Great Ed Tech Debate: Educators have a responsibility to use tech and social media to promote social justice

Teachers to what extent should play a role in using tech and social media to promote social justice is definitely a controversial topic. Mike and Jacquie representing the Agree side, just as the article Should all educators have a professional social media presence? Yes, underline the importance of educators teaching students about how social media influences learning and modelling its effective use in order to help students become ‘enlightened and empowered learners’.

Mike and Jacquie also encourage teachers that instead of being a ‘silent participant’ they should take the role of a person with perspective when it comes to teaching social justice. Sonia Nieto along with her colleague Patty Bode, define social justice as both a “philosophy and actions that embody treating all people with fairness, respect, dignity, and generosity“. She describes four major components of social justice in education:

  • Challenges, confronts and disrupts misconceptions, untruths and stereotypes.
  • Provides students with resources needed to their full potential.
  • Draws on all students talents and strengths.
  • Promotes critical thinking and supports agency for social change.

After the debate, I feel there is no question wether teachers should teach social justice or not. I agree with Christina that “educators have always had the job to nurture and guide students to become positive leaders in our communities” and the Pro side describing that the educator’s job is to “empower students to create their own opinion”.

But when it comes to wether or not to use social media to promote social justice, I am more leaning towards the Disagree side represented by Michala and Brad who believe in the importance of teaching social justice, but they also think that educators should be neutral and should use social media wisely.

According to the article Must Teachers be “Neutral”? teachers are encouraged to let students make informed decisions for themselves” otherwise, “rather than think, many students will merely agree with the teacher.” Teaching students that there are multiple views and different viewpoints will help raise critical thinkers. I think sharing personal views openly on social media makes people more vulnerable, especially if they contradict the ideology represented by their schools. As Amy mentioned when her school participated in the Pride Day, there was a push back from the parents. Having multicultural schools with various religions and beliefs, schools need to respect the families’ cultural background.

At the end of EC&I 830 class based on debates, I think this would be a great way to teach social justice to students. A great example for this is described in the article The power of teacher neutrality, where the teacher instead of correcting the student when he made the statement that a car is a living thing, opened up the conversation to the classroom and made it into a great learning experience. Students had the opportunity for deep thinking, develop debating skills, collect data, refine the definition of living things and practice defending their ideas and beliefs. They ended up making a more detailed description of living things and learnt more about cars as well. By doing research, students can see both sides of each story that helps them be critical thinkers and make their own informed decisions. I wouldn’t feel comfortable enforcing my own ‘social agenda’ on anybody, especially knowing that everything students post will become part of their digital footprint that can be easily twisted haunting them later on in life. Time and place definitely play a big role when it comes to deciding whether or not to stand up for particular social justice issues on social media. Certainly my childhood experience and hearing Altan’s story make me be more cautious …

Thank you for reading my last reflection on the current issues in educational technology! 🙂

the end…

EC&I 830, what a powerful class. I have never in my life taken part in actual debates and this made me terribly nervous throughout the course. Although my classmate, Altan and I were rushing when the sign up sheet opened up to get one of our favourite topics, for some reason we ended up being last with an issue that was not taken by anybody else. It seemed to be impossible to come up with ideas for “Openness and sharing in schools are unfair to our kids” but after a little research, it was scary to see the traps that we fall into when it comes to sharing. So, ending up with this topic was actually a good thing. Being a mom of two soon to be teenagers, definitely taught me a few things to look out for.

Throughout the course, besides gaining a broader view of the current issues, I loved seeing the creativity in the opening statements. I found the videos, discussions and experiences shared very informative and powerful. These debates helped me see both sides of the current issues discussed:

I would like to say thank you to my Prof. Dr. Alec Couros and my peers for sharing their knowledge and experiences, for the valuable connections, and for the intellectual and emotional support that was very much needed during this time. A special thank you to my debate partner, Altan, who was a pleasure to work with. Please take a peak at my Summary of Learning.

Thank you for stopping by and I wish you all good health and a wonderful relaxing SUMMER!

Great Ed Tech Debate: Openness and sharing in schools are unfair to our kids

My classmate, Altan and I agree that as David Wiley stated, “openness is the only means of education” and “if there is no sharing and giving feedback, there is no education”. We still believe though that openness and sharing in schools are unfair to our kids for a number of reasons. 

When it comes to openness and sharing, our children’s privacy can greatly be jeopardized. With our growing immigrant population, we feel that first of all the language barrier needs to be addressed. Schools need to make sure that our families completely understand the media release form that is sent home at the beginning of the school year. With the help of Microsoft Translator, Talking Points etc. schools can provide translations as well as additional examples to make sure parents are aware of what the media release form implies.

The story of the 4-year-old Karim from Toronto even made us wonder if posting students’ pictures on social media should be part of the media release form at all? Karim’s parents not wanting their child to have pictures posted on social media decided not to sign the media release form. This resulted of Karim’s picture being left out of a school project and he didn’t make it to the class picture either. When the case reached the superintendent’s office, the parents were told that this is the only way to completely protect Karim’s privacy.  

As Jessica Baron highlighted in the article Posting about your kids online could damage their future, when it comes to the consent form, we notice a conflict between the parent’s freedom to post and a child’s right to privacy. Since the pictures posted of children become part of their digital footprint, we believe children should have a say regarding this matter. According to psychologists, “When kids get to their early teens, they have a massive change with hormones, a sense of self-awareness and wanting to form their own identity… If their parents are constantly posting, it’s robbing those kids of the opportunity to work out how to express themselves.” A 2016 survey conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan found that while children ages 10 to 17 “were really concerned” about the ways their parents shared their lives online, their parents were far less worried. About three times more children than parents thought there should be rules about what parents shared on social media.” Parents have to work out what’s right for them but be aware that this is another person, another human being, who may not thank them for it in 15 years to come.

Additionally, children’s personal data that comes with oversharing can be misused on social media. Much of the time, students and parents are not aware of its adverse impact of openness and sharing when their personal life is exposed to the public.  Either their parents’ or their own online oversharing could also potentially lead to “online grooming”, which “takes place when someone builds an emotional connection with a child in order to gain the child’s trust for sexual exploitation or abuse, or recruitment to terrorist or extremist causes”. Sharon Kirkey in the article Do you know where your child’s image is? describes the darker side of sharenting. Facebook, Instagram and other social media accounts serve as the perfect place for pedophiles to lift, manipulate and photo-shop children’s pictures posted by their parents. According to one Australian study roughly half of images shared on pedophile sites are taken from social media sites. The idea behind the article is not to silence parents, but to help them be aware of the safety concerns. “A recent study of 152,000 reports to Cybertip found 80% of images and videos involving child sexual abuse involved children under 12. The majority was under age 8, and more than 3% involved babies and toddlers.”

Another reason why we feel openness and sharing is unfair to our kids is the use of Open Educational Resources. Knowing how to read laterally and finding accurate, quality information in a timely manner can be very stressful. When it comes to showcasing learning, in order to be able to show off their performance, students often fall into the trap of plagiarizing and copyright.

Technology in the classroom has even more of an impact when students can continue their ed tech use at home. However, not all students have the same access to technology due to the lack of Internet access and devices. Those students are more likely to fail to complete their homework because they lack a reliable computer or internet connection at home. The limitations caused by the digital divide often make sharing and openness impossible. These barriers cause an ‘opportunity gap’ that can lead to a negative experience when students are trying to apply for further studies or enter the work force. 

One more issue in terms of openness is the unsupervised sharing in our schools. In many schools, students are allowed to use cell phones during lunch break. The main concern is that this is where cyberbullying, sexting, and sharing pictures/ videos without permission happen. The solution to this problem is not to ban the cell phones and forbid sharing but as our peers Skyler and Alyssa suggested, to bring them in the classrooms and teach our ‘digital natives’ through examples to be respectful and responsible digital citizens.

Please check out our Wakelet resource collection and our video why we think openness and sharing in schools are unfair to our kids!

Thank you for stopping by! 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading my blog post! 🙂

Great Ed Tech Debate: Social Media is ruining childhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading my blog post!

Schools should not focus on teaching things that can be easily googled

It was interesting to see how both teams AGREED with today’s statement and how the follow up group discussion brought back a number of memories from my previous learning experience. I personally agree with Curtis and Lisa that the 4Cs, such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity cannot be learnt through googling.

My past schooling experience in Romania was mostly focusing on memorization and regurgitating the information taught. There is proof that it can happen without having access to google, too. As my classmate, Dean mentioned, the whole idea is behind the approach the teacher is taking. Daina and Jocelyn pointed out that google, by itself is not bad, it can enhance learning. We just have to learn how to make the most out of it by helping our students to learn how to apply-, synthesize-, and be creative with knowledge and remember key parts of what they learn (LoTi framework).

Being an English language learner and an EAL teacher, the article “Why Kids can’t write” made me very curious. The article focuses on the importance of classroom instruction that supports and promotes purposeful learning. As the article points out, asking the students to write about their weekend or what they did can make the writing process dreadful, since some kids don’t have anything exciting happening they could write about. I think any type of prompt: a picture, a story starter, a story itself, a short video, etc. are all great ways that help our students with writing. Or, in this case, what great purpose would a land-based or hands-on pedagogy provide for writing?

When it comes to purposeful learning, it is also important to know our students. As an EAL teacher, the first thing I look at when a new student arrives is their initial assessment report that gives me a clear picture of the language fluency level of the student. This helps me decide what to focus on. As part of my Master’s Certificate in TESOL we had quite a few debates if non native speakers should be taught grammatical forms or not. Me being in the process of acquiring English language for over 30 years, I would say there is no way a non-native speaker can learn proper English without knowing grammatical rules. I might sound harsh, but I think it is crucial to know the mechanics of a language to be able to speak and write correctly. I often experience that my students who have a strong first language, acquire the English language a lot easier and faster. But does this mean that memorizing the grammatical rules will make the learner fluent in a language?

Certain subjects require more memorization than others. I often hear people being against it. I think memorization to a certain level is necessary to be able to take it to the next level. For example, if one does not memorize words, they will never be able to speak a language. The English language is full of expressions, phrasal verbs and idioms, that I could never use if I do not memorize them. You can only become creative and innovative, if you have tools at your finger tips.

I also think that google cannot help a learner truly understand these words and expressions, since they act so differently in context. During my elementary and middle years I was expected to regurgitate English forms and grammar and when a young, vibrant English teacher from the U.S. showed up in our school, I could not form a sentence, let alone have a conversation with her. I could not apply, synthesize, nor be creative and use what we had learnt. This is why I think that schools should not focus on teaching things that can be googled but implement a holistic approach to teaching with a focus on meaningful learning moments.

Thank you for listening to my thoughts! 🙂