Connect or Disconnect? Why Not Both?

With the final debate for ECI 830, I find myself yet again unable to commit to the agree or disagree side. Have we become too dependent on technology? Do we need to unplug? Yes and no. I think in some ways we have become dependent on technology and we are missing out on certain things. But at the same time our society revolves around technology and to unplug from that would mean essentially unplugging from our lives, which is unrealistic.

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When out socializing with friends or family, put down your phone. There is no need to check Facebook or text. Live in the moment and participate in the human interaction. But you’re worried about your kids who are home with the babysitter? Leave your phone on, or check in half way through the evening. There is no reason you need to completely unplug. You can be connected, while still interacting and being fully present with the people you are with. This is the balance we need to find and achieve. Be disconnected enough to appreciate the moments you are living, while being connected enough to feel at ease with your responsibilities. Being connected gives us way too many opportunities that we could have only imagined before this age of technology, why give that up? Take advantage of it. But don’t forget to live your life. Tyler admits to the fact that he doesn’t see the need to unplug, nor does he want to. Logan also has similar thoughts and recognizes the benefits of being plugged in. So if you want to unplug- go for it! If you don’t-then don’t! It’s that simple.

This is my 3rd class with Alec and Katia and I find myself having this debate each semester. Even though I don’t agree with her completely, Sherry Turkle has some interesting insights on the debate. Where is the balance between being connected and living in the moment? I don’t think there is a correct answer, I think each and every one of us is responsible to find the balance that works in our lives. Some people’s jobs or families may require them to be connected 24/7 while other people may feel the need to disconnect for periods of time.

Thanks for a great semester ECI 830, have a great summer!

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Photo Credit 

And That’s a “Rap”!

Wow! Hard to believe this semester has already come to an end. We (Carter and Amy) wanted to try something fun and creative for our summary of learning. We tried our hand at rapping and rewrote the lyrics to “Baby Got Back” our version is appropriately called “Baby Got Tech”. We had a lot of fun writing the lyrics, our biggest challenge came when it was Carter’s turn to rap the lyrics. Turns out he has zero rhythm and after about 25 takes we decided the only way we were going to make this happen was if Amy took the lead on the vocals!

Thanks everyone for a great semester, and enjoy our video🙂

-Amy and Carter

Do They Really Care About Learning? Or Just The Money They’re Earning?

(This week’s blog post title is a sneak peek into the Summary of Learning project Carter and I created. Stay tuned!)

I found this weeks debate a difficult one to choose a side. Particularly because there is a wide range of corporations that are involved in the education system and I believe some of them are out to help education as a whole while others are just out to make money. Corporations such as Google seem to be creating resources that are truly making a difference in education and offer opportunities for experiential learning. While companies such as Pearson are focusing on things like tests and making significant amounts of money of each individual student.

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I think one of the biggest factors in this is the relationship between the corporation and the school, as Dean mentioned. I think of Discovery Education as an example and I know that our school division pays a lot of money to have access to their resource, but I also know that if I needed support as a teacher I would be able to talk to someone who would be willing and able to help me.

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In summary, I do think that corporations are important in the education system because many of them offer tools and resources we wouldn’t otherwise have. Yes they are still making money off us, but it is in return for something valuable. Whereas the standardized tests Pearson is creating and getting paid for, there is really no value for student learning and the only party who benefits from that is Pearson. Because of this I think it is important for schools and divisions to choose their investments wisely. They need to invest in corporations that are going to give them something useful and meaningful for student learning. They need to build reputable relationships with those corporations that do have student’s best interest in mind

Technology Solutionism Isn’t The Solution

Something that caught my attention in this debate’s readings was the article by Audrey Watters and her reference to “technology solutionism”.

“According to Agarwal and others, MOOCs – and more broadly, education technology, online education, the World Wide Web, and the Internet – serve to magically erase systemic inequalities. This is what technology critic Evgeny Morozov has described as “techno-solutionism,” the simplification of complex societal problems into apps and algorithms. That is to say, we have exchanged political activism, collectivity, debate, democracy, social change for (education) technology consumption and usage. The world is broken – schools are broken – the techno-solutionists say, but the ubiquity of mobile computing devices will somehow save us.”

Evgeny Morozov describes this concept of technology solutionism as a shallow and simplistic to the problems of the world. He argues that it is not going to solve the complex problems of the world- including equity as discussed in this week’s debate. Yes technology is a tool, yes it has helped solve many problems, but no it is not the “be all end all” solution to the problems of the world. In reference to those who think technology is the solution, Morozov states:

“They want to be ‘open,’ they want to be ‘disruptive,’ they want to ‘innovate.’ “The open agenda is, in many ways, the opposite of equality and justice. They think anything that helps you to bypass institutions is, by default, empowering or liberating. You might not be able to pay for health care or your insurance, but if you have an app on your phone that alerts you to the fact that you need to exercise more, or you aren’t eating healthily enough, they think they are solving the problem”

There are many ways that assistive technology can help create equity in a classroom setting, and yes it gives opportunities to students in an inclusive classroom, but  it still creates a digital divide and does not solve the issue of equity in our society.

It’s My Opinion and I’m Sticking To It

For this debate it was my team’s turn to argue! We argued AGREE with “Social media is ruining childhood”. We spent many hours looking for research to support our side and after lots of hard work and endless articles and research to support our ideas, we felt ready for our debate. We were so confident we could barely come up with any predictions about what our opposing team would hit us with. But needless to say, they dropped some unexpected points on us and we felt ourselves having to fight and argue for our side more than we had anticipated! Great job Ellen and Elizabeth you really gave us a run for our money and you brought up some really good points! With such a close vote it is clear this is just another issue that people are torn on. (We even confused Alec! Does that count for bonus marks??)

Our agree team focused mainly on the issues of mental health, cyberbullying, and lack of communication that are caused by social media. The disagree team focused on the need to educate kids on proper use of social media and the opportunities it provides. We found ourselves arguing in a circle when it came to the issues of educating kids how to use social media properly. The disagree side argued that it is important to educate students to use it properly because it can be harmful, while we argued it’s harmful (thus ruining childhood) so that’s why we have to educate them. I’m not sure we ever came to a conclusion on that one!

I completely agree that there are some benefits to children using social media, however I stand by my team’s debate and I truly think that it is something so complex that has so many risks that kids should not be using it. Yes we can start educating them on how to use it properly at a young age, but they don’t need to be posting pictures or updates before they can truly understand the extent to who they are sharing this information with and how to find a balance in their life.

I wanted to share the short film we found because it does such a great job of showing some of the realities of social media. It addresses the addiction part, and also that what people post on social media is not always real life.

For our debate we saved the best for last. Logan interviewed some of his highschool students on the argument, and the responses he got were spot on to the research we found. These are some very bright kids and they offer some interesting first-hand insight on their experiences growing up in a social media world.

Sharing in Our Professional and Personal Lives

My opinions on openness and sharing have changed drastically since taking courses from Alec and Katia. I have learned so much about the opportunities and possibilities that can arise from sharing online, as well as the importance of controlling your own digital footprint. Some people who are hesitant to share online and choose not to participate in the digital world think this is the solution to staying safe online. In reality, avoiding it altogether is making it worse because,If you aren’t controlling your footprint, others are.”

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Who is controlling your footprint?

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Another issue with this is the example we need to set for students. Kids are growing up in this culture of openness and sharing, so the chances are they are not going to avoid it but be active participants of it. Because of this we need to teach them how to be safe and leave positive digital footprints. If we are avoiding it altogether, what are we teaching them? During the debate this week someone also mentioned the fact that most young people are more knowledgeable about protecting themselves online than adults are. So not only do we need to set an example for students, but we can also learn from them. Stephanie was on the disagree side and her blog post reflects a similar opinion to mine, that we need to model positive digital citizenship for our students.

These guidelines for social media offers a comprehensive look at how to use social media appropriately, especially as teachers and professionals. It is important to think wisely about what we post, and cover all our bases when sharing photos, information, or work from students. Because the ability to post and share is so easy and can be done with a click of the button, sometimes people don’t consider what they are posting. Geddes makes a good point when she mentions that we were more thoughtful when we had to log onto our computer before we could post, as opposed to having the power to do so in the moment on our smart phones. We can sometimes get caught up in the moment and post or share something we would later regret.

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There was a time when we had to wait until we were home and logged onto our computer before posting on social media. Now we have the power to post instantly.

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Sharing student work and posting pictures of students was also a topic subject to much debate. The most important thing when it comes to this is getting student and parent permission. I think it’s great that a parent can follow our school in Instagram and see some of the things that are happening around the school. It’s equally as great when a student shares a project they have done and receives feedback or comments from someone across the world. But with all these things comes the issue of privacy and student identity. It is also important to protect students, but do the pros outweigh the cons? I’m not sure. Amy found herself reflecting on this and wondering if she was being too restrictive with sharing.

So after debate number 4 I am finding a pattern in my thoughts and blog posts… I am not completely on one side of these debates. There are so many things to consider on both sides that it is difficult not to consider the pros and cons of each. But I guess that’s why the call it “The Great Ed Tech Debate”.

The Healthy and Unhealthy sides of Tech

First off, I have to say that two debates in one night is a lot for my brain to handle! All the teams did such a great job of debating and the discussions we had were so informative and thought-provoking it was almost overwhelming. Luckily Carter and I are in the same room while connected to zoom so we tend to bounce our thoughts off one another while processing all the information.

The topic for debate #2 was: Technology is making our kids unhealthy. Agree or Disagree?

The first thing that comes to my mind is childhood obesity rates and how most kids spend more time watching TV or playing video games than they do playing outside or being active. In this sense it is making kids unhealthy. But then I look at myself and how often I am checking my fitbit, and making a conscious effort to stay active throughout the day and if I didn’t have this piece of technology on my wrist, I likely wouldn’t be as active as I am. In this case, technology is helping me stay active. I consider myself to be a healthy and active person, and when I thought about it I realized that in almost every area I am using technology to assist with my goals. I use Pinterest for healthy recipes and My Fitness Pal to track food intake. As I mentioned, I use my FitBit daily and Map My Run when going out for run. The trouble I have with this debate is the distinction between kids and adults- I think adults are much more likely to use technology to assist in their health and fitness goals.

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This debate also takes on a whole new side when you consider the impact technology has on our mental and emotional health. Everytime this topic comes up I always think back to an article we read in another ECI class Split Image, about a young girl who committed suicide. If you haven’t read it check it out, it is a heartbreaking story but shows the darker side of social media and how things are not always as they seem. Kids and young people are so much more vulnerable to the pressures of social media. As Haiming mentions in her blog post, anxiety, insomnia, irritation, and mental disorders are all risks of young people using too much technology. But I think it is our job as teachers to educate students on a healthy use of technology, encourage them to unplug every once in awhile, and to remember social media is an edited version of people’s lives.

*PS- on a side note did any other Big Brother Canada fans notice that this video was narrated by Mitch from this last season? Too funny!*

I’m going to end my post by sharing the disagree team’s opening video- because I think it was so great! It shows the benefits that technology can have in 5 areas: Physical health, emotional health, social health, and intellectual health.