Author Archives: Katherine Mihial

(Flip) Grid!

For this week’s task of exploring a tech application, I decided to learn more about Flip (previously known as Flipgrid). I have used Flip twice as a user and the experience overall was quite simple. When I was applying for the connected educator program within my school division, we had to give a 1-minute “elevator pitch” video that explained why we should be chosen to be accepted into the program. This program is offered for individuals who have aspirations to use technology to the fullest within their classroom. This program provides one-to-one devices for you and your classroom only. I already had an account made from this, and my video response was still saved from over nine months ago!

Flip is a video-based tool that allows for discussion across digital devices, but in a fun and engaging way that makes it ideal for use in education. I turned to Tech & Learning to learn more about Flip and all that it has to offer in the classroom setting. Flip can be used in any mode of blended learning and encourages students to use their voices to enhance their learning.

Flip is designed to help with group discussions. The ability to re-record responses helps take off the pressure, making this a very enabling tool for education. Students can also trim and edit their videos as well. This is very comparable to the video feature that my students use on Seesaw. Anyone with the link can respond to the topic created by the teacher, which opens up the floor for students from any classroom, school, division or even country to participate in the conversation as long as they have the link.

First, I created the group that my class is going to use. This is where I can find all of the different topics that I plan to use for my unit. You could create separate groups for each class or subject depending on how often you plan on using Flip.

This is what the home page of the group looks like from the teacher’s view. Once I created the group it gave me some cute cover photos to choose from and I was ready to create my first topic.

I will be using flip as one of the first digital activities within my course profile. Students will be given the link for this flip grid within their OneNote lesson. I want them to record a 1-minute video about everything that they already know about flight. This is to replace a traditional KWL chart.

Once I was finished creating the topic, it gives various options for sharing the link with students. It is integrated with Google Classroom and Microsoft. You can also share it with various social media applications as well if you wanted to get responses from the general public about a topic. I will be copying the student link into a OneNote lesson and distributing it to students.

When students are recording their videos on Seesaw I often will send a few students to work in various places in the schools where they can record in a quiet place without feeling as though they are being watched by their peers. I usually send them to the hallway, the library or one of the workspace rooms that we have to use. If students have headphones with a microphone attached it helps for better sound quality. I will do the same thing for recording Flip videos as well. When students record their videos they can add text, emojis and stickers to personalize their responses.

This program has options to like and comment on each other’s videos. I have turned off the comment feature because kids can unfortunately sometimes be cruel and right now I want to focus on recording their own videos first instead of watching and commenting on others’ videos. For my student’s privacy, I will not be sharing the link with anyone except for my students right now. I can also moderate and approve all videos that are submitted with my link to avoid posts that do not belong there.

Do you use Flipgrid with your students? What are some ways that you have connected with other classes or schools while using it? How have you incorporated it into your classroom before?

Mihial’s Course Prototype Profile

Target Student Population

My target audience for this course prototype is my current classroom of kiddos. I have 27 students in a grade 5/6 split (11 in grade 6 and 16 in grade 5). We are located at St. Bernadette School in Regina, Saskatchewan. I have been teaching there for 5 years and we are a connected classroom. We have one-to-one devices that we will be using for this course prototype. All of the student work will be completed on their devices, in the classroom. My students have been working to enhance their digital skills and this project will be the next step up for them. There will definitely be a learning curve for some, however, I am confident that most will be successful.

Course Format

Students will be completing this course through a blended learning model. It will be further to the left of the blended learning continuum with face-to-face lessons in the classroom while utilizing classroom aids such as learning management systems (LMS). All coursework will be done synchronously during class time.

Course Toolset

Platform: The platform that I will be using for my course prototype is Class OneNote. My school division already uses Office 365, so my students have easy access to this application on their Clever homepage. This Microsoft program allows my students to view module lessons and individually distribute assignments where they can complete coursework independently. They can also use an area called a collaboration space where all students can contribute to a shared page that everyone has access to.

Instructional/Communication: Students will be able to access their daily lessons on the subject tabs on the left-hand side of the home screen. This will then be broken down into lessons organized by topic and date where students can find a particular lesson. Within that page, students will find instructions, links to websites, videos, pdf documents, images, and tasks for students to complete. Students can complete their tasks directly on the page and I can view the work that they have completed from the host’s perspective. In addition, they can work in small or large groups within the collaboration space to complete group work and brainstorm ideas together. OneNote is flexible in that you can incorporate other websites with it so that students are staying engaged and aren’t completing repetitive work over and over again.

Assessment Tools: As students complete their lessons, I can view each individual student’s work that they have completed. I can type (or write with a stylus) comments on their work to give them both formative and summative feedback on their assignments. Student can upload their own documents to the OneNote page as well. They can create Word documents, PowerPoints, digital posters, voice recordings, and videos which can be uploaded for myself and the student to see. All work that is completed by the student is private from the rest of the class unless it is in the collaboration space.

Course Content & Learning Objectives

My course will be focusing on the Grade 6 Physical Science unit of flight. The main outcome that will be highlighted through this prototype is FL 6.1. I have also included all of the indicators from this outcome from the Saskatchewan Curriculum. I will pick and choose certain indicators as a guide for each lesson.

Flight 6.1 – Examine connections between human fascination with flight and technologies and careers based on the scientific principles of flight.

  • Observe and describe physical characteristics and adaptations that enable birds (e.g., ravens, hawks, loons, geese, hummingbirds, sandpipers, cranes, and sparrows), insects (e.g., mosquitoes, dragonflies, grasshoppers, bees, wasps, and butterflies), and bats to fly.
  • Show how First Nations and Métis art and storytelling highlight understanding of and respect for birds.
  • Research technological problems that had to be overcome to develop devices that fly (e.g., balloons, kites, gliders, airplanes, helicopters, and rockets) and explain how various creative solutions to those problems have resulted in the development of flying devices with different designs.
  • Discuss historical and current contributions of individuals, including Canadians, who have contributed to scientific understanding and technological developments related to flight.
  • Explain how inventions based on principles of flight have changed the way people work, live, and interact with the environment locally, nationally, and globally (e.g., bush planes in northern Saskatchewan, scheduled airline travel, supply of cargo to remote communities and mine sites, and transoceanic air travel).
  • Describe career opportunities in Canada related to the science and technology of flight.

Assessment Strategies

Students will be assessed on the completion of weekly lessons within the course. Some lessons will be completed individually, some in partners, and some in groups. Each lesson will focus on one of the indicators listed above. Each lesson will require some type of work completed by the student/group whether it is a typed, recorded, or uploaded response. Each lesson will be assessed on our division’s assessment scale provided below.

Scale from Regina Catholic School Division – Adapted from Edsby

Considerations

EAL – I have one student who just recently moved to Canada from Vietnam. I have another student in my class who is fluent in both English and Vietnamese who I lean on for translation from time to time. OneNote has the feature of using Microsoft Translator where the text can be read or listened to. She requires an additional explanation of lessons & tasks in smaller chunks that are simplified directions. I can modify her specific page so that she is working on what is appropriate for her due to the language barrier with access to the translator feature.

Adaptations – I have one student who is on a transitional learning plan (TLP) for math and writing. Specifically, with writing, she struggles the most with sentence structure and spelling. OneNote’s feature of speech to text is very helpful for her which is known as dictate. She can also utilize the spell-check feature to ensure her spelling is correct. Other students will also benefit from these features as well. Other students will also require more direct instruction when learning how to navigate the program itself. I encourage students to ask and help their neighbours when learning something new as well.

Digital Citizenship & Classroom Management – Students will be expected to follow the same set of expectations and rules surrounding digital citizenship and the use of our devices. We spend a lot of time reinforcing proper digital procedures to ensure we are promoting positive digital citizenship within the classroom. This includes a variety of different items such as privacy, security, cyberbullying, information literacy, etiquette, handling of devices, and approved school websites.

Attendance/Wifi – Students will not be expected to work on this course from home unless they are absent for an extended period of time. Students can access their office 365 account from any device using their school credentials and login information. In addition, students will be given ample time to complete their work within class time and we just received a new wifi booster in our classroom. This should help eliminate the slow internet speeds we were experiencing before Christmas.

Rationale:

I have chosen to use Class OneNote as my platform because I have a little bit of experience using it in a portion of my EC&I 832 major digital project. In this project, I explored OneNote, Canva, and Minecraft Edu for the first time. Within Class OneNote, I had students complete comprehension questions for a class read-aloud. This was a very basic use of OneNote as it was a learning experience for both myself and my students last year. I want to refresh my understanding that I already know and learn about the new and different features that I wasn’t utilizing then. My goal is to have more variety within each lesson and incorporate various different tasks for students to complete throughout the modules.

I decided to teach the grade six science unit on flight because the outcome specifically talks about human fascination and technologies used in the area of flight innovation. It seemed only fitting to use technology to do so. Also, I have pre-interns that will be coming back to join my classroom for the month of March. I thought it would be beneficial for my interns to see what a digital unit could look like in action with the subject that they will be teaching when they are here. When they are teaching they will be focusing on outcomes 6.2 and 6.3 of the flight unit. I am looking forward to my students experiencing their first fully digital unit in my classroom and seeing how it goes!

Blended Learning is a Heinz 57 of Technology in The Classroom

Blended Learning – What is it?

Blended learning is the continuum of face-to-face learning with synchronous and/or asynchronous digital learning as well. Some examples include classroom aids, flipped, and hybrid learning. Blended learning helps encourage self-directed learning and independence. It is not necessarily a 50/50 split but can be tailored to fit the student and teacher’s needs at that moment in time. As soon as you bring technology into the classroom you are essentially blended teaching and learning.

Personal Experience

By going off of my definition above, I have experienced blended learning for a good portion of my schooling. I remember in grade 7 our elementary school received one laptop cart for the senior end of the school to share. This was around 2007 when Desktop Mac computers were just beginning to be replaced with laptops and more access to devices in classrooms. I remember it being extremely exciting however we usually had to share a laptop with a partner, and everyone was saving documents to the desktop and USB sticks. The cloud certainly did not exist at this point. Digital citizenship hardly existed and it seemed as though our teachers were definitely learning with us in the moment. The fact that kids were typing on a white laptop also showed how dirty our hands are because they quickly become grey/brown. Throughout high school, we often used computer labs in various classes as well. My graduation present from high school in 2013 was a Macbook Pro laptop that I am currently still using to type this blog post! Ten years is a pretty good life span for Apple devices nowadays.

https://www.reddit.com/r/mac/comments/uvyg1v/
macbook_2007_still_showing_its_terrific_muscles/

The first experience that I can remember of a more traditional “blended learning” class was during my undergraduate courses at the U of R. Kin 180 – Human Development was one of the only classes that I took that was specifically offered as blended learning. We had two classes per week for 50 minutes each instead of 3, and then online tasks and discussion forums to complete asynchronously. As students, we quite enjoyed this model because it eliminated the third 50-minute class from our weekly schedule. This was huge when taking five classes that had both seminars and labs and I’m sure the professor appreciated it too.

Benefits & Challenges of Blended Learning For Teachers:

BenefitsChallenges
EngagementClassroom Management
Portfolios & CommunicationTechnical Difficulties
DifferentiationLearning Curve
CollaborationPlatforms/Cost
Data AnalysisDigital Citizenship

During the pandemic, my students were using their devices much more often at home during isolation periods and hybrid learning. However, this school year I find that students want little to nothing to do with digital learning at home as it equates to doing homework for them. Today, my students use devices every day in the classroom. We use devices throughout all subject areas and for a variety of different lessons, assignments, projects and reflections. Even though we have ample access to technology and platforms, my class still struggles with balancing technology enhancing their learning versus it becoming a distraction. Here are a few examples of what we use our devices for on a regular basis. This is not a comprehensive list, but these are a few of the main tools I use and some require paid subscriptions on the school and division levels.

  • Seesaw Digital Portfolios (Parents connected to student accounts)
  • Sora (Digital Library Website for E-books & audiobooks)
  • Mathletics (Supplemental math lessons connected with Saskatchewan Outcomes)
  • Canva – Digital design space for creating artwork, posters, slideshow, videos
  • Office 365 – Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Teams, OneNote, Outlook

What are your favourite platforms or websites that you enjoy using with your students? Let me know in the comments!

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

Welcome To The World of ECI 834

Hello everyone! Welcome to my online space where I will share my thoughts and ideas regarding online and blended learning with Katia’s class. For those of you who have never visited my blog site before, welcome! I enjoy sharing information that I have learned from class and my classmates as well as my personal experiences from the classroom, colleagues, and teaching over the years.

I currently teach grade 5/6 in Regina, Saskatchewan and I have been teaching for five years so far. My Twitter handle is @msmihial and I enjoy sharing things that are going on in my classroom and school there as well as topics we are discussing in this class. This is my fifth educational technology class and I have always enjoyed them because I have gained so much practical knowledge that I can use directly within my classroom. I enjoy using technology in the classroom and implementing technology use with my students in an authentic way that benefits their learning and supports various learning styles.

My personal experience with teaching online and blended learning are strictly thanks to Covid-19 protocols. I taught online from March-June of 2020, and a few weeks in December 2020 and April 2021. Additionally, I taught a bit of blended/remote learning in the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years as well due to students isolating for multiple weeks at a time and being away from school for longer periods. This included sending home a combination of homework packages and digital assignments and trying my best to help students and answer questions over teams when I had the chance to check in on them. The platforms that I am most familiar with are Seesaw and Office 365 including Teams, OneNote, Word, Powerpoint, and Sway. In addition, I have enjoyed using Canva, Minecraft EDU, StoryboardThat, Mathletics, and Mathigon for supplement learning.

This year I am fortunate enough to have been accepted into my division’s connected educator program, which provides my students one-to-one devices in my room specifically from year to year. This allows for ample access to technology and I am looking forward to utilizing it for our Course Prototype Development assignment.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

Social Media Ruining Childhood? Maybe. Maybe Not.

Wow! What incredible presentations for this evening’s debate. My first initial thought on this debate question was that no, social media is not ruining childhood. Watching the videos only furthered my beliefs.

Social media is ruining childhood just like the television, cellphones and the print press did for previous generations. We are often fearful of change and believe that if youth don’t have the same experiences that we did or our parents did, they are missing out. If the skill of swimming was discovered only twenty years ago, we would still be deciding what size pool is safest for kids and how slowly you should walk on the pool deck so you don’t slip. The rapid pace of change that we are experiencing as a society with the evolution of social media is one of the main factors as to why parameters around social media use have been such a challenge to establish for both children and adults. In addition, some parents need to stop romanticizing their childhoods and spend less time booking their children’s schedules and more time engaging in unstructured play.

Jennifer’s analogy about children learning how to swim really hit home with me. Many children start learning how to swim from a young age as little as just one year old, and it can take many years before they go swimming alone, unsupervised or without any guidance. This is a perfect comparison with using technology and social media. If we as teachers and parents want our children to be strong and independent tech and social media users, we have to guide them through the learning process of how to navigate the online waters in a safe way so that in the future, they will be able to build their independence. Hence, teaching all aspects of digital citizenship that is age-appropriate. There are many dangers involved with learning how to swim as a child, and that is why there is supervision and boundaries set to keep children safe and enjoy the learning experience. Just like parents, schools and social media companies have a responsibility to engage children with social media with boundaries, limits and laws to protect them.

When I was growing up I was handed social media without any parental guidance or true understanding of the risks. To no fault of my parents, but I was learning much faster than they were. I was fortunate enough to have previously developed critical thinking and decision-making skills outside of social media. I was able to identify if something felt off or potentially dangerous. However, not all children are in this position.

I also really gravitated to the disagree side because they mentioned how previous childhoods looked much different than today, and that is okay. Every childhood from generation to generation is going to have differences or else we wouldn’t be evolving as a society. Today’s children now live in three worlds: the real world, the imaginary world, and now, more increasingly, the virtual/mobile screen world. Many children seek out online friendships and relationships because they aren’t able to find those connections in their schools and communities. Many students feel isolated in school or with their families because they aren’t given the opportunities to connect with others to whom they relate with. Those that are marginalized often in smaller communities can feel like they don’t belong and struggle to feel accepted. The online community can sometimes be the only place where they can seek refuge and feel welcomed and empowered. They can explore different communities in a safe space that might not even exist for them IRL.

Social media is here to stay and it has already made a gigantic impact on all ages. Moving forward, teaching age-appropriate digital citizenship is essential for our children to be able to navigate social media and the online world so they can be prepared for independent use. We don’t throw a sixteen-year-old in a car for the first time when they are of age to take their driver’s exam. We prepare them for a couple of years beforehand with guidance and practice so that they can take off the training wheels and take their test with confidence. Having kids use safe and parent or teacher-guided platforms that are closely monitored and highly secure allow children to practice the skills of social media before they venture out into the world of Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok by themselves.

In university, I took a handful of outdoor education classes at the U of R. I was fascinated by our required reading “Last Child in The Woods – Nature-Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv. As students, this book was almost gospel for us. Or, that’s at least the way our instructor made it feel haha. If you ever had Nick Forsberg or any of the other wonderful outdoor education seminar leaders then you know what I am talking about! Nature-Deficit Disorder is a non-medical term coined by journalist Richard Louv to describe the growing disconnect he observed between people and nature. He indicates that people, especially children, are spending increasingly less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of physical, mental health and behavioural problems. However, we can not solely blame technology and social media for this. When you compare Canada or the United States to northern European countries such as Denmark or Sweden, the society’s culture around their way of life and what they value is much different than here. Denmark and Sweden have full access to social media, but their approach to how they balance it with family time and being outdoors is vastly different.

I still have my copy sitting on my bookshelf!

The dilemma that I often experience as a teacher is balancing the responsibility of teaching and modelling digital citizenship with parents. Not all families have the same knowledge base on social media use and children are coming to school on both ends of the spectrum. Some students are not allowed to use social media at all because parents are afraid of the negative effects of social media, and others use it freely without any guidance or parameters and directly experience the negative side effects of social media. I hope that these conversations will evolve into integrating a digital citizenship curriculum into Saskatchewan schools. As teachers, we are enhancing learning in the classroom with technology and social media and we know students are coming with various skills. I also hope that this can be better communicated with parents so that certain standards can be established amongst communities for the betterment and safety of our children’s digital futures.

B.Y.O.D.

Cellphones should be banned from the classroom. Yes or no?

So many perspectives to consider on this debate question! I have many personal experiences that I am drawing from both as a student, and as a teacher.

I will begin by sharing my experience as a student with a cellphone. For my entire kindergarten to grade eight schooling, I did not have a personal cellphone. Around grade six I remember my friends and other students started bringing iPods, digital cameras and flip phones to school. Oh, those were the days when you needed all three. Very quickly, rules around cellphone use in school were very much zero tolerance. It would be taken away at first sight and a parent would have to come to pick it up from the office at the end of the school day. Did this stop us from using them during the unsupervised time? Absolutely not.

As I transitioned into high school I was given my first cellphone. The rules were:

  1. Always answer the phone when mom or dad is calling or texting.
  2. Do not rack up over charges on the phone bill.
  3. Do not send mean and inappropriate messages to others.

If I did any of these items mentioned above, I would have my phone taken away for a period of time as punishment. As a pretty level-headed and responsible teenager, I think I only had my phone taken away once, but I know this is not always the norm for others. Did I sneak some text messages during classes throughout the day? For sure. But, I also never let my grades slip due to distractions or lack of focus because of cellphone use. This can be said for my experience in university as well. Knowing how to engage with cell phones appropriately is an important life skill. Mobile phones can be silenced during class or study periods, and active only in appropriate places. For the most part, these were pretty basic but important rules about having a cellphone. However, the capabilities of smartphones compared to my LG Rumor and Blackberry are vastly different and require a lot of different guidance and privacy protections.

Gosh I felt like the coolest person on the planet with this phone!

When I walked into my very first grade 6 teaching job five years ago it was an entire school-wide rule that students were not to use cell phones during the school day. From 9:00-3:35 cellphones are in backpacks, cellphone homes or left at home. It made for a much easier transition into learning my philosophy around classroom management and not having to manage students becoming distracted or in trouble for using a personal device at school. Did it eliminate all cellphone problems? Nope. But, it drastically reduced them compared to other colleagues in different buildings. Since then, my classroom policy has always been no cellphones. We have access to an entire laptop cart that we share with one other classroom. I’ve always told students that anything they think they want to do on their cellphone for school, can be done using a student device. I also have found that only about half of my students actually have cellphones that they regularly bring to school as well. However, that doesn’t mean that I won’t ever allow cell phones in the future, especially if I ever end up teaching an older grade or have less access to devices. While the problems with cellphones in school are valid, and clear consequences for misuse should be enforced, implementing a blanket policy forbidding the resource altogether would be severely counter-intuitive and unrealistic!

Recently, I have been letting my students use their cellphones for certain activities where they were required to take pictures of videos because the quality is so much better. I spent an entire lesson discussing with my students how there is a time and a place for using personal devices. If students have clear parameters around what they are using cell phones for, they are more likely to respect the regulations around them. Just like social media and digital citizenship, we have to teach students how to responsibly use cell phones in a learning environment. These skills will transfer into their extra-curricular experiences and their future employment opportunities. Sam Kery, from the New Ed Tech Classroom on Youtube, points out that encouraging cellphone use in the class can promote more engaging lessons, and can teach students how to use the app versions of different platforms. There is more potential for digital creations and the opportunity to share and connect with others.

At the end of the debate, I did end up switching my vote from agreeing to disagree and I think that many others in the class felt the same way as well. Let me know your personal thoughts or experiences with cellphones in the classroom both positive and maybe not so positive!

Social Justice through Social Media? For Teachers?

This debate topic felt very personal to me as I reflect on how I use social media both as a personal consumer and as a professional as well. I have sort of selected which social media platforms are for my personal use, and which are for my professional use. I use Twitter, Discord and WordPress to share my professional thoughts and reflections and they are public for anyone to search. Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram are all set to private accounts and it is only used to communicate with my friends and family. Tiktok is one account that I actually let my students follow because it is an account created just for our Valley Ridge Retrievers account. During the height of Covid-19, I was enjoying creating Tiktoks with our dogs and the litters of puppies that we had.

When it comes to using social media as a medium for social justice, I believe that it is an extremely powerful tool for creating and spreading awareness quickly to a large audience. For example, movements such as Black Lives Matter spread like wildfire because of the impact social media has on our communities. When it comes to my personal participation in social justice on social media, I am starting to realize that I might fall under the category of “Slactivism” as Brook and Dalton mentioned in their presentation. I very often will “like” and “share” posts on Facebook and Instagram related to various issues such as women’s rights, Indigenous rights, gun violence, and pride just to name a few. However, I would not say that this act of liking and sharing on social media is considered “Social Media Activism” as an act on its own. Genuine social media activism goes beyond the hashtag.

How am I a social justice activist? I hope that the conversations and lessons that I have with my students are making an impact on them and our communities. We very often will have group discussions surrounding current events and dive into some of the systemic issues that we face in our society that lead to inequalities and mistreatment of others. If anything, the activism that I engage myself in on social media is often sparking my interest to initiate these conversations with my students and explore these issues in a learning environment where my students can feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and experiences if they want to. Should educators express their political opinions in the classroom? “The majority of educators do feel that it is necessary to talk about the political happenings dominating the news coverage. Key issues such as race, gender equality and LGBTQ rights have been at the forefront of many student discussions outside of the classroom, which can lead to misinformation very quickly.” – Persaud, Education World Contributor.

To tie back to the initial debate topic statement, teachers should promote social justice on social media responsibly.

Now, I am sure Katia wrote this statement in this way for a certain reason because it can be interpreted in a few different ways. The first way that I can view this question is that if teachers are promoting social justice through a social media platform then yes, they should do so, responsibly. Teachers are often ridiculed for sharing their thoughts on certain issues online especially if they do not align with the beliefs of their school or the community that surrounds them. Teachers are often attacked because society believes that they should be neutral when it comes to political issues because parents don’t want educators to be pushing a specific agenda on their kids. In recent years I quickly became familiar with the term “Indoctrination” being used against teachers. However, staying neutral or silent is also a form of oppression all on its own. Ultimately, any institution that is government-funded is automatically political. In the spring 2021 semester, I took the course called “Politics of Education” and there is simply no escaping it. Dunn states in an article titled, “Is political neutrality in a classroom actually neutral?” and he concluded that, “education is inherently political. Choosing to maintain the status quo and further continue to marginalize certain groups.”

In comparison, one could read this statement as “Teachers should be required to promote social justice on social media, responsibly.” This is where alarm bells started going off in my head because my first thought was, that there are still so many working teachers that still have not decided to engage in social media for whatever reason it may be and don’t even have accounts that exist. The choice of whether or not to use social media is a personal one and I believe it should definitely stay that way within the workplace of teachers. I know that teachers are promoting social justice within their classrooms. They have been before social media existed and they will continue to do so even afterwards as well.

I applaud and support the educators that are courageous enough to use social media as a medium for social justice. Those that are comfortable standing up on a digital platform are helping to push boundaries and make real changes for the future of our students. Sometimes teachers shouldn’t be neutral. Most of the Politically charged rhetoric we hear is not an intellectual exercise. It’s not a theoretical debate. These are real-life incidents impacting actual humans on a regular basis. Unfortunately, some educators can feel caught in situations where they can’t always take the risks associated with certain activism due to not aligning with the values and beliefs of their employer or potentially risk tarnishing their reputation in a community which could result in losing their position.