Category Archives: EC&I 830

Debate #6: Openness and Sharing in schools is unfair to our kids

Our debate topic for this session was focused on openness and sharing in schools.  The two teams were  Altan and Melinda (FOR) and Sherrie and Dean  (AGAINST)

Altan and Melinda prepared a compelling argument:

Three key themes they focused on included:

Privacy: language barriers, social media, input from children and "sharenting"

Openness: digital etiquette, digital rights, digital literacy, digital divide

Cellphones: digital communication

Sherrie and Dean focused on (in my opinion) a more realistic approach to this argument.  I think Sherrie could be approached by the CBC to replace Rick Mercer for her "rant" - prairie style. Simply put, the Sharing with Sherrie segment was outstanding.  She was realistic and pragmatic with her "rant" and it really resonated with me.

It was valuable to hear the insights from Dr. Varena Roberts and the positive examples she shared of age appropriate social media use by school including some Kindergarten age ones.  I have heard other students share other examples of positive use of social media from the different grades they teach too.  I am left with the perception that it is feasible to do, and with careful and thoughtful approach it isn't unfair for social media to be used in the classroom/schools.  Dean & Sherrie provided an extended video interview with Dr. Roberts that was incredibly insightful.  I think she was spot on with her question of 

 "WHO are we sharing our online presence to, who are we opening our minds to?" 

They discussed practical examples of how teachers can implement openness and social media in the classroom.  It isn't something that can be implemented with a flick of a switch, it is something that can be nurtured and developed.

There is no question that we need to evolve our thinking to be realistic with how society uses technology and not try to isolate how some schools isolate this issue.  I value the opportunity for our kids to learn from other perspectives and to access global resources to enhance their learning.  Growing up, I was fortunate to be able to travel extensively and see people from other cultures, beliefs, backgrounds, races and religions first hand.  This provided me the opportunity to gain a broader perspective on life and appreciate that the world is much broader than my own community.  Today, and especially during this pandemic, international travel is not an option.  But it is critical for us to hear and explore world events and to be aware of what is happening.  We need to embrace how we can make a positive contribution to the digital space and not be overly concerned about controlling what our kids see/experience.  

Our conversation during class, and several of the articles that were shared as the annotated readings focused on the parents responsibility for not oversharing or "sharenting" too much of their childrens lives online.  Is there a real or perceived issue of children's privacy being violated?  Initially, when I signed up for Facebook in 2008 I found it to be a wonderful way to connect with my family and friends and share the growth and development of my son who was 3 years old at the time.  My mother lived in Mexico for 6 months of the year and my two older brothers don't live in Calgary.  Facebook acted as a connection for us and continues to do so today.  Now my son is 15, and like many other teens he now has his own online presence.  He doesn't often like me to post photos anymore, and now I ask his permission.

I am hopeful for the future implementation of intentional openess and social media in the classroom based on the rich discussion our class had during this debate.

Openness and Sharing – Fair but Unfair

Smartphone, Face, Woman, Old, Baby
Used with permission from Pixabay

Tonight’s discussion debated on two different aspects of openness and sharing in school being unfair to our kids. Sherrie and Dean argued the benefits of openness and sharing with regards to learning and connecting with others across the world in a meaningful, purposeful way. Melinda and Altan argued the concerns of openness and sharing with regards to privacy, consent, and accessibility. Both arguments had me agreeing with both sides because they were looking at this debate topic from differently interpreted angles. I respect each angle as I feel they both need to be discussed to bring awareness so that education on these concepts is “open and shared” (see how I did that, kinda punny!)

As I tend to have done in my last few posts, I am going to share my takeaways from this discussion. First off, I’ll start with Sherrie and Dean’s perspective on the topic.

Adapted and expanded on from source

As mentioned by the presenters, openness and sharing allows for the 4, now 5, C’s of the 21st century education. Don’t get me wrong, all of these are important in education regardless of the platform, but by using the online format, it opens up the possibility for more of each area. Communicating with others in your school division, province, country, or across the world, opens up the potential for diverse collaboration, exposure to differing perspectives to develop and apply the art of critical thinking, generating creativity for sharing, and connecting in a global stage to take education and our future leaders to the next level.

More often than not, we are the authority on what students learn and how but that has to change. We need to empower students by allowing them choice and freedom in their learning and this can be done through openness and sharing, or OEPs (Open Educational Practices) and OERs (Open Educational Resources). OEPs are a set of activities and support around the creation, use, and repurposing of OERs (Conole, 2010). OERs are freely accessible, openly licensed text, media, and other digital assets that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes (Wikipedia, accessed on June 9th, 2020). Although OEPs and OERs are used more with high school and post-secondary institutions, there are some that address elementary outcomes such as

Media, Social Media, Apps, Social Network, Facebook
Used with permission from Pixabay

Lastly, students need to be in charge of their digital footprint. Let’s not be ignorant to the fact that they will all have one, if not already, much like we all do in some capacity. However, we need to make them aware of how their actions shape their online identity, which is something most employers are accessing to make hiring decisions. Students are going to inevitably venture into the online world and we as teachers have a part in educating them on how to positively reflect who they are by what they are sharing online. The difficult part is that many adults have difficulties with this concept. If we follow Ribble’s Step Approach, this will help us think critically when posting.

In addition, ISTE has created five questions that adults can use to kick-start meaningful conversations with kids about online behavior and identity:

  1. What information am I sharing?
  2. How secure is it?
  3. Whom am I sharing it with?
  4. What am I leaving behind?
  5. What are my rights?

When we lead by example and are transparent (or translucent) with our own online activities, we can guide, influence, and inspire our youth to responsibly benefit from openness and sharing.

Now on the other hand, Melinda and Altan brought up some valid points with regards to openness and sharing in a personal context. We have to be knowledgeable about our division’s privacy policies with regard to sharing student information, especially pictures. As they pointed out, our EAL population has a difficult time understanding documents, such as the media release forms, and I assume there are other families that do as well. How can we make these documents more clear and understandable by most?

The digital divide is a concern brought up in many of our debates, and for good reason. Because of it, many in our population aren’t exposed to the benefits of openness and sharing. Since a lot of things are online now, such as applying for jobs, registering for activities, etc, those without access aren’t getting the same opportunities.

As Alec mentioned, it isn’t fair to keep the concept of openness and sharing from our youth. We need to provide them with tools and knowledge to positively participate in openness and sharing within our digital world. We also need to provide access for those who don’t have it so that they are exposed to more opportunities. Although openness and sharing can be done offline, with guidance, it can be transferred to online spaces appropriately. We can’t lose sight that open learning and sharing start with consent and choice and be aware of the positive and negative consequences of what we are posting or accessing online. It is important to share learning, and not necessarily opinions as this may lead to scrutiny of your teaching motives and agenda.

Openness and sharing in schools can be fair to our kids if addressed with care and concern and if used with an appropriate purpose to help instill the “5” C’s of 21st century education.

Debate #5: Should cell phones be banned in the classroom?

I was really disappointed to have missed our last debate due to my work.  The topic was whether or not cellphones should be banned in the classroom.  I watched the class recording - and clearly I missed out on was the opportunity to participate in our lively chat :)

Both teams presented excellent videos.  I especially liked the editing of clips from videos including the Simpsons and Saved By the Bell ...

Skyler and Alyssa focused on the argument that  cell phones in the classroom are a positive addition to Educational Technology. They approached this discussion from a more moderate viewpoint, which I think was very smart.  They defined what a "ban" is - and suggested it was too extreme and advocated for restricted use that is controlled vs. outright dismissal.

The opposing team, Jill and Tarina focused their argument on banning cell phones from the classroom because they are a distraction to students and their ability to learn. 

A very interesting point that was raised that I had not considered was the positioning that school devices are safer for students to use than the personal ones.  This is for several reasons including firewall protection, the responsible use agreement that students must accept as well as the opportunity for teachers to review the search/browser history.

The class discussion focused alot on my classmates experience teaching - and this was so insightful!  I was surprised to hear that most of my fellow students were not opposed to devices in the class.  They stressed the need for focusing on digital citizenship and a recurring theme of the increased need and emphasis to be able to teach this throughout the school years is needed, but not happening.  Many also stressed that parents MUST be a part of this important learning and it can't be a "one and done" conversation.

I wanted to share a couple of additional resources I have found to be very helpful as a parent trying to navigate how to raise a kid using tech responsibily:

Devorah Heitner  her website Raising Digital Natives, and her book "Screenwise" were one of the first POSITIVE resources I found on the topic of digital citizenship for kids.

Here is a link to her Ted Talk, and although it is from 2014, it is still relevant:

Another resource I really like is Anya Kamenetz, her book "The Art of Screen Time

Lastly, if you were looking for a training program for your class - here is one I highly recommend for younger grades, it is called My Life Online 

But I digress ....

One thing I really appreciated about this week's debate was how logical both arguments were.  I did not find the debators to be as polarizing as previous ones, and I have to admit, I was rethinking my position throughout the discussion.

In the end, I maintained my stance that cell phones should not be banned.  However what I found most interesting was hearing from my classmates who did change their vote.  Listening to Melinda explain how essential devices are in her practice of teaching ESL was truly fascinating to me.

Debate #5: Should Cellphones be Banned in the Classroom?

June 4th’s topic was on Should Cellphones be Banned in the Classroom? Jill and Tarina on the agree side and Skyler and Alyssa on the disagree side.  In this debate, I voted on the disagree side.  I firmly believed that cellphones in the classroom can be used as a tool for learning.

Jill and Tarina highlight the following reasons why they believed social media was ruining childhood.

  1. Cellphones are Distracting
  2. School Devices are Safer
  3. Cellphones increase negative behaviours
  4. Detachment from Personal Device

On the contrary, Skyler, and Alyssa highlight their stance in a very catchy slogan Don’t make a BAN, have a PLAN.  They highlighted the following:

  1. Medical and Emergency Use
  2. Educational Purposes
  3. Digital Citizenship Skills

The Main Take-Aways

In this debate, my main takeaways and reflections occurred from the discussion that we were having as a class.  The concept of BYOD and the pros and cons of having a BYOD policy.  Melinda brought up the point of having a cellphone policy that discouraged cellphone use in class, but students were allowed to have access to cellphones at breaks, and lunch hour. I also discuss the importance of having an acceptable use policy while implementing any technology in the classroom.


Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

Our discussion on Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is one of my big takeaways. This is a concept that I have been familiar with since taking my university undergrad degree.  If you have a personal device bring it to school and essentially your class will become a 1-to-1 classroom. On the surface, I always thought that this was a great solution to the issue of not having enough devices in the classroom.  However, in a blog that was shared with our class BYOD – Worst Idea of the 21st Century? It highlights somethings that we need to keep in mind.  This being said many of the points that are highlighted I do not agree with.  I also recognize that some of the information in the blog is dated as it was written back in 2011.

Points that I agree with:

BYOD enshrines inequity.  The article discusses that for education to be equitable each student needs to have access to the same materials and learning opportunities.  I recognize that often our students do not have access to devices because of the digital divide.  This could cause pressure on parents to provide access to devices when they are unable to do so.

BYOD contributes to the growing narrative that education is not worthy of investment. The article highlights that education cannot be viewed as a competitive, commercial, an “every man for himself” enterprise.  I believe that this point is a major issue and concern.  As educators that implement a BYOD policy, are we doing more harm? Is this another way that we allow governments to not provide adequate funding? As is teachers spend a lot of their own money currently on their classrooms and students. I believe that BYOD does not send the message of an increase of funding for devices in the classroom, but rather the opposite.  Ultimately the message that could be sent is that teachers are making do with what they have, and ultimately that is good enough.

Points I Disagree With:

Cellphones are not computers. I disagree with this statement.  Keeping in mind that the article was written in 2011.  Today cellphones can do many of the functions that a computer would do for the average classroom.  Skyler and Alyssa highlight many of these functions in the article they shared with the class on 20 Smartphone Apps for the Classroom.

BYOD narrows the learning process to information access and chat. The article discusses how information access, note-taking, and communication are “low-hanging fruit” of education.  I would agree with this statement.  On the SAMR model, this would be the substitution stage.  I believe that BYOD allows students to expand further, and be creative.  By using devices we can hit the other levels of the SAMR model. This is highlighted in Holly Clark’s blog on What is an Infused Classroom. Sure, information access is part of the learning process, but as a 21st-century teacher, we need to expand this to enhance student learning.

BYOD increases teacher anxiety. I disagree with the statement that teachers have largely failed with implementing technology in the classroom.  I do believe that teachers may not have the skill set or know how to implement some of the technology, and I do believe that it is holding some teachers back from implementing technology in the classroom.  However, if COVID-19 and remote learning has taught us anything, it has allowed teachers to become more comfortable with technology if there was guidance or the opportunities to try the technology in a risk-free setting.  Many teachers experience anxiety when they alter anything within their teaching practice.  However, with effective technology plans and support, this can assist teacher anxiety.

Effective Cellphone Policies

As educators, we need to have effective cellphone policies in our classrooms.  This could be modeled in an activity such as “What does my classroom look like, sound like, feel like?” or through a “Responsible Use Policy” that is co-created with students. According to Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools, below highlights the difference between an acceptable use policy and a responsible use policy.  Furthermore, Skyler and Alyssa highlight the importance of teaching the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship.   These skills need to be taught in conjunction with having an effective policy and guidelines in place for cellphone use.

Melinda highlighted an excellent point in our class discussion around the idea that we often find problems with inappropriate cellphone use when students are accessing these devices at breaks, lunch hours, or at home.   Often this is paired with teachers who do not allow cellphones in classrooms, and therefore students do not receive quality digital citizenship from schools.  Regardless of whether or not cellphones are allowed in schools, we must not sweep the issues under the rug.  Digital citizenship is an important topic that needs to be addressed regardless.


In conclusion, should we ban cellphones in classrooms? Absolutely NOT. I believe that as educators we should always be hesitant when we use the word ban.  Even if we restrict the use of cellphones in the classroom it does not give us the option of opting out of important teaching moments of digital citizenship, and the conversation of acceptable use in regards to cellphones.

I believe that teachers can learn to leverage these devices as learning tools. As Holly Clark states in her article What is an Infused Classroom? , “Infused Classrooms, the teaching and learning outcomes are the most important aspect, and technology simply enhances an already purposeful learning environment”.  In other words, the use of cellphones in the classroom needs to be purposeful. The use of personal devices can help us use technology as a vehicle for learning.

Great Ed Tech Debate: Should cell phones be banned from classrooms?

This week’s debate regarding the use and existence of cellphones in the classroom raised a lot of great points that make it even harder for me to decide if I take the Agree or Disagree side. Jill and Tarina did a wonderful job representing the Agree side by pointing out that cellphones can be a distraction, they also increase negative behaviour, such as cheating, cyberbullying and sexting. The agree side was encouraging the use of school owned devices to keep our students safe without making cell phone addiction worse, since already 50% of kids feel they are addicted to their cell phones and according to Tanner Welton’s Ted Talk 80% of kids check their phones every 5 minutes.

Skyler and Alyssa though being on the Disagree side pointed out the importance of cellphones in the classrooms especially for health-, emergency-, and educational purposes. They believe that the term “ban” is quite harsh, instead the term “restricted” would be more fitting. They also underlined the importance of teaching our students appropriate cell phone use and how to regulate themselves with the help of the STOP sign.

Listening to both sides and all my classmates’ view points, I think it is important to take into consideration how old our students are. As my classmate, Christina pointed out, in her primary grade she prefers that her students do not have cell phones, since children often lose or misplace things, and they are not aware of how to navigate online world safely and responsibly either. This leads to my next question that was brought up during our class discussion: “How old should students be to have a cell phone?” My biggest concern when I see students having access to cell phones in the classroom is that often times they own a cell phone way before they are mature enough to make appropriate decisions. I made the same mistake by giving my daughter a cell phone when she turned 11. Her and her peers have not mastered the key concept that Brad described as “cell phone etiquette”. They do not know how to text and stay safe online causing a lot of worry and hurt feelings. As Sherrie mentioned this drama also makes its way to the schools creating extra issues for teachers to deal with. Especially due to the pandemic, I have been noticing children spending a significant amount of time on social media and I often question if their parents know what is actually happening in their children’s lives. As a parent and educator, being in contact mostly with newcomer families, I feel schools need to take an active role in having technology sessions for the parents where they can learn how to access the many platforms their children are using as well as how to raise responsible digital citizens.

I do feel that banning cell phones would be too harsh. They certainly have advantages, as my classmate, Mike shared his students using cell phones as a second screen during class time. I also think from an EAL point of view, it is great to have access to a translating app or even a dictionary right at your fingertips. For a newcomer life without being fluent in the respective country’s language can be very stressful and having access to a cell phone could help ease this. I would like to close with Dr. George Couros‘ words “… it absolutely needs to go much further than the idea that we can bring our devices into schools. It should be about what are we doing with them that improves learning?”

Thank you for reading my blog post! 🙂

Ban, no! Collaborative guidelines, yes!

The debate on banning cell phones in the classroom has been one for the technological ages. At first, of course, not everyone had access to a cell phone, and many still don’t. But let’s not kid ourselves, the vast majority of high school and upper elementary school kids have a cell phone, whether it is at school or not. What does this mean for teachers with regard to classroom management?

Rather than summarize the argument that both Jill/Tarina and Skyler/Alyssa presented, I’m going to explain my takeaways from the discussion, which mainly reside on the side of NO to banning, but within reason.

To start, I thought about my own experience with cell phones in the classroom and there is little to none because I have worked primarily with students in grades 3-6. Of course, some of them have cell phones at school, but the vast majority don’t, or if they do, I don’t see it. However, the scales are tipping and we are starting to see students a lot younger have these devices in hand. What do we do about that? How do we cultivate the etiquette in the younger grades to transform cell phone usage as they advance to each grade? This is a lot of responsibility, but it’s not impossible.

To think about this more, I reflected on how I use my cell phone at work. Well, let me tell you that I’m ashamed. Not only do I usually have it within arms reach, but I also have a compatible smartwatch for which I receive notifications as well. So that got me to thinking, how can I expect students to not let their phones distract them or others when I am not modeling what I am preaching? I have developed these habits because I haven’t been mindful of my own presence at work, let alone with my friends or family at home. Now to refocus!

I went down a rabbit hole of what workplaces do to police cell phone usage in their work environments. Our students eventually become part of the workforce and their cell phone habits go with them, so what policies do workplaces have? Do they ban them outright or is there some flexibility with usage?


In most articles that I read, it states that we have to accept and understand that employees (or students) are going to have their cell phones on them and use them during the day. Banning (as defined by Skylar and Alyssa) is not practical and creates resentment and a negative relationship between the employee and employer. However, full out usage with no guidelines is not conducive to productive, efficient use of work time. So, then what? The following video describes some tips that may help keep everyone somewhat happy.

Would these tips work in the classroom as well? I think so! Think about it, drafting up a cell phone policy (I hate this word by the way) WITH students would help for them to establish and understand phone etiquette in your classroom. Identifying specific places for which cell phone calls can be taken, that is if students need to take an emergency call, is helpful for students to use if need be. Indicating safe places to use cell phones, not in the bathrooms or change rooms, etc. The number one rule that I think all teachers, including myself, should follow is to LEAD BY EXAMPLE. We cannot expect students to refrain from using their phones when their teachers are using it in class unrelated to school purposes.

To add to these tips, I also came across a review of different policies school have on cell phone usage: These include

  1. Prohibition
    • no phones allowed but no penalty is stated
    • no phones allowed and a penalty is issued (leave the class, take the phone away, grade consequence, etc)
    • Questions about prohibition policies: 
      • How effective are policies that prohibit the use of electronic devices?
      • How is their effectiveness being measured?
      • Are prohibition policies enforceable?
      • How much energy does it take to enforce them?
      • Are there consequences if a prohibition policy is not enforced? What are those consequences?
  2. Controlled Use
    • use for educational purposes only as directed by the teacher
    • Questions about controlled use policies: 
      • Do students comply with these policies?
      • Does teacher controlling the use of electronic devices an effective way to demonstrate the role of technology in learning?
      • Can these policies be enforced? What if they aren’t enforced?
  3. Students Decide
    • put the onus on them responsibly use their devices
    • should not distract others’ learning
    • Questions about policies that let students decide: 
      • Are student learners mature enough to appropriately handle making decisions about their behavior in a course?
      • What responsibility does the instructor have for creating and maintaining a climate conducive to learning in the classroom?  
      • What if students proposed the cell phone policy?
      • Are there advantages when students decide? Risks?
  4. No Policies
    • no rules or expectations for phone usage, even if it is not related to academics
    • Questions about not having a policy: 
      • What happens in classes with no policy? Is it different from what happens in classes with policies?
      • Does not having a policy when so many other teachers do, communicate that the teacher without a policy has somehow given up?
  5. Policies with Exceptions
    • cannot use device unless you have permission or if it’s an emergency
    • Questions about policies with exceptions: 
      • How does a teacher determine whether a certain technology is or isn’t appropriate?
      • How much extra work is involved in dealing with and keeping track of exceptions?
      • What criteria can be used to determine the legitimacy of an exception request?
      • Are there fairness issues associated with this policy approach?
  6. Novelty Policies
    • mild or humourous penalties for usage
      • “if it rings, you sing”
      • if you use it, you have to bring cookies for the class
      • if you use it, you have to forfeit your highest homework score
      • for every minute I use my phone, you may use yours for two minutes
      • Questions about novelty policies: 
        • What does being novel add to the issue of cell phone use?
        • Does something like humor put the problem in perspective or diminish its seriousness?
        • What if a student refuses to comply with a policy that requires some action?

While all of these suggestions are interesting on their own, what happens when teachers have different policies in each of their classes that students attend? It is fair for them to have to know and effectively navigate the different expectations with the fear of penalty? Is it fair for a whole school to have the same policy that all teachers implement, whether they believe in it or not? I’d love to hear your thoughts on these policies or others or what you’ve done to address cell phone usage in class. What has worked or hasn’t worked for you?

Great Ed Tech Debate: Social Media is ruining childhood

Even after the GREAT debate, I still feel undecided. “Is Social Media ruining childhood?” is one of the hardest questions one could ask from me, probably because, as my classmate Laurie said, it hasn’t been around long enough for us to know how it is really going to affect our lives.

I used to be all for Social Media, until I took my EC&I 832 class with Prof. Dr. Alec Couros. This class gave me the opportunity to dig deeper and create a web site where I examine what TikTok and Instagram have to offer. To be honest, my “love” for Social Media started to become shaky.

I am an immigrant and having family, friends and relatives overseas, I cannot even imagine life without Social Media. Teaching immigrant students and knowing how lonely life can be when you don’t have anybody close by, I definitely think Social Media is a life saver. Having said that, I have two children (8 and 11) who have access to Social Media and that causes a whole lot of confusion in my mind when it comes to the positives it has to offer.

As Christina’s and Laurie’s presentation highlighted the good old times, I am trying to avoid comparing my childhood to today’s youth. Growing up during Communism in Eastern Europe, I’m sure my childhood was a lot more different than the majority of native Canadians who are my age, let alone our teens. With the lack of Social Media, my childhood was a lot calmer. When I look back though, I feel that the types of dangers of life have changed. Bullying existed at that time too, it was just easier to see what was happening. With Snapchat, for example, where the messages disappear after 24 hours, it is so easy to lose track of the hurtful comments or inappropriate things happening. And if we keep checking our children’s phones and read their messages, are we not violating their privacy?

I have to say that after the debate I actually agree with both sides. As Christina and Laurie mentioned the FOMO, cyberbullying, sexting, young girls having body image issues because of the fake world created with the help of filters and the race for popularity and validation by getting likes and positive comments all have a negative effect on children’s mental health, cause anxiety, depression, and suicide.

Photo Credit: <a href=””>lozikiki</a> Flickr via <a href=””>Compfight</a> <a href=””>cc</a>

But I certainly would not want to give the impression of being against Social Media. Even though it has quite a heavy negative side, as Amy and Dean pointed out, it does give voice to people. Just to mention two great social activist teens: Martha Payne and Marley Dias probably wouldn’t have been able to make a change without the help of Social Media. Social Media is not all bad, there are a number of positive, uplifting stories. It also allows people to build connections, collaborate, share and help each other grow.

My main take away from this debate is that we cannot just give a phone or a device to a child hoping that they’ll do the right thing. This is the biggest mistake I did with my own children. I fell in the trap of thinking if they know how to swipe, they know how to navigate the online world safely and appropriately and it was quite the trauma when I took the time to check their devices. As both my classmate, Matt and Jennifer Casa Todd in the article 10 Reasons why we should start showing Middle Schoolers how to use Social Media point out, navigating Social Media is a valuable skill that our students need to know. Many of our students are not capable of making mature decisions, therefore they need modelling and educating regarding how to behave online. Together with students, we also need to educate parents to be able to guide their children through this process by “balancing our fears with opportunities to help our kids not just survive but thrive and be leaders in online spaces”.

Thank you for reading my blog post!

Debate #4: Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

Yesterday’s topic on the great debate was Is Social Media Ruining Childhood? It was Laurie and Christina agreeing with the statement and Amy and Dean on the opposing side. Coming into the debate, I sat somewhere on the fence (as I seem to often do).

Laurie and Christina highlighted the following reasons why they believed social media was ruining childhood.

  1. Affects Mental Health
  2. Cyberbullying
  3. Safety Concerns

Amy and Dean highlighted the following points on the opposing side of the argument.  Their main argument focuses on,

  1. Allows for the spread of positive messaging and intentions
  2. The ability to connect with social media
  3. Social Media as a tool for creativity
  4. Kids who use social media are less lonely than others who use social media.
  5. Using social media to promote student voice
  6. Social Media isn’t ruining lives but changing how we interact in society

The Main Take-Aways:

Being an avid social media user myself,  I was very torn between the two debates.  I was able to relate to both of the debates quite well.  Both videos provided excellent points on the positives and negatives of the topic.  However, I am going to focus on two in-depth. Social media and mental health and social media for student voice.

Social Media’s Effects on Mental Health

Laurie and Christina highlighted the effect of social media on mental health.  This is a valid concern, I’ve experienced it. To give you some light on a bit of social media and the life of Curtis.  I was in middle school when Facebook and Twitter took off.  I was in Grade 7 when I downloaded Facebook.  I’ve grown up with social media as a major part of my life.  Now, in the beginning, my main use of social media was to tell everyone the most mundane things (I’d like to think I’ve improved, even in the slightest). Check out the following most ridiculous Facebook statuses.



Oh, the things I would say to “younger” Curtis… (13-Year-Old Curtis must have enjoyed his party).

Although these posts make me cringe today (and hopefully some of you laugh), I think it provides me an opportunity to reflect on my personal social media use.

Social media HAS affected my mental health.  Often I find times where I need to take a break from social media.  I often take this unplugged time at the end of a semester of a masters class because I get burnt out.  Furthermore, I believe that social media often highlights the “highlight reel” of someone’s life.  This curation of online life leads to comparison amongst each other, which in turn, leads to negative effects on mental health.  I am guilty myself of falling in the trap of “social currency” where I have seemed validation through likes, retweets, etc.  I have experienced the FOMO (fear of missing out). I have also experienced online harassment.

Bailey Parnell in Is Social Media is Hurting Your Mental Health? highlights all of these effects from social media.  I would recommend that you look at Daina’s blog because she provides a concise summary of the following stressors in detail.

It is crucial to look at the four steps Parnell provides to fix it.

  1. Recognize the problem
  2. Audit your social media diet
  3. Create a better online experience
  4. Model good behaviour

Personally, since I know better, I do better. I believe that I have taken the four steps above to address my mental health in regards to social media. Daina, provides some wise words on the matter:

I can understand how as adults we can use these steps to edit our social media habits in order to improve our mental health, but what about our students?

Furthermore, In a previous blog post, I highlighted an article by CBC that found that researchers at Sainte-Justine Hospital in Montreal “found over and over the effects of social media (on mental health) were much larger than other types of digital screen time”.  As educators, we need to be mindful of the stressors so we can provide support for our students.

Social Media for Activism and Student Voice

Throughout our discussion around the topic of social media, I think that it important to acknowledge the opportunity social media allows for activism and providing our students with a voice.  Two examples of this include Autumn Peltier, a 15-year-old Canadian Water Activist.  Autumn can spread her message through social media to reach a larger audience.

An article by the Washington Post illustrates that young people may share political information online, or use social media to get others to join a protest – such as during the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Black Lives Matter movement. Social Media provides virtual spaces that allow discussion and allow Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) to get information through social media.  According to a 2013 survey, “young people from socioeconomically disadvantaged households are more likely to get their political information from new online media sources than young people from households with more abundant resources”.  The reality is that many millennials, including our students who are using social media to stay connected.  This is increasingly evident with the BlackLivesMatter hashtag, as this hashtag allows the critical organization and information to be shared (hence why #BlackoutTuesday turned out to backfire, more about that here).

Dean and Amy’s post on 10 Examples of the Positive Impact of Social Media also highlight the ability for students to develop a voice of advocacy.  Often this reinforces a sense of belonging and can be a positive influence when youth are exposed to the right outlets.

In Conclusion:

I’m still torn.  I see this from both angles. But the reality is social media is not going away.  We as educators need to embrace the technology and teach our students proper digital citizenship education. Perhaps looking at Mike Ribble’s 9 Elements for Digital Citizenship. Also, we need to be mindful of media wellness for ourselves and our students. However, we need to be mindful.  Mindful of the platform and voice that social media provides.  We may as well embrace it effectively, our students are using it.


Debate #4: Is Social Media Runing Childhood?

I was really looking forward to this debate, as I knew it would be a HOT topic.  Tonight it was Laurie & Christina vs. Amy & Dean arguing for and against, and it did not dissapoint.

I was happy to be a part of Amy and Dean's video to share my own personal experience as why I believe social media isn't ruining childhood. I don't think anyone was surprised to hear that I am a proponent for age appropriate use of social media as it allows for communication, connection and creativity. Dean and Amy emphasized many of the key points I also advocate for - each generation has had their own "villan" that is blamed for ruining childhood. They shared several great examples of positive use of social media and how it connected kids so that they are less isolated and with similar interests.

Their supplemental reading included a very interesting blog post by Jennifer Casa Todd which was written as a response to an article that demonizes social media for middle schoolers.  Her response is enlightened, foward thinking and one that really resonated for me.  She dispells many of the common myths associated with social media use and teens.

Laurie and Christina focused on how social media has changed childhood - and not for the better.  They called social media "the evil enemy" and shared many reasons why they believe this to be true.  They focused on the harm that it can cause to mental health including depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.  They explained how teens succumb to FOMO, and are driven to do things based on how many likes/comments they will get when they post online.  They talked about inability to focus and poor attention spans as well as cyberbullying as critical issues social media have caused.

I can't argue that the points they raised aren't true.  In fact, the only thing that surprised me was how many of my fellow students were in agreement that social media is ruining childhood - over 50% of the class feels this way.

It makes me want to understand more of the pain points that adults have with social media.  Why is the perception skewed so negatively?  More research needs to be done about kids and social media too.  How would they respond to this question?  Instead of the polarizing ends of the debate - I want to know more about the "middle ground"

Every kid is unique and their ability to make decisions and use social media responsibly will vary greatly.  As parents, we need to ensure we are honoring the terms and conditions of social media sites (not allowing access before the age of consent which is usually 13 years old), being aware of how our kids are using social media, teaching how to "disconnect" and maintain open communication so kids feel safe about talking to you when things may go wrong.

Here is a helpful graphic from St. Alphonsus Primary School that outlines some key points to consider.

Image result for social media tips for parents

Social media is CHANGING childhood, not ruining it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the debate that occurred today between Dean/Amy and Christina/Laurie on the topic of whether or not social media is ruining childhood. As Christina and Laurie highlighted, our childhoods looked a lot different than what children are experiencing now. However, this doesn’t mean it is bad. The biggest difference is obviously technology. As both sides pointed out, there are positives as well as negatives to using social media. These are:

Pros (Taken from Smart Social)

  1. Young people can feel empowered to teach older relatives to use technology
  2. It can be used to create a positive digital footprint
  3. It provides parents an opportunity for open communication
  4. It helps students learn essential job skills
  5. It can lead to more communication, connection, and creativity
  6. You can use it to form or join (support) groups that may not be represented locally
  7. It offers students a way to stay connected
  8. It promotes students’ civic engagement
  9. It spreads social awareness and kindness
  10. It offers students a way to stay in touch with friends if they move
  11. You can learn new things

Cons (Take from Roots of Action)

  1. It lacks an emotional connection when communicating with others
  2. It gives people a license to be hurtful
  3. It decreases face-to-face conversation skills
  4. It conveys an inauthentic expression of feelings with the use of emojis and abbreviations (LOL, SMH, OMG, etc)
  5. It diminishes understanding and thoughtfulness through the lack of quality conversations
  6. It causes face-to-face interactions to feel disconnected
  7. It facilitates laziness
  8. It creates a skewed self-image
  9. It reduces family closeness
  10. It causes distractions

Upon further research, the impact it has on mental health, as Christina and Laurie highlighted, was explained really well in Bailey Parnell‘s TEDxRyersonU talk titled Is Social Media Hurting Your Mental Health?

She identifies the top four stressors of social media.

  1. Highlight Reel
    • a collection of the best and brightest moments in someone’s life that they post
    • this causes oneself to compare our behind the scenes life with others’ shining moments for which we inadvertently scrutinize and question ourselves
  2. Social Currency
    • what we use to attribute value to ourselves in the form of likes, comments, and shares
    • this means we put ourselves on the market as a product and base our worth on the value or social currency we get from others
  3. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
    • social anxiety caused by the fear of missing potential connections, events, or opportunities
    • this causes addiction and reliance on social media, taking us away from the present company
  4. Online Harassment
    • constant scrutiny by trolls or others you may know that feeds into a negative self-image
    • micro-moments of online harassment needs to be monitored and not go unchecked because over time it becomes a macro problem with potentially severe consequences.

However, Parnell identifies four steps one can take to media wellness.

Step 1 – Recognize the problem
Step 2 – Audit your social media diet
Step 3 – Create a better online experience
Step 4 – Model good behaviour

I can understand how as adults we can use these steps to edit our social media habits in order to improve our mental health, but what about our students? At what age do we expect them to understand how to mute, block, ignore, and properly respond/react to the negative messages on social media in order to reimagine, redefine, educate others, create positive experiences, and take action in both an online and offline platform. Really, both platforms require similar approaches and I don’t feel it’s necessary to separate the two in this context.

Jennifer Cassa Todd has a response to this question I posed in her article 10 Reasons Why we should start showing Middle Schoolers how to use Social Media. Adolescence is the ideal time to:

  • teach the appropriate use of technology because they are “able to reflect on their own thinking, and are able to observe how they learn and develop strategies to improve their learning, as well as when planning and impulse control is developing”
  • help navigate the online space and use it positively with open, healthy dialogue
  • connect them to organizations, causes, authors and learning opportunities based on their interests
  • have conversations about the media and the techniques they use
  • teach them their online world is an extension of their offline world and that “every person has the power to give another person great joy by sending positive and complimentary messages online as well as in-person”
  • talk about balance and accountability and being a good model of this
  • identify when it’s appropriate to respond in person, on the phone, or in a text

Essentially, it all comes down to digital citizenship. If students aren’t made aware of the etiquette that comes along with having an online presence, they may easily get wrapped up in the negative aspects that are available to swallow them up. Once again, you can’t give them a car and expect them to know how to drive. They need to know what speed to go in different situations. They need support to steer themselves in the right direction. They need help to avoid obstacles to stay on the road.

But who is responsible to teach our youth when not everyone has the knowledge and skills to do so, parents and teachers included? We are quick to point fingers and place blame, but have you thought about how you can help as a teacher, parent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, or friend?

All in all, as most of our debates have gone, if used purposefully, meaningfully, and with good intentions, social media is CHANGING what childhood looks like. When students aren’t given the proper skills to navigate the digital world, this is when it can ruin childhood. Jacquie mentioned that experiences on social media, although not all positive, allows us to make teachable moments from the negative and learn from them. However, this needs to be done in partnership with our students and demonstrated by our own actions. There needs to be a balance, education, and limits to social media activities for both adults and kids which also need to be regularly reflected on. Even though lots of things that are happening in the world have been happening for years, such as bullying, shaming, racism, etc., social media is making these worldwide concerns more visible. The skills to address them should not change no matter the media for which we are exposed to them.

How you plan to assist students with steering clear of the negative and finding the positive in social media to help shape their childhood?