Developing a Digital Footprint

Debate #7

Becca Lee Jaro

Do educators and schools have a responsibility to help their students develop a digital footprint?

I had to go back and reread the description of this topic after the debates since many of the conversations were regarding digital citizenship vs. digital footprint. These are two separate topics but they work together. Technology runs society and students need to understand the impacts it has on them in the past, present and future.

These images from Sylvia Duckworth show how the two concepts work together. Digital citizenship is the responsible use of technology by anyone who uses computers, the Internet, and digital devices to engage with society. Digital footprint is the information that exists on the internet about a person as a result of their online activity. If I am teaching my students about digital citizenship then should I also teach them about their digital footprints? I think I should!

Photo by Ryan Miguel Capili on Pexels.com

In the debate both sides did an excellent job of their arguments. The agree side, Rae and Funmilola gave points that I think we all need to follow. As educators we are in the best position to teach kids the skills that are required in the 21st century. We all live through the use of technology devices. I do not think anyone could say that they are not in a digital world. If you say you do not then you may live in a forest as Mike Walsh (in the last blog post) states. Students need to realize that online space are real spaces and they need to approach it in a safe and controlled environment. Parents are not teaching their children and may not understand themselves. As our students grow, learn and pass through our classrooms I think they should be aware of the impression their digital footprints is leaving on others. I did not have to worry when I finished my education degree and applied for teaching jobs of what my future employer may find. I did not grow up in the digital age. In todays world the digital age is a reality because what is found on the Internet in regards to pictures, post ad comments can come back and haunt them. They may think their presences is unknown or hidden, but it is stuck in the digital world. As Dawn McGuckin states, “Our students live in an online world. They’re emotionally and physically attached to their devices and many of their relationships exist within technology.” I think we need to ensure they know not only how to be good digital citizens but also create a positive digital footprint. Your footprint in terms of what you say and do online stays in a world that no longer forgets.

It is basically impossible to erase all ‘negatives’ from a digital footprint: the Internet has the memory of an elephant

Katia Hildebrandt

In the field of education we use many different platforms such as Seesaw or Edsby to share our students learning and work. For some children this is their first digital footprint. Dependent on the students age the topic of consent played a role in discussion through the debate rebuttals. Yes, the age of a child should be considered, but if you are sharing their learning with their parents then what happens to those images is on the parents. Right? I am not sure of the actual answer to this because I think if I am a parent and then sharing my child’s learning and images online then that is on me and not the education system. Do parents then need responsibility? Yes I think they do. Do teachers need to post photos of their students? Yes and no. I like to share thing my students are doing on Twitter or through Edsby because of my knowledge of privacy I do not show their faces. Not all teachers do this.. How do we get a whole education system to follow the same protocol of digital citizenship, digital footprints, and privacy policies?

The disagree group consisting of Gertrude and Kim spoke a lot about policy. Although I loved their Unsolved Mystery theme and think it fit well with this topic. Who is responsible? Who can solve this mystery? There is a document called Digital Citizenship Education
in Saskatchewan Schools
which was written by Dr. Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt. This document highlights how educators need to support students to develop responsible and appropriate online behaviour. Teachers are not taught on how to teach to their students in a digital realm, but I feel this should be a mandatory course in the Faculty of Education. Teacher training needs to happen so that all educators know where to go to help navigate and find relevant resources to use such as Common Sense Media.

We can pick apart the idea of who’s responsibility it is to teach children but I am firm on my belief that teachers should be teaching not only digital citizenship but also about students digital footprints. We can not manage what happens outside of school but giving the information students need can help them make better decisions of their online activity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Advantages & Disadvantages of Online Learning

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

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

Disabilities

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

Mental Health

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

Travelling

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

Customized

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

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

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

Debate #6: Cellphones- Do they have a place in our classrooms?

Cellphones. Likely the world’s most used tool, but it’s place in our classrooms is a continual debate. I’ve used just about every cellphone rule I’ve heard of over my 6 years of teaching, with yet to find one that I have 100% confidence in.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve taught grade 8 for a number of years now, and cellphones have been more common each and every year. I’ve had all out bans, had many surrendered to my desk drawer, taken several to the office, had phone baskets, and wall ‘hotels.’  I eventually evolved and in the last few years have attempted to teach responsible use, taking a much more relaxed stance on them. I’ve had varying success with all, yet haven’t found one set of rules that I am happy and confident with.

Coincidentally, eighth grade was the same time I got my first cell phone. I bring this up, because I remember the excitement, and comfort that middle school students feel, knowing they are connected to their friends and family. This isn’t even mentioning the ability of having a device that allows you to tap into the bulk of recorded information in human history. This being said, I certainly recognize many of the points Echo, Lovepreet, Amanpreet mentioned during their portion of the debate. It’s true, cell phones do distract a high majority of my students. I’ve dealt with numerous cases of cyberbullying, nearly all of which surrounded cell phone use. Screen time is a constant worry with our youth, and cellphones exasperate that greatly. They are extremely expensive, and the amount of broken or stolen phones that we deal with every year is far too high.

However, even with all of this being said, (I feel like a broken record at this point,) I feel that teaching personal responsibility and strong Digital Literacy Skills will allow students to engage in the many benefits that comes with having access to a device, while hopefully mitigating the negatives that I mentioned above.

As Bret, Reid, and Leona mentioned, our world has changed; technology is here for good and separating our student’s lives into a ‘connected’ world at home and a ‘disconnected’ world at school seems to go directly against 21st century teaching practices.

Technology is an integral part of life, and allowing them access to their devices (when it is appropriate to do so,) will mimic their lives after school. There are very few careers that have employees that are not available via phone, the internet, or social media, so why should our students be?

I could continue to push for why I believe that cellphones do have a place in the classroom, but I was quite impressed by one of the suggested viewings for this week, in which Sam Kerry discusses his feelings on utilizing cellphones in classrooms. Sam and I share thoughts on many points, including the increase in accessibility, the potential for interactive lessons, and creative uses that will explode in the future, such as augmented and virtual reality.


In my personal experience, not only does incorporating cell phones in the classroom give more (and sometimes more efficient) access to technology, it also has the potential to increase engagement with unique lesson design. Bring your own device programs are extremely beneficial in allowing schools and students to bridge that funding and access to technology gap. Teaching responsible use also instills trust in your students, most of which greatly appreciate that trust, and tend to abide by the expectations in most situations.

When positive digital citizenship skills are modelled and taught consistently to our students, I find the benefits of cell phone use in the classroom can greatly outweigh the negatives. (All of this being said, it would certainly be interesting if all school divisions could be funded in a way that would allow for one-to-one devices, possibly eliminating the need for this debate. But that is a discussion for another day!)

Debate #5: Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

Another week, and another great round of debates. We began with a topic that is easily debatable, even outside of our ‘EdTech circle.’

“Is social media ruining our childhood?”

Fasiha, Gunpreesh, and Dami discussed several key pieces of information when outlining the potential dangers that come along with social media. The potential of exposing children and students to cyber bullying, repeated marketing, increase in screen time, and potential online predators is something every parent and teacher is wary of. One of the other large pieces that we touched on briefly during the debate, is the instant validation that social media ‘likes,’ can provide, and how this can evolve into addictive traits for some individuals.

However, my personal beliefs have me more firmly on one side of this debate than I have been in any of the prior. I find social media to be simply another tool that we must educate our youth on, including how to use it responsibly. With effective digital citizenship skills, students can learn appropriate use, when to take breaks, and how to get the most out of this tool, while also being as safe as possible from many of the potential dangers.

These were not new thoughts for me, as similar ideals have been discussed in this and other EDTech class that I’ve taken. However, my thoughts were confirmed when Jennifer, Shivali, and Mike, explained the concept of each generation of people looking back on their own childhood with ‘rose colored glasses,’ and tending to be quite put off by the most recent generation. This seems to be the centrepoint to many arguments against the inclusion of social-media or other new technologies. This type of thinking is certainly shown by Matt Walsh, in his YouTube video explaining his feelings around the harm of Social Media (particularly starting at 1:44,) which was one of our suggested viewings for the debate.

While I understand the concerns parents may have, it’s my opinion that my future child will not need to have the same childhood I did. To me, it seems like a basic parenting philosophy to want my children to have a better childhood then I had. While it will certainly be different than mine (regardless how many variables I try and control,) it will be my job as a parent to teach my child how best to navigate the challenges that arise in his or her life, and this includes using technology, and social media, responsibly.

While I understand the concerns parents may have, it’s my opinion that my future child will not need to have the same childhood I did. To me, it seems like a basic parenting philosophy to want my children to have a better childhood then I had. While it will certainly be different than mine (regardless how many variables I try and control,) it will be my job as a parent to teach my child how best to navigate the challenges that arise in his or her life, and this includes using technology, and social media, responsibly.

Photo by Anastasiya Gepp on Pexels.com

Regarding my status as an educator, I strive to be able to teach my students how to become progressive, and effective digital citizens. I can certainly understand how this journey may be daunting to some, but as Cynthia Miller (2018,) writes,

“educators should be instrumental in demonstrating how the Internet and social media can be used to improve the lives, wellbeing, and circumstances of others in their courses. This in turn, can shift FCS students from simply being good digital citizens into becoming positive digital leaders.”

Miller, C. L. (2018). Digital Leadership: Using the Internet and Social Media To Improve the Lives, Well-Being and Circumstances of Others. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, 110(1), 45-48.

Teachers that can facilitate the growth of positive digital leaders is important now, but this importance will only grow exponentially as technology continues to grow within our lives and within our society.

If I Made You Feel Second Best, Cellphone I’m Sorry I Was Blind, You Were Always on My Mind

Debate #6: Cellphones Should Be Banned in the Classroom(Week #5: Post #2) Looking Forward to Hearing from YOU! This is an especially interesting topic to me, and I think that most people fall on one side or the other, and only a few fall right down the middle. I am[Read more]

And I’m Not Trying to Ruin Your Happiness, But Darling Don’t You Know That Social Media’s Not the Only One?

Debate #5: Social Media is Ruining Childhood(Week #5: Post #1) Feeling those Finish Line Feels Even though this debate seemed to be less heated than last week, I still felt as if people felt a strong intuition pulling or keeping them on one side of the debate or the other.[Read more]

Should Cellphones be Banned in the Classroom?

Debate #6

I disagreed with the topic this week. If I was listening to this debate a year or two ago I may have been on the agree side of it. I had to change my mindset on what cellphones look like in the classroom and their purpose. I credit my change of thoughts through Edtech courses I have taken.

The agree team of Echo, Lovepreet, and Amanpreet gave their arguments as to why cellphones should be banned but it did not persuade me to change my vote.

The arguments Bret, Reid and Leona made validated my reasoning for why cellphones are tools that should be used in the classroom. Cellphones do come with problems, but it is how educators incorporate them into the classroom avoiding the problems.

“Educators need learning opportunities that will change their mindset on cell phones.
Eventually, educators will understand the educational benefits of incorporating cellphones into the classroom.”

– Breanna Carels

Negative Mindset

The agree side gave lots of examples as to why cellphones should be banned. The arguments examine cellphones with a negative mind set. They feel that it will prevent cyberbullying. Cyberbullying does not just happen in school or the classroom. When issues like this arise it typically occurs outside of school hours which then trickle into the school. In order to eliminate this problem all together cellphones should be banned everywhere or until children become adults at the age of 18.

They suggest that banning cellphones will limit distractions. Classroom learning is affected with students spending 20% of class time texting, emailing and viewing or posting on social media. Nomophobia which is the fear of being able to use their phone also plays a role in the distractions. Technology addiction is real and people spend a lot of hours on their phones which allowing in the classroom reinforces the addictions. Students using cellphone have poor cognition and are not fully engaged in the classroom lessons.

Cellphones in the classroom can heighten the digital divide. Not all students have cellphones and seeing others with them can cause them to feel isolated and unconnected to their peers.

These are all valid points. What if we flip from the negative mindset of cellphones and see the positives they can bring?

Positive Mindset

The disagree side’s points were strategies I do in my own classroom. Cellphones are easily accessible. You plan a lesson with technology and you do not have one to one computers, carts are shared among numerous classrooms therefore not always readily available, or half the computers are not working what do you do? Take out your cellphone. Sam Kerry suggests “smartphones is a way to bridge the gap”. Many of the programs we use in school are available on smartphones. Students can use them and your lesson can carry on. Not all students have cellphones but in knowing your students will help you prepare and make sure they have a computer to use. This requires proper planning on the teachers end.

To keep students engaged and away from distractions you need to teach digital etiquette of cellphone use in your classroom. I spend the start of the school year modelling and reviewing the expectations of cellphone use in my classroom and students comply. Cellphones can provide educational success as tools for learning. Implementing cellphones in the classroom is not just for games or scrolling. They need to be aware of how it is a tool to support their learning. This requires how you will manage the use of cellphones in the classroom.

Conclusion

Cellphones when properly implemented and used in the classroom are an excellent tool to enhance students learning. You need to know your students and families and if this is a plausible tool as we know the digital divide exists. It takes time and work from the teacher to ensure cellphones are used properly and accordingly. Students will be engaged and the distractions will be null or limited. Cellphones should be allowed in classrooms.

Rounds 5 & 6

Debate #5 – Social media is ruining childhood

Again this week, I find this topic very difficult to answer.  Both sides of this debate did a great job outlining their stances which made it difficult to pick a side.  I believe that social media can impact childhood, but to say it is ruining it is hard for me.  I think that if children are not taught the proper way to engage with these platforms or the skills to be critical consumers, it can be detrimental.  If the time is put in to ensure kids have these tools in their toolboxes, I think it can positively impact childhood.

Parental Responsibility 

Stephen P opened a whole new can of worms with his question or idea that when does the responsibility fall back on the parents for allowing these platforms to consume and ruin childhoods.  I believe the exact wording he used is that perhaps “Social Media is Ruining Parenthood.”  This coincided with the analogy that was brought up surrounding how we teach our children to swim.  We simply do not just toss them in the pool and expect them to know what to do.  It is a process where our children are expected to progress through various levels of swimming lessons, learning new skills along the way to eventually be able to swim on their own.  I think this is a great way to ensure that our children understand how to use social media.  Parents need to work with their kids through a progression of what they are and are not able to do within these platforms.  Parents need to demonstrate proper etiquette online and what is acceptable and not so our children know exactly what they should and shouldn’t do.  In summary, we, as adults , should be teaching and cautiously supervising our young people while they are present on these platforms and educating them whenever they step out of line online, but also praising them for proper and acceptable etiquette online.

Digital Citizenship/Media Literacies

Teaching our children to be responsible, critical consumers is a significant step in ensuring that these platforms do not ruin their childhood.  It is our responsibility as adults to ensure that our children know how to behave online.  According to the GoGuardian article, 5 Reasons to Teach Digital Citizenship, “teaching digital citizenship equips students with the knowledge, skills, and resources to succeed as lifetime learners. This also helps them learn to engage within a digital environment with responsibility and confidence to develop as leaders who will leave meaningful impacts in the lives of others.”  Within the framework of teaching Digital Citizenship, children will learn: informational literacy, cyberbullying prevention, online safety, digital responsibility, and health & emotional well being in the digital world; each important concept, ensuring proper and safe usage of social media.

Teaching our young people media literacy fundamentals will ensure they are equipped with skills to question, evaluate, understand and appreciate their multimedia culture. It teaches them to become active, engaged media consumers and users.

Connection 

Social media provides a plethora of opportunities to connect with the world around us.  This is one of the main reasons why I believe it is not ruining childhood.  This became very evident over the last few years of the COVID-19 pandemic, when we were on lockdown.  Social media platforms provided us opportunities to remain connected to our friends and families while remaining safe within our houses.  I do not believe that these types of connections are superior to the face to face connections, but can go a long way in maintaining relationships and improving mental well being.    

These platforms can also provide opportunities for kids to connect fairly easily with anyone around the world.  I think this can be especially beneficial in the classroom.  Students today are much more equipped to be able to connect with experts in any field through following or message on social media platforms.  Although I am not a child anymore, I have an example of the power of connections through social media.  During the beginnings of the pandemic, the University of Texas Longhorns football program ran a virtual coaches clinic through the use of social media.  This provided me with the opportunities to connect to many expert coaches virtually where I would otherwise not have the opportunity to do so without traveling down to Austin, Texas!  

Debate #6 – Cell phones should be banned in the classroom

Although I was on the disagree side of this debate, I struggle to decide which side I reside on as it seems to change day to day.  Some days I feel that they are enhancing learning in the classroom and the next day I want to smash each and every one of these tiny, controlling devices.  I often circle back to the notion that they are not going to be going anywhere anytime soon, so I may as well use them as a learning tool.  I feel that teachers need to do significant planning, preparation before implementing, cell phones have the ability to improve engagement and they have the ability to improve access to technology.

Preparation, Planning & Implementation

Teachers must undertake a serious amount of planning any preparation when they are trying to implement these devices into their classrooms. The exact purpose for them must be well known and outlined and they cannot be implemented for the novelty of saying that we use technology in our classroom.  Understanding who your learners are in your classroom is a critical step in being able to effectively use cell phones in your classroom.  You would not use them if the majority of your students do not have access to one.  If they do have one, it is beneficial to know what apps your students are already accustomed to using and meet them where they are skill wise.

Another major aspect of this planning and prep work is establishing digital citizenship, media literacy skills as well as specific guidelines and expectations of your students.  This cannot be scoffed off as something that can be taught over a few days, but significant time should be implemented in establishing these skills.  Use/misuse guidelines need to be well established and enforced to ensure that students know what is acceptable use of cell phones.  Many educators have enlisted the use of a contract where all stakeholders are aware of these guidelines and expectations.

Improved Engagement 

These personal devices have the ability to improve overall participation and the flexibility to connect to information in any setting.  Cellphones provide flexible and collaborative learning environments and we should work to incorporate these devices into the everyday classrooms. Through the use of cellphones, teachers are able to connect with students both inside and outside of the classroom.  They have the ability to promote an increase in student-student as well as student-teacher communication which directly impacts the sense of belonging to a classroom community.

The theme of increased engagement also helped develop the student-teacher partnership that Friere(1970) described as essential in the classroom.  Friere also outlines that increased classroom community and stronger partnerships move students to become critical co-investigators alongside the teacher, which cellphones can help facilitate in 21st century education.

Being able to audio and video record lessons, using the camera and accessing the internet or using apps are also ways to improve the engagement of students. Utilizing student’s personal cellphones daily can act as a driver for increased student engagement and hook them into their classroom activities and become a more prominent member of their classroom community.  According to Kunnath and Jackson (2019), integrating cellphones into our classroom lessons and activities provides teachers new ways to keep learning interesting and exciting by using a method and tool not usually allowed in class.

Increased Accessibility

As Leona S outlined during our debate, wouldn’t it be fabulous if we had a 1 to 1 ratio of technology in our classrooms – I know that would vastly change the way I teach and my students learn. However, that is not the case and likely won’t be for many more years to come. If accessibility is the concern then let’s start using the tools that we do have to enhance the learning for our students. If cell phones give us a better ratio of students on devices then let’s use this to our advantage. Cell phones are more commonplace than laptops, chances are more families will be willing to provide a cell phone for their child to bring to school rather than a laptop. Cell phones allow for more reliable access to the internet and likely should take up space in our classrooms.

Leona S goes on to outline that many students have easy access to cell phones and WIFI connections at schools and if they are learning remotely they are often willing to use their data plans to access the internet. With increased access to the internet via WIFI or Data students are easily able to access the APP versions of many teaching platforms such as google classroom and google docs. In agreement with Sam Kerry – He states on his YouTube Channel, until every family has access to universal free WIFi and we have 1 to 1 ratios of technology in our classrooms- let’s be wise and use smartphones to fill the gap of connection and enhance learning in our schools.

Cheers, 

Bret