Technology is making our students unhealthy…Or is it?

Within the 21st century, Technology has become an integral part of our daily lives. Not only do we use technology within the work force but we also use it to perform tasks such as reading the news, paying bills and keeping in touch with our family and friends. However, with all of the technology available today, it comes as no surprise that children are subject to it as well. Many teachers would agree that our students have become too reliant upon technology and show great difficulty disconnecting from it. Personally, I feel that moderation is key as well as modeling the proper usage of technology for our students. On Tuesday evening (May 24th, 2016), Heather, Andres, and my-self debated against the Agree team, relying on the research we examined to defend technology and its contribution towards creating unhealthy lifestyles. Through collaboration, we each agreed that students are not becoming unhealthy because of technology and the internet alone. It is dependent upon a lifestyle which includes factors such as nutrition, dietary habits, genetics and most importantly, parenting habits. Although technology plays a part, it is not the only factor we should be looking at. However, once the debate was over, I was overwhelmed by the information brought forward by both teams. Despite this difficult topic, I must say that Heather, Andres, and I gave it a solid shot!

The Agree team brought forth many valuable points. Within the article “Sneaky Ways Technology is Messing with Your Body and Mind”, it describes the physical and mental effects that technology has on the body. I found this article to be very informative as I was unaware that too much time dedicated to staring at your cell phone or sitting in front of your computer can lead to neck and back complications. Moreover, “One 2011 study found that men who were exposed to electromagnetic radiation from laptop WIFI for four hours had sperm with DNA damage and decreased motility” (p. 2). As teachers, we often hear about the many ways children spend their time using technology outside of school. From playing video games to using social media, our students seem to be spending numerous hours on technology. Within the article “Obesity in Children and Technology”, it explains how the average child spends up to seven hours on technology. This includes watching TV, browsing the internet and playing video games. This intense exposure to technology can create unhealthy habits, consisting of obesity caused from increased snacking and lack of sleep. The Agree team also discussed the negative impacts that technology has on the social and mental well-being of students. Student’s communication skills are declining as they engage in less conversations due to being unable to disconnect from their technological devices. Cyber-bullying was another concern brought up during the debate. Students who are being bullied online are at risk of developing depression, anxiety, aggression, and suicidal thoughts.

In our debate, Heather, Andres and I focused specifically on the 4 ways Technology can contribute to a healthy lifestyle: Physical Health, Social Health, Emotional Health and Intellectual Health. A side from the information shared within our introductory video, we explained how a healthy balance of technology with physical fitness is possible, as technology cannot take the place of any sport yet provide motivation to be active. The internet provides children with the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of sports outside of schools and offers fitness groups that people may join, especially for those who do not prefer to exercise publicly. Moreover, there are devices (such as the Wii, Xbox Kinect and Fitbit) that offer active game participation that are geared towards balance improvement, aerobics, and also allow you to track your progress to see how you are improving. Within the article “Determining the Effects of Technology on Children”, it shares a study done by MedicineNet which states “Heavier children seemed to enjoy exergaming much more than exercising the traditional way” (p. 14). As for the Social and Emotional Health Aspect, Heather shared a link to an article which proved to be very informative but may also be used as an effective teaching tool within the classroom. The article includes a variety of resources directly related to the positive and healthy ways society can prevent as well as raise awareness about bullying. In the article “Researchers: Forget Internet Abstinence; Teens Need Some Online Risks” (found by Andres), it explains how students, specifically teenagers, should be aware of the many online risks that do exist and learn from these experiences rather than avoid them. By doing this, students will learn productive strategies for addressing the risks that are present while using technology.

Although it is easy to blame technology for contributing towards an unhealthy lifestyle, we must be open to the fact that technology (if used appropriately and in moderation) can be a positive tool. At school, teachers are able to monitor specific tasks being performed when using technology as well as the amount of time students are spending on technology. However, after 4:00 pm, the time our students spend on technology (such as playing video games or on social media) becomes out of our control. This is controlled by our student’s parents/guardians. Parents can contribute to healthy technology habits by making a habit of turning the TV off when eating supper, eliminating computer, tablet, and video game use after a certain amount of time each day and lastly, signing up their children for recreational sports in order to break away from media devices and to help their children understand it is important to take a step back from technology. But most importantly, both teachers and parents need to educate their children about being responsible while using technology because whether we like it or not, technology is here to stay.

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How about we just Google it?

Tuesday evening’s first debate was incredibly intense! The topic focused on whether schools should be teaching anything that can be Googled. Both the Agree and Disagree teams put forth relevant information and spoke about realistic examples that do occur daily within the school setting. This made it very difficult for me to determine exactly what my stand point is. I feel that both sides shared valuable points.

Within the 21st century, almost everything that is taught within schools can be supported through the use of Google. From specific research topics to basic skills, students have the ability to decipher information quickly through the World Wide Web. I do not believe Google is responsible for the learned helplessness that exists in today’s society but at the same time I do not want to see it banned from the classroom, because it is still a valuable research tool if used appropriately. It is essential for teachers to educate their students about how to use Google within an educational setting. Teachers requiring research assignments from their students need to do explicit “research” teaching skills.

In the article “How Google Impacts The Way Students Think”, it refers to three major points which I found to be very accurate in the way our students are impacted by having access to Google: 1. Google creates the illusion of accessibility 2. Google naturally suggests “answers” as stopping points 3. Being linear, Google obscures the interdependence of information. In order for our students to be successful within their schooling experience, we need to teach students basic skills that allow them to show some independence in order to resolve the task at hand, rather than rely so comfortably for Google to provide them with the answers they seek. During the debate, Luke had mentioned the term “Googleable skills” and how teaching students essential basic skills are valuable to their development and will maximize their full learning potential. However, by allowing students to simply rely on Google as a search engine, they are unable to develop critical thinking skills. As stated in the article “How the Internet is Changing Your Brain”, “Our brains use information stored in the long-term memory to facilitate critical thinking but if we rely on Google to store our knowledge, we may be losing an important part of our identity” (p. 3).

Within our first debate, we spoke about how technology is a tool that can either be perceived positively or negatively. Teachers can educate students about how to use these tools effectively in order to assist with the learning process, but not to be the end result or solve problems. Furthermore, teachers can demonstrate how Google can be used in order to brainstorm about a particular topic or even explain when it is a suitable time to use Google as a research tool. As mentioned in Jeremy Black’s Blog, he states “Google serves as a jumping off point to take and refine ideas to improve one’s own skill set”. Like Jeremy, I happen to enjoy cooking very much and consider myself to be somewhat of a foodie. Therefore, I also use Google when it comes to looking for new food inspiration and delicious recipes. Personally, I’ve come across many recipes retrieved from Google that have been very tasty but also terrible. Overall, by experimenting with new recipes through the use of Google, I have developed a skill for cooking and am able to identify the food recipes I know I will enjoy or steer away from.

Therefore, through the process of curiosity, forming questions, trial and error, and practice of reflection, we can encourage students to think critically and help them understand the importance of higher level thinking and developing problem solving skills. Google is a great tool, but it is not the answer to all that we seek.

Technology enhances learning, but are we prepared to use it?

First off, I would like to say thank you and congratulations to the two teams who professionally debated the topic “Technology in the classroom enhances learning”. Both teams did such a good job and I must say, I took away many points which I had never paid attention to before; such as the amount of funds that Regina Public pays yearly simply on the integration of technology devices and the regular maintenance these devices require. Both teams presented strong factual information and I have to admit I left the meeting with mixed emotions. However, I do want to believe that technology can enhance student learning.

It is evident that technology within the classroom presents both positive and negative attributes. However, we must first acknowledge the fact that technology in itself presents a stigma that it can either be a productive tool or a major distraction within the classroom. I do agree that technology is a positive tool, especially for students who struggle with learning disabilities and require additional assistance. Tools such as iPads or lap top computers can assist students with low fine motor skills, where they may find greater success through the use of technology. Within the debate, we were informed about the many ways that technology can be implemented to support learning. Simply having access to iPads, computers, or smart boards does not account for integrating technology. It is ultimately up to teachers to be mindful about the types of technology that will benefit their students. For instance, would a Google document effectively support a classroom community or would it lead to singling out the students who do not possess technology devises in their home? Would creating a classroom blog or a website be an effective platform for students to create and share content by posting animations, videos and photos, all of which are known to help empower individuals to develop their own sense of creativity and identity.

Moreover, I strongly agree with the point raised during the debate about there not being enough trained teachers to effectively support technology within the classroom. When I reminisce about my time spent in elementary school, I do not recall technology being integrated within our daily lessons. In fact, the only memory of technology I do recollect was going to the computer lab once a week to practice appropriate typing skills (which I never used seeing as we performed everything using paper and pencil) followed by playing Oregon Trail.

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Furthermore, when I look back to my time spent doing my post-secondary degree, I do not recall taking more than one Ed Tech course. Personally, by the time I graduated with my post-secondary degree, I can say that I was not prepared to begin technological learning strategies within the classroom. Perhaps part of teachers Professional Development should include Ed Tech training, so teachers can learn how to effectively include technology in the classroom to enhance learning. With technology advancing every day, so is the assumption that all teachers are tech-savvy as well as up to date with the latest apps and social media programs. But for teachers who feel they need a little extra help integrating technology to enhance learning, consider watching this helpful video.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge that integrating technology in order to enhance learning can be beneficial yet also time consuming. It can be difficult to include technology into a lesson when teachers are spending too many minutes getting students logged onto devices as well as redirecting. However, technology will continue to present itself as a positive or negative tool. We must be open to the idea that while technology is being used to assist with professional development for teachers, it can also be used to enhance student learning.

Thank you again everyone! I look forward to the next set of debates!