Is it time to unplug?

Our final debate topic focused on whether we have become too dependent on technology and what we really need is to unplug. This topic proved to be interesting to me as I often find it difficult to “unplug” from technology. Technology has become an essential part of my life as I use it to perform many everyday tasks. From paying bills, developing my PLN, and staying in touch with my family and friends, technology has become challenging to disconnect from. As I reflect on this realization, I recognized that I am somewhat addicted to technology. Is this a bad thing? Or now a days, is this normal? I would now like to share an experience which occurred last week. I remember it as if it was just yesterday, it was such a beautiful warm day and I had decided to go buy some flowers that I could plant within a flower pot outside of my home. As I arrived at Dutch Growers, I realized that I did not have my cell phone. I had forgotten it at home and was quite unhappy with my-self but I shrugged it off because it wasn’t the end of the world. As I roamed around looking for flowers, I found my-self constantly searching for my phone and every time I did this, I had to remind my-self that I forgot it at home and it was not misplaced. I had never felt more naked in my life. It was a feeling I did not like. This was when I realized that I have become too attached to my phone and maybe unplugging from it wouldn’t be such an awful idea. However, when I am with my family and friends, I do always try to make an effort to stay off my cell phone, and remain mindfully present.

Both the Agree and Disagree teams shared valuable information concerning this topic and it was very difficult for me to “pick a side”. The agree team discussed how technology can negatively affect our social lives as people can become too focused on their technological devices rather than focusing on real life and the experiences happening around them. By being too reliant on technology, we lack essential emotional needs such as intimacy and vulnerability, all of which we gain from having face to face interaction. As we pay constant attention to our cell phones, we are potentially ruining relationships and risk feeling lonely. Although we may have online relationships established through social media, we need to remember that these friendships do not provide us with the same benefits as establishing face to face relationships. Tinder is an online app which creates a space for physical relationships however it can be risky and dangerous due to not knowing who you are talking to.

The disagree team expressed how it is almost impossible to unplug from technology as we live within an augmented reality and who we are online and offline are the same. Technology connects humans to everything within the world and has been known to improve socialization by offering online communities. There are many online apps that provide assistance with people who suffer from stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness such as The Worry Box or Mood Tracker. It is important to recognize that technology can help manage your daily life and not everybody has difficulty unplugging from technology. It seems as though society tends to blame technology for many of the physical, mental or emotional health problems which exists today but we need to remember that technology is only a factor and not the end result.

Finally, unplugging from technology may appear to be unnatural to some especially if it is used daily within people’s lives. Whether we like to admit it or not, technology continues to advance and younger generations are being born into a world which is consumed by it. It remains up to us to decide how or what we need to unplug from in order to live a full and happy life. If we are mindful, we can contribute towards breaking the cycle of addictions to technology and establish a healthy balance. It is possible to live in the moment while still using technological tools. As teachers and parents, we need to model moderation and demonstrate that it is possible to unplug every now and then.



Summary of Learning

Hello everyone! I cannot believe our time together is almost over. I’d like to start off by thanking each and every one of you as you have all contributed to this great learning experience! Although most of you already know, this was my first online Ed tech course. When this class first began, I felt extremely nervous and insecure. I had never used Zoom or created a Blog before and I felt overwhelmed with the idea that I would need to create weekly blog entries in order to reflect the information discussed during class. However, I soon began to feel more comfortable with help from the Google+ community, and my co-workers (Luke, Steve, Andres, and Jayme-Lee) who conveniently were also registered in this course!

I have learned a significant amount within this short period of time. Although technology is used often within my professional and personal life, I really had no idea about the many issues involving technology. I guess it is because I’ve experienced more of the advantages of technology, rather than drawbacks. However, I can now say with confidence that I am more aware of digital citizenship than ever before. As a teacher, I can educate and model how to use technology effectively in order for students to create a positive online reputation for themselves.

In regards to the summary of learning, Jayme-Lee and I created a slideshow presentation using an online program called Animoto. Together, we discussed the debate topics we wanted to include in our final project. This was difficult for us as we both agreed we learned many things from the content in this course but we narrowed it down to three topics we were most inspired by: Technology Enhances Learning, Technology and Health, and Digital Citizenship and Sharing. With that being said, I hope you all enjoy watching our summary of learning and enjoy your well-deserved summer break! Thank you all again for making my 5th Master’s course a memorable learning experience!


Has public education sold its soul to corporate interests?

Tuesday evening’s debate focused on whether public education has sold its soul to corporate interests in what amounts to a Faustian bargain. Personally, I found this topic to be very interesting as I had no prior knowledge regarding corporate interests and its relationship with education. To be honest, before this debate I had never paid much attention to the role corporate businesses play in regards to education and the possible repercussions involved. However, both the Agree and Disagree teams brought forward many valuable points which helped me to grasp a better understanding about education and their involvement with corporate companies.

Whether we choose to believe it or not, technology has become a huge market within the business industry. Essentially, the ideology of business is applied to education and schools have become more of a commercial venture due to the requirements for technology. Audrey Watter’s explains, “Testing remains the primary reason why schools are purchasing computers as they are tools used to test students”. Therefore, with all of this emphasis put on testing, we need to consider the following questions: “Why do we test and whose interests do we serve by testing”?

The agreeing team (Tyler and Justine) spoke about how companies such as Pearson, are making large profits simply through Standardized testing. Within the United States, the amount of testing for students is increasing and Pearson appears to be benefiting from student failures. Just when you thought that was bad, Pearson products that are purchased by the school board do not always align with the mandated curriculum, yet they seem to be in control of what is being taught within schools. If this is the case, why do schools continue to use this resource? Why does this company have such a tight grip on teachers? Furthermore, many school boards are paying to access programs such as Google and Microsoft so that they may be used to support classroom learning. Within my school, our staff uses Google Docs in order to read/post announcements, share documents and most importantly, stay up to date with what is happening within our school. However, before Tuesday evening, it had never occurred to me that our school board pays to subscribe to these online tools.

Our guest speaker, Dean Shareski (Community Manager of Discovery Education), explained “How schools have always had relationships with corporate companies” and it is untruthful to note that schools have not relied on the support and funding in order to meet their specific needs. As teachers, we aware that schools are underfunded and sometimes require assistance from corporate businesses in order to better our schools and meet our teaching needs. However the important question remains: At what costs should the integrity of our work be negotiated? In order for education to be successful with the help from corporate companies, it requires partnerships to align with the special interests of the school division goals as well as determine whether the relationship will benefit the purchase. Moreover, the partnership with corporations should not compromise the integrity of the schools. It is essential for school divisions to seek the right partnerships as the companies should be willing to meet their needs. However, we must show caution and never forget the number 1 priority of corporate companies which is to make money.



Is social media the new online childhood?

Debate #6 proved to be very successful and one of my favorites. The topic focused on whether or not social media is ruining childhood. I found this topic to be very stimulating as I can admit to spending a fair bit of time on Social Media, specifically using Twitter and Facebook in order to build my PLN and to stay connected with my family and friends. In my life, social media has been a helpful tool and as a teacher, I have learned how to use it responsibly. However, this is not the reality that currently exists among many of our students who are using social media. Now a days, children are learning how to use social media at a very young age. Perhaps too young? Although social media has become a part of our society, I’m sure we can all agree that Digital Citizenship readiness is essential before using social media.

Both the Agree and Disagree Teams presented valuable information which made the debate process exciting yet challenging. Personally, I found my-self struggling to “pick” a side. The Agree team (Amy, Logan and Carter) informed us about how parents within today’s society are worried that their children might be growing up too quickly due to spending an increasing amount of time on social media. Children are developing unhealthy habits by being unable to disconnect it, such as participating in less physical activities, unhealthy snacking, and not getting enough sleep. Furthermore, negative exposure to social media can affect children’s mental health. Individuals subjected to Cyber-Bullying may develop mental health issues: anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts. Teachers and parents are also worried about how children are missing out on basic communication skills and the human experience of what it means to form relationships due to focusing all of their time and efforts towards using social media. Therefore, face to face interaction is eliminated as face to screen interaction takes over.

The Disagree Team (Ellen and Elizabeth) reminded many of us that times have changed since we were young, and so has our society. Although it may be difficult to shift our current thoughts about technology and social media, we need to evolve and adapt if we are to move past the culture of fear that currently exists. Perhaps social media is not a bad thing, some of us are just not used to it. Social media does have the potential to enhance children’s childhood as it offers a sense of belonging and support. Making friends is not always an easy experience for children. In fact, for some, it can be quite scary. Children are less lonely when they are able to join social connections created by social media and it provides them with the outlets they need in order to feel support. Social media can add enjoyment to children’s lives as they can showcase their work and receive compliments for their creativity. But most importantly, social media allows children to become more aware of the world which they currently live in.

Within today’s society, children are growing up with social media and this is out of our control. We cannot continue to compare today’s childhood to ours because they are so different. For instance, when I was a child, technology was very basic. I grew up using dial-up internet, a computer with separate parts (keyboard, mouse, monitor, modem, and tower), and TV’s with the big box attached to the back of them. Therefore, we are left in the situation where we can evolve and accept new technology and social media with its pros and cons or continue to reject it. Many parents use social media today, so why should be prevent children from using it? The major issues involving social media are children’s safety, their awareness of being responsible for creating their own digital footprints and online reputation, and learning how to become successful digital citizens. Teachers and parents need to teach children about how to use social media properly and model the process. We cannot hide from the risks involved, but we can prepare children for how to handle them. Although teachers are not responsible for how their students are using social media outside of school, we can begin to teach students about digital citizenship at an early age and prepare them for the many types of social media that exists and model how to share carefully.

Technology…fair or unfair?

Yesterday evening’s topic focused on whether or not technology is a force for equity in society. I found this topic to be very interesting as I consider myself to be privileged in the sense that technology and the internet have always been accessible to me when needed. However, within this debate, we were reminded that this is not the case for all individuals. Although technology proves to be a helpful tool, it is only beneficial when we have access to it. Within Schools, teachers often turn to Assistive Technology in order to aid with learning. Students who struggle with poor fine motor skills or other disabilities, are often provided with iPads or lap top computers in order to assist with and improve their learning experience. However, this advantage for learning is not available to all students with disabilities and we need to be mindful of this reality. Therefore, how do we determine whether technology is an equity resource when societal factors impact the use of technology? Factors such as funding, policy, socio-economic status, and geographical location may determine the usage of technology due to whether it is accessible or not. With that being said, let us now review the valuable points addressed during yesterday evening’s debate:

Ways Technology is Fair
• Technology offers educational support with higher educational value Ex: Online courses are reaching out to global communities
• Technology provides individuals with a fundamental right to education
• Technology improves the quality of health care Ex: Diagnostic testing
• Technology allows health professionals to stay connected and collaborate amongst one another
• Technology improves overall access to education and health care
• Assistive Technology is beneficial for students with disabilities and can improve their overall educational experience
• Technology provides independence and allow people to be given a voice within the world

Ways Technology is Unfair
• Technology is narrowing the achievement gap as some individuals are more privileged than others
• Not everyone has access to technology or internet access therefore they cannot benefit from it
• Assistive technology is not available to all who may benefit from it
• Technology is expensive and access to technology is problematic
• Technology teachers are not professionally trained and training is required for the use of assistive technology
• Technology will assist with learning but it is not the solution to students who have disabilities/special needs
• Socio-economic status or geographical location may impact technology as it is not accessible for all individuals

It comes as no surprise that technology has become an integral part of our daily lives. However, as to whether technology provides a force for equity within society depends on the particular task at hand and the possibility of who may benefit from it. For instance, teachers who use classroom online blogs or websites in order to stay connected with parents cannot make the assumption that every child in their classroom has access to technology or the internet. Therefore by not considering this, are teachers singling out the students who we are considered to be less privileged? Although technology is a helpful tool for learning, it is important for teachers to adapt their teaching practices and to remember that we don’t have to use tech all the time, children learn in many ways and we need to provide many ways for them to learn. We need to be mindful of the ways in which technology may be useful but also how we can be productive in our teachings without relying on technology.

Let’s share…but carefully!

This week’s debate topic focused on whether openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids. This particular topic was very interesting to me, as I am an individual who attempts to stay up to date with the latest apps and social media. As a teacher, I always use caution before sharing anything online. Whether it be pictures or opinionated posts, I ask my-self “Who will see this beyond my ‘Friends’ list and how will it affect me? Perhaps this extreme sense of caution was instilled by my parents, who always felt (and still feel today) that sharing online is dangerous due to Identify Fraud or Online Shaming. However after Tuesday evening’s debate, I realized that sharing online presents both Pro’s and Con’s, depending how it is utilized. Before Tuesday, I had never “Googled” my-self. After doing this, I was quite surprised to see two photos of my-self that I am assuming are from my Facebook Account. By “Googleing” my-self, I became slightly overwhelmed with the reality that the information we choose to share online will always be accessible. Therefore, we need to show caution when sharing online as we are responsible for creating our own Digital Footprint and possibly a negative reputation for ourselves within the online world.

As a teacher, I often hear the many ways students (specifically teenagers) are sharing online. Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are brought up on a daily basis. Although my school does not permit the use of cellphones, students are still sharing outside of school. In most cases, children are sharing pictures and personal information about themselves with little or no parental supervision. Now a days, it is simple and convenient for children to access social media. However, it is crucial for both parents and their children to be attentive of the apps or social media programs they are using as some can be potentially dangerous when it comes to sharing online. With that being said, here are some of the valuable points addressed during the debate by both the Agree and Disagree teams:

Pro’s of Sharing Online
• Students are able to take pride in their work and give their best effort when they share their work online
• Students are given a voice
• Online sharing within schools provides students with the opportunity to practice sharing in a safe and controlled environment, so they can learn how to share properly
• Teachers can focus on teaching about internet safety and how to create strong passwords
• We are preparing students for the world that currently exists
• Employers are able to locate you for job opportunities
• Students can learn how to prepare for and handle risky situations involving online sharing
• Value of sharing and receiving student feed back
• Changes students world views

Con’s of Sharing Online
• Digital Footprints and Facial Recognition Ex: VK.COM (Russian Facebook)
• Online Shaming and Cyber-Bullying
• Raises awareness for Identity Fraud
• Children taking pictures of others and sharing them online without consent
• Technology and sharing is not going away anytime soon, therefore we can learn to accept it and adapt
• Openly sharing invades individual identity and children’s safety is put at risk Ex: Tracking
• Adding to the path of others by sharing without consent Ex: Images

As teachers, it is essential that we learn about Digital Citizenship as well as the importance of Digital Footprints if we are going to share students work online. As part of incorporating technological learning, teachers are required to educate students about Digital Fluency, focusing on privacy protection, rights and responsibilities and respective online behavior. Furthermore, we must be vigilant in helping students learn how to share and model the sharing process for them effectively. Children need to be reminded that when they share something online, they are contributing towards their online identity and are unable to prevent the people who sees or reads what they have posted. One of the most important points addressed during the debate was parental supervision. It is crucial for parents to be aware of the different types of social media/apps their children are using. In doing so, they may educate their children about sharing and how to do it responsibly. Finally, if both teachers and parents take the time to educate themselves about what it means to be good digital citizens, our knowledge and influences will encourage our students to be as well.

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.