have experienced in the connected age.

The progression of Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 all occurred in my lifetime as I was born in ’89.

1.0 to 3.0.jpg

Webevolve via

“We used to look at the web as a place to “look stuff up” (1.0) vs. create/collaborate/connect (2.0)” – Alec Couros, on the evolution of the web.

As a child and as an educator…

I have evolved alongside it.

Used and abused it.

It began young, growing up alongside a techy, computer-loving father. Fast forward to grade six, when your search engine selection spoke volumes of your personality/popularity. I would use search engines to find tips and tricks on my favourite video games (like the original Pokemon Red, none of this augmented reality madness). Ask JeevesYahoo! (which, personally, is just used for fantasy sports now)… AOLAltaVistaHotBot (yes, it still works)… and the eventual winner: Google (get out of here Bing).

I lived with the doubters of the internet (I’m looking at you, mom). The rise of internet users rose like my height! (I would also argue my capacity for rational and logical thought grew as well, but that’s another debate)!


Internet Users in the World via InternetLiveStats

And, alas, here we are. Progressed from the large encyclopedia that was the internet, full of content… to an organic, connected entity enabling critical thought and diversity of opinion on a monumental scale.

But what of its influence on me as an educator?

Living the amelioration of the internet likely leaves Logan largely linked and inclined to utilize Web 3.0 (more on that shortly, with a little less alliteration).

But what is Web 3.0Heutagogical learning (nice pronunciation in class, Kyle). Self-directed learning. We went from creating, connecting and collaborating (2.0) to letting these creations and connections direct our own learning (3.0). Could this make the teacher obsolete? What about the unmotivated learners? Does the direction a teacher provides mean everything?

Jackie Gerstein mentioned: “The Web, Internet, Social Media, and the evolving, emerging technologies have created a perfect storm or convergence of resources, tools, open and free information access.”

What does that mean for educators and students? What challenges are presented?

Digital citizenship. Whether is be educators through practice and professional development on the proper utilization of the internet or teaching our students to do the same, both are encompassed by what #DigCit entails. This can potentially widen wealth gaps as some students may not have equal access to internet and devices. But this does not diminish the necessity of education revolving around Web 3.0 as Luke Braun mentioned in this tweet to the question of its implications on the wealth gap:

Progress and learning to best meet the needs of your learners is always paramount, students with more exposure tend to be more successful and privileged. So with the ever-changing landscape of the web, versatility and lifelong development is your friend as an educator to provide opportunities for exposure.


Agree? Disagree? Thoughts?


– Logan Petlak

Sharing and openness. A moral imperative, even on social media.

Sharing is a moral imperative.

This week we debated the necessity or disservice of sharing and openness in schools in the context of social media and education technology. And, much like many of our discussions, it involves statements or hesitations from some that we could apply to other arguments about childhood and life. Observing my opening sentence, read the italicized and consider if that phrase, not in the context of social media, but rather of students of the past. Is or was sharing and openness not encouraged, with emphasis on competition instead? Perhaps not in schools, but at home?  Once upon a time, ‘openness’ and sharing emotions was discouraged as part of social pressures on males (The Mask You Live In). But in today’s world, openness and sharing is a given, a moral imperative. And sharing and openness in social media is no exception to this fundamental moral imperative. But sharing is a learning process, parents and educators need to learn themselves and guide students through the process of now understanding sharing not just in the historic sense of “Billy, let Tim play with your toys too”,

it’s become “Billy, don’t feel like you need to let Tim know about every single thing you’re doing today on Instagram”. We can share learning, or perhaps important life events, but where is the line in what we should share? Juan Enriquez presents the idea that everything we share leaves that digital tattoo. So, while I would argue we need to share, we need to be aware of the implications of what we share about ourselves and others. Much like presenting ourselves professionally in public, like at a social gathering, today social media is where humans gather and “humans are wired to share”. Rachel Botsman, makes this argument in her case for collaborative consumption.


Learning about sharing. How do we share better?

There are a lot of reminders out there about why we need to be aware of our digital footprint. Sometimes there is that fear about what we put into the big scary internet, but we (teachers and students) can use it to our advantage. This requires some learning to take place. In discussion with my grade nines, we stumbled onto an apparent digital citizenship learning curve. In many ways, as student’s raised in the social media age, they hit certain milestones or realizations about what is “okay” online far sooner than I ever did. Like any bit of learning, however, there are gaps. Some learn to avoid “oversharing” younger, yet fail to understand the idea of creating a positive digital footprint and post profanity or inappropriate content. As a young educator, I am fortunate to have been raised in the beginning of the social media age, but learned through mistakes and failure; different generations have different exposure and opportunity. So, rather than a trial by fire, or through personal experience depending on the generation of teachers, educators need a guideline for teaching digital citizenship in our school, thanks Alec and Katia. Find your line and use the resources to teach about openness and sharing through social media responsibly.

Where is the ideal line between sharing too much and not enough though? We can be aware of our digital footprints, but one person’s definition of a good digital footprint may be slightly different than another, much like one individual’s thoughts on sharing may be different than another. Where is your line?

Logan Petlak

Just Google it? Just Google it right. Building from simple to complex.

Statement: Schools should not be teaching anything that can be googled.


No2Google Logo via



The picture below isn’t necessarily related, but it was one of the pictures that came up when I searched, “Yes Google”, and I feel compelled to use it… it helps if you imagine Psy singing “Heeeeeyyyyyyy educators, Goo, Goo, Goo Goo. Google ain’t so bad”. This builds into my post, while illustrating both the problem and potential solution of simply “googling it”.

2012 iHeartRadio Music Festival - Day 1 - Show

LAS VEGAS, NV – SEPTEMBER 21: Rapper Psy performs onstage during the 2012 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 21, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Clear Channel retrieved via Business Insider)

Building from simple to complex googling.

Apart from the fact that so much can be Googled (and Googled and found mistakenly, as seen in picture above), the policing of instruction to avoid this next to impossible. However, like any potential problem-causer, it provides opportunity. How do we roll with this? How do we make a positive out of a negative? How do we build from simple to complex?

Terry Heick visited the thought that: “complex questions can’t be googled.” He went on to state that the answer Google provides can be a stopping point… and that it “… creates the illusion of accessibility,” or “obscures interdependence of information.” All valid. This can happen from simply using Google without education, but it reminded me of Dave Cormier’s details on using MOOCs appropriately through the cynefin framework and the rhizomatic learning… specifically that answering complex questions requires a particular approach to learning, that we as educators can seek to facilitate. Terry Heick then concludes with an awesome point that alludes to this need for educators and highlights the importance of teaching about proper use of Google and why Googlable (new word?) concepts should be taught in schools: “none of this (the above concerns) is Google’s fault.” Educators (and parents, for that matter) bear the responsibility to inform students of how to use technology like Google and Wikipedia to foster ideas and “cultivate curiousity”. So much can be Googled, so teach students to think critically, and recognize that every teacher can do this regardless of grade or specialization, as evidenced here, and through digital citizenship as Jeremy Black referenced.

Connecting critical thinking to maximizing Google.

“Before students can think critically, they need to have something to think about in their brains.” Ben Johnson made this comment, and used it to remind us of the importance of memorization and still keeping this as part of instruction. This speaks to the baseline knowledge that may come from using Google and other information sources. Finding the simple answers that “Googling it” may provide is the beginning to deeper parts of cognitive function in individuals, leading to fostering curiosity that I made reference to before. My phrase I tend to use in course outlines in senior science echoes the overlap between memory, critical thinking and curiosity: “in order to remember these terms, I will push you understand these terms.” This simply reflects my angle of looking at it, but there are many ways to aid in memory.


Final thoughts

Ultimately, the proper use of “Google” falls to educators to ensure students continue to ask complex questions and follow links to continue pursuing knowledge and continue to connect to new ideas with that new knowledge. Memory may play a dominant role in this process providing the fundamental information that sets a foundation to curiosity and challenging complex questions.


Agree? Disagree? Comment!

– Logan Petlak

ED Goals: Continue to connect, learn, question and improve.

Term in review

Over the course of this semester in ECI 831 we’ve progressed from educational technologies, like utilizing social media such as blogging and tweeting –> open education resources and ideologies –> to the perils and realities of the internet world through law and harassment –> and closed with the power and need for on-line activism. As this was my first class in my graduate studies, I found it very relevant as a student again and still as a young teacher. I felt that many of the discussions directly translated to learning in my classroom.
How have I been applying my new knowledge and thoughts thus far in my teaching practice?

In environmental science we have utilized social media to do research on ways to reduce waste and become enviornmental stewards and activists. In health science, I registered and directed students toward an open education resource through Coursera to learn more about our current topic (vital signs). This was accompanied by showing the students that you may purchase certifications in recognition of these courses should you need some paperwork associated with it ($65). This, in turn, lead into a class discussion on university tuitions that unfortunately seem to serve as a price tag for paper recognition of knowledge garnered. Around the school? I’ve used Facebook group chats to communicate with students about our One Act performance for the year, and have continued to use Remind to communicate with my track and field team as well as help coordinate our school gay-straight alliance (GSA). After spending more time with Snapchat, I had utilized its popularity with students to help promote our school in Moose Jaw as well as provide an area for potential students to ask questions about the school.

As I took into consideration MOOCs and open education, I considered how to work this into my classroom, but rather than simply throwing in some individual research in assignments and reminding them about critiquing sources, I decided to formally merge my teaching style with what I’ve learned about digital citizenship. The Digital Citizenship Presentation covers this and “learning in a Mr. Petlak classroom”. I intend to use at the start of my semesters in the future.


Beyond my classroom and practice, what else has this course helped with?

Over the course of this class, I digitally connected with others in the private purchase of a house, I digitally connected with other educators on-line to enhance my PLN, and expanded my ability to organize knowledge gathered outside of the school back into improving learning of myself and others. I felt it helped me reflect on the social dynamics inherent in social media that was just becoming relevant when I was in high school, and it allowed me to better connect with this generation of learners. It also renewed my desire to be an activist and not be afraid to speak out, which I fear as educators we may fear doing so in order to remain neutral… and at times, silent. But the push to learn piano also helped me found my voice and way to “create” music and sounds that I have enjoyed for a long time… and will continue to keep learning about.



I sincerely thank Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt for an awesome semester of learning, as well as all of my classmates. I was very unsure what to expect in a graduate class but this did not overwhelm or disappoint. I feel like a better teacher and person after this course and I feel that is my ultimate goal of education: to continue to connect, learn, question and improve.

To finish how I started, below is a picture of the difference in hashtags from the start of the semester to the end of the semester. Despite the length of each list, the time to complete was actually very similar… and almost just as importantly… I think my hair looks better too!


First Day – ECI 831


Last Day – ECI 831














Summary of Learning Video

Without further delay, below is my summary of learning video. “Google Yourself” a parody (remix) of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself”.

Keep on learning,
Logan Petlak


It all began with a selfiechallenge,
and then I started google plussing my name!
Flipgridding teachers, oh, wow this is great!
No more learning on my own: networking

Learning project maybe write a song,
‘Cause I love music maybe piano player. Can’t yet,
But I still play piano lots
And, holy, I be learnin’ lots
Watching youtube, TedTalks connections is where it is at,
Took weeks just to see that

Katia don’t like trolls but she likes trollin’ ’em
And if you don’t like slacktivism I think you’re wrong.
And I’ve spent hours on my blog
Even tweeted @courosa
I’m networked son,
domain at

So I like PLNs – knowledge-able n’ such
Baby, I support open education
And I think I’ve got a good online identity
It’s clear that I google myself

And when Dave told me bout rhizomatic learning
The only problem I had was info curation
Experience is the best teacher of knowledge
Pipe’s more important than content in the pipe.

And I gotta chirp about some laws
Lessig saves us with creative commons, just go Cite it,
Or we will get locked up
People puttin’ wifi prices on (everything)
And net neutrality is where we wanna fight back,
Took months just to see that

Katia don’t like trolls but she likes trollin’ ’em
And if you don’t like activism I think you’re wrong.
And I’ve spent hours on my blog
Even tweeted @courosa
I’m networked son,

So if you like PLNs – knowledge-able n’ such
Well then just support open education
And if you think you don’t connect with students
Then just edtech Snapchat yourself

And on the chance you have a classroom blog
teach #digcit – Translates to learnin’ for all
And yet the wealth gap leaves students vulnerable
Digital divide can we just break down it’s walls?

Corm-i-er told us, bout’ MOOCs and such
Oh, baby, you could go learn by “yourself”
Orient, declare goals, network, cluster, focus
And go complex question yourself

Now I have, a PLN – am knowledge-able n’ such
And I support open education
And if you think you don’t manage your reputation
You should go google yourself

Baba’s Summary of Learning for #eci831

Well it has been a jam packed, content filled semester and I feel like my eyes are going to fall out of my head from learning everything from the internet.  Although, I have to admit because our class was encouraged to guide our own learning, use open education, and make connections I feel like I have learned more in this class then any other.

I even surprised myself with by creating my own whiteboard animation video, you can make own to through the powers of the internet (they have templates and a 7 day free trial, just click here).

So, here she is folks my summary of learning:

Questions, comments, and concerns are welcomed.

Thank you to Alec & Katia for putting up with my technology illiterate mind.  Also, good luck to my classmates, go enjoy your summer!

Activism is a Click Away

What was the last social justice cause that you supported by liking a post, sharing an article or retweeting? Did you do so because you were passionate about the subject? Because it would increase your social status given your online network of relatively like-minded people? Because it felt good to help in some way? Because you thought it would make a difference?


Photo Credit: Pixabay

Activism takes many forms. A person may donate funds, volunteer their time and skills, or become informed and inform others. All of these things can be done using social media, including live streaming, and/or physical action. Although some argue that slacktivism is lazy, selfish or even harmful, ultimately all attempts to create a better world do affect change in some way. Gillian Branstetter even argues that “the Internet is more than an accessory to the real-world actions that change demands—it’s now a proven way to make it happen.” In fact, a Georgetown University study showed that “those who support movements online are actually more likely to engage in activism in real life.”

Well, that’s a relief. I can continue liking and retweeting for social justice guilt-free. But is that enough? What does it really take to affect meaningful change? I think that meaningful change happens when people become educated through disruption of dominant discourse and then change their own ideas and behavior. Language is powerful in constructing and reproducing expectations, roles, identities, and behaviors. And what is social media, if not language? So like, retweet, and share away, my friends.

Sharing an idea: the perks of Slacktivism

Slacktivism is the precursor to activism, whether it happens through the sharing of a picture, tweet, status, petition, or video, it begins a discussion and assessment of a potential problem, its causes, and may propose solutions. Contrary to the opinion of some, there is power in a digital push, much like we saw once upon a time with Aaron Swartz, Demand Progress, with online petitions for change. Or people supporting LGBT rights with a rainbow, or expressing political views like #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain, point being, “Social media wasn’t just a part of these protests—it was the reason they caught fire.” Gillian Branstetter also finished the article the above quote is from with: “2015 has proven that the Internet is more than an accessory to the real-world actions that change demands—it’s now a proven way to make it happen.” Slacktivism is a force for good, while you may be frustrated by individuals who that is the extent of their action, as acknowledged by Abby Rosmarin, it is still support nonetheless.

Here is a list of some major online campaigns:
#NotYourMascot– “Not Your Mascots is a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the misappropriation of Indigenous identity, imagery and culture.”
#CancelColbert – the call to cancel The Colbert Report after a racial comment was taken out of context in a tweet that garnered support to end his show.
#YesAllWomen – “a campaign in which users share examples and stories of misogyny and violence.”
#IdleNoMore – Indigenous rights peaceful movement to honour indigenous sovereignty, and to protect the land and water.
#BlackLivesMatter – “is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.”


Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue via Compfight cc


Live Support
The examples above garner support. Support can be visually supported and multiplied by the use of apps such as Periscope or Meerkat. There is a whole host of concerns about protection in anonymity and sharing of videos containing individuals who may not want to be shared but it increasing the connection of the world far beyond text or videos of before… even revolutionizing journalism and world event sharing, instantly.

It’s about the sharing of an idea. And while I may not belong to a particular race, culture, gender, or belief system… the sharing or “liking” of an idea is still something to make the idea grow or decline (depending on my opinion about it). I can be trolled or challenged for my comments, but the fact is my idea was read… so regardless of what abuse happens to me (not saying this is okay, see last week about online harassment, or that I’d receive much due to belonging to pretty much every privileged community there is, white, straight, male), my idea lives on… and to quote V from V for Vendetta. “Ideas are bulletproof”. Zeynep Tufecki would argue that despite the amount of momentum these ideas gather, successful outcomes aren’t seen, and pushes for the importance of organizing this beyond social media. I agree with her values on organizing and preparing for organized change… it still works. Georgetown univsiety posted a study and was summarized by Kate Groetzinger stating:  “those who support movements online are actually more likely to engage in activism in real life.” Scott Gilmore contributed the rhetoric of how useless Slacktivism is, because in cases it did nothing to help the individuals it referenced despite the amount of social media support it received… and essentially posits it was useless and served as a self back-pat for individuals.It read as if there is a need for change in “real-life”and if this is not achieved there is no successful outcome. But what is real-life change and activism?  And what is the measurement of a successful outcome? I, for one, argue that it depends how you measure victory. As an educator, an English language learner student writing their name can be a successful outcome or indicator. Vanessa Braun argued (paraphrased), even positively affecting/changing one person in one hundred… is still one person you positively affected. And I completely agree. For social justice – a share is a victory, a like is support, a comment is feedback for growth, and a view is a win.

And a win is a win is a win. 50 likes on a post supporting LGBT rights (win), riddled with some negative comments (win), leads to the next step – practice of defending an idea and gaining confidence (win) to the next step – build a GSA in your school (win)… which leads to the next step changing the discussion on it community-wide (win), which may lead to the next step mandated changed province-wide (win). Maybe the next step won’t happen yet, or backlash may happen in between, but even a negative step is still a step towards potential growth. As teachers, we can help educate out students to be the citizens who will dictate the direction of social media and take the next step. Recognize it can be a vehicle for hate but also a medium for growth, promote digital citizenship. It may sound like confessions of hopeless optimism, but I end the day happy knowing that I believed in the idea that things would and could get better, that a person is better, people are better than their darkest points and that the sharing of that idea has power. Wael Ghonim pushes for the understanding that people (we) can change their (our) minds and be better than the hateful comments others/actions (ourselves) have made, and as teachers, we have the power and responsibility share the ideas that shape the worldviews of current/future social media clientèle.


Your thoughts?  Agree? Disagree?

Logan Petlak

Post-writing thought:
Some of us are equipped to pursue the “real-life” activist change, and some aren’t, so I don’t mean to say every teacher needs to be a “rah-rah” hero in this light. I think rather than dwell on the negativity of some not doing something, recognize your skill-set and how you can make/support change.

Is digital access a right?

The new digital divide is not some far away issue that is totally removed from Saskatchewan, nor is it specific to a certain region. It is a global issue that impacts the marginalized. It is also something that I am witnessing within my community school within Regina, SK. The loss of net neutrality scares me. I agree with Jannae and think it will negatively affect teachers, students and education as a whole. Additionally, it will affect the poor and the marginalized. The internet could be a place to bridge that gap and give the voiceless a voice. Access to all places on the internet, not just places owned by corporate entities, is crucial to giving a voice to the marginalized, allowing for free speech, and encouraging innovation. If we allow tiered internet to exist we are furthering the gap of equal access. We are already living in a world where the media dictates what we see and the perspective we see it from and the education system is influenced by corporate interests. Take for example, the idea of BusRadio to fund raise or fundraising events put on by large corporations. By allowing content providers to provide better access to their users, we are putting free and open source tools at risk.

“A faster web for some isn’t an equal web for all, and the rules that favor Internet service providers jeopardize the web’s ability to serve as a platform for free speech and innovation.” – Jessy Irwin, April 29, 2014

One of Ribble’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship is digital access, working towards full electronic participation in society. Everyone doesn’t have the same opportunities when it comes to technology and as (digital) citizens, we should work towards equal rights and supporting electronic access. If we exclude the marginalized, it is difficult to grow as a society.

So Facebook has decided to help provide access to those who don’t have it with, the only problem is that people with access to have limited access, limited security, and limited privacy. So is limited access better than no access at all? I don’t think so. We should be working towards providing equal digital access to all, but how do we get there? I am not quite sure, but something I think that is important to remember is that the key word is access, not tools.

I will leave you with some questions to consider when thinking of digital access in your own community which come from the Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools document:

  1. What are school community members’ beliefs regarding the necessity of Internet access for staff and students?
  2. What is the school’s policy and current processes regarding blocking access to Internet content and social networking services, and how can the school ensure that students’ rights to digital access are maintained?
  3. What is the school’s policy on BYOD programs, and how will the school ensure access for all students?
  4. What opportunities is the school providing for teachers in order to support their use of technology in the classroom? What steps is the school taking to ensure that students have access to up-to-date equipment, including specialized or adaptive equipment for students with special needs?



Internet Equality: Bridging the Digital Divide

If you’re old enough to remember a time before the internet, you’ve seen the world change a lot in the past 20 years.  People can access all types of information, take classes online, and even make a living online in a variety of ways.  Students can work collaboratively online while teachers can monitor their learning using a variety of tools.  As I’ve reflected this past week on the rights and privileges that accompany access to technology and the internet, I’ve been struck by several things.  It seems as though access to technology becomes yet another instance in which the less fortunate and those on the margins are further disadvantaged.  I have stated before that teaching in a community school has opened my eyes to the needs that exist right here in our own city.  Trying to help students learn becomes exceedingly difficult when they are experiencing deficits in lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy.  Add to these the lack of access to the technological advantages of some other schools in the city and it is clear to see that some students in Regina will simply have greater chances of success than others.

dig divide

Photo Credit

This argument can be extended to the rest of the world as we see the same types of issues on the macro level.  For example, internet users per 100 people in the developing world are between 90-99%.  This includes countries in Europe, North America, and Australia.  While countries in the developing world are at 9-20%.  It shouldn’t surprise us that the countries with the highest access rates are also the countries with the highest quality of life and lowest unemployment rates.  I do not mean to draw unnecessary correlations between internet access and quality of life but it is yet another factor to add to the already long list of disadvantages for people living in these countries.  Facebook has recently become a major player in the push to increase access to the internet for those in the Third World.  However, the question that is always asked of large companies seemingly interested in philanthropy is “what’s in it for you?”  Big companies clearly see that in these undeveloped parts of the world, the potential for profit is huge. In this case it is much like the Europeans that first landed on the shores of Africa and South America.  Just as the colonizers saw opportunity for exploitation in these “new” lands, big internet players see enormous potential if they can corral potential future users of their product or service.


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This is why it is crucial that the internet remain an open and free environment that is not predicated on who pays more or has more political connections.  The internet was supposed to be the great equalizer.  It was supposed to help everyone have an equal opportunity to access information, make connections, and have a voice.  Individuals and companies alike should have the right to access information and services at comparable speeds to anyone else.  However, if big companies have monopolies in certain areas of the world, they will be the ones deciding who has access to what, for how long and at what speed.  For everyone to have an equal chance at internet access and usage, internet access equality must be in place to allow individuals to access information and promote services regardless of their socio-economic status.  Why is this important?  Well, for one thing although it is clear that socio-economic status is a huge factor in the future prospects for students, the current popularity of open education means that opportunities are available but inaccessible to those without information technologies.

As Aleph Molinari discusses in the video found above, the internet is “a basic social necessity of the 21st century and therefore it should be considered a right not a privilege.” With 5 billion people in the world who are digitally excluded, what will be the state of the digital revolution we are experiencing in North America and Europe if only 30% of the world’s population are included.  In essence this indicates that 70% of the world’s ideas, insights and innovations are completely untaped.  In Molinari’s model, RIA, community centres with computers and internet access are provided to communities in need of these services.  The centres are also equipped with educational software to enable both youth, seniors and everyone in between to have access to what they need to improve their lives.  They are also built with sustainability in mind.  Users are given opportunities to learn how to use computers and build connections and networks while learning to also become digital citizens.  This is one model but there are many others.

With the influx of new immigrants and refugees to Canada and other developed nations, we need to be providing training and opportunities to people who can lend their voice to digital conversations around war, reconciliation, peacekeeping, citizenship, immigration, politics, etc.  They also need to be able to access and navigate the myriad of forms, databases and information hubs necessary for survival in Canadian society.  For anyone who has ever tried to navigate the CRA or Government of Canada websites to retrieve a form or file a claim, I think you understand what I mean.  Now imagine that you don’t speak English or French, you’ve never used a computer before and you’re trying to register your baby for a SIN number.  It’s not just newcomers to Canada that are faced with this issue.  First Nations reserves across the country are also faced with this reality.  Low income urban neighbourhoods are another example of citizens with little to no access to technology or the internet.

internet use

So, what’s the answer?  What is the role of educators and indeed all digital citizens in building a bridge across the digital divide? There are a number of positive options you can be involved in.  Volunteer at a local library to teach newcomers to use computers. Make an online connection with someone in a developing country to help them practice their English.  Donate to an organization that supplies computers or digital centres to underprivileged communities.  Raise money through fundraising with your students to provide technology for underprivileged communities.  Above all, remember that because you are already a part of the digital world, it is incumbent upon you to fight for the inclusion of those whose voices are not heard.  Do you agree that internet access is a right for all people? If so, let’s fight for it and fight to protect it.