I Will Not Smile When the Battery Dies

The last ed tech debate, and the last time I will hear the sweet sweet beats of our EC&I 830 theme song, discussed the following: We have become too dependent on technology and what we really need is to unplug.

The agree side, comprised of Janelle, Kyle, and Dean, argued that people are too reliant on technology and need to step away from devices. Constantly being connected to the web can be unhealthy. While being in online communities may seem like a great way to collaborate and find genuine support, many people feel more alone when their social media use increases. This article states being online “cannot … fulfill our deep innate need for intimacy, genuine connection and real friendship.” Interesting, I guess the friends I have made over the past 15 years from online gaming cannot be “real friendships.” Sorry, guys! Really, this assertion bothers me; I don’t think Margie is the all powerful wizard who can tell you if a friendship is real or not.

Last month, a friend I met on Guild Wars, when I was 15 years old, called me. He is 28 years old, from California, and has been a soldier in war since I have known him. We have stayed in contact for 10 years. He called me to let me know he is getting compensation for everything that he has been through. We stayed on the phone for two hours — discussing Trump *barf*, dating, politics, and successes and hardships throughout the year. Without technology, this type of friendship would never be possible. Sorry to break your bubble, Margie, but I consider this a very real friendship and a genuine connection. I wish we could stop arguing connections we make online are not genuine.

8906423-illustration-of-online-friends-having-a-good-laugh

Retrieved from https://5636spring13.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/socialization-part-2/

Technology has allowed me to keep important connections with people. One of my best friends is in Calgary and we have a traditional Skype session every Sunday (or Monday to discuss GoT). Do I wish we could meet in person? Of course! But I’ll take virtual Tanille over no Tanille at all. Additionally, I tend to travel a lot and meet a lot of people along the way. Two years ago I went to New Zealand and every year I have met up with a friend from Wales in the summer (she comes to Saskatchewan in two days).

I do think technology can encourage people to communicate less with people who are around us. I think it’s important for people to be aware of how they use technology when they are around other people. I get extremely frustrated when I am hanging out with friends and they are constantly checking their phones and texting other people. I usually just tell them to put their phone away if it’s getting out of hand, which leads to some awkward silences. I have noticed an increasing amount of students sitting in the common areas around the school, playing separate games in total silence and sometimes I wonder if this habit will hurt their ability to converse verbally with others. EA Prince argues that humans do need to unplug from technology to stay healthy:

I think he brings up some valid points. Although, his message would be more powerful if he didn’t tweet nine times today.  He brings up some previously discussed topics: the pageantry of vanity, selfishness, loneliness, and instant gratification. These are all problems we need to face, but I don’t think unplugging is the answer. I will not smile when the battery dies.

Danielle Istace defines unplugging similar to how I do:

“Unplugging to me, means disconnecting from all sources of non-face to face communication. Phones. Emails. FaceTime. etc. To me, unplugging, really means, becoming totally inaccessible. And, frankly, I don’t think this is necessary in order to get the cleansing effects of not using technology.”

Tayler, Nicole and Angela argued technology is a part of who we are and we will never truly unplug from it. Casey Kept discusses how unplugging from technology is not authentic because “the goal [of unplugging] isn’t really abstinence but a return to these technologies with a renewed appreciation of how to use them. Few who unplug really want to surrender their citizenship in the land of technology; they simply want to travel outside it on temporary visas.” I think this is true. There is (maybe?) one person I know who has stayed off social media and severely limits their phone use. The rest of my friends’ Facebook pages and Twitter accounts reappear after a few days. Can stepping away from social media and heavy internet use help people regulate what they do and how often they are online? Maybe. And if that’s the case, then I guess close your accounts for a few days.

But, like my on-and-off Keto diet, going to extremities isn’t going to last very long and you are, more than likely, going to fall into your old habits (whether it be food or technology use). People are better off with moderation. Don’t eat the cake (OK, a tiny sliver of cake). Keep the phone on the table when you are with family. Leave the phone in the tent when you are camping. Get used to the feeling of having technology accessible and choosing not to use it. Bonus: It will save battery life.

  • Koskie Out!

Corporate Interests in Education: Standards that Should Not Be Set

The question for this week’s debate statement for the week was: Public education has sold its soul to corporate interests in what amounts to a Faustian bargain.

I don’t think it it is a coincidence Common Core Standards, and the increasing amount of textbooks schools buy to ensure students meet these standards, came out while many educators were pushing and working towards an open-source education movement.  Pearson has an overwhelming hold on educational materials that school districts purchase and the company can even profit from student failure.

It’s a terrifying thought to think companies creating educational materials rely on students to fail so they can “bring in the scrilla (it’s also terrifying I am using Glenn Beck as a source to prove something, but I guess my grandma would be proud).” For Pearson, Common Core is private profit, which means they can create standards that students will not be able to reach:

[Common Core Standards] require kindergartens to “read emergent texts with purpose and understanding.” According to the report, there is no scholarly basis for setting this bar for kindergartners. In fact, the evidence suggests, expecting children to read too early can have adverse consequences. Early childhood researchers have shown the benefits of play-based kindergarten for cognitive, social, emotional and physical development. “Children learn through playful, hands-on experiences with materials, the natural world and engaging, caring adults.” The report calls for the Common Core kindergarten standards to be withdrawn.

SUCCEED

Photo Credit: .EJW.Photography. via Compfight cc

Many educational institutions are forced to teach students too much content when students are too young to comprehend it.  Research suggests waiting for students to become older can accelerate their test scores simply because the brain is more developed. The “impact of accelerated testing has had a disproportionate impact on boys”:

When a boy who is perfectly intelligent and on target in terms of physical and mental development attempts to enter kindergarten at the usual age of five years old, he will be at a significant disadvantage relative to the older boys and especially relative to the older girls that parents have held out of kindergarten for a year.

Common Core Standards and standardized testing can do some good, in terms of keeping teachers accountable for understanding the curriculum. However, the implication with that is the curriculum is the only important knowledge (and presumably “non-bias” information) students need to understand in school.

I struggled with standardized testing this year. I am teaching English Language Arts 30 for the first time so I cannot write my own final exam.  As much as I would like to say I didn’t think about that exam while teaching, I cannot; the exam caters to a few outcomes in the curriculum and I fell into the trap of “teaching to the test.”  Saskatchewan and most school districts are moving towards outcome-based assessments, yet the standardized test for ELA 30 covers two to three outcomes. Anyone else getting mixed signals?

Photo of man with two shadows on the sidewalk indicating mixed signals

Photo Credit: mag3737 via Compfight cc

With all that being said, corporations are also helping to solve the education crisis. Many companies are not simply throwing money at the problem:

Smart companies are finding that the more they do so [lend otherwise proprietary human, technical, and intellectual capital], the more momentum and demand they create for what they provide, and the smarter they get about innovating around what’s truly needed in the education space. It’s a virtuous cycle of self-improvement.

Google for Education revolutionized my organization and teaching practice as well as how my students learn.  Having one-to-one access to Chromebooks allows me to have a more student-led classroom. I  plan knowing I am able to create innovative assessments that suit individuals’ strengths. My students can collaborate on Google Docs and I can give them descriptive feedback as they are working on assignments.

I never really thought about how Google is tracking what my students are doing in order to target advertisements towards them. I had a light bulb moment this week when Microsoft aquired LinkedIn for $26.2 biliion dollars. Why pay so much for a website that is used for adults to post work-related activity? Well, acquiring personal data is expensive and valuable. LInkedIn is a perfect platform to get relatively reliable and accurate personal data from people. Corporations want data; no wonder there is such a corporate race to see who can become the most widely used devices and sell the most products in schools.

  • Koskie Out!

Childhood Through the Technological Age

Debate topic: Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

I have given this topic a lot of thought since becoming interested in educational technology. The agree team was comprised of Logan Petlak, Amy Scuka, and Carter Davis who made some compelling arguments that social media is harming children.

The agree team argued social media negatively affects children’s mental health. Students are consumed by online spaces where their peers continuously post highlights of their life.  Children’s exposure to technology is leading to poorer sleep quality, which impacts their physical and mental health. I don’t know about any other teachers out there, but when I am severely overtired it ain’t pretty for anyone.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to social media use since “social media rewards persistent refreshing — that’s how it’s built, and I doubt that reward system will change any time soon. If you’re already a bored insomniac, it’s tempting to stay stuck in a ‘checking’ loop, because it’s something to do.” I know the last thing I do before I go to bed is check my phone for text messages and what’s new on “the Twitter.” Children have access to technology at young ages and I worry that sleep deprivation will hinder their ability to focus in school.

However, I do not believe social media is “ruining childhood” because of sleep deprivation. Hell, child-rearing practices in the middle ages involved kids receiving harsh beatings regularly and instilling complete obedience through physical and psychological maltreatment. The definition of childhood is always changing and, while we need to be critical of what kids (and people in general) are doing, we should not compare it to our past experiences as children and say one is better than the other.

Retrieved from obstacol.com

Retrieved from obstacol.com

Simply saying “back in the good ol’ days when blah blah blahjsdfjdgaojajg” allows people to shift responsibility and not teach children skills that are needed right now. I also realllllly hope they aren’t referencing the middle ages when they say “back in the good ol’ days.”  Does social media allow for bullying to become more prevalent at home? Absolutely. Is social media sabotaging real communications? Maybe, but I personally don’t agree with this (I am skeptical any time an article uses the word “dicey” in it).

One way I do think social media is jeopardizing childhood is due to the exposure kids have to unrealistic beauty standards 24/7. Women’s ideal body types have changed throughout history:

This generation is no exception. However, we have never had a society where children are (1) exposed to so many advertisements with beauty standards which are (2) literally only achievable with photo-altering programs. Now programs are allowing children to alter their appearance instantly with Snapchat. Justine Stephanson demonstrates how much these filters can change your appearance on her recent blog post. Shouldn’t we be teaching children to stop pursuing these unattainable beauty standards rather than fulfilling people’s desire to alter their appearance?  Danielle argues the “internet is aiding our children in growing up much faster than they did when [she] was a child.”

I think she may have a point. The CBC documentary “Sext Up Kids” describes girls who are learning how to sexualize themselves at a very young age. Therefore, girls being sexual and objectified by society is normalized and expected from society– a terrifying thought.

Despite my rant about the negatives of social media, I still don’t think it is ruining childhood. The disagree team (Ellen Lague and Elizabeth Therrien) provided good arguments that social media can provide a lot of benefits to students; I have seen a few of my students gain genuine support from people on these platforms.  In fact, students have become more vocal in class because they feel more supported in expressing themselves. I have mentioned the various benefits for students using social media and open education in previous blog posts but….

Basically what it comes down to (for me) is this:

  1. Social media can cause harm to children, both physically and mentally. We need to educate students about it.
  2. Social media can provide a lot of benefits to children and give them amazing opportunities. We need to show how it can empower students.
  3. It’s not going anywhere. Lets talk about it.
  • Koskie Out!

 

Sculpting My Electronic Tattoo

When I entered the Education program at the University of Regina, I remember being terrified of my online identity. I had heard the horror stories: teachers being fired, students getting kicked out of programs, and drinking photos and videos becoming public. I remember doing a major Facebook sweep of pictures and friends. I remember Googling myself and being horrified at my 14 year old reflection on Nexopia (Nickleback T-Shirts and rock on signs galore).

I am still filtering my past online identity. I get a notification for my Facebook memories every day and delete status updates I don’t want online. I used to think students in this-day-and-age were sharing a lot more than I did, since I was almost eighteen when I joined Facebook (and we all know turning eighteen is when we gain ALL THE WISDOM NEEDED IN LIFE). However, I think people are more aware of the dangers that come from posting pictures and updates online. This is partially due to the fact that platforms are no longer private by default and why many students are leaving social media and moving to semi-private platforms. Juan Enriquez describes how people are plastered with “electronic tattoos” and how our digital identities will outlast our life span:

Students should be careful with what they share online, and I am not sure what age they should take control of their digital footprint. Looking at PEEL’s Social Media Guidelines for Staff makes me feel like running from professional and personal social media accounts as fast I can. These guidelines and lectures emphasize how dangerous it is to engage in sharing online. However, I think a major message is being lost with all of this caution tape: Social media and digital identities can open a lot of opportunities for teachers and students.

Making social media accounts more private hinders learning opportunities. I can’t create a positive digital identity if people cannot access any information about me. In fact, not engaging in molding my own identity allows other people the opportunity to do so:

Meredith Stewart said it best: [It} astounds me when teachers/professors only digital presence is Rate My Teachers/Profs page. If you aren’t controlling your footprint, others are.

I don’t think I have turned up on Rate My Teachers yet, but if I do people will need to scroll down a while on Google to find it. You are likely to find these pages of mine before Rate My Teachers: LinkedIn profile, AboutMe page, Twitter, Facebook, teaching blog, classroom blog, YouTube channel, GooglePlus page, and a random lawyer (Katherine Ferrieira) who finished her articles with Koskie Minsky LLP– congrats, Katherine!

Taking control of your digital footprint can be empowering. You can also meet some pretty cool people when you expand your PLN. Teachers can share resources and ideas by showing the world some of the amazing learning taking place in classrooms. Or, as I explain in a previous blog post, students can gain some amazing learning opportunities from open sharing.

There are many benefits for students creating online spaces and identities. I think it’s important they understand the dangers of posting things online, but I don’t want them to turn away from social media and open education completely.  Last semester, two of my students were excited to hear the Public Service Announcement they created was being used for nursing students in Saskatchewan.

Capture

Social media gives students the opportunity to become agents of change and reach a provincial, national, and global audience. Students have important things to say. Students have important things to teach. It’s time we start listening and fostering their voices safely in online spaces.

Consider (but fail at) Taking a Break.

Debate topic for the week: Technology is making our kids unhealthy.

I don’t know about anyone else, but the first thing I thought of when hearing last week’s debate topic was a voice saying, “Kids these days don’t go outside and play” or “Hey! There’s a lake out there!”

Flashbacking (using it as a verb now) to playing Guild Wars with my brother and the moment the developers put a time reminder on this game and I hated them for it.

You have been playing Guild Wars for 2 hours. Consider taking a break.

You have been playing Guild Wars for 6 hours. Consider taking a break.

You have been playing Guild Wars for 13 hours. You really need to go outside now. What are you doing with your life? Do you feel bad about this? Because you should. Re-evaluate all life decisions that brought you to this point.

OK, the end of the last one may have been an inner dialogue…. Hahaha, just kidding. I would simply sign out of the game and come back on so it would seem like I was only playing for 1 hour and no longer had to be shamed by my computer!

Image retrieved from www.123rf.com

Computer Addict – Image retrieved from http://www.123rf.com

Technology has increased the amount of time people are sedentary. I think it’s virtually impossible to deny this. I never would have sat in an uncomfortable rolling chair for hours if I didn’t have Guild Wars or Gears of War and immerse myself in a different world.  Obesity in Children and Technology describes how one-third of American adolescents are overweight or obese and argues decreased physical activity is due to the amount of time kids are in front of a screen. However, I don’t think our sedentary lifestyle (directly caused by technology) is solely to blame for the increased obesity rates because diet has also changed significantly. Unfortunately, one of the reasons our diet has changed drastically is because children’s advertisements were deregulated in 1984. A study conducted by Frederick J. Zimmerman stated that “Commercial television pushes children to eat a large quantity of those foods they should consume least: sugary cereals, snacks, fast food and soda pop”.

Deregulation made young people the most important and profitable consumer to exist EVER. Children are constantly exposed to advertisements and generations are becoming more obsessed with material goods and foods that constantly play on television. This is especially harmful when “prior television experience continued to predict unhealthy food preferences and diet in early adulthood, and perceived taste had the most direct relationship to both healthy and unhealthy diets.” If people decide how they will eat during early adulthood, and they are exposed to unhealthy food advertisements from birth, it is not surprising obesity rates are soaring. I mean, what kind of child won’t want to eat these foods?

If eating cereal will give me a bunch of digital bear friends that dance with me, I’M IN! But seriously, I HIGHLY recommend watching Consuming Kids if you are interested in learning more about advertisements targeted towards kids and the dangers on their health and well-being.

I do think that technology is messing with our body and minds. I’m very skeptical WiFi exposure may lower men’s sperm count since there is “no official scientific consensus around the potential health risks from radiofrequencies.” However, I know that I have struggled with sleep since the start of high school. I am fairly sure this partly because my melatonin is disrupted when I am in front of a computer screen all day. Come on, melatonin! Get it together.

Mental health is also being affected by our consumption of the digital world. I know many children have to combat cyberbullying and how people who use social media “frequently have 2.7 times the likelihood of depression.”  People are comparing themselves to the “highlight reels” they find on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  I remember posting pictures of Ireland and people being amazed by how beautiful it was. I decided to upload a video of how windy it was to show people how pictures can be deceiving (it was still beautiful but we stayed there for about 5 minutes because of the weather). It’s a tiny example of a much bigger problem: You never get to see what is really going on. The picture and video below were taken minutes apart.

Cliffs of Moher Ireland

Cliffs of Moher lookin’ beauty.

I feel like I have gone full attack mode into how technology is terrible for our health. Obviously, there are many sides to this story. My future-debate-partner-in-crime Bob Yake describes how “technology – particularly wearable biometric technology – can have very positive effects on a person’s health. I suffer from Myasthenia Gravis, a progressive neuro-muscular disease, and I can personally attest to the value of wearable biometric devices. I use an apple watch that is paired with my phone and has been an important way for me to track my drug schedule, my energy levels, daily food intake, and my insulin dosages. I can then share this data with my family physician, neurologist, and endocrinologist so everyone is on the same page treatment-wise.” I think it’s important to look at this issue from a variety of perspectives. I have applications on my phone that remind me to take medication (which I am terrible at doing– Sorry, mom.) or keeping track of my sleep schedule and the steps I take in a day.

I think it’s amazing that new technologies are being invented every day that can help people become healthier. I don’t know what the answer is, but technology is not going anywhere so it’s important to come up with solutions to these new problems. Who knows, innovative technologies may be the answer for some of the issues it’s causing right now.

We can’t expect children and adolescence to know the harm that comes from heavy technology use. We also can’t expect children to suddenly break free from unhealthy food and technology consumption when they have grown up in a time where the digital world revolves around their every desire.

  • Koskie Out!

To Google or Not To Google? That is the Question…

Well, my initial reaction to this question is: What’s the point of even asking it? Google is not going away and people are going to continue to access it if I tell them to stop.

BUT….

This question sparked some interesting questions and discussions around the current 21st century shift in education. Terry Heick argues Google impacts the way students think and that students are uncertain how to “apply, integrate, or synthesize their findings [on Google], making it almost useless.”

Many students have difficulties with applying, integrating, and synthesizing information they take in, which is not the fault of Google itself.  Google has drastically changed the amount of sources that can provide information to people and how often they access information.  I think it’s ridiculous to call Google “useless” because students have trouble interpreting the findings on it. If we ban Google in the classroom, students are going to use it as soon as they leave my classroom walls. It’s dangerous not to teach students how to decipher what sources include accurate information.

And, while people continue to say Google is the cause for problems, let me just say the pre-Google era was dangerous in a different way; textbooks that produce and circulate stereotypes, sexism, imbalance and selectivity, unreality, fragmentation and isolation, linguistic and cosmetic bias used to be taken as fact. Is the information in textbooks “more accurate” than some of the information on Google? Yeah, probably. But at least students are being taught NOT to trust all of the information they find online, rather than viewing what a textbook says as unbiased information.  Teaching students how to navigate the digital world is difficult and requires teachers to embrace educational reform.

I often wonder if the common phrase “just Google it” is detrimental to our critical thinking abilities.  Alarmingly, “the average number of Google searches per day has grown from 9,800 in 1998 to over 4.7 trillion today.” When I am having dinner with a friend and they ask a question, we simply Google the answer. We live in a world of instant gratification and Google gives us the opportunity to solve problems without thinking . It’s a habit that educators need to be aware of and combat. If I find my students trying to Google something, I tend to ask them follow up questions or discuss other possibilities so they can’t simply use a search engine to produce simple answers. I want students to wonder. I want them to discover. Ramsey Musallam discusses how important it is for educators to spark learning and stop using”Googleable” questions:

It’s important that teachers are innovative in their practice because students have grown up in a world of instant information. Technology is widening the generational gap between teachers and students. In fact, Jay N. Giedd asserts that “the way adolescents of today learn, play, and interact has changed more in the past 15 years than in the previous 570 since Gutenberg’s popularization of the printing press.” It’s not surprising many educators are hesitant to embrace such a rapid change in learning. To be clear, that does not mean that old-fashioned teaching ideas should not be revisited because there still are benefits to skills like memorization. Blooms taxonomy is based on the idea that skills need to build on each other and educators need to scaffold learning so they can build upon prior knowledge. As Tayler Cameron states on her blog, “Memorization has it’s place, but we must build upon that information to reach the analyzing, evaluating and creating phases of learning.” I often wonder how teaching pedagogy will be able to keep up with the digital world. Will blooms taxonomy need to be re-visited? What other practices will we be questioning 5 years from now?

My brain hurts.

  • Koskie Out!